On the Difference Between Being Smart and Brilliant


February 6, 2022

1 Peter 1:2 NIV

who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.


Finally, we come to verse 2! 

We just spent five full days on verse 1. Isn’t it amazing how much meaning is tucked into this first verse of Peter’s first letter? Still, we only scratched the surface. Multiple PhD dissertations have been researched and written over the ages on each one of these points of “elect, exiles, scattered.” The Word of God never ceases to amaze us. It brings us to another major principle of how to read the Bible better. In an age where everyone wants to read more and further and faster, we must learn to read slower and deeper. Let’s put it this way: If you want to read further faster you must learn to read deeper slower. Now, on to verse 2. At this rate it will be Christmas before we are through the letter. Don’t worry, we will pick up the pace a bit.

Peter, co-author of the New Testament, was a fisherman. He wasn’t a “smart” guy. By that, I don’t mean he was not intelligent. I mean he was uneducated. Let’s remember what Dr. Luke said of Peter (and John) back in Acts 4

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13 See the whole episode here. 

Wow, don’t you love that? They took note that these men had been with Jesus.

No, Peter was not smart. He was brilliant. To be educated and smart is not bad, of course. It’s fine. It’s just overrated. Brilliance is another order of intelligence entirely. Brilliance comes from being with Jesus. Brilliance comes from swimming in the stream of divine revelation. These are the ones who walk on water. These ones know their utter ordinariness and embrace it. They know they don’t need to try to prove anything to anyone or try to be something they are not. They know who they are because they know in the deepest way they belong to Jesus. 

This should encourage us, because we have a front row seat on Peter’s journey. We know he started out pretty insecure and needy, masquerading as an authority who had it all together. We saw his self aggrandizing behavior at the Last Supper. And like a train wreck in slow motion, we watched his prodigious collapse on Good Friday. We witnessed the breathtaking restoration of Peter by Jesus on the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. We are all in the midst of some version of that same journey, struggling to leave behavior management behind and step into the beholding and becoming way of life. 

I used to want to be smart. Now I only care about becoming brilliant. And certainly one can be both. It’s just tricky—lest we forget Jesus famous prayer:

I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. (Matthew 11:25-26)

Brilliance is another order of intelligence. Brilliance is divine intelligence. It doesn’t come from more education. It comes from exposure to Jesus himself. The brightest mind in the history of history and the future of eternity is the mind of Christ, which he willingly shares with any who will humble themselves enough to claim it. One more bit—brilliant is a French word. It means, shining.

And it is yet another reason we are wont to say

Wake up sleeper, and rise from the dead . . . 

Your turn: 


Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Thank you for Peter, who shows us a person all at once ordinary and extraordinary. He shows us what it looks like to carry the treasure of the Light of Jesus in a jar of clay. That’s what we want. In fact, all the education I have I want to consecrate unto you. It is, in fact, of little worth to me and anyone else apart from you. I want to share in the brilliance of you in a way that reflects and refracts your luminosity. Yes, Holy Spirit, lead me in this way. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.


Don’t you love how true brilliance is not reserved for the elite and the educated? If you could share in the brilliance of Jesus, would you trade in all your other intelligences for it? What if the outcome of this would be for all of our other intelligences to become ablaze for the glory of God? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. J D, I have two thoughts concerning this post. First of all, I recently read on a blog site dedicated to discipleship multiplication that the ultimate goal of discipleship is the restoration of God’s image to humanity, lost as a result of the fall.I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment. Secondly, the story in Acts gives me encouragement in that it shows how Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness ( 2 Corinthians 12:9 ). I definitely fall into the category of ordinary, unschooled men.

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