26 Brothers and sisters, 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 God 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 the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
TO THOSE SANCTIFIED IN CHRIST JESUS AND CALLED TO BE HIS HOLY PEOPLE (i.e. “US”):
You’ve got to love Paul; what an apostolic straight shooter. He doesn’t pull any punches. Like that time when he said,
Brothers and sisters, 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.
Translation: You guys were riffraff. In fact, you still are. Redeemed riffraff. Highly cherished, valued, and even prized riffraff. Stop it! Stop trying to be like the culture around you. Stop trying to imitate the so-called strong and so-called wise and so-called knowledgeable, intelligent people. Stop trying to be somebody and measure up in their world. God is doing something completely different with you; gloriously different. Later on Paul will say things like, you are God’s special field and you are God’s special building project.
He is saying to us something like, “God is making you like Chick-fil-A in a McDonalds world.”
God is not looking for the best and the brightest and most impressive people for his team. In fact, he’s quite keen on picking the people who didn’t get picked. Don’t you love it when God sent Samuel to Jesse’s house to anoint the next King of Israel. Jesse paraded his best, brightest, strongest and handsomest sons before the prophet. I love what the Lord said to Samuel in the midst of this beauty pageant. Copy this one down!
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
God chose David, the contestant who didn’t even make the lineup. Samuel and Jesse and everybody else were caught up in the ways the world thinks. I am going to coin a phrase that might serve us for the next several weeks. Let’s just call the ways the world evaluates people the “Corinthian categories.” Now watch what God does with the Corinthian categories:
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. God 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.
This makes the gospel very offensive. This is why it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. They have worked hard to build a kingdom on the categories of Corinth. There’s too much to lose to let go. If only they could realize Jesus doesn’t want their wealth. He wants them.
The gospel turns it all around. The Kingdom of God is a turnaround kingdom. It upends Corinthian Categories. It puts everyone on the same playing field. At the foot of the cross the ground is perfectly level. No one wins. No one loses. Jesus paid it all. The Cross of Christ upends the categories of Corinth. It’s why Paul adds,
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.
Everyone belongs and everything is beautiful. This is not utopian idealism. This is the eternal Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Everyone experiences extraordinary blessing yet no one can boast.
These little churches Paul is planting across the first century landscape are intended to be inordinately powerful demonstration plots of how the Kingdom of God supplants and subverts the kingdoms of the world; how the Cross of Christ obliterates the categories of Corinth.
1. So how do you see the categories of Corinth at work in the church today? How is the church “baptizing” the ways of the world?
2. How do you see the categories of Corinth at work in your life. How are you turning away from the patterns of this world and being transformed by the renewing of your mind? How is the message of the Cross rooting out the ways of the world in your life? In the ways you are raising your children or grandchildren?
3. How will this word change your mentality today: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7)?
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