The Humility of the Cross
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
1st Corinthians 1:25-31
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
Remember that this book is to all people who have responded to Jesus Christ in Faith…not just some specific group. (See verse 2.) That does not change the fact that some passages address things that were specific to the Church at Corinth. It simply reminds us that such passages are the exception rather than the rule.
In verses 10-13, we saw the warning against the arrogance that was already polluting the local assembly, as they divided themselves over who their respective mentors had been.
Paul made it clear that such divisions were wrong, and he begged them to knock it off. He went on to point out that the Gospel is always “counter-cultural.” There is no culture among the human race that will not find themselves condemned by the “bad news” of the Gospel: But the “bad news” is what makes the “good news” become truly GOOD NEWS! And the result is clear: The ground at the foot of the Cross is level. There is no room for pride there!
How was Pride Set Aside?
Paul says that God has already destroyed the “wisdom” of the “wise men” of this world. He has brought to nothing the understanding of those who think they “know it all.” He has made their collective “wisdom” utterly foolish. It is a “fatal brand” of foolishness.
The key reason that the “wisdom” of this world turns out to be foolishness, is that, at no point does it actually address the true need of the human race. At no point does it admit, “We cannot solve our problems: We need the Grace of the Creator to straighten out this mess.” Thus, in verse 21, God points out that the “wisdom” of man failed to lead people to saving faith. In fact, it universally turns people away from the Savior! It is a shameful thing, not a good thing!
So, God decreed that the way He would reach the Human Race is through the “foolishness of Preaching.” (Never through human wisdom!)
How is Faith Connected to Preaching?
In Romans 10:13-17, We see that “Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord (in faith) shall be saved.” But then it asks a series of logical questions: “How shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?…how shall they hear, without a preacher (someone to “declare His name” to them.) And how shall they preach except they be sent? Then, verse 17 concludes that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
But that also means that we who preach are “tarred with the same brush” as those to whom we preach. We are not better than the people we try to reach: We are sinners who have received forgiveness and who, as a result, have become the Ambassadors of Christ.
We are beggars who have been fed and we now tell other beggars where to find that free food! But, in that foundational transaction of Grace and Faith, we have also become literally the “children of God.” (Not by adoption, which will happen in the future, but by the New Birth, which has already happened, and by which we now legitimately address our Creator as “Father.”) (There is no “Universal Fatherhood” of God. Jesus told the Jews (John 8:44) “Ye are of your father, the Devil…”) We have become His children through the New Birth!
What is The Foolishness of God?
The world sees the Gospel as foolishness. They hold the whole Bible in disdain, except for portions they think might be socially productive. They advocate a teaching that builds “morality and peace,” but they want to leave out the God whose Holiness demands Morality and whose Blood paved the way for Peace. Such people claim to desire peace, but they reject the Prince of Peace.
A man once told me he would like to see two church services: one for those who only want to embrace the social mores and ethics and Judeo-Christian values, and another for those who want to talk about “God and Jesus and that stuff.”
I told him that I would want nothing to do with a church like that. He was offended, and demanded, “Why??”
I replied, “If you take Christ out of Christianity, all that is left is a gutted, rotting corpse!” Jesus Christ is not only the “historical source of the name, Christianity: He is the only reason it works at all!
He alone has the power to change us from the inside and to make us into the Men and Women of God He has called us to be! He is the only one who can give eternal life to sinners and make us into His Saints… His personal property, to be used by Him alone!
What is The Weakness of God?
Throughout our study of the Old Testament, we have seen that the leaders God chose were frequently very flawed individuals. We saw that His power is what won battles and overcame evil and even death itself. All this, though He chose to use such weak vessels. And, He chose to do so especially so that the world could see that it was His Power, not that of the people through whom He chose to work.
What is Our Calling
Paul pointed out that not many Christians were noted “wise men,” before they were saved. Not many were “mighty” from the world’s perspective. Not many were “Noble” from the world’s perspective. (Queen Victoria is said to have commented “I am saved by the letter ‘M.’ If Paul had said ‘not any noble,’ then I could not be saved…but he said, ‘not many noble. Thus, I am saved by the letter ‘M’!”)
But the point Paul makes, in all of this, is that we have nothing to boast about on our own.
Foolish Things, Chosen by God
He says that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” He does not usually work through the “highly educated,” so much as through the “highly humble:” Those who recognize that they have no wisdom of their own and who yield themselves to God, come what may, so that He can work through them. They are consistently able to “get out of God’s way and let Him work.”
John Bunyan, the author of the classic “A Pilgrim’s Progress,” spent more than twelve years in an English jail because he preached without approval from the Anglican Church.. He did not attend their school nor did he preach their message, so he was silenced under English law. Many other “heroes of the faith” were persecuted or executed for serving God without human approval.
Weak Things, Chosen by God
Remember how God used Gideon? Gideon was not a leader or a soldier: He was a scared young farmer trying to hide some grain from the Midianites. But God used him to defeat the Midianites. God used the Woman at the Well, in Sychar (John 4:7-39) to witness to many in her community. Not because she was “highly respected,” highly educated or a powerful speaker: She was a social reject: an outcast! But God chose to use her, and He received the Glory! She received Eternal life and the blessing of God. (She was also among the “things despised” mentioned here.)
Base Things, Chosen by God
God chose fishermen and farmers, tanners and itinerant fruit pickers to take His message to His people. Did he ever use kings? Surely, He did! But remember that the most famous king he used (King David) began life as the youngest in a family of shepherds. God delights in using the lowest members of human society to bring down those who think they are the “elite.”
Things Which Are Despised, but Chosen by God
This included the “Woman at the Well,” as we noted earlier. But it also includes the people in our own society who are scorned as “religious fools” by virtually everyone, but who have given themselves to the preaching of the Cross. They have steadily been winning souls to Christ. I have known some serious soul-winners who are taken lightly by others, even other believers, but who have been consistently used by God to draw others to safety in Christ.
What are the “Things Which Are Not?”
This might include prophetic utterance about things that currently do not exist. There is no “river proceeding from the temple mount in Jerusalem” today…but Ezekiel 47 says there will be one! When Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28) named Cyrus as the instrument of God who would provide for the rebuilding of the temple, that man did not exist. He was not born until nearly 180 years after the prophecy was given…but he did what God said he would do! (God used him!)
Why? That No Flesh Should Glory
One of the attributes of God is that He gives credit where credit is due, and does not give away the credit that is His alone. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! The created things (including the Human Race) never take precedence over the Creator!
When an architect designs a new building, and it proves to be a magnificent edifice, that architect expects to get the credit. (It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the wealthy people who paid for the construction take credit as if they thought of all the innovations and special features, and designed it all by themselves.)
But God says that He is a jealous God. In Isaiah 42:8, He says, “My Glory will I not give to another!” And the first commandment says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” He forbids idolatry at every level: Even our attempting to take credit for what He alone has done, is an arrogance and a foolishness that is forbidden by God.
Romans 3:27 “Where Then, is Boasting? It is Excluded!”
There is no place left where pride is appropriate in our lives. We are fully aware that all we have has been provided by our Creator. All we are, as believers, is due to His Grace and His Power. All we have to offer to anyone else is that which He has already provided to us! There is no place for Pride. Pride is universally condemned as sin, throughout the Bible. That is one reason the World hates God’s Word: it condemns human pride.
Romans 3:9 says, “What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.”
There is a place for boasting, but not about ourself or any other human. It is “of Him” that we are in Christ! I did nothing to earn that position: it was offered as a gift, and I received it as a gift.
Verse 30 goes on to explain that Jesus (by God’s design) has become unto us Wisdom and Righteousness and Sanctification and Redemption. Jesus Christ is our source of Wisdom. His righteousness was transferred to us the day we trusted in Him as our Savior. It is only through His sacrifice that God has declared us to be holy. (That is what “sanctified” means!) And it is only through His sacrifice that we now have redemption. Some people think we are waiting for redemption. Our bodies are waiting for redemption, but we ourselves are already redeemed. (How do I know?)
Ephesians 1:7 says so! (It is written in the present tense: “In whom (in Christ) we HAVE Redemption through His Blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His Grace.”)
So, what is left for us, about which we can boast? Only Jesus!
He that Glorieth, Let Him Glory in the Lord!
How do we “Glory in the Lord?”
When we “boast” of the glory of God, and tell of His Omnipotent Power, and His All-sufficient Grace, what are we really doing? We are telling people about Jesus! We are being a witness to others regarding the person and work of the Savior. Which is precisely the occupation to which ALL of us have been assigned! We are called to rejoice in His person and His presence. And we are called to tell others about it!
It seems appropriate that we should be thinking of these things constantly, as well, so that they will naturally overflow from our lives.
Lord Jesus, please fill us with the Joy of Your presence, and constrain our hearts to obedience to the Great Commission. Let us see the world around us through Your eyes, and care for the souls around us as You care for them.