How Did Jesus "Grow in Wisdom?"

by Tim Haile

       Luke 2:52 says:

"Jesus grew in wisdom (sophia) and stature, and in favor with God and men."

       Some use this verse to contend that Jesus increased in "knowledge." Of course, that is not what the verse says. It says that He increased in "wisdom." Wisdom is the application of knowledge; it is not the knowledge itself. The Bible tells us that God possesses both "wisdom and knowledge" (Rom. 11:33). Literally dozens of Bible passages list "wisdom" and "knowledge" separately, indicating that there is a difference between the two. James 1:5 says:

       "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him."

       Is James here giving aid and comfort to the Mormon belief that one may pray for knowledge? Absolutely not! James is speaking of "wisdom" in this passage, and obviously, there is a difference between wisdom and knowledge.

"Full of Truth" or "Increased in Truth?"

       If the wisdom of Luke 2:52 is truth itself, then how did Jesus increase in it? John 1:14 said that Jesus was full of truth from the time of His incarnation! It is a plainly stated fact that the incarnation did not diminish the Lord's sure and certain knowledge, for John tells us that even after "the Word was made flesh," John and others were able to behold His glory which was "the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

"Full of Grace" or "Increased in Grace?"

       Luke 2:52 included "favor" or grace as one of the things that Jesus "grew" in. I remind you of John 1:14 again where Jesus was said to have been "full of grace and truth" from the time of His incarnation. How did Jesus "increase" in that which He was full of? These questions will be addressed a little later, but for now, let us examine some complications of the view that the incarnation stripped Jesus of His sure and certain knowledge.

How Much Did Jesus Know?

1. At the age of 12, Jesus was aware of His special and unique relationship with the Father (Lk. 2:49).
2. Jesus knew "where He came from, and where he was going" (John 8:14).
3. Jesus "knew all men" and "knew what was in man" (John 2:24-25).
4. Jesus "knew from the beginning, who would believe on Him and who would betray Him" (John 6:64).
5. Jesus knew that the Father had "given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God, and was going back to God"(John 13:3).
6. Jesus "knew all things that would come upon Him" from His arrest and forward (John 18:4).
7. Jesus "knew all things" (John 16:30; 21:17).

       Fallible men perceive and portray Jesus as a God who lost all of His knowledge, including His God-consciousness, when He came into the world. I take my stand upon the infallible word of God when it comes to the question of what Jesus knew in the flesh. Jesus, who was both "the Word" and "the Truth" personified (Jn. 1:1 and 14:6), did not have to "study" the word in order to know it! Luke 2:52 does not mean that Jesus started out His life "ignorant," as some brethren have taught, then increased in knowledge. Such an explanation defies both scripture and the very nature of God. However, this is exactly what some brethren have done. Notice these quotes used by Ronny Milliner in his article, "The Son of Man," Faith and Facts, (October, 1990), p.308. Brother Milliner used these quotes to make his point about the "natural progression of Jesus as a child."

       "It is to be observed further that Jesus was not a man in a child's body. His mind developed as his body grew larger and stronger. He grew by use of means - grew physically by taking proper exercise, wholesome food, and restful sleep; grew in wisdom and grace by asking questions, studying the scriptures, and exercise of mind and soul."
Quoted from H Leo Boles.

       Boles' statement is only correct in its assessment of Jesus' physical development. Boles and Milliner are wrong when they assert that Jesus grew spiritually. God's spirit does not change (Mal. 3:6). Since Jesus was as much God, as the father was God (Jn. 14:9; Heb. 1:3), then Jesus' spirit has never changed (Heb. 13:8; 1:10-12).

       Ronny also quoted from an article entitled "Made Like Unto His Brethren" written by Jeffery Kingry. Ronny quoted this section to make his argument concerning the childhood ignorance of Jesus:

       "The scriptures say that Jesus was sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers (Luke 2:46-47). Jesus was not, as some people aver, teaching the doctors of the law, but was learning from them, by listening and asking questions. Those that heard his questions, and how he answered questions put to him by these elder scholars of the law, were no doubt quite impressed with the quick understanding and perception in one of such tender years."

       Ronny Milliner quotes Kingry in support of his view that, while in the flesh, Jesus had either lost, or lost access to, His own divine knowledge. Luke 2:40-ff teaches the exact opposite of what these men assert. Luke tells us that Jesus was "full of wisdom" (Vs. 40). He tells us that Jesus had sure and certain knowledge of who His Father was (Lk. 2:49). He also tells us that Jewish doctors and lawyers were amazed and astonished at Jesus' answers (Lk. 2:47-48). Jesus did not ask questions for the purpose of acquiring information! He asked questions for the purpose of provoking thought and action among those He taught. In Matthew 8:26 Jesus asked the Apostles, "Why are you afraid?", then He gave the answer. In Matthew 9:4 Jesus asked His enemies, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?", yet the same verse says He knew their thoughts. In Matthew 9:5 Jesus asked the question, "Which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say 'Rise, and walk,'?" Of course, Jesus went on to give the answer in the very next verse. Jesus' questions to the Jewish elders served exactly the same purpose; Jesus raised questions, not for information, but to incite thought.

Harmonizing Luke 2:40 with Luke 2:52

       Luke 2:52 tells us that Jesus "grew in wisdom," but just a few verses earlier in Luke chapter 2, we are told that Jesus was "full" of wisdom (sophia) (Luke 2:40). How can one be "full" of something while "increasing" in it? There is only one way. Luke 2:52 teaches that Jesus' "wisdom" was coordinated with His "stature" (physical development). As Jesus advanced from one stage of physical development to the next, He had all of the wisdom necessary to do His work. As Jesus grew physically, he grew in applying His knowledge. He did not "grow" or "increase" in the sense of acquiring more of a thing that He formerly lacked. Jesus "advanced" in that He "cut forward a way" (Vine). 2 Timothy 2:16; 3:9,13 translates "prokopto" in the sense of "proceeding further." Galatians 1:14 tells us that Paul "advanced" in the Jew's religion, i.e., he "struck forward" in his religious practices.

       By combining verses 40 and 52 of Luke 2, we learn that, in the incarnation, Jesus accepted the physical limitations of the human body, though His spirit remained immutably divine. Though He possessed sure and certain divine knowledge, He did not use that knowledge until a time and circumstance comensurate with His physical development, and in keeping with His mission. Luke 2:42-49 records the first such time. Jesus referred to His Father as "My Father," both indicating and teaching His sure knowledge of His unique relationship with His Father even by the physical age of 12. Did Jesus possess divine knowledge while He was a baby in the manger? Absolutely! Jesus was fully God in that manger (Matt. 1:23). This is the only reason He was qualified to receive the angel's worship!

       I am constantly amazed at the vastly different approaches to passages like this one. Some brethren look for a modernistic, naturalistic explanation, while others among us look for an explanation that exalts Christ as our divine messiah, Lord and God. To some, it may appear as a harmless thing to say that Jesus either surrendered, or surrendered access to His sure and certain knowledge. However, millions of cultists hold the same veiws our brethren are presently spouting on these same passages! The Bible says Jesus never learned one thing either about man (Jn. 2:24-25), or from man (Jn. 16:30; 21:17). During His days in the flesh, Jesus remained omniscient God.

by Tim Haile

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