Mr. Chairman, Theological School Committee, colleagues of the faculty, students, and fellow saints in Christ, God calls us together tonight to begin another session of our seminary. Frankly I am rather excited about this year. We have new students this year in both the seminary and pre-seminary departments. Among them is a student from our friend and neighbor the Free Reformed Church in North America. We trust that he will find his study with us profitable and blessed. Unless I am mistaken, for the first time in our history we have a foreign student, Mr. Lau Chin Kwee, from Singapore. This means that our usefulness and influence are expanding beyond the sphere of our own Protestant Reformed Churches. God is giving us work to do that will have effect not only for our churches but for churches and saints on the other side of the world. For this we are and ought to be very grateful to God.
But this makes our calling at the seminary that much more serious. This is true especially in view of the theological environment in which we work. Liberalism, modernism, neo-orthodoxy, it makes little essential difference what one calls it, has won the day. That’s true even of Reformed churches and seminaries both in this country and abroad, especially in the land of our fathers. It grieves us to have to say it but it is true and we have to work with that. Many seminaries at best have become schools for the training of scholars and professional theologians. The result of this is that a new hierarchy or priesthood has arisen in protestantism, the professional theologians who place themselves between the Scriptures and the people of God. The result is expressed in lament of the Prophet Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Our calling is crucial. We must expound the holy and infallible Scripture, teach and maintain the truth as systematized and summed in our Reformed confessions. We must always submit in child-like faith to the inspired, infallible Word of God. We must defend the traditions of our fathers: Calvin’s Calvinism, the Reformed faith. We must do all of this in order that pastors and teachers may be prepared to shepherd God’s flock through preaching and pastoral care at home and on the mission field. We need men who will declare the whole council of God publicly and from house to house. Our students, therefore, must study and learn and be convicted of the Reformed faith and of the necessity to preach it in all of its power and beauty. In all of this they must be motivated by the compassion of the. Great Shepherd for the sheep. Finally, if they are to do that they need the wisdom of God. That is what is needed to shepherd God’s flock. That, therefore, they must be getting in the seminary; for wisdom is the principal thing. This is what the Scriptures teach us in Proverbs 4:7: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”
What is wisdom? The term in the text means: intelligence or knowledge or skill. A wise person has knowledge and is skillful, that is, he is able to use the knowledge. The word “understanding” is a further explanation of the idea of wisdom. It means discernment or perception. Wisdom is to perceive, apprehend truth, reality and to be skillful in the use of that truth. For wisdom is to know the truth and adapt oneself to it so as to live in harmony with it.
That wisdom is found first of all in God. God is the God of infinite wisdom, the all-wise ever blessed God. God is that because He is omniscient, He knows all things. God knows all things because He determined all things in His council. He determined the goal or purpose of all things, the glory of Himself in the saving of the elect in Christ. Thus in His wisdom God determined the way to reach that goal. He created all things by and for Jesus Christ so that in all things Christ has the preeminence. God determined the way of sin and grace, of death and the cross and the resurrection. In His wisdom God makes everything work for that goal. He upholds and governs the entire universe and all of history to reach that goal, His own glory. This fundamental truth of the Word of God is denied by every heresy which plagues the church in our day.
Wisdom in us is to know God and His truth and to order our lives in harmony with God. Wisdom is to know all that God has revealed of Himself and of the world which He created and governs. It is to know God’s purpose for that world and the world to come when our Lord returns at the end of the ages. We are wise when we live according to, that knowledge of God, when we are in harmony with that reality. Wisdom is always practical. Wisdom implies that we conform or adapt our living so as to be in harmony with God. Jesus gave us the perfect illustration of that in His Sermon on the Kingdom in Matthew 7:24-29. In this passage our Lord tells of the wise man who built his house upon the rock. This man knew the reality of wind and rain and acted accordingly in the building of his house. When the wind and rain beat upon that house it stood, for it was built upon a rock. The foolish man built his house upon the sand. Though he knew the reality of the wind and rain he did not reckon with that reality, he did not conform and adapt. Thus when the wind and rain beat upon his house it fell. The application Christ makes is this: the wise man is the one who hears and does My word; the man who hears the sayings of Christ and does them not is a fool. That, therefore, is wisdom. It is to know God and to live in harmony with God. That man is wise. Very simply put, as Jesus said, it is to hear and do the word of God. Psalm 53 says that the fool says in his heart there is no God. The fool does not say that because of ignorance, for God is everywhere revealed in His creation, even His eternal power and godhead. No man can claim ignorance of God; no one can escape the knowledge of God. In spite of that, he says there is no God. That is why he is a fool. He refuses to reckon with God and to order his life to conform to God’s revelation.
That wisdom is the principal thing! Wisdom is the chief thing. We do not mean to minimize scholarship. But the fact is that one may know all kinds of theology. He may even have a thorough knowledge of the Bible and be able to expound the Scriptures skillfully. But if he does not know God and does not do that word of God he is a big fool. On the other hand, one may lack formal training in theology and have very little intellectual power and ability. But he knows God to be his Father for Jesus’ sake. He knows God to be everything and he lives that way. That man is truly wise. Wisdom is the principal thing. This is where everything must begin and this is where everything must end, in the wisdom of God. This is the one thing that matters. Nothing in this life has any value or meaning or purpose apart from the wisdom of God. This is preeminently true of our work in the seminary too! All of our lecturing and exposition of the Word of God, all of our learning and acquiring of homiletical and pastoral skills means nothing apart from wisdom. The fool with all of his knowledge and education, his skill, his wealth and fame goes to the place of fools, hell. He that is wise has the ornament of grace and the crown of glory according to verse 9. The wisdom of God is the principal thing.
Therefore, get wisdom. This means, very simply: I lay hold of it, grasp it, learn to know wisdom, make it a part of you. Live according to that wisdom. The context tells us how: by refraining from evil and pondering the paths of our feet. By living and walking in the ways of God and not entering the path of the wicked we live according to the wisdom of God.
But how are we to do that? How are we to get wisdom? In a sense we do not have to get it for wisdom is the gift of God’s grace to His children in Christ Jesus. Christ is the wisdom of God. Christ reveals God to us especially in His cross and resurrection. Upon His ascension to glory Christ poured out His Holy Spirit to guide us in all the truth and to strengthen us to live according to God’s Word. By that Spirit we have been born again so that we see and know God. And we have already been instructed in the Word of God from infancy in our covenants homes and schools and churches. By the grace of God we manifest the wisdom of God by hearing and doing the Word of God in our lives. Still the Word of God says: “Get wisdom.” The meaning is: grow in it, increase in God’s wisdom.
This means we must know God’s Word. Therein is the wisdom of God revealed, and only therein. This is our unique and blessed privilege in the seminary, to be busy all of the time in all of the courses with the Scriptures. Seize that opportunity and learn to know God’s Word in order that you may be wise. At this point I wish to repeat what I said in my pre-seminary graduation address last spring. Seminary is not something incidental to your life, it is your life! The ministry of the gospel to which you students aspire is not just a profession among others, just a job. It is not even a matter of .putting in much time and effort. The, ministry of the gospel demands a total life commitment. Hence your calling is to study diligently and to work hard. You may not be a lazy or do slipshod, work in the seminary. God does not need or want lazy ministers in His churches. God wants men who are competent, committed to the faith, and, above all, wise. God wants men who are willing to die for the Reformed faith after the manner of many of our fathers. Be faithful and diligent in your studies for the sake of the truth, for the sake of the churches, for God’s sake.
That is what you need for the ministry. A minister needs many gifts. He needs a thorough knowledge of the Word of God and the ability to expound the Scriptures as they apply to the lives of God’s people. He must, the Bible tells us, be apt to teach, patient, gentle; he must have the love of Christ in his heart. But the principal thing he needs is the wisdom of God. If with all of those gifts he is a fool, he cannot effectively shepherd God’s flock. He needs wisdom to feed and nourish and to rule and guide the people of God. God says to you in His Word tonight: get that wisdom.
That is the calling of the professors as well. They must be wise. They must faithfully and with diligence expound the Scriptures, defend the truth over against all heresy repugnant to it. They must instruct the students from the Word of God in the skills which, they need as pastors and teachers for God’s flock. They must live lives that are worthy examples of the wisdom of God for the students to follow. In the way of faithfulness to this calling the seminary will prosper, the faith of our fathers will be preserved, and the churches and mission fields will be blessed with men of God who are wise shepherds of the sheep. God’s name will be praised. May God in His mercy grant it.