All About Sophia
The Greeks loved to talk about and to seek Sophia, or wisdom. Greek philosophers like Plato and Socrates used many proverb-like sayings to guide life. Wisdom gave one a true handle on how to live.
Also, around the time Paul penned the letter of Colossians, there was a growing trend in the Greek world toward a belief system called Gnosticism (from the Greek "gnosis" which means "knowledge"). Some of its key characteristics are...
- Dualism: A very dualistic view of the world (spirit=good, the flesh=bad).
- Creation is Tainted: They viewed the Creator of the Bible as a lesser divine being (a "demiurge") because it made this physical world. Therefore, this physical world and the human body are seen as tainted. They would see our God as a lesser being beneath the "Plehroma" of other gods.
- Divine Origins & Knowledge: Special classes of peoples receive this divine "knowledge" from the "Plehroma" (Greek for "Fullness"). They viewed people coming from this divine origin and therefore must return to it by escaping the flesh.
So, when Paul addresses the ideas of sophia and gnosis (wisdom and knowledge), it's a much deeper discussion than simply book knowledge...
I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those in Laodicea, as well as for those who have still not seen me face to face. My purpose is that their hearts, joined together in love, may be encouraged. May they have all the riches of the full assurance of understanding, leading to a true knowledge of the mystery of God—that is, Messiah. In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.
Colossians 2:1-3 (TLV)
The True Source of Sophia (Wisdom)
Paul is addressing the early roots of Gnosticism here by saying "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden" in Jesus.
He is redirecting these Christians, who have been persuaded by their Greek culture, to lay down their mingled belief systems at the foot of the cross.
Paul knows the cross sounds like "foolishness" to the world, but it is the only source of salvation:
For I am not ashamed of the Good News, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who trusts—to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Romans 1:16 (TLV)
What's Your Source of Wisdom?
Though Gnosticism may seem like a far-off philosophy, its effects are still felt in the world. Our American and Christian cultures have embraced...
- Hyper-individualism, where personal rights and self preservation rule.
- New Age principles of elevating personal revelation, deifying self, mystical threads in Christian beliefs, and more.
- A rejection of the Scriptures as authoritative, and a strong embrace of mystic gospels and letters written decades and centuries after the New Testament.
But as Christians, we are called to...
- Elevate Christ, the very Wisdom of God.
- Worship God only as worthy of praise, not ourselves.
- To live our lives as Christ did, humbly and sacrificially.
- To seek wisdom from God as its main source, not ourselves.
God will of course reveal things to us through the Holy Spirit, but it's always in accordance with His character and word.
There's a huge danger in deifying human experience and personal revelation as truth-bearing. If we all turn into personal prophets and fountains of truth, to whom are we pointing the world to?
Ourselves, or the risen Christ?
- Pause and think about your own faith. Which cultural or political "gnosis" is grabbing your attention more than the knowledge of God?
- Where are you seeking sophia? What are you valuing as wisdom?
- I encourage you to value Christ, the true Wisdom of God, above all others.
Some recommended reading...
Check out The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer—classic!