1 - 3 To the Church of God Which Is At …
1 Paul, called [as] an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their [Lord] and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In this letter you will find a wide variety of topics. Most of them are about how the church should function in practice, in other words how everything should happen in the church. And because you are a member of the church of God, everything that is written in this letter is also important for you.
Outwardly, the church is no longer a unity. Sadly, this has been true for a long time. There are numerous groups and churches. I suppose you are asking yourself now the great question: ‘Where can I find the place where the church gathers?’ It is not that I am going to name a place for you where that happens, but I would like to examine together with you what this letter says about the gathering of the believers, for together they form the church. When you have discovered what the Bible, God’s Word, says about all this, it will be much easier to find that place.
Let us therefore first take a look at what the Bible tells us about it. Attending a Christian meeting is something you cannot do without. You cannot be a Christian on your own. The choice you have to make is not easy. In many places you might find good things, but also bad things, because in all those places fallible people come together.
When I started looking for this place, I asked myself a few questions:
1. Is the Lord Jesus in the center there?
2. Can the Holy Spirit work freely there?
3. Is it the Word of God that has authority there?
4. Is it the church that gathers there or is it a group of people who maintain their own rules, which you first should agree to before you can join them?
Some other important questions are:
1. Do those coming together love each other?
2. Do they have the desire to preach the gospel to those who are still lost that they may be saved?
By the grace of God I have found this place. Yet I do have to keep these questions in mind because there is always a chance that something happens which can cause that the gathering of the believers is not in accordance anymore with what God has said about it. God does not change His thoughts, but we can change and deviate from His Word.
Unfortunately, the latter has been happening time after time throughout church history; hence the great divisions in the church that you see all around. It is sad that the world sees it and also that the Lord Jesus Himself sees it. Even when you meet believers who want to gather just as believers, nothing more and nothing less, yet you can still come across things that are not in accordance with the Bible. You will not find the perfect church on earth. Although that is true, it is vital that in the church the Bible has authority, which means that when mistakes have slipped in, the believers should be willing to be corrected by God’s Word. That is what Paul is doing here in his first letter to the Corinthians.
If you think that the church in Corinth is the perfect example to which Paul can point and say: ‘People, behave like the Corinthians’, you are mistaken. In the church in Corinth, things were far from perfect. The brothers and sisters of Corinth are not the ideal example of how a church should gather and live together. It was all pretty unseemly and disorderly. Marriage and the Lord’s Supper, just to mention two things, were issues which they certainly did not deal with in a Christian way. Paul shows this very clearly in this first letter he writes to them.
Still, even though it may sound strange, in a way we should be thankful that the believers in Corinth behaved so badly. Do you know why? Because we are no better and we now have a letter in the Bible in which we can read how to deal appropriately with each other and with issues like marriage and the Lord’s Supper. Fortunately, we can see from the second letter Paul wrote to them, that the Corinthians listened to him.
That is how it still works these days. Everything that is written in this first letter is as relevant as it was back then. Many Christians think that it is no longer possible to gather in the way Paul tells and prescribes here. And what is more: they think that this letter only applied to the Corinthians and that we are free to do things our own way. But God’s Word is clear about that. If you believe that God’s Word applies at all times (and why would you not?), it will be a challenge for you to experience that it is really still possible to gather in the way this letter tells us.
V1-3. The first three verses show immediately how wonderfully far-reaching the content of this letter is. It is written “to the church of God …, with all, in every place …”. So, what is written to the believers in Corinth, applies to every local church on earth where the Name of the Lord Jesus is called upon.
Furthermore it is the church of God and not of some person. If it is the church of God, it is logical that He determines the way things should go, right? If people in the church of God set their own rules, confusion is inevitable. That is what you clearly see around you in Christianity.
But there is another reason why things were going so badly in the church in Corinth. They did not keep themselves separated from the world. In verse 2 they are being called “sanctified” and “saints by calling”. That is what you are as well. And the result should be that you behave like one as well. If you forget that God sees you as a saint, there is a strong chance that you will allow worldly things into your life again. This also applies to a local church. If it forgets that it is a church which belongs to God and that it does not belong to the world anymore, all kinds of influences of this world have opportunity to enter. We have plenty of examples of it in this letter.
Now read 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 again.
Reflection: How do you know for certain that you are in a place where the church gathers?
4 - 9 Enriched In Him
4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
V4. Before Paul addresses the Corinthians about the wrong things that were found amongst them, he first thanks God for the good things that were found amongst them. He does that in almost all of his letters. That is an important lesson for us. Often, when we notice incorrect things at others, we tend to focus our attention only on that. The danger is that we no longer see the good things that this person has as well. When we are convinced that we have to talk to someone about a mistake, let us start with telling him about the good things he has. Then the atmosphere of the conversation will be such, that talking about mistakes will get through in a good way.
It is quite something what Paul says here about the believers in Corinth. But do notice how he thanks God for what He had given them. He does not thank God for the way they were dealing with these gifts from God, because they were not using them in a proper way. In the course of the letter this will become clear. By addressing them this way, they actually should feel ashamed of themselves.
In front is “the grace of God” which was “given to you in Christ Jesus”. All blessings and riches that we have received come forth from it. After all there is nothing that we have deserved. When God gives something, it is always connected with the Lord Jesus. God never gives something that is apart from Him. To God, the Lord Jesus is the Centre of His thinking and acting. God wants to glorify Him through everything and He wants us to cooperate in this glorification. You should start paying attention to that, because you will find it everywhere in the Bible. You will notice this immediately in the following verses.
V5. They were “in everything … enriched”, but only “in Him”. Are you a little bit familiar with these riches? A few of them are listed. The first richness is “in all speech”. Paul had preached the gospel to them by speaking words that came from God. They had accepted these words. This is how they acquired the words of God. Is it not an enormous richness to be able to hold the entire Word of God in your hands? God has not kept anything back from you that was useful for you to know.
But holding it in your hands is something different from really knowing it. Well, the Corinthians were also rich in “all knowledge”. That is the second richness. They knew a lot.
V6. This knowledge is, however, not primarily a matter of the intellect, but of the heart. It is not about how many Bible verses you can say by heart (even though that is important!), but about a Person. By ‘all speech and also by ‘all knowledge’ it is about “the testimony concerning Christ”. Christ has to be the Centre in studying the Word and the increasing of your knowledge.
V7. What God gives, He gives that you may get more understanding of Who the Lord Jesus is. That is why the Corinthians were lacking ”in no gift”, as a third richness. Each gift is meant for honoring Christ. But when believers start using a gift to show off themselves and to receive honor themselves, it is used in a wrong way and God will have to punish them. He will not give His glory to another (Isa 42:8).
A fourth richness is the expecting of “the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ”. ‘Revelation’ means: to come out of concealment, so that it becomes visible. The Lord Jesus is not visible to our human eye at the moment. But that will change in time. He will once again appear in this world “and every eye will see Him” (Rev 1:7). He will not come as a Baby, like the first time, but He will come in power and great glory.
There is another aspect to the revelation of the Lord Jesus. Just before He publicly appears to the world, the believers will be revealed before the judgment seat of Christ (2Cor 5:10). Everything that the Corinthians have done, said and thought will then be revealed. They surely would have changed their lifestyles immediately if they had realized that. Their conscience would certainly be roused about the way they were dealing with the spiritual riches they had received.
You will understand that this aspect of the revelation of the Lord Jesus is also important for you. How do you deal with the things you have received from the Lord?
V8. Fortunately, it also says (and that is the fifth richness) that the Lord Jesus will “confirm you to the end”. The word ‘confirm’ means that He takes care of you and holds you and does not let you go. He has shown His care for you by bearing the judgment of God on the cross, which you deserved. He also shows His care by listening to you every day when you speak to Him and by speaking to you when you read His Word. He also shows His care in many things in your daily life.
All this care is to make sure that on this day, when He appears, you will be “blameless” (the sixth richness). This means that there will be nothing to be found fault with you for which you should be punished yet. Of course this does not mean that you can now live life the way that suits you best because everything will be fine anyway. No, it is just the other way around. If you know that He makes sure that there will be nothing to be found fault with you in the future, you would want to be blameless now already, in the present, even though there is no fault to be found with you.
V9. Paul ends his introductory words by pointing at the faithfulness of God. It is always a great encouragement to be reminded of the faithfulness of God when we are unfaithful. But that should not justify our unfaithfulness. This becomes clear from the following words. The faithful God could never approve of His children being unfaithful to the calling to which He has called them. It is written very clearly that we are “called into fellowship with [better: of] His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.
In the past we lived in different forms of fellowship. Maybe you lived your own life in a circle of sports fanatics with whom you would discuss and/or exercise your favorite sport on every level. Or you belonged to those motorcycle maniacs who would talk about nothing else than motorcycles. Or you joined the world of gamers and shared your passion with other club members. Or maybe the pub was the place where you would meet other people. It were certain forms of fellowship where you would meet people who took the same pleasure in this entertainment as you did.
But this has changed radically when you got to know the Lord Jesus. Now you belong to a fellowship where everything ‘revolves’ around the Lord Jesus. Everything you do, should point to that. The more you will love Him, the more you will start with doing away wrong things. You will enjoy the fellowship with Him more and more, a fellowship that you will experience in heaven in a perfect way for all eternity.
Now read 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 again.
Reflection: Name some more riches that you have received in the Lord Jesus. Thank God for them.
10 - 17 Divisions In the Church
10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s [people], that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
V10. What Paul says in verse 9 about the fellowship of Jesus Christ, is a starting point for the verses you have just read. He has to admonish the Corinthians because they have forgotten that there is only one Person through Whom they belonged together. Paul underlines his admonition by adding: “By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Thereby he says that his admonition is completely supported by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
You can imagine that the Corinthians should be impressed by this. That was necessary, because the Name of the Lord Jesus was no longer the only name for them. Other names had become important to them as well: Paul, Apollos, Cephas (see verse 12). As a result, they did not “all agree” or “all speak the same thing” [literal translation] anymore. ‘Speak the same thing’ does not mean that things are being said in the same tone or with the same words. It refers to the content of the conversations. That should be the same. The conversations should be about the same Person. The Lord Jesus wants to be unique for His own. He cannot be satisfied with a shared interest of the church.
The result of a shared interest is the start of divisions. If the believers do not turn their eyes on Him only, it will cause division. They do not really form a unity anymore. From the outside, it might still look like a unity. The believers still come together in the same building, but from the inside there are ‘cracks’. A building that starts getting cracks in the inner wall has to be repaired, because otherwise these cracks will become wider and the building will collapse. So, Paul continues with an appeal to ‘repair’: they have to be “made complete”. This can be accomplished by being “in the same mind and in the same judgment” again. All the things that brought division had to be put away and they had to start focusing on the One again.
V11. Fortunately, there were also believers in Corinth who were sad about the division, like those of Chloe’s household. They were wondering what they should do about it. They must have prayed a lot. I think the Lord made it clear to them that they should write Paul about it.
That is the best thing for us to do as well. When wrong things happen in the church, we should ‘ask Paul’. He has received special announcements from the Lord about the church. If you have certain questions about the church, you should read in the Bible the letters of Paul in particular. The Corinthians received an answer and you will get one as well. To act as if there are no problems or beat about the bush, is not the answer for the problems. If you run into problems, tell the Lord about it first and listen to what He has to say.
I do not think that the believers of Chloe’s household wrote to Paul behind the back of their fellow believers, because Paul mentions their name openly and says that he had heard from them about what is going on in Corinth. They were not gossipers. They must have been reliable people, of whom Paul could expect that they would depict a truthful image of the situation in Corinth. If not, Paul would never have reacted this way towards the Corinthians. It is great that there were people like them then and that they still are now, because such people are invaluable for the church. Often they are not appreciated in the church and they are seen as troublesome because they point out the wrong things. However, it is of great importance that it happens. At least something will be done about the wrongs.
V12. There were conflicts amongst the Corinthians. The believers were flatly quarreling. The reason for this was the different groups that had come into being, each of which had a favorite preacher. One group felt drawn to Paul, he was their man. What mysteries he could reveal! Another group followed Cephas (that is Peter). What an ardent man he was! Another group stuck to Apollos. What a speaker he was! And then there were also those who said they belonged to Christ. These were the worst.
It may sound strange to you, but it is the truth. Paul sums up four parties with each their own party leader. Imagine that Christ was one of them! How could He ever be put on a level with any human being? That was exactly what the Corinthians did. Christ was made a party leader, next to Paul, Peter and Apollos. What this party was saying by this was: ‘We are the only good ones. Those who have joined Paul, or Peter, or Apollos, do not belong to our group.’ But every believer belongs to Christ, even though he might (unfortunately) have joined some group that is called after a certain servant.
Christ cannot be compartmentalized – like also His servants didn’t want to be a party leader. When Paul says that Christ is not divided, he indicates that Christ cannot be claimed by some group to be their party leader. You will surely recognize this image in Christianity around you. What a dissension! One group is called after Luther, another after Calvin. There are also groups and churches where people come together, just because they agree on certain passages or subjects from the Bible, for example baptism, whilst others, who do not agree on this, cannot join this group. That the Lord Jesus is the only One through Whom Christians belong together has been pushed into the background more and more.
With the foregoing I do not mean to say that we should ignore the church walls and groups. What you certainly should not be doing, is letting yourself be pigeon-holed. Show the people that you only want to belong to the Lord Jesus and that you feel united with all fellow believers, whatever church or group with a certain name they might belong to.
V13. This division absolutely conflicts with Christ. How could He be “divided”, as if His work would have brought division and not unity (Jn 11:52)? Paul also did not want to be a party leader – it was not him who was crucified for the Corinthians. They did not owe their salvation to him. He was only to bring the message of salvation to them.
Verse 13 is the first time in this chapter that the cross is mentioned. This will be found more often. When you are reminded of the cross, you think back on the judgment that God executed on man. And if man has been judged, there is no more room for division, because division is something made by man. They were not baptized in Paul’s name, were they?
V14-16. If that were the case, there would only be a few people who belonged to him, because he had only baptized a few. They could be counted on the fingers of one hand, so to speak. He can remember two cases. Oh yes, he also baptized the household of Stephanas. It is as if this name suddenly occurred to him. He does not boast with a lot of names as if they are trophies that make him great.
Paul does not say this to belittle the meaning of baptism, but he finds himself to be insignificant. Only Christ is important to him. On the other hand some people find it important by whom they are baptized. But it is totally insignificant who is baptizing or who you are baptized by. With baptism, someone is joined with Christ in His death. It is about Him and not about the one who is baptizing.
V17. Paul did not receive an order from Christ to baptize. The twelve disciples, who had followed the Lord Jesus on earth, had received this order. The assignment that Paul got from Christ was to spread the gospel. This should not be done with wisdom of words, because then the person of Paul would come to the foreground again and the cross of Christ would become powerless.
It is all about the cross of Christ. There is much more related to it than your salvation as a sinner. When you look at the cross, you will see on the one hand how the holy God hates sin and you will see His adamant judgment on sin. On the other hand you will see His great love for you through the cross, because there you see how the Savior in His endless grace did everything for you in His infinite suffering and His deep humiliation. On the one hand you will also see the demonic teamwork of the limitless evil of satan with man who has fallen into sin. On the other hand you see there how man in his pride is wiped out, how sin is done away, and how satan is defeated and conquered.
The cross is the place where the judgment has raged and is carried and where God is glorified in Christ. Yes, on the cross, the foundation has been laid for a new heaven and a new earth, where the glory of God shall shine in all eternity.
Now read 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 again.
Reflection: Reflect on the miracle of the cross. (Do it often!)
18 - 25 Christ – the Power and Wisdom of God
18 For the word 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, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater 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 [come to] know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
V18. In these verses Paul depicts the contrast between the old and the new life. To him there is no way in between. The cross doesn’t allow such a way. It is about perishing or being saved. Between these two ways there is the cross.
The “word of the cross” is not popular. At least, how it is presented by God in His Word. I call that the old cross. It often occurs that in preaching the gospel the edges of the “word of the cross” are being smoothed to make it more pleasant and to make it less radical. I call that the new cross. With the new cross one can go on with his life without having gone through a radical change in his motives. He goes on with his own pleasures. The only difference is that many things in his life now have a Christian ‘color’. But with the old cross nothing is left of the old man, he is disappeared completely. The old cross is the symbol of scorn and shame.
During the time the Lord Jesus lived in Israel, the people were dominated by the Romans. The Roman way of executing a criminal was crucifixion. That is the most horrible sentence of death you can imagine. Anyone who was sentenced to this death in that time, walked with the cross on his back through the streets of the city to the place of execution. He had said goodbye to family, friends and acquaintances. He would not come back anymore. There was no compromise with the cross; it was hard and merciless and it killed a man once and for all.
The Corinthians had forgotten the real meaning of the cross. You can see that immediately from their fighting and divisions. But how do you deal with the cross? For it is one thing to know that you are saved through the cross, but to live in accordance with the cross is a completely different thing. To the world, “to those who are perishing”, the message of the cross is foolishness. That the Son of God voluntarily took that place in order to reconcile a hostile man with God, is foolishness for men who are blind to their own sinfulness and to God Who is holy. But to you the cross was the “power of God” through which you were saved.
V19-20. All the wisdom and philosophy of the world, hasn’t ever been able to save anyone. Much fantasy and philosophy have been going on (and still are) about what man is and what would lead him to happiness. Many of these theories have been constructed and are still being constructed, the one more impressive than the other. But in the Old Testament God already said that He would destroy the wisdom of the wise men and the understanding of their prudent men He would bring to nothing (Isa 29:14).
The wisdom of man is something that comes from man. In Ephesians 4 you can read what man is without God (Eph 4:17-19). How could such man ever come up with something meaningful about the origin, the existence and the future of man? All thoughts of man about himself and from himself and all his searching after the truth about himself apart from God, is meaningless. He who yet does that and even admires that – and that was the case with the Corinthians – doesn’t understand anything about the wisdom of God.
V21. The wisdom of God has a totally different approach. God really cannot use anything at all of the fallen man to restore him but has to start all over again with him. Somebody who we might consider the wisest person will never be able to grasp anything of God with his understanding, his intelligence. God does not target primarily the understanding of man, but his conscience. He who will reason about God with his understanding, will judge Him. As if man can grasp God within his own mind!
He, who makes God speak to his conscience, acknowledges that it is quite the opposite: God judges him. Such a person becomes aware of the wisdom of God as it comes to an expression in “the foolishness of the message”. Isn’t it foolish to listen to something that approaches you through words that you cannot see or touch or reason with your understanding? No, it certainly is not, for if you once have believed the truth of those words, you are really saved indeed.
V22. The Jews wanted to see a sign first or concrete evidence before they believed. The Greek people wanted to be able to reason with understanding first before they believed. But that of course is not believing. Believing is the confidence that is focused on God. You trust that God has the best intention towards you, while He yet has to judge you.
V23. Such contradictions are not to be proved through signs or to be reasoned with the understanding, but to faith it is all to be found in Christ, the Crucified. The Jews did not want such a Savior. Just imagine what they were thinking: their pride, their Messiah, Who would chase away the enemy (the Romans) out of the land, died on a cross. The Greeks had profound thoughts about the essence of man and believed in their own ideas about it. Just imagine again: such a distinguished being as a man should be saved by something abject as a crucified Man.
V24. However, he who is called by God, as you also are now, whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, knows for sure: only through the cross there is salvation. On the cross you see Christ. In Him the power of God and the wisdom of God have become apparent. The power of God is not comparable to the muscular power of a man. The power of God is seen in the triumph that was achieved over sin, satan and death by the Son of God. The enemy has been defeated, not by might, but by the submission of the Lord Jesus to God all the way to death. It is a final victory. It is the power of God’s love that has reached out to you in His Son and Who gained you for Him.
V25. God in His wisdom was the only One Who could have invented such a way for the salvation of sinners. Never ever could a man think in such a way. As long as a person has not been touched in his conscience, he will continually try to make his life meaningful by his own power and understanding. Until now it appears that all human ingenuity has not lead to a happy world. We are sure that it will never happen.
Every day we have enough evidence that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. You have understood and experienced that the ‘foolishness of God’ has brought deliverance in your hopeless situation and that the ‘weakness of God’ was the power that lifted you up from your misery and brought you close to His heart.
Now read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 again.
Reflection: Compare the foolishness of men to the foolishness of God.
26 - 31 Let Him Who Boasts, Boast In the Lord
26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 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, 28 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, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
V26. Apparently the Corinthians were still sensitive to wisdom, power and honor. Those are the three things to which Paul refers in verse 26. He reminds them of the moment when they were called by God. Did they belong to the higher society class when they heard the voice of God when the gospel was preached to them? Were there many wise, powerful and highly esteemed people among them? It is exactly these people, who think that they do not need the gospel, who ignore the calling voice of God.
Human wisdom, the intelligence of man, is being overestimated. Philosophers are giving the impression to be able to penetrate into the invisible, the intangible part of creation, while they have no place for God. And in case they have given a place to God, it is a place that they confer to God. In human wisdom man is being overestimated and the only wise God is underestimated.
Many people are impressed by might. They actually would love to exert a certain form of might or power. In the world power always is being exerted by money and by force. Submission to power is always for its own benefit. If you do not give in to it, you will suffer. If you do, you will benefit from it. The eye of man is focused on that. That’s why he doesn’t see God; he rules his own life; he doesn’t need God and therefore declares the power of God to be something that is not a power.
Esteem or noble is also something to which many people strive for. People with a high position, or who have received a special distinction, are looked upon with jealousy. Esteem makes man great, but God, Who is the only One Who is worthy of all honor, is being forgotten.
Most people who are saved through the gospel do not belong to the wise, powerful and noble people. Fortunately there are also people among the wise, powerful and noble people, who acknowledge their guilt before God and who are saved. In the Bible there is an example of such a person: Joseph of Arimathea. Of him it is said that he was “a prominent member of the Council”, who expected the kingdom of God (Mk 15:43). But generally it is people whose lives have been broken down and who couldn’t make it, and who take refuge in the Lord Jesus (cf. 1Sam 22:2). That was actually the case with the Corinthians.
V27-28. Paul speaks of the “the foolish things of the world” and of “the weak things of the world” and of “the base things of the world and the despised” as the kind of people that God has chosen. With such expressions there is nothing left of your own self-importance. In this way God also wants to put to shame the wise and the strong, who never have succeeded to save a person for eternity and to give him happiness and peace in life.
Finally there is still one more thing said that completely wipes out the arrogance of man: God has chosen “the things that are not”. Have you ever felt like that? The more you get aware of that, the more you will be grateful to God that He has adopted you.
V29. As long as we honor ‘something’ of ourselves, we haven’t understood that God cannot possibly accept anything of the flesh – that is the old man. He had to judge that in Christ on the cross, didn’t He? We need to be reminded of these things again and again, because we continually risk honoring something of the flesh, so the old man. There is really not one thing in which a man could glory.
V30. God has condemned the old man thoroughly. Even though something of that old man comes forward again in the Christian, it doesn’t change God’s judgment on that. God cannot tolerate that. As a Christian you are to deal with that the way God deals with it. The only way to be able to condemn the old definitely, is to be aware of what you have become now.
You are ‘from God in Christ Jesus’. It all came from God. He was the One Who gave you a new position, a position that the wisest philosopher couldn’t give to you. This is how He sees you now. He doesn’t see you in relation to your old life anymore, but He sees you in Christ. This is the way you also should see yourself. Christ has made it possible that you would receive this wonderful place.
What the Lord means to us now, is indicated by four words. These four words give a complete description of what you are as a Christian.
In the first place “wisdom from God”. In Christ you have acknowledged that wisdom is only to be found in God. He was the initiator of the salvation of man, which no person could have thought of. On the one hand God was glorified by that plan and on the other hand it has appeared how useless everything is that is invented by man.
Secondly “righteousness”. That was the first thing a sinner needed to stand before God. The Lord Jesus made it possible through His death and resurrection. This subject is exhaustively set out in the letter to the Romans.
Thirdly “sanctification”. Sanctification means that you have been set apart with a purpose. You are not anymore someone who belongs to the world, but someone who belongs to God now. God wants you for Himself so that you can glorify Him. That’s how the Lord Jesus went through this world, as the Holy One and that’s how He is in heaven now. And because you are in Him, God sees you like that now also.
Fourthly “redemption”. Here it is not meant redemption from the power of sin. That redemption has already happened when you were justified. The redemption that is meant here has to do with the redemption of your body, as it is said in Romans 8 (Rom 8:23). That happens when the Lord Jesus returns, so that is yet to come.
V31. So now you see that God has kept you safe and secure in Christ from the beginning till the end. He has done everything. Man remains completely out of sight in this. The only thing man could and can do, is showing his incapacity in his way of dealing with problems which affect so many people. Your very own efforts also did not bring any perspective, but led only to a desperately seeking for rest and peace that was increasing more and more. Now you have acknowledged that, there is nothing more left than to have joy in Him, is there? So give Him all honor and glory!
Now read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 again.
Reflection: Tell somebody else what it means to you that you ‘are of God in Christ Jesus’.