Study Notes for I Corinthians 1:26-31 (click here for Study Sheet)
What were you when Jesus called you? Paul asks. Most of you weren't considered wise or influential or noble. But in Christ, status doesn't matter. In his wisdom God has used the "foolish things of the world" to put the wise to shame. In fact, Paul insists, the status, education, and wealth valued in our society are mere foolishness to God. (I Cor. 1:19-21)
In our days before finding grace, many of us lived in comfortable communities where we had friends, status, and respect. For many of us, accepting grace changed our lives completely, not only internally but also externally. Many of our "friends" pulled away or disappeared altogether. Many of our family members reacted with sadness or hostility. Many of us changed church homes and became new members in established congregations. Our automatic place in society was gone. Everything was new.
But everything was also different. The predictable ways we knew to become part of the community no longer worked. No longer was leadership based on status, profession, or wealth. Our education, knowledge, and accomplishments did not guarantee us certain honor.
The gospel made all those external things secondary.
In the light of the gospel everything looks different. Knowledge, money,
influence, even theology become insignificant compared to knowing we belong
to Jesus. Our seal, the Holy Spirit, gives us certainty and insight that
makes our previous understandings seem limited and shallow. Gradually our
relationships to knowledge, money, influence, and theology change. They
have new points and purposes in our lives.
Shamed by Foolishness
The idea of a broken, bleeding Savior seems foolish to logical thinking. Reason suggests that if God is powerful, humans will be most likely to acknowledge him if he exhibits his power. Reason also suggests that we humans would want to impress our God. We would want him to notice how much money we gave to his causes and how much creative effort we donated to make him look progressive and attractive. We would want to honor him by respecting his laws and statutes. He would, or course, be pleased and impressed if we lived cleanly and honestly, unstained by violence or pride. He would be pleased to have obedient, humble servants who were not afraid to assert themselves as leaders of men. All of this, of course, would be for his glory.
But knowing we are saved and experiencing the Holy Spirit in us gives us a new view of reality. When we accept Jesus and he indwells us, our spirits go from death to life.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost their continuous connection with God.
"You shall not surely die," the serpent said. And they didn't-externally. But like all of Satan's declarations, this one was a deception, for Adam and Eve's souls died. No longer were they one with God-they in him and he in them. They had sinned, and they were now the first of the lost. They were separated from God; they had lost eternity. Now God had to look for them, and they had to be willing to respond. Now they had to learn to live by faith, not by sight. They had to learn to believe that their Creator would one day redeem them and restore them to eternity. They now knew the difference between life and the knowledge of good and evil-death.
When Jesus died he mended the tear in the universe that separated us from himself. He restored to us the gift of being one with him. As our sin, our sacrifice, and our Savior, Jesus triumphed over evil and brought us to himself. He gave himself for us so he can give himself to us intimately.
When we accept him, Jesus indwells us with his Spirit. When we accept him and his gift of the Holy Spirit, we become one with God, and our souls enter eternity. We pass from death to life. And nothing can remove us from that intimate, eternal oneness with our Savior.
To the world such reality is foolish. It's illogical and irrational.
But to a Christ-follower it is real and very precious.
Nullified by Things that Are Not
God "chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are" (v. 28)
In the beginning God spoke, and there was light and life. He called everything that is into being from nothing. Millennia later God chose a moon worshiper from the land of Ur and called him. Out of the death of paganism God called Abram and made him Abraham, the father of many nations. One hundred years later God called forth a special son, a son of promise. Out of a dead womb God created life, and Isaac was born-Isaac, who became Israel.
Again millennia later God brought forth a son. From the lifelessness of a virgin womb the Holy Spirit created the Son of Man, and Jesus our Savior was born. Less than a half century later Jesus shone his glory on a man who was killing the church. Out of the death of a deceived and arrogant heart God created new life, and Saul became Paul the apostle.
Today the Spirit calls us, warming our frozen hearts with grace. Out of the death of our souls God creates new life, and we enter eternal life with him. He brings our spirits to life.
From the beginning of the world God has brought forth life where there had previously been nothing. He has nullified death by creating life where it seemed nothing could exist. God's love has brought order out of chaos, creation out of a void, and life out of death.
In our own hearts God nullifies the power of sin and death by covering
us with grace and making us new creations, one with God.
The Greeks looked for wisdom. They were willing to follow the most clever thinker. Jesus, Paul asserts, "has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption." To the Greek wisdom seekers, Jesus and his death were foolishness. But for us who accept him and his death, Jesus becomes wisdom. When the Holy Spirit seals us as believers, we realize that reality is much bigger than we could merely "see". There is a spiritual reality that the unbelieving heart cannot perceive, and it is a reality that is broader and deeper than our time-bound physical lives can comprehend.
In our new hearts quickened by the new life of the Spirit, Jesus becomes our wisdom. We begin to think his thoughts as the Holy Spirit helps us to embrace our new reality. We develop spiritual perception as we begin to recognize the Holy Spirit's promptings. We begin to act in love, opening ourselves to His grace and learning to share it with each other.
The wisdom of God is far different from intellectual wisdom. It is the wisdom of the Spirit mediated through our changed hearts. It is nonsense to those who don't believe, but to those who do, our new wisdom is the fragrance of life.
When we share God's wisdom, we have no room for boasting. Our insight and understanding are not the results of our brilliance or cleverness. The wisdom we have is a gift from God. The only thing we can claim is our Savior. We can only "boast in the Lord."
God calls us to give our intellectual pride to him. He calls us to stop trying to explain and manipulate our salvation. He calls us to humility and grace. God calls us to allow him to nullify the death sentence of our sin by letting him create new life in us. He calls us to give up our attachment to our accomplishments and status.
God calls us to live in love and humility. He calls us to give our dead hearts to him and to let him bring them to new life. God calls us to boast in Him. We are one with him!
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." (Rev. 4:8, NIV)
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised April 23, 2000.