The Church at Corinth and Wisdom: Part 4 of 7 (series: Lessons on 1 Co.)
by John Lowe
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
That no flesh should glory in his presence.
How incredible it is that a man, a creature of flesh and blood, created from the dust of the earth and destined to return to dust, whose glory at its peak only lasts for a moment, whose days consist of one aggravation after another, who is always asking for help, and whose righteousness is like filthy rags—how mind-boggling it is that such a creature as man would boast to God! But this is what has become of Adam's race, and only God can give it salvation; but that salvation cost God a horrendous price; the blood of Jesus Christ shed on Calvary. But there is something even more incredible than that; it is that God would give up His Son to suffering and death for any man, especially a man like me. But He did it, because God desires that man should recognize and confess his sin and unworthiness, and, like those poor mortals of Corinth, turn to the heavenly Father through Jesus Christ the Lord. If the first converts to Christianity had been the wealthy rulers of kingdoms, the impression would have been that such persons had earned eternal life. However, no man was ever capable of earning one second of eternal life; and Paul's thought here stresses the wisdom of God in saving the outcasts of Corinth in order that no flesh should glory before God. Those former disgraceful men of that awful city of Corinth deserved salvation as much as the wisest and greatest men on earth, which is not at all; and every man who comprehends this basic truth of salvation in Christ is very fortunate indeed.
Some translations have "in the presence of God", and the Arabic and Ethiopic versions read; “not in their blood, birth, families, lineage, and natural descent; nor in their might, power, and dominion; nor in their riches, wealth, and substance; nor in their wisdom, learning, and parts: for however these may be gloried in before men, yet not before God.” These things do not impress God; as a matter of fact, he makes use of a method for choosing and calling that is the reverse of these, in order to stain the magnificence of all flesh, so that no man may attribute his salvation to anything other than, the sovereign grace and good pleasure of God. "Flesh" is often used to represent the whole man (Matthew 24:22; Luke 3:6; John 17:2 Acts 2:17; 1 Peter 1:24): and here Paul uses this word "flesh" very well, to contrast the weak and miserable condition of man with the majesty of God. The gospel was designed by God to bring down the pride of both Jews and Greeks, to shame those who boasted of having the science and learning of the Greeks and the lineage of the Jews. Flesh, like "the flower of the field," is beautiful, but frail (See Isaiah 40:6-8). We are not to glory before Him, but in Him: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith” (Romans 3:27). What Paul is saying here is this: If God is saving by faith in Christ and not by your merit (your works), then where is boasting? What is it that you and I have to crow about? We can’t even boast of the fact that we’re fundamental in our doctrine. We have nothing to glory in today. Paul asks, “Where is boasting then?” And he answers the question he raises. He says: “It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.” The word law in the first instance is not restricted to the Old Testament Law but means the principle of law—any law, anything that you think you can do. The second reference to law excludes the Old Testament Law and means simply a rule or principle of faith. In other words, God has the human race not on the merit system, but on the basis of simply believing
what He has done for us.
Therefore, it excludes boasting.
The gospel dispensation is a device to humble man; but, it has been marvelously prepared to glorify God. There is a great deal of power and glory in the substance and life of Christianity. Although its ministers were poor and uneducated, and its converts generally of the lowest rank, yet the hand of the Lord went along with the preachers; and the Holy Spirit was mighty in the hearts of the hearers; and Jesus Christ became both great and honorable to the ministers, and Christians, as well. We may make the following observations with regard to these verses:
(1) that it is to be expected that the great mass of Christian converts will be found among those who are leading a humble life; and it may be observed also, that true virtue, honesty, sincerity, and friendliness, are usually found there also.
(2) That while the mass of Christians are found there, there are also those of noble birth, and rank, and wealth, who become Christians. The number of those who have come from the privileged class to become Christians has not been small. It is sufficient to refer to such names as Pascal, and Bacon, and Boyle, and Newton, and Locke, and Hale, and Wilberforce, to show that religion can command the respect of the most illustrious genius and the rich and powerful.
(3) The reasons why those of rank and wealth do not become Christians, are many and obvious.
a. They are inundated with unhealthy temptations.
b. They are usually satisfied with position and wealth, and do not feel the need of a hope of heaven.
c. They are surrounded with objects which flatter their vanity, which minister to their pride, and which throw them into the circle of alluring and tempting pleasures.
d. They are drawn away from the means of grace and the places of prayer, by fashion, by business, by temptation.
e. There is something about the pride of learning and philosophy which usually makes those who possess it unwilling to sit at the feet of Christ; to acknowledge their dependence on any power; and to confess that they are poor, and needy, and blind, and naked before God.
(4) The gospel is designed to produce humility, and to place all men on the same level in regard to salvation. There is no royal way to the favor of God. No monarch is saved because he is a monarch; no philosopher because he is a philosopher; no rich man because he is rich; no poor man because he is poor. All are placed on a level field. All are to be saved in the same way. All are to become willing to give the entire glory to God. All are to acknowledge him as the One who provided the plan, and as the One who furnished the grace that is needed for salvation. God's plan includes bringing down the pride of man, and producing a willingness to acknowledge him as the Fountain of blessings, and the God of all.
All mankind is to be silent when it comes into the presence of God; as Habakkuk says—
Let all flesh keep silence before God, (Habakkuk 2:20.) Let everything, that is at all deserving of praise, be recognized as proceeding from God.
• Isaiah 40:6-8 (KJV) The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. Man is compared to the grass of the field. The question is, how can there be comfort in being reminded that we are like grass? Here in South Carolina grass is beautiful after the spring rain; but not many weeks later, after the sun has beat upon it for awhile, it begins to turn brown, wither, and die. Man is just like that.