Because of Him

Corinthians 1.26-31

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. 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. 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. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’

Have you been part of conversations where one Christian says to another, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if ‘X’ were a Christian, they are so talented, they could do wonderful things for God.?’ Frequently such a comment is met by general nodding in agreement. Is there anything wrong with that? It is a matter of emphasis. When Paul says, ‘Not many of you were wise by human standards.’ v26 He is not saying none of you were academically wise, or rich, or in positions of privilege, he is saying most of you were not. This is to emphasise that worldly wisdom that gives rank to academia, inherited wealth or status are no passports to heaven or positions of authority in the church. They do not exclude one from faith, or responsibilities, but God judges differently. Think Samuel and the sons of Jesse, or Jesus’ teaching not to claim a top table for oneself and then face the indignity of being asked to move down the table.

Time and time again Jesus approached a sinner or a lowly regarded person and salvation was the outcome.  Think Zacchaeus or the woman who touched the hem of Jesus garment or the Samaritan woman who was living a life considered morally disgraceful. The question should not be what can, he or she, do for God but what can God do for him or her regardless of worldly esteem. Paul is emphasising that salvation is an act of God not of man. ‘It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God.’ v30 This is not a reason to put down various abilities, but to order what we value and to whom we give the credit. When God judges us, there is little point in playing the wealth card to God who created all things, or the status card to God of heaven and earth, or the brains card to him who knows all things. When God looks at us we need him to see the righteousness of Christ credited to us by his gift of love through faith. v30 The cleverest, wealthiest and most important person in the world has to come humbly before God in exactly the same way as the lowliest person and admit his or her need. I was struck today when listening to Barack Obama reading from his new autobiography, where he said everyday he knelt by his bed and prayed for forgiveness of sins and guidance. At the time, the most powerful person in the world who had carried beside him at all times, in his own words, the capacity to blow up the world. He understood humility.

There are those who say what Jesus meant by, ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven,’ referred to a gate into Jerusalem which was called the eye of the needle and any camel carrying valuable goods had to have them removed before the camel could squeeze through. What is the purpose of this teaching? It is so that praise goes where it is due, to the Lord. ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ v31

How does this impact on evangelism? It does not support an attitude struck by some saying, “If it is up to God then what I do does not matter.” It clearly does, Jesus left the instruction to go into the whole world making disciples. Paul’s entire ministry was one of taking the gospel to new people and places. It does however mean that we should recognise this is the Lord’s work that we are about and without him there is no point in what we do. It places prayer at the top of the agenda. It places humility as essential in the work of evangelism. It means that the cleverest of ideas are of no use unless the Spirit is at work and it is for this reason that the Holy Spirit was given. It also means we need to be clear and straight forward about the gospel. It is important to answer genuine questions, but in the end, to enter the kingdom of heaven requires an act of faith in Jesus, his death and resurrection and a repentant heart.

Does our faith rest on human reason, or on God’s power? 1 Corinthians 2.4

“Mighty To Save” – Michael W. Smith

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