The Church in Corinth and Wisdom: Part 1 of 7 (Series: Lessons on 1 Co.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

First Corinthians

By: Tom Lowe


Lesson 2.3: The Church in Corinth and Wisdom
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1.26-1.31


1 Cor 1:26-31 (KJV)
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.


Commentary
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
For ye see your calling, brethren,

Here, Paul is addressing those he considers his brothers in Christ; those in the Corinthian Church that were called by the grace of God to have Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, and they accepted Him as such. The Apostle wants them to give consideration to the manner of their calling, and to what type of people they were when God the Holy Spirit called them. For the most part, the first preachers and members of the church were men who worked with their hands and earned their living by the sweat of their brow, fishermen, illiterate persons, the very poor and loathsome of society; some were even slaves. The city of Corinth had many noble families with people of high birth and quality, and it abounded with learned philosophers and rich merchants; and yet the Christians were poor and pitiful, and Paul will dwell on their weakness and how God used it to covert the world, in the following verses. "The whole history of the expansion of the Church is a progressive victory of the ignorant over the learned, the lowly over the lofty, until the emperor himself laid down his crown before the cross of Christ" OLSHAUSEN.

how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
The apostle does not say that there were none of the wise, the mighty, and noble called; for there were Crispus, and Sosthenes, rulers of the synagogue, and Gains a rich hospitable man, and Erastus the chamberlain of the city, and there may have been some others who were rich and famous; but there were not many of them; there are few instances of this kind recorded in the Scriptures; although there is Joseph of Arimathea a rich counsellor, Paulus Sergius a Roman deputy, Dionysius the Areopagite, and some in Caesar's palace; which shows that nobility, riches, and learning do not contribute towards a man's salvation, but neither can they hinder it where grace abounds; but, generally speaking, God has chosen, for wise reasons, to choose and call persons of different standing in society.

wise . . . after the flesh pertains to the wisdom of this world acquired by human study without the assistance of the Holy Spirit: “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). Men may consider this type of wisdom to be important; but, because they are carnal they do not understand or appreciate spiritual wisdom.

Remember, the Apostle is talking about those things that were going on in Corinth, where the church mainly consisted of the poor and common people. Some of them were rescued from the dens of vice and depravity, snatched from the dregs of a cruel and heartless society, recruited from the hopeless ranks of slaves, delivered from the treadmills of commerce and industry; but Christ redeemed them, placed upon them the eternal name, announced from heaven the complete eradication of their sins, and made them partakers of the inheritance of the saints. Thank God for the church at Corinth and all churches everywhere that teaches all the word of God. Now, this is what baffled the philosophers of Greece: They were ashamed when they saw that they could do nothing with their wisdom and eloquence in comparison to the apostles, whom they called idiots and uneducated. Paul uses this to prevent them from becoming all puffed-up with pride: seeing that God did not prefer them over those noble and wise men so that they could be proud, but for just the opposite reason; it was so that they would be humbled, whether they wished to be or not, and rejoice in the Lord, because, although they were the most wretched of all, they had obtained in Christ both this wisdom as well as all things necessary to salvation.

Many of the earliest Christians were slaves, a majority were poor, most were uneducated; and few of them had any claim to distinction in the wretched world of their day; but they were the roots

from which all that is holy and beautiful has blossomed in succeeding centuries. In their achievements through faith in Christ, one can see many of the wonderful things which have happened in America. As Emma Lazarus' poem on the Statue of Liberty reads: “Your wretched refuse of all lands - your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, Homeless and rejected, send them to me. I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door!” How those rejected ones have blessed the world! But this is only a feeble parable of what Christianity did on a cosmic scale. As Barclay put it, "Christianity was and still is literally the most uplifting thing in the whole universe."
Paul is pointing out the weakness of humans acting on behalf of Jesus Christ chosen to convert the world; that they are not those the world called wise, not the mighty, not the noble, yet the work was moving on with wonderful power. The Apostle seems to have said this in opposition to the high and worldly notions of the Jews, who assert that the Divine Spirit never rests upon any man, unless he is wise, powerful, and rich. Now, this Divine Spirit did rest upon the Christians at Corinth, and yet they were, in the estimation of the world, neither wise, rich, nor noble. There may be something lost in the translation here by adding are called, as if God did not send his Gospel to the wise, the powerful, and the noble, or did not will their salvation. The truth is, the Gospel has an equal call to all classes of men; but the wise, the mighty, and the noble, are too busy, or too worldly, to pay any attention to an invitation so spiritual and so Divine; and therefore there are few of them in the Church of Christ in general. This is just as true today as it was back then, but one thing has definitely changed; it can no longer be said that Christian pastors are uneducated; since today, most churches call men with degrees, the larger churches call men with doctor in front of their names. Preachers today are in school as long as engineers, teachers, lawyers, etc. And though most are from middle-class homes, there are some who come from wealthy parents.

I can say that when God called me He didn’t get much, and perhaps when he called you, he didn’t get much either. But I am glad that He did call me, and that I answered; it has been a blessed 70 years.

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world
God has chosen to use men who are judged rude and illiterate by the rich and educated, and with them to bewilder the greatest of the Greek philosophers, and topple their procedures; and, by making use of weak men, without worldly power or authority, to baffle the scribes and Pharisees, and in spite of resistance from the Jewish Sanhedrin, to spread the doctrine of Christ crucified all over the land of Judea, and through the efforts of these same men to convert thousands of souls to faith in the Gospel. The Jews have proverbs that express the same sense as these words of the apostle. In Shemoth Rabba, sec. 17, fol. 117, it is said: "There are certain matters which appear little to men, yet by them, God points out important precepts. Thus hyssop in the sight of man is worth nothing, but in the sight of God its power is great; sometimes he equates it to the cedar, particularly in the ordinance concerning the lepers, and in the burning of the red heifer. Thus God commanded them in Egypt, Exodus 12:22: And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, it is said, 1 Kings 4:33: And he discoursed of trees, from the cedar on Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. Whence we may learn that great and small things are equal in the eyes of the Lord, and that even by small things He can work great miracles."

But God. See Matthew 11:25

But God hath chosen. The fact of their being in the church at all was the result of his choice. It was entirely due to his grace.

The foolish things. The things thought to be foolish by men. The expression here refers to those who lacked learning, rank, wealth, and power, and who were looked upon as fools, and were despised by the rich and the great.

World. Here, Paul has “mankind” in mind. It is the foolish things that mankind considers worthwhile, important, and valuable.
• Matt 11:25 (KJV) At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. It is not that our Lord does not thank the Father that he had hidden these things from the wise and prudent; but since they were hidden from them, he had revealed them to the others.

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