We are a society who loves to boast. Our boasting is not only in our words, but in our actions, in the way we dress, in the loudness of our music or cars, in our disregard for others less fortunate than we are, in our disrespect of authority, and on and on. We like to think that, as individuals and a nation, we are better than others.
We’ve have seen in this letter that the Corinthians had divisions in the church. Some followed Paul, some Apollos, some Peter, and some claimed to follow only Christ (1:12). Now, whenever you have divisions, you also have boasting—we’re better than you and you know it!
So Paul, picking up the thought that God chose a way of salvation that appears foolish to the world—a crucified Savior—goes on to say, that not only is the way of salvation foolish, those who are called to salvation aren’t any better. In other words, the divided Corinthian Christians have nothing to boast about.
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. (1 Corinthians 1:26–31)
We have nothing to boast about because…
I) GOD SAVES THE LOWLY PERSON
1) Not Many Rich And Famous Are Called
1 Corinthians 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh [according to human standards], not many mighty [rich, powerful, famous], not many noble [well-born], are called:
God saves people by calling them. The call in mind here is a call to salvation. It’s a mighty call, capable of awaking a person dead in trespasses and sins like Jesus’ call woke Lazarus from the dead. We read in Ephesians:
…when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Ephesians 2:5)
The Corinthians, and we also, like Lazarus from the grave, have no reason to boast, first of all, because we didn’t save ourselves. God called us. But look also at who he called: “not many wise men after the flesh [according to human standards], not many mighty [rich, powerful, famous], not many noble [well-born], are called:”
“Not many” wise people, or well-born people, or famous people are called and saved. That doesn’t mean that if you are rich and famous, that you can’t be saved…but the rich and famous are rarely saved. It seems that there are few Christians among the rich and powerful and smart.
It’s part of the reason, I believe, that few people seem to be saved in countries like the United States, compared to people being converted in droves in some third-world countries.
Ann Coulter, in a article saying that we shouldn’t send missionaries overseas, suggested that one particular missionary doctor should have set up shop in America:
If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia. (http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/2014-08-06.html)
Ann Coulter doesn’t know what she’s talking about. God does more with the poor and unknown in a day than he’ll ever do with the rich and famous.
2) So That They May Be Confounded
Why does God focus on calling the simple people of the world?
1 Corinthians 1:27 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 [dumbfound, shame] the things which are mighty;
1 Corinthians 1:28 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:
When Jesus chose his disciples, he didn’t choose any Pharisees, or other religious leaders. That’s what I would have done: chose a couple good, Bible trained, Pharisees. But he chose simple fishermen, despised tax-collectors, and the like. And that confounded the powerful leaders of the day:
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)
One time Jesus prayed:
25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. (Matthew 11:25)
Why does God want to confound the wise of this world? It’s because he wants his wisdom to be exalted, but his wisdom is foolishness to the wise.
You, see, if we were in charge of things, we would saved all the rich people of the world and then used their money to help the poor. Who would be exalted and glorified? The rich people, of course. Whenever rich people give money, they get their picture in the paper, or their name on a plaque, or on the west wing of a hospital.
But God does the reverse. He saves the simple man, and when the simple Christians of the world band together to help the unsaved poor, who is glorified? More often then not, it’s God.
3) So That They May Not Boast In His Presence
Why does God choose and call mainly lowly people to salvation? The reason is that…
1 Corinthians 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
God wants all the glory, and very importantly, God deserves all the glory. He created everything and everyone. Every distant star and every little baby. Every wonderful creature, from the ocean depths to the highest a bird can fly. Such a Creator deserves all the glory.
1 O LORD our Lord, How excellent is thy name in all the earth! Who hast set thy glory above the heavens. 2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength Because of thine enemies, That thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. 3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, The moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? (Psalm 8:1-4)
This, by the way, is another reason why evolution is so evil. It removes the reason for God to have all the glory. That’s why Christians shouldn’t monkey with evolution at all.
When God saves people, it’s by grace through faith. Why? What does the famous verses say?
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9)
Why do so many people think that they can be saved by being nice and doing good works? Because, deep down, they want to boast in themselves. God will not allow that. That is why he does not often call the rich, but the poor to salvation, so that “no flesh should glory in his presence.”
We have nothing to boast about because…
II) GOD GIVES US EVERYTHING IN CHRIST
Now, it might be that, as a Christian, you’d be tempted to boast. Maybe you’d start thinking that you are good at speaking, or your hospitality is second to none, or whatever. You’d think that, well, God really needs me. Really? No…as it turns out, God not only gives us salvation, he also gives us everything (worth boasting about, that is) in Christ:
1 Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
When a person becomes a believer, God puts them “in Christ Jesus.” This means that we are in union with Christ, in a permanent relationship with him. As a result, we have “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” These are worth boasting about!
What is this wisdom that we have “in Christ”? It’s a wisdom that is better and longer lasting than the world’s wisdom. The simplest Christian has a greater wisdom than the smartest scientist, politician, scholar or whatever that the world has to offer.
A personal knowledge of Jesus Christ may not be able to solve math problems or other such issues—but those things will pass away, and what will be left? Jesus Christ!
Einstein’s great scientific work will be remembered as long as the earth exists in it’s current state. But there is coming a time when it will all burn up and pass away (2 Peter 3:10-13).
This wisdom from God is a wisdom that the world will see as foolishness. They may treat you nicely, “Oh, you believe in Jesus, that’s nice.” as if Jesus were Santa Claus for grown-ups. Or they may shout you down in the streets and call you names and slander you. However they express it, the wisdom of God is foolishness to them.
So it’s with pitiful humor that a Christian can face the scoffers of this age. The people who tell us that we’re out of our minds, backwards, and just plain morons for believing such foolishness. We look at them with humor because we’ll have the last laugh—God will bring them to nought. We look at them with pity because they are perishing.
This is a legal term. It means that God has acquitted the believer of any guilt because we have trusted Jesus Christ who has taken our sin upon himself.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
I read of a pastor who went to visit a family at the hospital whose son had been in a terrible accident. His life hung in the balance. The father took the pastor aside and with tears in his eyes said:
“I know what is going on. God is punishing my son for my sin.”
The father’s comments shocked me [wrote the pastor]. He was a wonderful man of faith, but in this time of hardship the only God he seemed to know was an ogre who was demanding his pound of flesh. I don’t know how God gave me words to reply, but the ones that came to mind have helped me in my own times of hardship since. I replied to this grieving father, “God is not putting the penalty of your sin on your son, because our Father put the penalty for your sin on his Son.” (Bryan Chapell, Holiness by Grace : Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength [Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2001], 164)
Folks, “in Christ,” we are righteous in God’s sight. He won’t punish us for our sin, he may chasten us so that we grow out of our sin, but punishment—condemnation—no, that he placed on Christ, his own Son.
That leads us to the next thing God gives us in Christ:
Sanctification is the progressive changing of us to make us like Christ. It’s making us righteous not only in God’s eyes, but also in our day to day living.
One preacher wrongly stated, “God loves you just the way you are, even if you never change.” Folks, if you never change, then you haven’t experienced God’s saving love (1 John 5:1-4). He loves you just the way you are, and too much to leave you that way!
Perhaps my favorite verse on sanctification is:
18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
I love this verse because it shows the cooperative nature of sanctification. We need to behold the glory of the Lord, in his word. We need to desire the changes sanctification brings. But notice this: we “are changed into the same image…by the Spirit of the Lord.” We desire the change, strive for it, but God does it.
The final gift we’ve been given by God in Christ is:
The word for “redemption” (ἀπολύτρωσις) originally was used when someone bought a slave to make him or her free. The word means to “buy back” or “pay a ransom.”
Sin’s penalty holds us captive and we cannot pay the ransom it demands. Jesus stepped forward and gave his life as a redemption payment.
Lou Johnson was a left fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers who, in 1965, played a good season, finishing by hitting the game winning home run in game seven of the World Series. After that, his life went downhill, even trading his World Series ring to Drug Dealers for cocaine in 1971. That, for him, marked the lowest point of his life.
Then, in February 2001, the Dodgers were alerted to a Dodgers World Series ring being auctioned on the Internet. Immediately, the Dodger’s president bought it before anyone else could. Cost: $3,457. Then he called Lou Johnson in and presented him with the ring. Then, as the Los Angeles Times reported it,
He thought about how a life of drug and alcohol abuse had cost him virtually every piece of memorabilia from that 1965 season.
“I don’t have my uniform, don’t have my glove, don’t have my bat, don’t have anything of value,” he said.
Yet suddenly, he was holding the most valuable thing of all…
“It felt like a little bit of me had been reborn,” Johnson said. (http://articles.latimes.com/2001/feb/10/sports/sp-23644 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Johnson).
When you place your complete trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, you are bought back from sin. Sin’s penalty—the death penalty—will no longer apply to you.
The title of the sermon—Nothing To Boast About—is not quite true. A Christian does have something to boast about:
1 Corinthians 1:31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
This verse is a quote from Jeremiah, and the full quote is beneficial for us to hear:
23 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Neither let the mighty man glory in his might, Let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, That he understandeth and knoweth me, That I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: For in these things I delight, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23–24)
Let us seek to glorify the Lord alone in our salvation. To do that we need to remind ourselves of our great weakness—sin—and our inability to overcome sin by ourselves.
We need to keep our natural tendency to boast about ourselves in check by looking at what wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption that God gives us in Christ. Only God deserves the boasting…only the Lord deserves the glory.