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1 Corinthians 1:26–29

“God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (vv. 28–29).

From the earliest days of the Christian church, God’s people have been tempted to do the Lord’s work in a worldly manner. We see this in 1 Corinthians 1:10–17, where we learn that various factions in the first-century Corinthian church attempted to gain power and authority in the church by appealing to their personal connections to Apostles and other noteworthy Christians. That is how the world operates, basing significance and authority on knowing the right people and exalting some figures over others. Such activity operates contrary to the cross, which shows us that the power of salvation comes not through our own connections or use of the world’s wisdom but through the apparent weakness of the cross. Since Christ’s authority came not by appealing to personal connections or by force but only through His obedient death on the cross, Christians can by no means seek authority in the church through any other means but humble service (vv. 18–25; Phil. 2:5–11).

Today’s passage continues the argument that God does not act according to worldly methods by appealing to the kind of people the Lord had saved in Corinth. Paul notes that “not many” of these believers were wise, powerful, or noble by worldly standards. In fact, God saved such people to render null and void the wisdom and strength of the world (1 Cor. 1:26–27). The point is not that the wisdom, knowledge, rankings, wealth, and power celebrated in the world are inherently wrong and cut one off from the possibility of salvation. Paul’s use of the phrase “not many” indicates that some of the Corinthian Christians, though not the majority, possessed qualities esteemed by the world. His point is that these things are irrelevant when it comes to salvation and that so often God chooses what the world does not esteem in order to advance His plan and show that salvation is of Him alone. This has been true from the beginning. For example, against all worldly, cultural expectations, God chose to continue the patriarchal line through Jacob, not his older brother Esau (Gen. 25:23; Rom. 9:10–13).

The Lord works through the lowly so that no one can boast except in His power alone (1 Cor. 1:28–29). For Christians to use their associations with noted and talented church leaders to advance themselves in the church makes us unable to boast in the Lord alone. It takes our eyes off Him and puts them squarely on others, leading us to boast in our connections to them and not in God.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

God uses the powerless and others whom the world does not expect in order to demonstrate His sovereign power and grace. We should not expect the world to esteem us. So many problems in the church could be avoided if we didn’t care so much what the ungodly world thinks. Let us seek not the world's approval but the Lord’s approval.

For Further Study
  • Judges 7
  • 1 Samuel 16:1–13
  • John 6:41–42
  • Galatians 1:10

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