Relying on one’s personal connection to gifted church leaders for advancement in the church is contrary to the ways of God but in line with the ways of the world. That is because the world prefers those who have the right connections and who have the right talents and strengths. The Lord’s wisdom, however, chooses the lowly, saving them through the apparent weakness of the cross, redeeming those with no worldly power or influence in a manner the world never would have chosen. God does this, moreover, so that we can boast in Him alone and not in ourselves or in others (1 Cor. 1:10–29).
The world may not esteem the kinds of people the Lord chooses to save or the way that He acts to bring salvation, but God’s view of us is far different. Why? Because, as today’s passage tells us, we are in Christ, “who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (v. 30). Here we have one of the most important texts for the biblical doctrine of salvation. Paul does not mean here that Christ came so that we could become wise, righteous, and holy ourselves, although the Holy Spirit does produce such qualities in believers (Gal. 5:22–23). His point, rather, is that Christ actually is these things for us. Paul speaks forensically or judicially here; that is, the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption that we possess before the heavenly court is not found in us. When God must declare whether we are righteous or holy in His heavenly courtroom, the judicial basis for His approval is not anything we do, even the things we do in the power of the Holy Spirit and by His grace. Instead, the very basis for His declaration is Christ Himself, particularly what Christ has done on our behalf.
This forms part of the basis for believing that we are justified—declared righteous by God—based not only on the atoning death of Christ but on His righteousness imputed to us, or put on our record. As John Calvin comments on this verse: “We are on his account acceptable to God, inasmuch as he expiated our sins by his death, and his obedience is imputed to us for righteousness. For as the righteousness of faith consists in remission of sins and a gracious acceptance, we obtain both through Christ.” Moreover, that Christ is also our wisdom and holiness reinforces the point that we can be confident before the Lord in Christ because God sees us possessing the very perfection of the Savior.