Main Point: Boast in God who is the cause of all that is good in us.
Imagine with me that there is a country named the United States of the Nobodies. Now a week before the Olympics began the King of the United States of the Nobodies went to the airport and he gathered together their Olympic team. The USN cycling team was made up of people who couldn’t or wouldn’t ride a bike. The USN swim team was made up of people who couldn’t or wouldn’t swim. The gymnasts were chosen because they could only do one pull up. The king deliberately chose people who were nobodies and sent them to the games. At the games the USN team was laughed at, mocked, and sometimes that were not allowed to compete. What the rest of the world prized they don’t have. By the world’s standards these men and women were failures. The Olympics continued on and the athletes from the United States of the Nobodies won nothing. They ended up last in every event.
The Church of Jesus Christ is the United States of the Nobodies.
Last week in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 we saw that true wisdom and power are found only in the cross of Christ. The world sets up its standards of knowledge and strength and they are opposed to God’s standards. So God destroys the wisdom of the wise, he renders it useless for spiritual matters. You cannot get to God from us. You can only get to God through the cross.
Now remember the Corinthians were people hungry to make a name for themselves. They were a people dedicated to success through financial gain, political power, physical ability, or philosophy and education. They were a people hungry to be seen and applauded as something special. The Corinthians were very proud of the fact that they were top-shelf when it came to the world’s standards. And this mindset had infiltrated the church. They were tempted to use the gifts God had given them to make a name for themselves. They were jostling for position and praise inside the church. They had even begun to think that they had arrived spiritually and this was their own doing. In all of the hustle and bustle of life both inside and outside the church they had forgotten the fact that God was the reason they were no longer bound by sin. They had forgotten that it was God who had equipped them with every spiritual gift. They had forgotten that God had done it and instead of boasting in Him they were boasting in themselves.
As we remember the example of those who have gone before us it is my prayer that God would pull us down off of our pedestals. It is my prayer that God would pull down our unhealthy worship of even godly leaders. May we clearly see and gladly boast in the fact that God did it all.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
I. God intentionally brings us down (26-29)
Consider your calling (26)
Look around at this bunch of ragamuffins. Not many of you were wise by the world’s standards. Not many of you were powerful or of noble birth. If God was going to pick a team of winners then he would not have picked us. The church is no Dream Team. The Holy Spirit is hacking away at our pride. Now some of you might be standouts in Granbury or Glen Rose but in the broad scheme of things we are nothing to brag about. In verse 26 the Spirit is calling the church to admit the fact that on our own the majority of us are nothing special and even those who are have no right to applaud themselves. If you are a standout it’s because God graciously gifted you to be one of the few. 2 Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” Look at the collective church and remember our humble beginnings. Of ourselves we are nothing special. Consider your calling.
Don’t even try to boast in yourself (27-29)
Don’t brag that you are a somebody and don’t brag that you were a nobody who has become a somebody. Verse 27 says, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.” Look at the church and you will find a host of people whom the world would consider to be foolish, ignorant, and slow. “God chose what is weak in the world that shame the strong.” Look at the church and you will find a body of people who the world thought could never cut it. “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.” No one would think that we would ever amount to anything. We’re dumb, we’re ugly, we don’t have a backbone, and we’ll never amount to anything. This is how the world sees the church.
But notice in God’s choosing of us he’s doing something to the world. He’s shaming the wise, the strong, and the something-specials. To shame something is to humiliate it, to confound it, or disgrace it. Through the cross and in the church God throws a monkey wrench in the world’s system of values. Think about it this way: the world has a scorecard and the world attributes value to people according to these rankings. If you come from a powerful family or if you are smart or funny or good looking then we’ll applaud you and sing your praises and we’ll think you’re something special and encourage the world to be like you. But God isn’t interested in the world’s scorecard. In fact, our passage tells us that God is in the business of bursting bubbles and knocking the high and mighty off their thrones.
But don’t read verses 26-28 and think that you’re something special because you are a nobody. God is not elevating the no-bodies He is cutting down the some-bodies. We all stand before God empty handed. His choosing of the no-bodies is for the purpose of demonstrating the foolishness of the world. Our standards are wrong. We value the wrong things. We pursue what will ultimately leave us empty handed.
So according to God’s score card every one of us is a zero. He’s bringing us all down by choosing the foolish, the weak, and the nothing, verse 29, “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” The world loves grand introductions. Speakers and politicians and athletes and scholars and pastors love to have their accomplishments rehearsed. We love to have people understand just how important we are. But know this: you will not receive a grand introduction before God. No one will boast before God. No one will have any reason to glory in himself before God.
Last Sunday we saw that the gospel we believe is considered to be a weak and foolish message. Today we see that we are a weak and foolish people. Church, God is not interested in what you bring to the table. In fact, God may have set you aside and He isn’t using you precisely because you think you are the answer for the church. God doesn’t need your abilities and he isn’t in any way impressed by what you have to offer.
Now that is a hard message but it is for our good. This is why this painful message must be heard
God brings us down so that we will turn our backs on the world’s system and find our joy in Christ.
Jesus asked, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul” (Mk 8:37). What good are all the accomplishments of this world if your soul is shriveled, dirty, and guilty? The world may applaud your accomplishments, your looks, your ability, and your portfolio but God counts it as a total loss.
Living under the loving rule and direction of God is worth giving up everything to gain. The kingdom of God is the pearl of great price (Mt 13:45) and like a treasure hidden in a field (Mt 13:44). The wise man is the person who sells everything he has in order to gain the kingdom. The most valuable, joy-filled, meaningful thing in this life and the next is being under the loving rule of the Father. His way of life is better. His way of thinking is better. Loving him and listening to him, these are true wisdom and in them we find true strength.
1 Corinthians chapter 2 tells us that the leaders of this world just don’t get it because if they had they would not have rejected Christ. Look at 1 Corinthians 2:9, “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’ – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”
May the Spirit reveal to you in this very moment that the things of God are infinitely better and more satisfying than the things of the world. Turn from the world’s scorecard and embrace the foolishness of the cross. Joyfully embrace the fact that the only way to the Father, the only way to enter his Kingdom, is through the cross of His Son. There is abundant life out there. There is true peace out there. There is joy to be had. But these will not come according to the world’s way of thinking. We must live by the way of the cross.
If verses 26-29 humble us with the truth that we are nothing special then verses 30 and 31 humble us with the truth that every glorious thing that we become is only the product of God joining us to Christ.
II. God intentionally puts us in Christ (30-31)
You are in Christ because of God
The NKJV translates verse 30 literally, “But of him are you in Christ Jesus.” The NASB gives a little interpretation, “But by his doing you are in Christ Jesus.” The point is simple and humbling. You have not been joined to Christ because you were smart enough or humble enough to listen to the gospel, repent, and believe. You are not in Christ Jesus because you were foolish, weak, poor, or a nobody. Because of Him you are in Christ Jesus. God did it.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says the exact same thing, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
If you take credit for your salvation then you have misunderstood the very nature of salvation. Take this humbling message to heart: your accomplishments are not your own doing. Even your salvation is not your own doing. You are in Christ Jesus because of God. And from this point in verse 30 the Holy Spirit explains to us what all those who are in Christ Jesus enjoy. Hear these next four things as tests of the faith; use them as gauges by which you measure your spiritual growth. Are these present in your life? Are you growing in them and are they guiding your life each passing year with greater influence? Do you have the marks of the fact that God has put you in Christ Jesus?
Christ is our wisdom from God
When you were joined to Christ by repentance and faith He became your wisdom. His mind became your mind. His mindset, his values, and his priorities became yours. For the first time you saw that it is better to give than to receive. You grasped the power of giving yourself away for the good of others, even for the good of your enemies. Your default became forgiveness and speaking the Father’s words in the Spirit’s power. As you read the Bible you are drawn to store up treasures in heaven instead of treasures on earth. Church, is Christ your wisdom? May we today take every thought captive to Christ and live according to Christ our wisdom.
Christ is our righteousness
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
To be righteous means you have done what God has required, when he required it, and with the proper motivation. Righteousness is not neutrality; it’s not that you haven’t done anything wrong. Righteousness includes not doing anything wrong AND doing everything right. The righteous are those who obey all the way, right away, and with a happy heart. Look at this ragamuffin church. On our own there is none righteous no not one. But in Christ we have become the righteousness of God. I have failed so much. I have sinned so much. I hate it. But I love Christ who is my righteousness. I feel the freedom of forgiveness. We read Friday in our bible reading that Christ was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Rom 4:25). God has made you righteous in Christ.
Are you trusting in Christ’s work, his righteousness, or are you trusting in your work, your sinfulness? Faith sees that the righteousness of Christ is infinitely stronger, greater, and better than our unrighteousness. Christ is our righteousness.
Christ is our sanctification
Basically sanctification is holiness. Righteousness entails active obedience to the Father and sanctification entails purity before the Father. 1 Corinthians 1:2 told us that this letter was written to those sanctified in Christ Jesus. We are made holy in him. We are set apart for God’s use in him. Church, we can do nothing good apart from Christ who is our sanctification.
Do you see that you have been sanctified in Christ? Do you feel your need for holiness and is your need met in Christ? You will be a holy husband or wife only in Christ. As a student you can be useful for God’s purposes in your school only as you are sanctified in Christ Jesus. Christ is our sanctification.
Christ is our redemption
Church, let us be done with the worldly mindset that we have to make right our wrongs. In Christ your wrongs have been made right. You have been redeemed. You have been bought with a price. Your debt has been paid. You have been set free. Why do you live as a slave to the sin that has been removed? Why do you live in bondage to a guilty conscience that is no longer guilty? Why do you choose to live out of your self instead of living out of the fullness of Christ’s redemption?
Jesus Christ is our emancipation proclamation. The Civil War has been fought on the cross and Christ has won your freedom. Psalm 130:7 states, “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” It doesn’t matter what you have done. You may be one of the most vilest offenders. You may be one like I spoke of last week who gained pleasure from torturing, abusing, and killing children. There is plentiful redemption for you. There is plentiful redemption for us all in Christ. Christ is our redemption.
Boast in the Lord
Verse 31, “so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Do I have to explain this to you? Do you not feel your heart welling up with thankfulness unto God and to the Lamb? Are you not eager to boast in Christ who is your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption? God has done it. Worthy is the Lamb! May you and I never boast in our selves. May the thought of stealing what belongs to Christ make us physically sick. He only is able. Everything we have has been given to us in him. Let us boast, let us glory, let us celebrate only in Christ.
Now let’s apply this truth to our Olympic team from the United States of the Nobodies. When they return home the king meets them in the airport and pulls them aside to talk with them about what they have seen. They express a host of feelings from anger to embarrassment and frustration because after all they didn’t try out or want to be on the team; the King chose them. The King’s response was simple and profound, “What does it profit a man to gain Olympic fame, the applause of one’s peers, a name for yourself, rich endorsements, even the whole world and yet forfeit your soul?” (Mk 8:37).
At that moment life began to make sense. This wasn’t about the Olympics this was about each person’s attempt to make a name for himself through his work, his family, or his reputation. Each woman realized she was struggling to gain acceptance through raising children, winning in a man’s career, or by being beautiful. Through every day choices each person was trying to gain the respect of the world according to the wisdom and power of the world. And this pursuit is worthless.
My hope is that this morning you will stop trying to feel like a success because you are a winner by the world’s standards. This pursuit will leave you bitter, empty, and bound for hell. Humble yourself; admit you don’t have the answers, admit you don’t have life figured out, and turn your eyes upon Jesus. At first glance God dying on a cross appears foolish; it looks like a loss and not a win. You will be tempted to think giving up your attempts at life in order to join up with him is the worst mistake you could make. But keep looking. See the wisdom of God as 2000 years ago God puts your sins on His Son that you might be forgiven. There is no other way. See the power of God as His Son willing takes on your needs, lives in your place, and fulfills all that God requires of you. Jesus didn’t have to come for you. He was perfectly happy where he was. You’ve made your choices. But according to His love and strength he embraced your weakness, your sin, and your failures. There, displayed on the cross, is true strength.
Righteousness can be yours in Christ today. Holiness can be yours in Christ today. Redemption can be enjoyed today by all those who embrace the word of the cross. You can begin a path that will make life worth living. It will be the life God created you for and it is found only in Christ. Will you turn your eyes upon Jesus today? Will you cry out to him, admitting your sin and trusting in the salvation that only he can provide?