The Wisdom of God Versus the Philosophy of Men Part 1

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Copyright 1994 - 2023 Bill's Bible Basics

Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
April 9, 1998

Last Updated :
February 15, 2012

NOTE: This article or series has not been updated recently. As such, it may possibly contain some outdated information, and/or ideas and beliefs which I no longer embrace, or which have changed to some degree.

Are You Grounded In The Word Of God, Or In The Wisdom Of Men?

In the article entitled "The Only Credentials You Need", I present a variety of Scriptures which reveal exactly what kind of people it is whom the Lord chooses as His servants. As shown there, contrary to what some people might expect, God is not the least bit impressed by worldly wisdom. Nowhere does the Bible instruct us to study the teachings of the ancient philosophers, or to waste years of our lives in some place of higher learning such as at a university or theological seminary. In many instances, such study serves more to destroy a person's faith in God and His Holy Word, than to strengthen and build upon it. It is for this very reason that the Apostle Paul gave us a very stern warning in the following words:

"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."
Colossians 2:8, KJV

Paul's use of the word "spoil" in the previous verse is very interesting. According to Thayer's Greek English Lexicon, it is derived from the Greek word "sulagogeo". As you can see by the following definitions, it conveys the seriousness of being deceived by such secular knowledge:

----- Begin Quote -----

To carry off booty
  a. to carry one off as a captive (and slave)
  b. to lead away from the truth and subject to one's sway

----- End Quote -----

How fitting indeed! Those who study such things are truly being led away from The Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Although they may not realize it at the time, they are in fact slowly being placed under bondage as the captives, or slaves, of the Devil; not in a physical sense; but rather in a mental and spiritual sense. Through a slow subtle indoctrination process, their foundation of faith is being utterly destroyed. After his excellent chapter on faith and works, James warns us of the dangers of our tongue. In discussing the difference between godly wisdom and knowledge which builds up and edifies, and worldly wisdom which only seeks to knock down and criticize, James makes the following comments:

"This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy."
James 3:15-17, KJV

The first two verses describe the very same kind of worldly wisdom that the ancient Jewish Elders had; and it is this same kind of wisdom that many people continue to cherish today. The Jews prided themselves in their rabbinical teachings and the traditions of their fathers; but just as the Gospels teach us, it was that same devilish wisdom which caused them to criticize and ultimately attempt to "destroy" Jesus:

"But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus."
Matthew 27:20, KJV

"After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him."
John 7:1, KJV

Jesus clearly recognized the source of their wisdom; and their dead dry religion, and it is for this reason that He said such things as the following to them:

"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."
John 8:44, KJV

"But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?"
Matthew 15:3, KJV

"For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do . . . And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition . . . Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye."
Mark 7:8-9, 13, KJV

If you read the four Gospels and the Book of Acts slowly and carefully, you will begin to understand that the real battle was not happening in the physical; it was happening in the Spirit; because it was a war of words, just as James pointed out in the above verses. It was a war of opposing ideas and theologies between the Wisdom of God -- which was manifested through Jesus who is the Living Word -- and the earthy devilish wisdom of Satan spoken through the mouths of the Jewish Elders who sought to preserve the status quo. The words, wisdom and traditions of the Jewish Elders were the ways of death; while the Words of Jesus Christ were and are The Way to Life Eternal:

"It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
John 6:63, KJV

Even today the Jews continue along this same deceitful path by exalting, in fact worshipping, the words of their philosophers and rabbis. Such is the case with the twelfth century Spanish-born Jewish physician and philosopher Maimonides. The teachings of this man, and others like him, are highly esteemed within Judaism and quoted extensively, while the Words of Jesus Christ are trampled to the ground and ignored.

Another clear example of the exaltation of Jewish law and tradition above the True Spirit of God can be found in the Book of Jubilees. This work came into being in the second century before Christ during the reign of the Maccabees. Written by a devout Pharisee of unknown identity, it is basically a rewrite of the Creation and ancient Jewish history into which the author has liberally incorporated the Levitical Code, even though the priestly order did not exist until the time of Moses and Aaron over a thousand years later! Because of this, certain events which have been preserved in the Christian Old Testament, are either totally omitted, or else distorted because they were contrary to the Levitical Code given later. Likewise, while the legalistic spirit of the written Law reigns supreme throughout the pages of the Book of Jubilees, the True Spirit of prophecy is heavily suppressed and discouraged. In fact, as pointed out in other articles, during the same period that this manuscript was written, exercising the gift of prophecy was punishable by excommunication from the synagogue or Temple! The Jewish leaders simply did not want to hear the real voice of God; just like when they stoned Stephen!:

"Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul."
Acts 7:57-58, KJV

Some of these ancient Jews were so deluded by their own works of humanistic reasoning and earthly wisdom, that they believed that prince, prophet and priest John Hyrcanus was the promised Messiah. They were so blinded to The Truth that they expected him to usher in the Messianic Kingdom in which the Jews would overcome all of their enemies, men would live to be a thousand years old, and the Earth would slowly and physically be transformed into a New Earth. Of course, we know that the Lord shook them up terribly when such things did not materialize; and instead, they soon found themselves the victims of cruel Roman oppression and domination. Ironically, when their True Messiah did arrive less than one hundred years later, these same Jews who considered themselves wise in their own conceit, rejected Him soundly, accusing Him of being the very son of Satan!:

"But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils."
Matthew 12:24, KJV

"And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils."
Mark 3:22, KJV

As I have explained in other articles, part of the reason this legalistic attitude existed at this time is because the ancient Jewish hierarchy had totally rejected the Lord's True Prophets whom He had sent to them one after the other. As Jesus said in one of His most violent attacks against the Scribes and Pharisees:

"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar."
Matthew 23:33-35, KJV

Another reason there was such strict adherence to Jewish Law and tradition, is because the ancient framework had been weakened by Hellenistic attitudes which had swept across not only Israel, but across much of that area of the world at that time. Following the Diaspora in the days of King Nebuchadnezzar, many thousands of Jews were dispersed into the surrounding lands and countries where they adopted the customs, dress and language of their hosts. This is exactly who the Hellenists were; Grecian Jews. They were the same philosophical Jews who clashed with the Apostle Paul time and time again. In fact, as is born out in my article "A Biblical Cafeteria, Or the Whole Course?", they were the very ones who tried to kill him on several occasions, such as during his first return to Jerusalem following his conversion:

"And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him."
Acts 9:29, KJV

These were not all Grecians, or Greeks, in the truest sense of the word, but rather Hellenists who perceived Paul's words as being contrary to the Torah. These were Jews who were not only well-versed in the Laws of Moses, but who were also highly educated in the doctrines and teachings of the Greek and Roman philosophers of the past few centuries. It was because of their very background in the worldly wisdom of men, that they were thoroughly blinded to The Truth. In his epistle to the Church at Ephesus, Paul likewise chided the Gentiles who were also spiritually blind due to this worldly way of thinking. He referred to it as the "vanity of their mind":

"This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:"
Ephesians 4:17-18, KJV

In fact, as I revealed in the "A Biblical Cafeteria, Or the Whole Course?" article, these Gentile Ephesians were worshippers of Diana, the Roman goddess of chastity, hunting and the moon. She finds her equivalent in the Greek goddess Artemis:

"And the same time there arose no small stir about that way. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians . . . But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians."
Acts 19:23-28, 34, KJV

Imagine, these are people who are supposed to be highly educated in the doctrines and teachings of the greatest Roman and Greek philosophers who have ever lived! Sadly, it can be easily seen that such earthly wisdom does not lead one to The Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus said that such people are not even capable of receiving the Spirit of Truth:

"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
John 14:16-17, KJV

In like manner, Paul said in his epistle to the Corinthians, that because the people of the world consider themselves to be wise in their own eyes, they cannot understand the True Wisdom which is being conveyed to them through the preaching of the Gospel; which in itself they consider to be foolishness:

"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God . . . For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."
1 Corinthians 1:18, 21, KJV

Not only that, but Paul tells us that it is because of this very same worldly wisdom with which they have filled their minds and hearts, that the Lord is unable to use them in His service:

"For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence."
1 Corinthians 1:26-29, KJV

It is only those who can accept the Spirit of Truth with the faith and meekness of a child who are capable of receiving the True Wisdom:

". . . I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes . . . Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."
Matthew 11:25, Luke 18:16b, KJV

"Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls."
James 1:21, KJV

It doesn't matter whether these ancient traditions and philosophies of men are of Jewish or Gentile origin; the result is still the same: they do not lead to the One who paid the price for our Salvation. God will accept anyone who is willing to forsake these things and sincerely express faith in the sacrifice of His Son:

"And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:"
1 Peter 1:17-19, KJV

While the ancient Jews, due to their own ignorance and hardheartedness, rejected the Words of Life, we know from the Scriptures that God does not make mistakes. He has a purpose and plan for everything. In his epistle to the Romans, Paul brings out this very point when he says:

"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!"
Romans 11:25-33, KJV

Perhaps one of the most demonically-deceptive lies I have heard in recent years, is one which is currently circulating within New Age circles. It involves a personage by the name of Apollonius of Alexandria. I really don't know whether or not such a man ever really existed, but it is what is being said about him which should alarm every Christian. Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that, according to those who swallow this lie, Jesus Christ was only a mythological figure who was styled after the "true christ", whom they claim to be Apollonius of Alexandria. This man is said to have performed great miracles, possessed great strength, and is purported to have travelled all over the known world conversing with, and learning from, the greatest philosophers and sages of his time. In fact, within the material I read, an attempt is made to either equate him with the Apostle Paul, or else to say that he is the "Apollo" mentioned in some of Paul's epistles. This is the furthest thing from The Truth and a damnable lie of Satan! This man's fame became so widespread that some eventually equated him with Hercules of Roman and Greek mythology. In short, he was given the status of a god. If you ever come across this material, I strongly urge you to not even read it as it will definitely test your faith in the One True God and His Son Jesus Christ. It is full of extremely strong delusion.

The above examples from both Jewish and Gentile history clearly demonstrate the dangerous nature of such worldly wisdom and philosophies. Their whole purpose is to discredit God, to rob one of their faith in Jesus Christ, and to exalt man as his own god. It is a totally worldly humanistic approach to life. It is precisely for these reasons that it is extremely difficult to reach those who have involved themselves in such studies for any appreciable amount of time. Before the Lord can even begin to use such people, He sometimes has to tear down and root out all of the crap with which they have foolishly filled their minds and hearts. It reminds me of what the Lord told the young boy Jeremiah when He first called him to be a prophet over the nations:

"See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant."
Jeremiah 1:10, KJV

Before we can establish such people in the faith, we have to get rid of all of these false ideas and erroneous misconceptions which have been put into their heads by "well-meaning" worldly teachers, philosophers and theologians. Once we have re-discovered the original foundation, after clearing away all of this mental rubble, we can then begin to re-establish their faith upon a more sure Word of prophecy:

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:"
2 Peter 1:19, KJV

Paul referred to this on a number of occasions as a renewing or washing of the mind and Spirit, or putting on the mind of Christ:

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Romans 12:2, KJV

"For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."
1 Corinthians 2:16, KJV

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;"
Titus 3:5, KJV

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV

In contrast to the above, Paul also tells us that to think on the things of the flesh, to dwell upon the things of human understanding and reasoning, is to be carnally-minded and not spiritually-minded. He tells us that this will not only put one at odds with God, but that it is also the way of Death, and that God will have no part with such a person:

"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
Romans 8:5-9, KJV

This whole process of being renewed and cleansed is of course a work of God's Spirit through His Word:

"BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word."
Psalm 119:9, KJV

"Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you."
John 15:3, KJV

Once we are renewed in heart, mind and Spirit, several of the epistle writers inform us of the importance of remaining firmly established in the faith. This is precisely why Paul undertook his various missionary journeys once he had helped to establish the churches in Asia Minor and the surrounding regions:

"And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do."
Acts 15:36, KJV

Consider also this example found at the end of Paul's letter to the disciples at Rome where he assures them that the Lord is able to "stablish" -- or establish -- them in the Gospel:

"Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen. [Written to the Romans from Corinthus, [and sent by Phebe servant of the church at Cenchrea.]]"
Romans 16:25-27, KJV

In his first letter to the Church at Thessalonika, Paul also writes of how he is sending Timotheus in order to strength the faith of the brethren, and to comfort them in their tribulation:

"Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:"
1 Thessalonians 3:1-2, KJV

In the final chapter of his epistle, James also makes similar remarks regarding how important it is to be grounded and established in the faith:

"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."
James 5:7-8, KJV

And finally, Peter also stresses the importance of establishing our faith, knowing exactly what we believe, so that we are not devoured by the lies and doubts of Satan:

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
1 Peter 5:8-11, KJV

Thus, we can plainly see how important it is that we are firmly established in the faith and building upon the right foundation; and that foundation is of course none other than Jesus Christ and His Word. In describing the importance of laying the right foundation, Jesus said the following in one of His many parables:

"Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great."
Luke 6:47-49, KJV

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus clearly identifies Himself as the foundation stone upon which His Church would be built. Here are a few examples:

"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Matthew 16:18, KJV

"Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?"
Matthew 21:42, KJV

Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.

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