Know Thyself

Socrates once remarked, What I do not know I do not think I know. In essence, Socrates was saying that he appeared wise because he was simply more aware of his ignorance rather than his wisdom. His emphasis was on the negative, or what’s missing. By many standards Socrates was undoubtedly a genius. However, though Socrates may have been on the right track and with all his intellect, what Socrates failed to grasp was what was really missing. Socrates couldn’t grasp his lack of righteousness. He knew his ignorance but he didn’t know his sin. For all Socrates knew he simply didn’t know himself. No matter how learned or unlearned a Christian may be, all Christians know that they are sinners.

In his sermon, Christ the Believer’s Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption, the great preacher George Whitefield explains what it is to know thyself.

But perhaps you despise riches and pleasure, and therefore place wisdom in the knowledge of books: but it is possible for you to tell the numbers of the stars, and call them all by their names, and yet be mere fools; learned men are not always wise; nay, our common learning, so much cried up, makes men only so many accomplished fools; to keep you therefore no longer in suspense, and withal to humble you, I will send you to a heathen to school, to learn what true wisdom is: Know thyself, was a saying of one of the wise men of Greece; this is certainly true wisdom, and this is that wisdom spoken of in the text, and which Jesus Christ is made to all elect sinners – they are made to know themselves, so as not to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. Before, they were darkness; now, they are light in the Lord; and in that light they see their own darkness; they now bewail themselves as fallen creatures by nature, dead in trespasses and sins, sons and heirs of hell, and children of wrath; they now see that all their righteousnesses are but as filthy rags; that there is no health in their souls; that they are poor and miserable, blind and naked; and that there is no name given under heaven, whereby they can be saved, but that of Jesus Christ. They see the necessity of closing with a Savior, and behold the wisdom of God in appointing him to be a Savior; they are also made willing to accept of salvation upon our Lord’s own terms, and receive him as their all in all; thus Christ is made to them wisdom.

Whereas the genius like Socrates is aware of his ignorance, the Christian is acutely aware of his sin.

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,