1 Corinthians

God chooses the weak. 1:26-31


Paul continues to argue that human wisdom and the gospel are mutually exclusive, 1:18-2:5. In this, his second point, 1:26-31, Paul explains that the recipients of the gospel at Corinth are far from "wise" or influential in the sense understood by the world at large. So, in this passage the conflict between human wisdom and the foolishness of the cross is illustrated in the origins and composition of the Corinthian congregation. "The act of God in Christ has brought about a reversal of human evaluations concerning status, achievement and success", Anthony Thiselton. This fact can be observed in the Corinthian fellowship.

The passage

v26. "Look at the make-up of your church" Paul exclaims, "a bit of a rag-tag group, isn't it?" Such proves Paul's point, "not only that God's standards and terms of reference (wisdom) are other than those accepted by the world, but also that God is now engaged in overthrowing the world's false standards", C.K. Barrett.

v27. The weak and foolish nature of the gospel gathers weak and foolish people. Yet, God has a purpose in this. God's intention is to expose the lack of substance in the wisdom of the world.

v28. Through the wisdom of the gospel God gathers a people to himself, a people the world counts as "lowly things" (base) and "despised". Yet, the church validates God's wisdom and will one day become God's complete and glorified new creation.

v29. This weak and despised creation (the church) is completely of God's making "that no one might boast before him" (glory in his presence), ie. that no one may claim that the church is the creation of charismatic human leaders or worldly programmes and systems.

v30. As for the individual members of the church, each possesses an eternal relationship with God, not by their own actions, or the actions of gifted leaders in the church, but simply through their personal relationship with Christ. Being "in Christ" (identifying with Christ through faith) relates us to God. Paul goes on to list what Christ, as God's gift to humanity, means to the individual believer:

v31. If we have nothing to enable us to stand before God, other than the riches we possess in Christ, then let our "boast" (glory) be in the Lord. The quote comes from Jeremiah 9:24. The point is simple, no believer can boast of any achievement (human wisdom, oratory, abilities, congregational success) since all that we are in the sight of God comes from Christ and him alone. Let us therefore, glory in him.

What Christ means to us

A minister once suggested from the pulpit that the reason there are more women in church than men, is because the Lord calls the foolish to confound the wise, the weak to overcome the strong. Of course, we could also argue that the reason male ministry is dominant in the church is that the Lord calls the foolish to confound the wise, and the weak to overcome the strong.

In first Corinthians chapter 1 verse 30, the apostle Paul describes four substantial qualities that are ours through our relationship with Jesus. Because we believe in Jesus there is a sense where we are united with him and so share qualities which are rightly his.

Jesus is our wisdom. It is difficult to know exactly how Paul's readers understood wisdom. The Corinthian believers were certainly into it and saw it as something special. At the base level it is intellectualism, communicated through great oratory. For the Jews, it is a personified figure - that which relates us to God. For Paul, true wisdom is not found in eloquence or intellectual speculation, but in God's plan for broken humanity, realized through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The next three qualities illustrate the substance of this wisdom:

Christ is our righteousness. Standing right (approved) in the sight of God is the only way we can enter into his presence and commune (fellowship) with him for eternity. Through faith in Christ we are counted as possessing righteousness. That is, God does not view our sinfulness, but rather Christ's righteousness. Christ himself becomes our righteousness, 2Cor.5:21.

Christ is our sanctification. We can only come near to God if we are holy, Heb.12:14. Again, it is through faith in Christ that we possess a holiness which is not our own, but which is ours in Christ. Christ's holiness becomes ours when we put our trust in him. Yet, note that sometimes Paul uses the word holiness/sanctification to describe the business of being the moral, right, holy person we are already in Christ. Central to Paul's understanding of being what we are, of living as eternal inheritors of the holiness of Christ (albeit imperfectly), is that Christ-likeness is not realized by works of the law, but by grace through faith.

Christ is our redemption. Freedom, and all that it entails (including, wisdom, righteousness and sanctification) was purchased on our behalf through the payment of Christ's life.

Let us not be proud in our own achievements, but rather in what Jesus has done for us.


Discuss the substance of the wisdom that is ours in Christ.

[Printer icon]   Print-friendly: Sermon Notes. and Technical Notes

Index of studies: Resource library
[Pumpkin Cottage]
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons