Jesus as Divine Wisdom

By Mark D. Roberts

June 2, 2024

The Gift of Wisdom

Scripture — John 1:1-3 (NRSV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.


At the beginning of the Gospel of John, Jesus is revealed to be the Word of God who comes among us as a human being. John’s portrayal of the divine Word also shows that Jesus is God’s Wisdom in the flesh. Thus, if we want to be wise, we need to know Jesus deeply, embracing his truth and imitating his life.

Today’s devotion is part of the series The Gift of Wisdom.


In the first year of my PhD program, I was assigned a paper on the prologue to the Gospel of John (1:1-18). As I began my research, I assumed that I would learn a lot more about the “Word” of God who figures so prominently in this passage. I did indeed learn plenty, some of which surprised me.

The main surprise had to do with the extent to which John’s portrayal of the Word reflects the Jewish understanding of divine Wisdom. Before beginning my research, I assumed that the Word in John 1 was connected mainly to God’s creative and prophetic word in the Old Testament and also to the rational word (logos) in the Greek world. What I discovered confirmed this hunch, but added a whole new perspective. The Word of God in John 1 sounds a whole lot like Wisdom in ancient Jewish writings such as Proverbs.

For example, compare the following passages:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being (John 1:1-3)

[Wisdom says:] The LORD created me at the beginning of his work,

     the first of his acts of long ago.

Ages ago I was set up,

     at the first, before the beginning of the earth. . . .

When he established the heavens, I was there,

     when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

when he made firm the skies above,

     when he established the fountains of the deep,

when he assigned to the sea its limit,

     so that the waters might not transgress his command,

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

     then I was beside him, like a master worker;

and I was daily his_ _delight,

     rejoicing before him always (Prov 8:22-23, 27-30).

When you put these two passages side by side, you can see how profoundly John’s portrayal of the Word has been influenced by the Old Testament depiction of Wisdom.

Both Word and Wisdom were in the beginning.

Both Word and Wisdom were with God.

Both Word and Wisdom were active in creation.

If you were to go through the rest of John’s prologue, you’d find many more parallels between the Word and Wisdom.

What you will not find in ancient Jewish teachings on Wisdom, however, is the idea that Wisdom became incarnate in one, unique human being. In the book known as The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, or simply Sirach, which was written a couple of centuries before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, divine Wisdom does come to dwell in Israel. Yet Wisdom comes, not as a person, but as the divine Law, the Torah (see Sirach 24:1-29).

The Gospel of John, however, reveals that God’s Word/Wisdom “became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). A couple of verses later it says, “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (1:17-18).

As Christians, we certainly believe that God’s Wisdom is reflected in God’s Law. But we understand that the ultimate revelation of Wisdom has come, not in the Law, but in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the Word/Wisdom of God incarnate (1:14). Thus, if we seek wisdom, if we want to be wise in our thinking and acting, in our leading and following, we need to know Jesus. We need to receive him, as John writes in verse 12, by believing in him.

Such belief isn’t a momentary affirmation so much as the beginning of a lifelong relationship with Jesus, the very Wisdom of God. Indeed, later in the Gospel of John, Jesus invites us not only to believe in him but also to abide in him, to make our home in him and his love (15:4-9). Not only will this enable us to grow in wisdom, but also, as Jesus promises, it is the path to complete joy (15:11).


If Jesus is God’s Wisdom in human flesh, what does this teach us about divine wisdom?

What helps you to grow in your relationship with Jesus? Or, to put it differently, what helps you to abide in him?


Talk with your small group or a wise friend about the implications of Jesus as God’s Wisdom in human flesh.


Gracious God, you are indeed the “only wise God.” You are the source of all wisdom. Yet you don’t keep it to yourself. Rather, you make wisdom known to us. You help us to be wise. Thank you.

We learn to be wise by paying attention to your revelation in Scripture. But you have made your Wisdom known most plainly and fully in Jesus, who is the Word and Wisdom of God incarnate. Thank you, gracious God, for this marvelous gift.

Help me, I pray, to know Jesus deeply and truly. Help me to believe in him, to trust him, to learn from him, to imitate him, and to abide in him. As I grow in my relationship with Jesus, may I grow in wisdom. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Your Work Matters to God (John 1:1–5,14).

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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