“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”” (1 Corinthians 1:26–31, NASB95)
I don’t know about you, but decades later I can remember standing in lines as two team captains chose alternately members of their teams. While there was a season later when I was chosen quickly for some things, there were definitely those times when I stood there for what seemed like an eternity as others were chosen before me. I struggled with this image and with not being the best for a long time, and even still when I seem to be left behind those same struggles rise up once again. I find myself asking, “Why not me?”
But, I am so thankful that I went to church with a friend on the first Sunday of November in 1974. It was there that I learned that there was a God who knew absolutely everything there was about me from my darkest secret to my greatest hope. He knew my strengths and my weaknesses. He knew the words and thoughts I had, and He knew the ones that I still did not know. I learned that God loved me, and more than that, He formed me in my mother’s womb. When I thought I was small, He knew what He was going to do with my life. And, where I thought myself to be some big deal, I realized just how small it was in the light of His great power (Psalm 139).
I love this passage of 1 Corinthians because it challenges me to consider not only my calling, but also what He called me from and to consider what unlimited things He can do in me when I trust in Him. We read that there are not many people who are big in their own wisdom, who possess strength according to this world’s ways (according to the flesh), or who were well placed as nobility (in high places). Notice that it says, “not many.” Most people are not recognized by the world in this way. Most of us are found much further down on the rungs of the ladder of our society.
But for those who are highly regarded by man, there is more of a tendency for them to be prideful and for their arrogance to get in the way. People can be so big in themselves that they make no room for accepting that God is bigger. As I thought of this I thought of the rich man who turned away from Jesus in Matthew 19 because He did not consider Christ worthy of selling off all of His riches. This is not about buying into salvation, but more a demonstration of the struggle among some to hold onto what they have and their unwillingness to trust. Jesus went on to say to His disciples right after this, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”” (Matthew 19:23–24, NASB95) His disciples then questioned Him about this seemingly high bar for salvation, to which Jesus responded, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26, NASB95) What seems like an unsurmountable barrier to man only opens the door for the great grace of God to prove totally effective. There was nothing really that this man could do to earn His salvation, but God could, and did do exactly what was needed.
Over and over in these verses we read “not many,” but there is One who is Jesus Christ who makes the difference in this few and the many others who are called and chosen by God. We read that His wisdom has been shown to those who are the most common and vulnerable, who maybe are looked over the top of by others. In this we must also realize that “not many” goes both ways. There are those on the other end of the scale who hearts might be similarly hard and eyes blind. But the problem of elitism and lack of need rests predominantly with the well regarded and placed. Over all of these, though, is the mighty power of God to soften hearts. Consider even the author of this letter who by his own testimony was among the most well-placed and educated among the Jews, and Jesus stopped him in his tracks on the way to persecute followers of the risen Christ. And for everyone who has been saved, regardless of where they are on any scale of man, they all share the same foundation in that they were hopelessly lost and only saved by the great grace of God apart from any wisdom, wealth or works.
God has turned the whole merit system of man on its head. God’s wisdom runs contrary to that of man, and those who receive His salvation testify to how vast and unmeasurable His wisdom and ways truly are. Those who are saved have absolutely nothing to boast about other than God Himself and His Son, Jesus Christ given for us. God has opened our eyes to His truths. He has enlightened us with His wisdom, and all of these surpass the ways of man. Nothing that man has to offer can bring salvation and life. But God is not only the creator of life, He is also the saver of souls and the giver back of life eternal to people who were bent on doing things their own way apart from God and even against God.
We read, “But by His doing [we] are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”” God revealed Himself to us in His Son who became man so that me might know Him and see His great power of salvation demonstrated for us.
Jesus became our righteousness. Every single one of us was lost in sin. We were spiritually dead and eternally judged to Hell with Satan and his cohorts. There was no hope for us. But Jesus came and shed His blood to pay the penalty for our sins. His perfect righteousness was put upon us at the moment of our salvation. All of our sins were washed away by His sacrifice on our behalf. He paid the penalty for our sins and through Him we have been redeemed. We have been justified fully in God’s court, and in the Lamb’s book our names are found. Jesus is our sanctification. In Christ we are made day by day to look more like Him and to reflect His perfect righteousness. As we grow in Christ we demonstrate or prove that God’s salvation is real. And, as we look to the future we do so with the great hope that we will be presented before Him perfected in glory proving beyond our doubt His redemption power.
This is the difference Christ makes in us, and we have a lot to boast about in Him and what He has done and is doing in us as we learn more and more of Him every day. Paul said that the gospel message is very simple. It is so simple that it confounds those who try to complicate it while being grasped with gratitude by those who embrace its profound truth.
It is all “by His doing.”