One of the theologians I took special interest in during seminary was Augustine. Augustine, was Bishop of Hippo and his life was a journey marked by his pursuit of selfish pleasures in his youth to a conversion experience that caused him to be placed by “force” as a priest in Hippo. In just 5 short years, he became Bishop of Hippo and remained in that position for the next 35 years. As I look at the life of Augustine I am filled with conviction, hope, and encouragement. Augustine’s priority was ministry and his writing and scholarship came as a result of his experiences serving the people of God placed under his care.

Augustine and Wisdom

Both in Augustine’s day and in ours, humanity is seeking after wisdom. They look for wisdom in a variety of places hoping that the acquisition of wisdom will save them from hardship and provide a benefit for their future. Augustine took great care to write about wisdom in a way that would be of use for those that God called to his care. Even more important, Augustine points us to pursue wisdom through the context of the Gospel and in light of the scriptures. He breaks down the pursuit of wisdom into seven steps in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series, Volume II St. Augustine: City of God, Christian Doctrine

First, Fear:

It is necessary that we should be led by the fear of God to seek the knowledge of His will.

In many ways wisdom begins with humility. Our understanding of who God is and who we are should produce a holy fear. Augustine helps us see that this holy fear should cause us to seek the knowledge of God. As we understand the knowledge of God we are able to align our desires with those of God. As we come into alignment with the will of God, our choices, motivations, and actions will begin to reflect the wisdom of God.

Another key aspect of fear is the recollection of who we truly are apart from Christ. Our mortality and fragile nature will come to the forefront causing us to run into the embrace of the Creator and lay down our prideful notions of idolatrous self worth.

We should be led by the fear of God to seek the knowledge of His will.

Second, Piety:

It is necessary to have our hearts subdued by piety – Augustine

Augustine is asking that we allow our hearts to be subject to properly honor and respect the Word of God. It can be easy for us to neglect or even run away from Scripture. The Word of God is both life giving and offensive as it exposes our sin. Our response to scripture however should be filled with humility and a willingness to allow God’s Word to direct and change our life. Augustine also encourages us in our inability to understand Scripture at times. Rather than thinking we should be able to understand and beating ourselves up over our inadequacy, we should rest in the truth and sufficiency of God’s Word. Whatever is written, even if it is hidden, is better and more true than anything we could conjure up with our own wisdom.

It is necessary to have our hearts subdued by piety.

Third, Knowledge:

God is to be loved for his own sake, and our neighbor for God’s sake – Augustine

As we jump into the Scriptures to gain knowledge we will find the truth of the human condition apart from God. We have been entangled in the love of this world and taken in fleeting and momentary pleasures only to find our selves more broken and hurting. Therefore, the fear of the Lord and our pious approach to the scriptures give us a renewed sense of hope and we see the truth. As we become captivated by the beauty of the Gospel we see that God is to be loved for his own sake and that in grace he saves and restores fallen humanity to enjoy Him. The more we understand and grow in our knowledge of the scriptures we have a greater sense of the despair we were in but for Christ. So we become humble and not boastful, meek and not proud, and seek to serve not to rule.

God is to be loved for his own sake, and our neighbor for God’s sake.

Fourth, Strength and Resolution:

He extricates himself from every form of fatal joy in transitory things – Augustine

As you may notice, Augustine seems to be building on each of these points. As we have gained knowledge and understand the truths of scripture there is a need for response. The heart that has been redeemed and restored turns from the fatal and fleeting pleasures of this world to fix our eyes and gaze upon Christ. We fix our affections on eternal things that stir up our love and joy in Christ.

There is also a sense of resolution that takes place. A commitment to submit ourselves to the Gospel and in humility subject ourselves to the Kingship of Christ in all areas of life.

He extricates himself from every form of fatal joy in transitory things.

Fifth, Counsel Of Compassion:

He exercises himself diligently in the love of his neighbor – Augustine

In the most basic manner our pursuit of Godly Wisdom will result on our reflecting the character and nature of Christ. As Christ loved us so we love our neighbor. Even more so, we begin to show compassion and love towards our enemies and those that mistreat us. Our story becomes one that is defined by the love of Christ.

Our affections are so stirred up for Christ that we can not help but become agents of his mercy and love. We carry out our mission as ambassadors of Christ and the ministry of reconciliation. Therefore, our love of our neighbor and enemy produces a Godly wisdom.

He exercises himself diligently in the love of his neighbor.

Sixth, Purification Of Heart:

For men see Him just as far as they die to this world; and so far as they live to it they see Him not – Augustine

The process of our purification forms us into the image of Christ. As we live in light of the Gospel we will be so pure in heart that we can’t step aside from truth for any reason. The thought of pleasing man or even our own desires fade in comparison to the brilliant and beautiful light of Christ. Our purification of heart and mind cause us to see this world for what it is, a temporary living place until the return of the King who will create and form the new heavens and earth.

Our purification will also allow us to see God. As we die to this world and live for the Kingdom our clarity of the King becomes clearer. Sadly, those that live for this world are unable to see the King or His Kingdom.

Seventh, Ascend To Wisdom:

For the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom – Augustine

Peace and tranquility is found by the person who processes these six steps and finds it’s culmination in Godly wisdom. It is a full circle as we are brought back to the truth that the fear of God is in fact the very beginning of wisdom.

“From that beginning, then, till we reach wisdom itself, our way is by the steps now described” – Augustine

For the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

P.S – If you would like a copy to read I recommend the following edition. Click the link and grab your copy!

[1] Augustine of Hippo, “On Christian Doctrine,” in St. Augustin’s City of God and Christian Doctrine, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. F. Shaw, vol. 2, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 538.




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