A study of 1 Corinthians: #3b Those God Has Saved Have No Status – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

17 Nov

What Does 1 Corinthians 2:8 Mean?

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV) Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29  so that no one may boast before him. 30  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31  Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

You want success? Here’s your model. You want achievement? Here’s your prototype. You want bright lights, pageants, and media attention? Consider the front-page, center article of the nation’s largest daily newspaper.

It is a caricature of “Miss America.” The vital data of the fifty one participants has been compiled to present the perfect woman. She has brown hair. She has brown eyes. She knows how to sing and has a perfect figure: 35–24-35. She is Miss America.

The message trumpets off the page: “This is the standard for American women.” The implication is clear: Do what it takes to be like her. Get your body ‘in shape.’ Pamper your hair. Improve your walk.

No reference is made to her convictions … to her honesty … to her faith … or to her God. But you are told her hip size.

In a small photo, four inches to the left, is another woman. Her face is thin. Her skin is wrinkled, almost leathery. No makeup … no blush … no lipstick. There is a faint smile on her lips and a glint in her eyes. She looks pale. Perhaps it’s my imagination or perhaps it’s time. The caption read, “Mother Teresa: In serious condition.”

Mother Teresa. You know her story. When she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, she gave the two hundred thousand dollars to the poor of Calcutta. When a businessman bought her a new car, she sold it and gave the money to the underprivileged. She owns nothing. She owes nothing.

Two women: Miss America and Mother Teresa. One walks the boardwalk; the other walks the alley. Two voices. One promises crowns, flowers, and crowds. The other promises service, surrender, and joy.

Now I have nothing against beauty pageants (although I have my reservations about them). But I do have something against the lying voices that noise our world.

You’ve heard them. They tell you to swap your integrity for a new sale. To barter your convictions for an easy deal. To exchange your devotion for a quick thrill.

They whisper. They woo. They taunt. They tantalize. They flirt. They flatter. “Go ahead, it’s O.K.” “Just wait until tomorrow.” “Don’t worry, no one will know.” “How could anything that feels so right be so wrong?” …

For amidst the fleeting promises of pleasure is the timeless promise of [God’s] presence.

“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

There is no chorus so loud that the voice of God cannot be heard … if we will but listen. (From In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado)

The Corinthians had a tendency to be “puffed up” with pride (1 Cor. 4:6, 18–19; 5:2). But the Gospel of God’s grace leaves no room for personal boasting. God is not impressed with our looks, our social position, our achievements, our natural heritage, or our financial status. Note that Paul wrote many, not any. In the New Testament, we do meet some believers with “high social standing,” but there are not many of them. The description Paul gave of the converts was certainly not a flattering one (1 Cor. 6:9–11).[1]

The world is full of ‘somebodies’ and ‘nobodies’,  and it does neither  of them any good. That’s  not the way God intended it to  be. Every human   being,  man,  woman,  child,  and  even unborn child, bears the image and  likeness of God, and  has neither more nor less dignity because some other people have heard  of them, look up to them, or think  they’re  special.

But in most parts  of the world, at most  periods  of history – and, as the story shows, often enough  in the church  itself – people feel  that  it’s better  to  be ‘somebody’. The  cult  of fame  has reached  monstrous proportions in recent days, to the absurd point  where  many  people are now famous  for being famous. We know their names, we recognize their faces, but can’t remember whether  they are footballers, film stars  or fashion models.

The Corinthian saints were status seekers. Paul wanted them to see how foolish this was in the light of divine wisdom and power and how inconsistent status-seeking is with the gospel.

Paul challenges his readers to take a good look around the church to note who was not present among them. This he did in verses 18-25. Glaringly absent in the church are those people who hold positions of status in the secular world, in accordance with secular values. The church is not made up of wise men, scribes, and debaters: 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?[2]

Paul reminded them of what they were (v. 26). One would be gravely mistaken to think that 1:26 contained the doctrinal seed needed to promote Christianity as a religion of the proletariat (workers or working-class people, regarded collectively). All the evidence points to the fact that Paul’s urban churches contained wealthy members.

This Corinthian church contained people of wealth who served as host not only to Paul, but to the entire congregation (Rom 16), people who owned homes in which they could eat (1 Cor 11:22), and at least one of the influential members, namely Erastus (Rom 16:23), was an administrator in the Roman colony of Corinth.

The religious perspective of this verse is one which runs throughout the Scriptures, and Paul’s choice of ideas here was influenced and inspired by the long history of God expressing his sovereign will through his choice of foolish and weak individuals to carry out his agenda. Whether one considers God’s choice of Israel, or of Moses, or of Gideon, or of David, or of Mary the mother of Jesus, the Scripture is clear in its depiction of a God whose list of friends portrays a lot of foolishness and weakness by human standards.

The following chart of the links will help make Paul’s correlation of the ideas of 1:26 with 1:27–28 clearer.

Corinthian Status


God’s Choice


God’s Purpose


Not many wise (sophos) Foolish things


To shame the wise (sophos)


Not many influential


Weak things


To shame the strong


Not many of noble birth (eugenes)


Lowly things (agenes)


To nullify existing things[3]


Paul possibly went over the membership of the Corinthian church in his mind as he wrote verse 26. He reminded them that they had very few who were famous, wealthy, highly educated, powerful, or influential when they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is likely that, when they became Christians, they lost a great deal of the prestige, influence, and income they did have.

Consider your calling, brethren, he says. Paul always uses the term calling to refer to the saving call of God, the effectual call that results in redemption. “You know what sort of persons you were when God called you out of darkness. You know that He did not accept you as His child because you were brilliant or wealthy or intelligent or powerful. If you were any of these things,” he says, “you were saved in spite of them not because of them. If anything they were stumbling blocks that hindered you, obstacles between you and God’s grace.” He implies that they should be glad that not many were wise according to the flesh or mighty or noble. Such things often keep people from the sense of need that leads to salvation. If more of them had been wise, mighty, or noble, it is likely that fewer of them would have been saved.

God is not looking for Phi Beta Kappas to save and to do His work. Nor is He looking for millionaires or famous athletes or entertainers or statesmen. His salvation is open to them just as surely as to others, but only on the same basis of faith. The very things that put them ahead in the world may actually put them behind with God. It is the feeling of inadequacy that makes people aware that they have need, and often draws them to the gospel.

Jesus prayed on one occasion, “I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes” (Matt. 11:25). As the context makes clear, this prayer was spoken publicly as a part of His preaching to the crowds. He was addressing His hearers as much as His Father when He prayed these words. He wanted them to know that God wanted only their faith and nothing else. He was also warning that “the wise and intelligent” were at a disadvantage as far as spiritual life and understanding are concerned. It is not that they could not accept and believe, but that pride in and dependence on their accomplishments and abilities could keep them from the kingdom. Weakness and insufficiency are the climate in which God’s strength is made manifest.

God’s wisdom is a kind of paradox. In human thinking, strength is strength, weakness is weakness, and intelligence is intelligence. But in God’s economy some of the seemingly strongest things are the weakest, some of the seemingly weakest things are the strongest, and some of the seemingly wisest things are the most foolish. The paradox is not by accident but by God’s design.

A simple, uneducated, untalented, and clumsy believer who has trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and who faithfully and humbly follows His Lord is immeasurably wiser than the brilliant Ph.D. who scoffs at the gospel. The simple believer knows forgiveness, love, grace, life, hope, God’s Word—God Himself. He can see eternity. The unbelieving Ph.D., on the other hand, knows nothing beyond his books, his own mind, and his own experience. He sees nothing beyond this life, and he cannot be considered anything but foolish.

We are often tempted to think that it would be wonderful if such-and-such a great athlete—or brilliant scientist, popular entertainer, or world leader—would become a Christian. But Jesus did not think this way when He chose His disciples. Some were probably well known in their local circles and perhaps a few of them were well off financially. But He did not choose them for their wealth or influence, and in His training of them He did not try to capitalize on any such things. None of them had anything so great that he was not ready to leave it to follow Christ.

Paul glories in the fact that, for the most part, the Church was composed of the simplest and the humblest people. We must never think that the early Church was entirely composed of slaves. Even in the New Testament we see that people from the highest ranks of society were becoming Christians. There was Dionysius at Athens (Acts 17:34); Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Crete (Acts 13:6–12); the noble ladies at Thessalonica and Beroea (Acts 17:4, 12); Erastus, the city treasurer, probably of Corinth (Romans 16:23). In the time of Nero, Pomponia Graecina, the wife of Plautius, the conqueror of Britain, was martyred for her Christianity. In the time of Domitian, in the latter half of the first century, Flavius Clemens, the cousin of the Emperor himself, was martyred as a Christian. Towards the end of the second century Pliny, the governor of Bithynia, wrote to Trajan the Emperor, saying that the Christians came from every rank in society. But it remains true that the great mass of Christians were simple and humble folk.[4]

In a.d. 178 the philosopher Celsus mockingly wrote of Christians: Let no cultured person draw near, none wise and none sensible, for all that kind of thing we count evil; but if any man is ignorant, if any man is wanting in sense and culture, if anybody is a fool, let him come boldly [to become a Christian].… We see them in their own houses, wool dresses, cobblers, the worst, the vulgarest, the most uneducated persons.… They are like a swarm of bats or ants creeping out of their nest, or frogs holding a symposium around a swamp, or worms convening in mud.

That is also what much of the rest of the world of his day thought of Christians. The simplicity of the gospel and the humility of faithful believers is incomprehensible to the world; it seems to be abject foolishness. The Lord planned it that way. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and … has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are. It is interesting to note that the despised means, in the root form, “to be considered as nothing.” The Greek is in the perfect tense here, indicating that what was once despised will continue to be despised. So people who were thought to be nobodies in society would continue to be thought of as nobodies. The phrase things that are not translates the most contemptible expression in the Greek language. “Being” was everything to the Greeks, and to be called a nothing was the worst insult. The phrase may have been used of slaves.

The world measures greatness by many standards. At the top are intelligence, wealth, prestige, and position—things which God has determined to put at the bottom. God reveals the greatness of His power by demonstrating that it is the world’s nobodies that are His somebodies.

According to God, the greatest man who ever lived, apart from Jesus Himself, was John the Baptist. He had no formal education, no training in a trade or profession, no money, no military rank, no political position, no social pedigree, no prestige, no impressive appearance or oratory. Yet Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11). This man fit none of the world’s standards but all of God’s. And what he became was all to the credit of God’s power.[5]

Now, in verses 26-31, Paul wants the Corinthians to give thought to who is present in the church. “Look at yourselves,” Paul challenges the Corinthians. Granting the possibility of a few exceptions, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the rule. By and large, the church is not composed of the wise, the mighty, or the noble, when judged by fleshly (unbelieving) standards: 1 Cor. 1:26: For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

Instead, God has chosen to save the foolish, the weak, the base and despised, the “nobodies.”

Following the principle set down in verse 19, Paul explains why God selected the undesirables of this world for salvation. God has purposed to nullify the wisdom of the wise and to humble the proud. He has chosen to do so by employing means and people that the world rejects as weak and foolish and worthless.

They were not wise, mighty, or noble. God called them, not because of what they were, but in spite of what they were! The Corinthian church was composed primarily of ordinary people who were terrible sinners. Before his conversion, Paul had been very self-righteous; he had to give up his religion in order to go to heaven! The Corinthians were at the other end of the spectrum, and yet they were not too sinful for God to reach and save them.

Paul reminded the Corinthians of why God called them (vv. 27–29).

27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,[6]

he purpose of god’s wisdom: The first and primary purpose of the wisdom of God that produces salvation is that He be glorified.

(i) He is wisdom. It is only in following him that we walk aright and only in listening to him that we hear the truth. He is the expert in life. No man will ever have a reason to boast before God. Foolish, weak, base man can do nothing for himself; God has done everything. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship” (Eph. 2:8–10).

God also has a purpose for those who are saved. His purpose for His redeemed has many aspects, four of which are mentioned in verse 30. Because they are in Christ Jesus, they receive God’s wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

First, believers are given God’s wisdom. They not only are saved by God’s wisdom rather than their own but are given God’s wisdom to replace their own. The truly wise of this world are those whose wisdom is not of this world but is from the Lord. Christians can say, without pride or self-boasting, that they have become wise in Jesus Christ. They stand as a testimony for all time that God in His wisdom chose the sinful, the weak, and the unwise in order to make them righteous, strong, and wise. God grants them His wisdom that He might be glorified, that it might be clearly seen that the wisdom Christians have is not their own but is by His power and grace.

Men are saved not by their intelligence, accomplishments, or human wisdom. Those who trust in these will never receive God’s salvation and life and wisdom—because these may be had only by humbly receiving what His Son has done on our behalf on the cross. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6), and, on another occasion, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (8:31–32).

The wisdom received from God through Christ is both instant and progressive. In his next letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). The maker and giver of physical light is also the source and giver of spiritual light. The first thing a believer learns is knowledge of God’s glory.

The glory of God signifies His majesty and His greatness. But in its fullest sense it represents all that God is—all of His attributes, His whole nature, the fullness of His divine being. We come to know personally the creator of the universe and the source of all life and all goodness.

Godly wisdom also has a progressive aspect. The God whom we have come to know through Christ we come to know better as we live by His Spirit. Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers to be given “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him,” that is, of Christ (Eph. 1:17). They already had the initial gift of God’s wisdom, received when they first believed. But the apostle was concerned that they continue to grow in His wisdom and truth (cf. 2 Pet. 3:18).

Wisdom from God also has a future aspect. In this same prayer Paul asks, “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (v. 18). Both “hope” and “inheritance” suggest future fulfillment of wisdom and knowledge. God has given us wisdom, He is now giving us wisdom, and He will ultimately give us wisdom.

The person of the world cannot see or receive God’s wisdom, the wisdom that could show him God Himself, His plan for the world and for His people, and the future eternity that He gives through His Son. And so men live only for the moment, for the now, having no idea where they came from, where they are going, or what they are doing here in the first place. Yet the simplest, most uneducated person who humbly places his life in Christ’s hands is given the truth about all of these things. He knows what all the sages and philosophers of all time have never been able to discover or will ever be able to discover. He has God’s wisdom as one of His Savior’s precious gifts.

Second, believers receive God’s righteousness. In the writings of Paul righteousness always means a right relationship with God. Of our own efforts we can never achieve that. It is ours only by realizing through Jesus Christ that it comes not from what we can do for God, but from what he has done for us.

They are made right with God and they participate in His righteousness, His rightness.

Rightness means to be as something or someone should be—right as opposed to wrong, good as opposed to evil, sinless as opposed to sinful. God is totally righteous because He is totally as He should be. He cannot vary from His rightness. When we trust His Son, He shares His Son’s righteousness with us. “To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). When God looks on a Christian He sees His Son and His Son’s righteousness. When a person trusts in Christ, his unrighteousness is exchanged for Christ’s righteousness, “that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:9). Man has never had any righteousness of his own and can never have any righteousness of his own, that is, which originates in him. The only righteousness he can have is that which God gives him through His Son. It is the only righteousness he needs, because it is perfect righteousness.

Third, believers receive God’s sanctification. He is consecration. It is only in the presence of Christ that life can be what it ought to be. Epicurus used to tell his disciples, “Live as if Epicurus always saw you.” There is no “as if” about our relationship to Christ. The Christian walks with him and only in that company can a man keep his garments unspotted from the world.

In Christ we are set apart, made holy. We are declared righteous in Christ and are made holy in Christ. When we receive Christ’s nature we receive His incorruptible seed, the seed which is not, and cannot be, habitually corrupted by sin. With the flesh still present, we can slip into sin, but only intermittently. As we spiritually mature the frequency of sin decreases. The righteousness that is counted to us judicially also becomes ours in actuality—in holiness, in sanctification. We are given life in the Spirit and we begin to walk in the Spirit (Rom. 8:4–11). We begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23) as we are being transformed into Christ’s image (2 Cor. 3:18). Our new nature is “created in Christ Jesus for good works,” for holiness (Eph. 2:10).

Fourth, believers receive God’s redemption. He is deliverance. Diogenes used to complain that men flocked to the oculist and to the dentist but never to the man (he meant the philosopher) who could cure their souls. Jesus Christ can deliver a man from past sin, from present helplessness, and from future fear. He is the emancipator from slavery to self and to sin.[7]

To redeem means to buy back. God by Christ has purchased us from the power of sin. Christ “is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:14). Peter reminds us that we “were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold … but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18–19).[8]

God has not done this because the weak and foolish are any better than the powerful and the proud. He has set aside the highly regarded and employed those things which are disdained so that all the glory might come to Himself and not to mere men. This is the concluding point Paul makes in verses 29-31.

29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

This verse provides the results and rationale of God’s ‘strange’ choices throughout history. The upshot of Paul’s point is that God’s intention was to remove all possibility of mankind’s boasting. The term boast is used here because it specifically represents one of the fundamental causes of the quarreling and division at Corinth. Unlike the sin of boasting that is referred to in other Scriptures and is rooted in ritual or moralistic self-righteousness, Paul here mentions a type of boasting that is rooted in party loyalty and worldly evaluation. In the presence of God and in light of the divine modus operandi highlighted in 1:27–28, every form of human boasting is precluded once for all, especially a boasting in human status (cf. 3:21).[9]

Finally, Paul reminded the Corinthians of all they had in Jesus Christ (vv. 30–31). 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

Paul has explicitly mentioned the term God thirteen times in the section 1:18–29 and has thereby maintained a visible theocentric focus. In verse 30 Paul gives attention to Christ, though still in the framework of a theocentric Godhead. This theocentricity is evident in the phrase “it is because of him (God) that you are in Christ.” This attention to the work of Christ, or rather God’s work (from God) in Christ is intended to prepare the way for the Scripture quotation in 1:31 which clearly points to Christ. Paul reaffirms a Christ-centered focus for God’s wisdom given to Christians. The Apostle then explains what God’s wisdom consists of for those in Christ Jesus. The three concepts of righteousness (δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosynē), holiness (ἁγιασμός, hagiasmos) and redemption (ἀπολύτρωσις, apolytrōsis) are all well known doctrinal concepts in the Pauline corpus. Fee captures Paul’s sense here in these words, “[God’s] wisdom does not have to do with ‘getting smart,’ nor with status or rhetoric. God’s wisdom—the real thing—has to do with salvation through Christ Jesus.”

This world believes the “shakers and the movers” are the ones who make things happen. Even the church seeks to evangelize and train those whom the world regards as “most likely to succeed.” But God chooses the opposite, those whom we expect to fail (or, more accurately, those we already deem to be failures), so that when His wisdom and power are evident, there are no wise and powerful men to take their bows before men. Instead, men must bow before God, giving all the glory to Him. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Corinth,  as a proud  Roman  city, was exactly  the  sort  of place where people would look up to the ‘somebodies’,  and do their best to join them. Then, as now, there were the obvious routes to fame: political power, and royal or noble birth. And, as we’ve seen (though this doesn’t hold for all cultures), Corinth paid special attention to people who could speak well, public rhetoricians, lawyers and the like. The wise, the powerful, the noble: these were the ‘somebodies’ in Corinth.

And Paul reminds  his readers  that  most  of them  were, on the  same  scale, ‘nobodies’. When  he first came  to  town  and announced the gospel of King Jesus as Lord, and they believed it, most of them weren’t among the ‘wise’ whom society looked up  to. Most  of them  didn’t have any social power  (though Erastus, the city treasurer, is mentioned as a Corinthian Christian  in Romans  16.23 . Most of them didn’t come from well-known, ‘noble’ families.

‘But God . . . ‘ Those are some of Paul’s favorite words. He often describes a human  situation or problem  and then takes delight  in showing  that  God has stepped  in and  done  something  to change  it drastically. They were ‘nobodies’,  but  God has  made  them  ‘somebodies’.   Not  the  sort  of ‘somebodies’ the  world  would  recognize  as such, but  the  only sort  that mattered.

And what is important in this paragraph is the fact that  God has taken the initiative in it all. The Christian  gospel is a matter of  grace  from  start  to  finish.  God  chose  these Corinthian  ‘nobodies’  (verses  27,  28);  God  ‘called’   them through Paul’s  announcement of the  crucified  Jesus as Lord (verse 26; the word  ‘call’ is Paul’s regular  word  for  what  we sometimes  call ‘conversion’);  God gave them  the status  in his eyes that  the  Messiah himself has  (verse 30). They are who they are, as he says in a rather shorthand way, ‘from God in the Messiah’ (verse 30). This is the same sequence  (chosen, called, justified) as Paul sketches in the famous  summary in Romans 8.29-30, though there  he extends  the sequence backwards to God’s original plan and forwards to ultimate glorification  as well.

God chose the foolish, the weak, the base (“low born”), and the despised to show the proud world their need and His grace. The lost world admires birth, social status, financial success, power, and recognition. But none of these things can guarantee eternal life.

The message and miracle of God’s grace in Jesus Christ utterly confounds (“puts to shame”) the high and mighty people of this world. The wise of this world cannot understand how God changes sinners into saints, and the mighty of this world are helpless to duplicate the miracle. God’s “foolishness” confounds the wise; God’s “weakness” confounds the mighty!

The annals of church history are filled with the accounts of great sinners whose lives were transformed by the power of the Gospel. In my own ministry, as in the ministry of most pastors and preachers, I have seen amazing things take place that the lawyers and psychologists could not understand. We have seen delinquent teenagers become successful students and useful citizens. We have seen marriages restored and homes reclaimed, much to the amazement of the courts.

And why does God reveal the foolishness and the weakness of this present world system, even with its philosophy and religion? “That no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:29). Salvation must be wholly of grace; otherwise, God cannot get the glory.

It is this truth that Paul wanted to get across to the Corinthians, because they were guilty of glorying in men (1 Cor. 3:21). If we glory in men—even godly men like Peter and Paul and Apollos—we are robbing God of the glory that He alone deserves. It was this sinful attitude of pride that was helping to cause division in the church.

 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” [10]

Because the Christian stands before God in Christ Jesus and because the benefits of righteousness, holiness, and redemption come through Christ, Christ is the only one in whom the believer should boast. To a church whose fragmentation arose as a result of boasting, Paul gives the exhortation that boasting is only acceptable if it is boasting in the Lord. It is only from the immediate context that one can identify the term Lord with Jesus Christ.[11]

Although in Christ we have received God’s wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, we have no grounds for pride or boasting, because we did not deserve, earn, or produce any of them. Man’s wisdom can produce none of those things. It can only produce pride, misunderstanding, strife, and division. As Jeremiah had written hundreds of years before Paul quoted him, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” “May it never be,” he wrote the Galatians, “that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).[12]

Since every believer is “in Christ,” and he has all that he needs, why compete with each other or compare yourselves with each other? It is the Lord who has done it all! “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31, a quotation from Jer. 9:24, quoted again in 2 Cor. 10:17).

The spiritual blessings that we need are not abstractions that elude our grasp; they are all in a Person, Jesus Christ. He is our wisdom (Col. 2:3), our righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21), our sanctification (John 17:19), and our redemption (Rom. 3:24).

Actually, the emphasis here is that God shows His wisdom by means of the righteousness, sanctification, and redemption that we have in Christ. Each of these theological words carries a special meaning for Christians. Righteousness has to do with our standing before God. We are justified: God declares us righteous in Jesus Christ. But we are also sanctified, set apart to belong to God and to serve Him. Redemption emphasizes the fact that we are set free because Jesus Christ paid the price for us on the cross. This will lead to complete redemption when Christ returns.

So, in one sense, we have the three tenses of salvation given here: we have been saved from the penalty of sin (righteousness); we are being saved from the power of sin (sanctification); and we shall be saved from the presence of sin (redemption). And every believer has all of these blessings in Jesus Christ!

Therefore, why glory in men? What does Paul have that you do not have? Does Peter have more of Jesus Christ than you do? (It was likely that Jesus Christ had more of Peter, but that is another matter!) We should glory in the Lord and not in ourselves or our spiritual leaders.

Is Christianity a Crutch for the Weak?


    Is Christianity just another crutch for people who can’t make it on their own? In one sense, yes. “Those who are well have no need of a physician,” Jesus said, “but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:31, 32). Jesus bypasses those who pretend to be invincible, those who think they have it all together. Instead He reaches out to those who know that something is wrong, that their lives are “sick” with “illnesses” such as greed, lust, cruelty, and selfishness.

Jesus knows that no one is spiritually healthy. No one is righteous enough to stand before a holy God. That’s why He came into this world, to restore people to God. The good news is that Christ gives us the power to overcome sin and the ways it pulls us down time after time.

What happens to the “weak” who avail themselves of this “crutch”? Consider Mother Teresa, who emerged from an insignificant nunnery to love the helpless and homeless of Calcutta and became a worldwide symbol of compassion. Or consider Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a forgotten political prisoner rotting away in the gulag system of Stalinist Russia. Surrendering himself to Jesus, he gained renewed strength to challenge a totalitarian regime on behalf of human dignity and freedom.

These are but two examples from the millions who have thrown away the self-styled crutches on which they used to limp along the road of life, opting instead for the seasoned wood of the cross of Christ which has transformed their weakness into strength.

In one sense, Christianity is a crutch for the weak. But those who dismiss it for that reaon usually do so to deny their own inadequacies. They use that excuse as a way to evade the claims God has on their lives. They cannot accept that He takes wounded, fractured people and makes them whole.[13]

As you review this chapter, you can see the mistakes that the Corinthians were making, mistakes that helped to create problems in their church. They were not living up to their holy calling, but were instead following the standards of the world. They ignored the fact that they were called into a wonderful spiritual fellowship with the Lord and with each other. Instead, they were identifying with human leaders and creating divisions in the church. Instead of glorifying God and His grace, they were pleasing themselves and boasting about men.

They were a defiled church, a divided church, a disgraced church!

But, before we pass judgment on them, we should examine our own churches and our own lives. We have been called to be holy, called into fellowship, and called to glorify God.

Are we living up to this calling?[14]













[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 571.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 1:20.

[3] Richard Oster, 1 Corinthians, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1995), 1 Co 1:27.

[4] William Barclay, ed., The Letters to the Corinthians, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 21.

[5] John F. MacArthur Jr., 1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 50–52.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 1:26–28.

[7] William Barclay, ed., The Letters to the Corinthians, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 22–23.

[8] John F. MacArthur Jr., 1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 52–54.

[9] Richard Oster, 1 Corinthians, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1995), 1 Co 1:29.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 1:29–31.

[11] Richard Oster, 1 Corinthians, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1995), 1 Co 1:31.

[12] John F. MacArthur Jr., 1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 54.

[13] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), 1462.

[14] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 571–572.

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Posted by on November 17, 2022 in 1 Corinthians


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