Promises and Secrets

Promises and SecretsPromises and Secrets

A website for those not afraid to examine their beliefs, compare them to the real world, and make sure they fit.



The FACT column brings up two important words regarding faith in God and His Son - Fear and Wisdom. Most people have little idea of what either of these mean in this verse.


The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)



When this and other verses are discussed, Christians usually redefine the word "fear" to mean respect, honor, or both. While I understand this need to soften the image of the God of the Old Testament, it does not carry the import of the same word in this Proverbs verse. The problem with this is what that softening causes in the hearts of believers. When God is viewed as softer and gentler, He is also seen as weaker. An example would be a statement in a book by John Shelby Spong called Why Christianity Must Change or Die. After describing the exile of the Israelites to the land of Babylon in 586 B.C., he summarized:

These Jews had once believed that God fought at their side against their enemies. They could believe that no longer. They once believed that God might punish them for their waywardness but that God would not destroy them. They could believe that no longer. They once believed that they were a specially chosen people. They could believe that no longer. They once had believed that God had instructed them on where to live and how to worship. They could believe that no longer. They once believed that God dwelled in Jerusalem and ruled over Judah. They could believe that no longer. They once believed that God could hear their prayers. They could believe that no longer. They once believed that they had a destiny and a future. They could believe that no longer. They once believed that God could and would care for them. They could believe that no longer.

Why Christianity Must Change or Die, John Shelby Spong, page 28

God fulfills a promise, so they can't believe that He will...?

This is the statement of a man that is an Episcopal Bishop in New Jersey. He uses an example of the discipline of the Israelites to convince others that God is weak, fickle, and untrustworthy. As you read through his book, you see that he believes in the acceptance of even the unproven statements of science over the words of the Bible. He feels that Christianity should change to meet the feelings and knowledge of the times and abandon their old ways. This is also known as compromise with the world, which James denounces in James 4:4
4You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.


I agree with him on one point - Christianity must change or die. However, the change that is necessary is that we must involve ourselves deeper into the truths of the Bible, not abandon them as most churches today are doing.

"Fear me, but don't worry about it..."?

The one thing that is missing from his conclusion, and that of most of the self-proclaimed Christians today is "fear". The Israelites had been warned of their disobedient actions, but persisted in their activity. Now, once again, they knew that God would do what He said He would.

Most of the world has an obvious lack of fear of God. I don't mean a hide-in-the-corner trembling fear of an ever-present malicious being that has moment-to-moment control over your existence. I mean a fear of the Creator of the Universe Who has communicated to the entire world that He is in charge and will do exactly what He promises us in His word. They either feel that God is not serious about His promises, or that they can do, with impunity, what the Israelites did. Notice that the word here is "promises", not promised. This is a continuous offering, not a passing one-time mention of something about which He will eventually change His mind if we stray far enough.


Remember Matthew 10:28
28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

? Now, to interpret this as a statement to "respect" or "honor" one who can do this is to miss the not-so-veiled threat included in Jesus' statement.

To be thorough, there are some who interpret Matthew 10:28
28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

as referring to the devil as the one to fear in this verse rather than God. However, an explanation at Bible Hub addresses this error head-on under Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers:

(28) Are not able to kill the soul. - Here our Lord uses what we may call the popular dichotomy of man's nature, and the word "soul" includes all that truly lives and thinks and wills in man, and is therefore equivalent to the "soul and spirit" of the more scientific trichotomy of St. Paul's Epistles (1Thessalonians 5:23).

Fear him which is able . . .- Few words have given rise to interpretations more strangely contrasted than these. Not a few of the most devout and thoughtful commentators, unwilling to admit that our Lord ever presented the Father to men in the character of a destroyer, have urged that the meaning may be thus paraphrased: "Fear not men; but fear the Spirit of Evil, the great Adversary who, if you yield to his temptations, has power to lead you captive at his will, to destroy alike your outward and your inward life, either in the Gehenna of torture or in that of hatred and remorse." Plausible as it seems, however, this interpretation is not, it is believed, the true one. (1) We are nowhere taught in Scripture to fear the devil, but rather to resist and defy him (Ephesians 6:11; James 4:7); and (2) it is a sufficient answer to the feeling which has prompted the other explanation to say that we are not told to think of God as in any case willing to destroy, but only as having the power to inflict that destruction where all offers of mercy and all calls to righteousness have been rejected. In addition to this, it must be remembered that St. James uses language almost identical ("There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy," James 4:12) where there cannot be a shadow of doubt as to the meaning.

If you follow me, and keep my commandments...

God tells His people throughout His word that if they will follow His commands and love their neighbors, He will protect them and bless them. But, when they do not follow His commands and hate their neighbor, and when He withdraws His protection as a disciplinary action, they complain, criticize, and walk away from Him. Their excuse? "Well, He abandoned us, why should we obey Him?"

Even before that, they are convinced by some smooth-talking pastor that God didn't really mean what He said in the Bible. "We can make some changes and ignore some of His commands without worrying about Him keeping His promises.", they say. "Sure, that's a pagan holiday, but if we worship Him and not their gods, what harm could it do?", they excuse themselves. "God won't punish us because we mean well.", they lie to themselves. They have no fear of the very consequences that God promised. They do not fear because they have never seen the results of these consequences in this life. And they never will see them in this life. They will not see them until it is too late to change what is going to happen! So, for them, there is no reason to fear. But, that is because they have no faith in the promises of God.

How many times do I have to tell you...?

That is the meaning of Matthew 10:28
28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

. Believe God and fear what He has promised if you are disobedient. You must determine what the Bible means by obedience. Otherwise, we can just do anything we want because we are told "we are saved no matter what" we do against the word of God. Remember, we are not saved until Jesus returns with that Salvation (Hebrews 9:28
28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

). Until then, we are judged by our actions (Romans 2:5-7
5But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6God "will repay each person according to what they have done." 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

), which will be the basis for whether we see eternal life or eternal death.

Fear of God is the beginning...

What does this mean to us? If we do not fear God, we have not even started to gain wisdom. Once we begin to see that God is serious, then we can begin to discard the "small" acts of disobedience, moving on to the bigger ones. But, before we can do that, we have to identify those acts that are sin. If we are to fear God, we need to know what to fear. Fearing God is not living in terror of what "He might do", but knowing what He said He will do in certain circumstances and avoiding those circumstances in our lives. If we follow those commands, we will not have to worry, but that does not mean that we should not continue to fear His consequences if we relax into sin.

OK, how do we find out what He said that He "will do"?

That is the rest of Wisdom. Once you know that God meant what He said, find out where to look and you will find out what it is that He said. It's that simple. Now, there are a lot of places to seek that information.

The most common method used by the "Christians" of today is - attending church. They take what their pastor says and lead their lives accordingly. The trouble with that is that the pastor across the street tells his congregation to not do what your pastor said to do and sometimes tells his congregation to do exactly the opposite. How do you tell which is right, or even whether either of them is right? The answer to that question is the basis for wisdom. The Bible tells us how to gain wisdom. But, both of the pastors claim to be following that same Bible. How can that be? Well, if going to church is your method for seeking what God actually said, then I suggest the chances are very high that you may never find out. That will leave you with a lack of wisdom.

Another place people look to find wisdom is at colleges or seminaries. But, beware. There is no list of federal or state requirements to become a pastor. They all go to a seminary that is sponsored by the denomination to which they belong. It is for that reason that each pastor has a different set of beliefs on which he preaches. This is not wisdom, just limited knowledge.

The last resort of many?

Lest I forget to mention it, there is one more place to find the wisdom we seek. That is in the Bible. Not in the gently interpreted, modified words that are designed by your pastor to keep people in the pews, but the straight-forward words placed for all to see in the love letter from our Lord and God. We must search the Scriptures, like the Bereans did (Acts 17:11
11Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

), and make sure we know what God said, not what the pastor said that He means. While harsh at times, the Scriptures tell the real story about what God has expected from the human race since the last day of creation. If we know those real words, with their attendant real meanings, we will know what to do and what to expect if we don't do it. That is wisdom.

Smart isn't enough

Intelligence does not mean wisdom. The ability to learn what one faith teaches is not necessarily the ability to become wise. There are Ph.D.s in all of the denominations of the world. They all take the Bible and declare with finality that their intepretation is what it really means, that is what God meant to say, and if you just follow them, you are saved. And, therein lies the trouble. Remember that we are not actually saved until Jesus returns and brings salvation with Him (Hebrews 9:28
28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

). That salvation depends on obeying Jesus and staying in the will of the Father (Luke 6:46
6"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?"

, Matthew 7:21
21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

). Anyone who preaches another gospel is feeding you a lie (Galatians 1:8
8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse!


Actively seek

Wisdom is the result of action based on a need for knowledge of God and what He wants. Most Biblical error is based on a lack of knowledge (Matthew 22:29
29Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God."

). Though this was speaking about what Scripture says about life after the resurrection, it still applies to knowing the Bible. That knowledge is based on the language, culture, and history of the people who wrote the Bible. If you read something that is not clear, don't just ask what it means, ask about the background of the statement, locate the Jewish meaning of the actual words used (not the English), and try to find out if there is any historical significance to the issue.

A pastor will tell you what it means to him and his teachers, not necessarily what it meant to the writer of the passage. Find out what the writer knew about the subject based on his perspective, not the viewpoint of a modern person. There is no big secret as to what God wants. It is not hidden in some deep thought required to unravel the complexities of the word of God. Just read it for what it says.

Wisdom does not come easy, but we are to ask for it (James 1:5
5If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.


As far as we know, only once in history did wisdom come easy for a person who asked for it. 2 Chronicles 1:7-12
7That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you."

8Solomon answered God, "You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. 9Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. 10Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?"

11God said to Solomon, "Since this is your heart's desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, 12therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have."

tells us that an unselfish prayer by a man who was made king of the Israelites was honored by God. For the rest of us, wisdom is earned by the diligent study of God's word and obedience to that same word. Not the flippant variation taught by pastors who allow the mixing of paganism and their worship in the vast majority of the churches of today, but direct obedience to the clear commands of God given to the whole world through the Israelites.

Just getting wisdom is only the beginning as well

In that regard, even Solomon's God-given wisdom failed him. He married hundreds of wives and had many concubines, many of whom worshiped other gods. Solomon build high places for them (1 Kings 11:1-10
1King Solomon fell in love with many foreign women (besides Pharaoh's daughter), including Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites. 2They came from nations about which the Lord had warned the Israelites, "You must not establish friendly relations with them! If you do, they will surely shift your allegiance to their gods." But Solomon was irresistibly attracted to them.

3He had 700 royal wives and 300 concubines; his wives had a powerful influence over him. 4When Solomon became old, his wives shifted his allegiance to other gods; he was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his father David had been. 5Solomon worshiped the Sidonian goddess Astarte and the detestable Ammonite god Milcom. 6Solomon did evil in the Lord's sight; he did not remain loyal to the Lord, as his father David had. 7Furthermore, on the hill east of Jerusalem Solomon built a high place for the detestable Moabite god Chemosh and for the detestable Ammonite god Milcom. 8He built high places for all his foreign wives so they could burn incense and make sacrifices to their gods.

9The Lord was angry with Solomon because he had shifted his allegiance away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him on two occasions 10and had warned him about this very thing, so that he would not follow other gods. But he did not obey the Lord's command.

), and made God angry. Once again, intelligence does not equate to wisdom, but know also that wisdom does not guarantee us salvation. It must be used to keep us in God's will, or it will not help us.

So, James says we are to ask for wisdom, but also says that our motives must be pure like those of Solomon when he prayed to be able to justly rule the people of God. If the motives are not pure, we will not receive that for which we ask (James 4:3
3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.


Wisdom verses

While there are hundreds of Bible verses that speak of wisdom, following is just a representative sample from Bible Study Tools. While you read through them, see if you can see the basic theme behind the reason for, and the proper use of, wisdom:

James 3:13
13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

                  Job 12:12
12Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?

                  Proverbs 2:6
6For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 4:6-7
6Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
        love her, and she will watch over you.
7The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
        Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

              Proverbs 11:2
2When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

             Proverbs 16:16
16How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!

Proverbs 17:28
28Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

             Proverbs 19:8
8The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

             Proverbs 13:10
10Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

Psalm 37:30
30The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just.

                Ephesians 5:15-16
15Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

      Colossians 4:5-6
5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Proverbs 1:7
7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

                Proverbs 3:7
7Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.

               Proverbs 13:1
1A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.

Ecclesiastes 2:26
26To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

        1 Corinthians 1:25
25For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

       Colossians 2:2-3
2My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

James 3:17
17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

                  James 1:5
5If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

                 1 Corinthians 1:30
30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

You can't just pick and choose the ones you like

We need to be aware that all these verses are true. You don't just pick one and say "See? That's the answer. That's all we have to do." You must make sure that you understand the nature and purpose of wisdom - to seek, find, and follow God - and use it for that purpose. Apply the concept of all these verses, as well as the multitude of others, and you will begin to understand wisdom.

Just remember the bottom line

If you disobey the word of God, or follow a congregation that allows sin in any form to run rampant throughout, wisdom cannot help you. If your church mixes paganism with it's worship, wisdom will not help you. Unless, that is, you use that wisdom to find a better place to seek God. For at it's core, wisdom is the knowledge of God and His will. The more wisdom you gain, the more you will understand Him, and the better the chances that you will receive the salvation that Jesus will bring with Him.

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