Christ, The Wisdom of God
“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 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; 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: that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:25-31).
The foolishness of God! What a striking expression! I remember on one occasion a friend of mine, a very faithful preacher, advertised on a large signboard in a Canadian city that he would preach on these words. He was almost immediately summoned before the magistrate and asked if he did not know that there was a law in Ontario against blasphemy. He had to explain that the topic advertised was simply a quotation from Holy Scripture. The expression, of course, is akin to that of verse 21, “the foolishness of preaching,” and in commenting on the former passage we suggested that it might be rendered “the simplicity of preaching,” and so here we learn that the simplicity of God is wiser than men. That is, the program of the Gospel that seems so simple to the worldly wise is after all the source of all wisdom, wiser far than all of man’s philosophies.
Then we are told that the weakness of God is stronger than man. The weakness of God refers to the cross. Christ was crucified through weakness. He, the omnipotent One, chose in infinite grace to take the place of a helpless prisoner in the hands of His enemies. At any moment He might have destroyed them by His power, or, if He was still to keep in the place of weakness, He could have prayed for help from above and twelve legions of angels would have been sent to rescue Him. But He did neither of these. He humbled Himself unto death, and that death for the destruction of him who, up to that time, had the power of death, that is, the devil.
The believer’s calling is brought out very effectively in verses 26 and 29. In making up the members of the body of Christ, it has not pleased God to choose many from among the wise, the mighty, the noble, or the great men of this world. Lady Huntington, the friend of Whitfield and the Wesleys, who took such an active part in the great revival movement of those wonderful days, used to say that she was only going to heaven by an “m.” When some one asked her what she meant, she stated that she was so thankful that Scripture did not say “not any noble are called,” but “not many noble.” Therefore she got in by an “m.” Had God selected those whom the world admires as the pillars of His church, to a very large extent it would have destroyed the very thing He had in view. It was His desire to manifest the results of His grace. He works, not with what He finds, but with what He brings. He delights to take up those whom the world looks down upon and to make of them devoted saints and faithful servants who will be to the praise of His glory throughout all the ages to come. So we read that “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” He has, in His sovereign grace, taken up “the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty,” base things, things that are despised has God chosen, and things that are not, to bring to nought the things that are.
Look back over the history of the Christian Church. What wondrous stories it tells of grace reaching down to the lowest, the poorest, the most insignificant, bringing such to repentance, creating faith in their souls by the Word of Truth of the Gospel, regenerating them, justifying them from all things, sanctifying them by the Holy Spirit of the Word, and then sending them out as ambassadors for Christ to turn the world upside down by the simplicity of preaching the message of the cross. The earlier followers of the Lord Jesus Christ were, with very few exceptions, men from the lower walks of life: fishermen, tax collectors, Galilean peasants! Judas was the only “gentleman” in the entire apostolic band. He was from Judea, the bursar of the little company, and he turned traitor. But God filled those men from the common walks of life with the power of His Holy Spirit and through them won thousands more to a saving knowledge of His Son. Saul of Tarsus stands out himself in vivid contrast, and one who, whether saved or not, would have had some great place among the people of that day, but he is the one who writes the words that we have been considering, and he counted himself among the base things and the things that are not, and thanked God that to him it was given to be used of God to bring to nought the things that are.
The reason for all this comes out clearly in the 29th verse in a succinct statement, “that no flesh should glory in His presence.” Had God taken up the wealthy and the powerful, it would have given the flesh a large place in the eyes of men at least, but by choosing the weak things He had the greater opportunity to manifest His own power. In themselves they could accomplish nothing; through Him they did valiantly. Therefore, all the glory belongs not to them but to Him. He has said, “My glory will I not give to another.”
How we need to remind ourselves again and again of these things today. It has always seemed to me that there is so much mawkish sentiment linked with so-called religious leaders even in the professing church of Christ. As teachers and preachers are presented to audiences, it is considered the right thing, the proper thing to laud them to the skies, to expatiate on their brilliancy and learning and wonderful personality until I have often myself felt grieved indeed and shocked and thoroughly ashamed as I listened to such laudations. One cannot imagine the apostle Peter so introducing his beloved brother, Paul, nor can we think of Paul presenting his fellow laborers, Epaphroditus, Titus, or Timothy in such a manner to those to whom they were to preach. He does indeed say the kindest things of them all, for he loved them truly and was grateful to God for all the good things seen in them. But as he speaks of them, he does not dwell upon their ability or personality or charm or wonderful gifts, but rather on their devotedness to Christ in suffering for His name’s sake. Surely there is a lesson in all this for us. If we give to man the glory which belongs alone to God, we may be certain that we shall incur the divine displeasure.
Let us now consider the wonderful 30th verse, and as we quote it, let me make a slight change from the text of our splendid Authorized Version, a change which I believe any scholar will recognize as warranted by the original text and which brings out more vividly the actual truth that the apostle means to set forth: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom; even righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” That is, Paul is not telling us exactly that Christ is made four things to the believer, but rather one, and out of this one three others spring. Christ is made unto us wisdom. He is Himself the wisdom of God. “In whom,” we are told in Colossians 2:3, “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” People often speak of the “problem of Jesus,” the “problem of Christ.” There is no problem of Christ. Christ is not a problem; He it is who explains every problem. Listen to that poor, sinful Samaritan woman at the well. She had many questions over which she had puzzled for years. As she conversed with the Lord Jesus, the conviction evidently grew upon her that here was one whose wisdom was super-human. Timidly, and yet hopefully, I am sure, she exclaimed, “I know that Messias cometh which is called Christ.” No doubt the thought in her mind was this: “Oh, if I could only see Him. If He could come in my day, I would go to Him with all my cares, with all my problems and perplexities, and He would explain everything.” Jesus, looking at her with those wonderful eyes of His (they had already seen into the very depths of her soul) answered, “I that speak unto thee am He.” Startled, she looked again upon Him, feasted her own eyes on that wonderful face until she was absolutely convinced that the words He spoke were true. One might have expected a torrent of questions, but no—she had found the Messiah. Every problem was settled when she knew Him, and away she went to the city to call others to meet Him too. And so I say again, there is no problem of Christ, but Christ is the key to every problem. To know Him is to have all the knowledge that is really worthwhile. And we who are saved are in Him. That is a remarkable expression which Paul uses over and over again, “in Christ Jesus.” It speaks of our new standing before God. It tells of the intimate union that subsists between the risen Lord and all His own. In Him there is no condemnation. In Him we are accepted in all His own blessed perfection. And God has made Him unto us wisdom. Everything we need for our soul’s deliverance is found in the knowledge of Christ. Our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption, all are found in Him.
It is well that we should dwell on each of these words separately, and be clear as to their exact significance. Righteousness. We had none of our own. “There is none righteous, no not one.” All that we thought to be such we have learned is but as polluted rags in the sight of an infinitely holy God. But He has set forth Christ, the risen Christ, who once bore our sins in His own body on the tree, as the expression of the righteousness of God in Him. “This is His name whereby he shall be called, Jehovah Tsidkenu,” and so we stand before God in a perfect, unchallenged righteousness, complete in Christ.
Sanctification. Whether we think of sanctification as practical or positional, nevertheless all are found in Him. To be sanctified is to be set apart. For us it means, of course, to be set apart to God in Christ in all the perfection of His finished work. This is our positional sanctification. But it also means to be set apart from the sin, pollution, uncleanness, corruption that prevails in this world, even as our Lord prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth, they Word is truth.” It is as our hearts are taken up with Christ that we will know the reality of this.
Redemption. We who had sold ourselves for nought have been redeemed without money. “Redeemed, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.” He gave Himself for us. His life is the price of our redemption, life given up to death in order that we might be delivered from the fear of death and enter into life eternal. We have “everything in Jesus, and Jesus everything.”
And so we have nothing for which we can give ourselves credit, but “as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” Like David, we can each one exclaim, “My soul shall make her boast in the Lord.” John Allen, the converted navvy (or section-hand, as we would say in America), one of the first officers of the Salvation Army, exclaimed as he was dying, “I deserve to be damned; I deserve to be in hell; but God interfered!” Yes, and so may each redeemed one say. The sinning was ours, the disobedience was ours, the curse, the wrath, the judgment—all were our desert. The holiness is His, the perfect obedience unto death is His. He became a curse for us, He drained the cup of wrath, He bore the judgment. Thus He has become in very truth our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, and to Him belongs all the glory now and through eternal ages.