The Church in Corinth and Wisdom: Part 2 of 7 (Series: Lessons on 1 Co.)
by John Lowe
to confound the wise;
We know who the wise are (See verse 26); but what does it mean to confound them? A dictionary meaning is “to perplex or amaze, especially by a sudden disturbance or surprise; bewilder; confuse.” Those who are wise, in the world’s opinion, are perplexed, amazed, bewildered and confused by God revealing Himself to the poor, uneducated and wretched masses, through the preaching of Christ crucified. Here we are told why God hath chosen the foolish things of the world; it was to confound the wise. This selection by God is designed to silence the wisdom of man. He selects the foolish to shame the wise; the weak to shame the strong; and the “nobodys” to shame the “somebodys.” This does not mean these men are foolish. It means they seem foolish to the world. They are not weak; they are weak in the estimation of the world. This is God’s method. He even chooses the dishonorable. God chooses whom he judges fit to receive his favors, and then He separates them from the rest of mankind to be peculiarly his own and to be continually given his gracious oversight.
Paul’s purpose is to explain that the gospel of Christ appears foolish to human reasoning. To further his point, he encouraged the Corinthians to remember their own humble origins (See verse 26). According to human standards, most of them were not intelligent, influential, or rich. On the contrary, they were members of the common lower class and would have been considered weak, lowly, and even despised. Nevertheless, God called them. A “call” (Gk. klesis) is an invitation or an official summons by God to enter into a personal relationship with Him. A call is not based on human wisdom or status but on the grace of God who, in His “foolishness,” has chosen the unworthy things of the world to shame those of high human worth. This was done so that His chosen people would glory in Him and not in their own status or accomplishments.
The wise must have been ashamed and confused, to see such idiots, as they considered them to be, wiser than they were in the matter of salvation; these foolish ones, having been directed and influenced by divine grace to choose that good part, which shall never be taken from them. As for the wise, the day will come when they will be stripped of their nobility, wealth, and wisdom; to see these men go into the kingdom of heaven, while they are shut out. They will be brought to the realization of how little he regarded their wisdom; and how little their wisdom contributed to the success of his cause. By overlooking them, and bestowing his favors on the humble and the poor; by choosing his people from the ranks which they despised, and bestowing on them the exalted privilege of being called the sons of God, he had poured dishonor on the rich and the great, and overwhelmed them, and their schemes of wisdom, with shame.
and God hath chosen the weak things of the world
They are considered weak by the world’s standards, when it comes to having fame and fortune, and they cannot boast of their birth and pedigree, or their ancient and illustrious families; they have no titles of honor, no estates, no possessions, and no worldly fortune to support themselves with. The Apostle James said about the same thing: Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? James 2:5. James is talking to believers, and he calls them “brethren.” A poor believer certainly is looked down upon in certain churches, and yet he may be the richest man spiritually in that church.
The Word of God says a great deal about the poor. God has made it very clear from Genesis to Revelation that He has a concern and consideration for the poor. It is as true in Moscow, Russia, as it is in the cities of New York, Washington, or Los Angeles that the poor never get a fair deal, and they never have. As long as men are natural men who are not born–again Christians, the poor will never get a fair deal in this world. Their only hope is in Jesus Christ. Listen to the Word of God: “But he saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty” (Job 5:15). And in Job 36:15 we read, “He
delivereth the poor in his affliction, and openeth their ears in oppression.” Psalm 9:18 says, “For the needy shall not alway be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.” Again in Psalms we read, “Thy congregation hath dwelt therein: thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor” (Ps. 68:10). “For the LORD heareth the poor …” says Psalm 69:33. “For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy” (Ps. 72:12–13). Then in Psalm 102:17 we read, “He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.” There is Scripture after Scripture that speaks of the poor and of God’s concern for them. In marvelous Psalm 45 we read of the One who is coming who will reign on this earth in righteousness, and in Isaiah 11 we read, “But with righteousness shall he judge the poor …” (Isa. 11:4).
God has a great deal to say about the mistreatment of the poor on this earth by the rich and by those who are in power. Someday they will have to answer to Him for it. But the poor can be rich in spiritual things, and that is the important thing for the poor man to see.
God does not see things as you and I do. He hath chosen the foolish things of the world, the weak things of the world, the despicable things of the world, men of poor birth, of low rank, of no liberal education, to be the preachers of the gospel and church planters. His thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor his ways as our ways; He is a better judge than we are, of what instruments will best serve the purposes of his glory. Few of distinguished rank and character were called to be Christians. Since the teachers were poor, so were the converts, for the most part. Few of the wise, and mighty, and noble, embraced the doctrine of the cross.
to confound the things which are mighty;
The mighty are those who are the great, and noble, and highly educated. Haman was thought to be a great man, until he was hanged; but Mordecai was advanced by the providence of God. It will totally confuse the rich and mighty, to see persons of the lowest class in life made kings and priests by Christ, setting among princes, and upon the throne of glory; while all they can do is run for their lives, and call for the mountains to fall upon them, and cover them from the sight of him that sits on the throne, and the Lamb.
Those "foolish" Christians of Corinth triumphed over all the proud and boastful philosophers; those "weak" followers of Christ spread the truth over the world while Corinth and Athens crumbled. To go with Christ is to go with the future!
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:
And base things of the world,
I have never used the word “base” when describing another person, and I never will since I now know what it means. It has several meanings, but a “base person” would be—
1. Morally low; dishonorable; mean-spirited; selfish; cowardly; the filth of the world.
2. Of little or no value; worthless.
3. An inferior person or thing.
4. Of illegitimate birth; uneducated, and without an occupation.
The first Christians, both among Jews and Greeks, were weak, and foolish, and “base”; men with little or no education, and very low rank and pitiful appearance. But when the Gospel was preached to them they willingly received it. They were faithful witnesses for Jesus Christ, and through their testimony, the Gospel was spread throughout the Roman world. God used them to beat down the pride and vanity of men; He chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise—men of no learning to confound the most learned; the weak things of the world to confound the might—men of low rank and meager status to confound and prevail against all the power and authority of earthly kings.
It is very likely that the apostle is referring here to the Gentiles and to the Gentile converts, who were considered base and despicable in the eyes of the Jews, who considered them no better than dogs, and who are repeatedly called the things that are not.