Sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:26-32
Text: 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.”
Today is Super Bowl Sunday. Millions of people in our country and around the world will be tuned in to see who will hoist the championship trophy. If you watch the game, I can guarantee you one thing. You will see celebrations done by the players. They will celebrate when they score a touchdown, get a sack, or get a first down. It seems to me that the celebrations have gotten more elaborate over the years. What is the purpose of all of these celebrations? I realize that they are celebrating when something good has happened. Is there something more to it than that? Isn’t the player boasting about what they have done? ‘Look at me,” they are saying as they go through their antics. I remember that there was a coach at one time, who told his players after they scored a touchdown, “Act like you’ve been there before.” To some such boasting is very off-putting. To be honest, who really likes someone who boasts all the time? This morning, we are going to talk about boasting and when it is appropriate. We will see that THERE IS A TIME FOR BOASTING 1. Not In Ourselves, 2. But In The Lord.
The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth, which is in Greece. When you read his letter, you see that this congregation had many problems. Prior to our text, Paul had to address the fact that there were factions in the congregation. This group said that they followed Paul. Another claimed that they followed Peter. There was one group that said that they followed Apollos, who was another preacher of the gospel. Finally, one group said that they followed Christ. Each group claimed to be superior to the others and it was tearing the congregation apart. Prior to our text, Paul said that no one group was superior to the other. Ultimately, they were part of the family of God, and that was the only group that mattered.
Since the congregation was so concerned about external labels, Paul makes this remark, “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.” (Verse 26) Paul wants his readers to consider the situation in which they found themselves when they were called to be members of the family of believers. Why were they members of God’s family? Was it something special in them? Was it their position in society? Was it their amazing intellect? Paul was not about to demonstrate the greatness of the people, but the power and wisdom of God, who made them members of his family. Their standing in the family of believers was not due to any special quality in them. For among that congregation were many ordinary people and very few who were wise by the world’s standards or wealthy or powerful. It is likely that there were even slaves like Onesimus, who was owned by Philemon, worshiping among them. God isn’t affected by worldly greatness. God looks at the heart.
To further illustrate the point that the reason God chose them wasn’t due to anything special about them, Paul continues, “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.” (Verses 27-28) While human wisdom selects people of prominence and influence to attain favored positions, God does not use the world’s criterion when dealing with people. He doesn’t seek out the affluential or influential people to be members of his kingdom. His message of salvation is for all people. As a matter of fact, what mankind’s wisdom calls “foolish,” “weak,” “lowly,” and “despised,” God is able to use for his glory for the salvation of many souls.
What is the ultimate purpose of God pointing all of this out to us? It is to remind us that we have nothing to boast of before God. We aren’t the movers and shakers in society that God needed so that he would look better. None of us were chosen because we are the cream of society. Paul notes this “so that no one may boast before him.” (Verse 29) As true as it might be that we have nothing to boast about when it comes to the externals, it is even more true when it comes to what is inside of us, by nature. It is such an easy thing for us to look at other people in the world and compare ourselves to them. We see a vile act committed by someone on the news and our noses wrinkle in disgust. We hear the foul language that others are using and are greatly offended. Please, don’t misunderstand me. Those things are revolting, and as Christians, we have every reason to be offended when we see or hear these things. However, when we hear about these things, it is so easy for us to begin to compare our lives to theirs and think about how much better we are than they are. “I would never do something like that. I would never talk that way.” Unfortunately, it is easy for our sinful flesh to take it a step further and start to think that God owes something for the way that we are living. “God really got a special one when he got me.”
In reality, all such boasting is foolish. Even though we may not have committed this sin or that sin, we have committed other sins. Though we may never have committed armed robbery, we have been greedy and discontent with what we have. Though we may not use foul language, we have used our mouths to hurt others and to speak badly about them when they are not around. Any and every sin that we have ever committed would have disqualified us from ever entering heaven. Isaiah reminds us, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) There was nothing so special in us that moved God to choose us to be his own. We have to admit that the words Augustus Toplady wrote apply to us, as well.
Not the labors of my hands Can fulfill thy law’s demands.
Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone; Thou must save and thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress, Helpless, look to thee for grace.
Foul, I to the fountain fly – Wash me, Savior, or I die!
By God’s grace, we know that we are saved. We realize that it does not come from our own accomplishments, but rather in what Christ has done for us. Paul put it this way, “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.” (Verse 30) God alone is the source and cause for all that we are in Christ Jesus. The Father loved you and me so much that he sent his Son into the world to be our Savior. We are “in Christ Jesus,” because of all that he has done for us. It was his perfect life that he lived in our place. It was his innocent suffering and death that paid for all of our sins. His resurrection assures us that our sins are forgiven and eternal life is ours. The Holy Spirit is the one who created the faith in our hearts that makes what Jesus has done our own. The Holy Spirit keeps us in the faith through the gospel in his Word and in the sacraments. God, alone, is the one who is responsible for my salvation. He deserves all the credit. Because of his work, I have righteousness, that is to say, I am in good standing with God. Because of God’s work, I am holy. Because of his work, I have been redeemed, that is, I have been ransomed from my bondage to sin.
It is no wonder, then, that Paul would conclude our text, by writing, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (Verse 31) I don’t boast in what I brought to my salvation, because I brought nothing at all. God did everything for me. I will boast in that. I will call attention to God’s amazing love in rescuing me from an eternity apart from him. I will praise him that he loved me so much that he did everything for my salvation. I will boast as I live my life in service to him, because it gives me an opportunity to show my love for him. This is not to say that we cannot be proud of those things that we do for God. When we do those things that are pleasing to God, we can be proud of them. We just want to be sure that we are not calling attention to them, so that others say what wonderful people we are. Rather, we are calling attention to the love of God that has changed our lives both on this earth and for all eternity. In thankfulness, we want our entire lives to boast of our God who has shown us such amazing love.
The truth is, everyone, in some form or fashion, boasts about their accomplishments. The child boasts that they can run faster than anyone else. The teen boasts about their vehicle. The worker boasts about how much work they’ve accomplished. The grandparent boasts about how exceptional their grandchildren are. There are times when this boasting is tolerated, and even encouraged. However, as we have seen, when it comes to our salvation, we have nothing to boast about, when it comes to our accomplishments. That’s because we don’t have any. Yet, we can boast about our salvation, when we talk about what God has done for us. When we think of all that he did and the love that he showed to us, we cannot help but be filled with joy. We want others to know what God has done for us and what he has done for them. May the Lord fill our hearts with pride in knowing that we are God’s children. “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” Amen.
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