Favorite Scriptures #4 – God chose the weak and the foolish things of the world to shame the strong and the wise. ( 1 Corinthians 1:17 – 2:5)

The Way of the World…And the Way of God

 From Following  Jesus Christ.


But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” 1 Corinthians 1: 27-29

No scripture quite annihilates the patterns of this world – and sadly modern Christianity – as powerfully and as comprehensively as 1 Corinthians 1:17 – 2:5. In that passage, which I will quote in full below, Paul expounds, in clear and incisive language, on how exactly God chose and chooses to influence this world. It is a direct indictment of every earthly institution – including the modern church. He does not use the rich, the eloquent, the beautiful and the powerful. Instead, God chooses the weak and the foolish and the broken. He chooses empty things and lonely things, and things that are not to nullify the things that are so that no one…may boast before him.

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel– not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. 26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” 

Chapter 2

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

 The world, including, in very large part, our churches and Christian organizations, send us the message that we are to admire and follow the lead of successful businessmen, “Christian” politicians, the talented, the athletic, the wealthy and the beautiful. We are taught, in word and by example, to uphold those with obvious temporal gifts, and leaders are chosen accordingly. Why do we do this when it is contrary to everything we see in the scriptures? The Apostle John tells us “flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit to spirit.” (John 3:6). Yet time and time again, we as believers choose the temporal, the flesh, over the spiritual, when it comes to those we follow and admire.

Jesus was born to teenage parents…in a barn. He spent most of his life performing manual labor as a carpenter. Isaiah 53 makes it clear that he was not physically attractive so that people would not be drawn to his outward appearance – but to his spirit. During his time of ministry Jesus said that, even foxes and birds have holes and dens in which to live, yet He had no place to rest his head. The Living God did not even have a place to call home in while on this earth. The Apostle Paul, among others, followed this example and traveled the known world on foot and by cargo ship, seeking, not to gain wealth or temporal power but only to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that perhaps, some might be saved…for Paul was looking to an eternal kingdom, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the city of the living God. (Hebrews 12:22).

Jesus chose his disciples from among the uneducated and the despised. He chose fishermen and a tax collector to become the preeminent leaders in the kingdom of God. He chose men who were nothing in this world, to sit in judgment over the twelve tribes of Israel at the end of the age. Why didn’t Jesus choose successful merchants, political leaders – or even priests and military officers to be his disciples? Because such men were already full – full of pretense, and power, wealth and the admiration of men – just like the wealthy and the powerful today.

Jesus makes it abundantly clear that it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven…very difficult. Why? Because their reputations and hopes are built on worldly achievements that have earned them, temporarily, financial security, the respect of men, and earthly power. Flesh truly does give birth to more flesh, and absent great brokenness and great humility, wealth and power are very difficult fates to escape.

In my experience I have rarely, if ever, seen a successful businessman or an influential person in the temporal sense, truly become a disciple of Christ – counting everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord, for whose sake Paul gladly lost all things. (Philippians 3:7-14) I have seen such men engage in church meetings and Bible studies, building friendships and gaining knowledge – and even tipping a little of the pride and wealth out of their full cup. But typically it seems that the purpose of this activity is to have better relationships with family, learn new principles of leadership and gain new friends – and even business partners – rather to than to learn what it means to fall face down in humility and repentance before the consuming fire who is the Living God.

Even in our churches, it is the beautiful and the hip who take center stage leading worship and often preaching. The deacon and elder boards are filled with successful businessmen who contribute financially to the church and thus, have more control than any man deserves…not because of their character in Jesus Christ, but because of money and standing in the community. The eloquent and the clever speak and teach…yet Paul came in weakness and fear and with much trembling so that his message and his teaching would not rest on his wisdom…but on God’s power. Unfortunately, the western church may have gained much of the world by embracing its culture and methods…but it has also perhaps, forfeited its soul. May we not do the same.


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