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How does the world evaluate people?  On the basis of intelligence, strength, power, economic standing, accomplishment, etc.  None of these matter when it comes to salvation.  In fact they tend to be a hindrance rather than a help because man needs to come to grips with his spiritual bankruptcy before he can embrace the free gift of salvation offered by God’s grace.  The Corinthians had been aligning themselves with various preachers based on their personalities and styles.  The Apostle Paul exposes the foolishness of these prideful distinctions by showing that the ground is level at the foot of the cross and there is no room for any boasting in man.

Gordon Fee: To further his argument that the gospel he preached stands in direct contradiction to human expectations about God, Paul turns from the content of the gospel to the existence of the Corinthians themselves as believers. Not from the world’s “beautiful people,” but for the most part from the lower classes, the “nobodies,” God chose those who would make up God’s new people.  Thus they are themselves evidence of the divine foolishness that confounds the wise. This paragraph scarcely flatters their self-exaltation; it thereby serves all the more to demolish their boasting in mere humans. “Boasting” is the new theme that is picked up here, not only because that is what they were doing by their quarrels over their leaders, but also because it is the main theme of the passage from Jeremiah (9:23–24) that serves as the framework for the argument.

The paragraph opens by reminding them, most of them at least, of their own humbler origins (v. 26); in the next sentences (vv. 27–28) this is turned into a theological statement, in which God’s choosing people like them is asserted to have the same design as the cross itself—to save them, but at the same time to “shame” and “nullify” the very values in which they are currently boasting. The election of such people reveals the ultimate divine intent (v. 29): to obliterate completely all human grounds for “boasting”—based on self-sufficiency—and thereby to cast one completely in trust upon the living God (v. 31). This was made possible through the work of Christ, whom God made to become the true “wisdom” for us, in that he effected redemption for us, thereby making us right with God (v. 30).

Doug Goins: What Paul is saying to these people is, “You know what sort of people you were when God called you out of sinful darkness into the light of salvation. You know that he didn’t accept you as his child because you were brilliant or wealthy or powerful, because most of you weren’t at all. And those of you whose lives were defined that way were saved in spite of those positions, not because of them.  If anything, they were obstacles between you and God’s grace.” The reality is that position and wealth and influence really can be hindrances, keeping people from the sense of need that leads to salvation.

Robert Gundry: Lying behind God’s call is his selection of the world’s foolish, weak, and unpedigreed things (compare Romans 8:29–30). Not only will no flesh boast in God’s sight. Also, again at the Last Judgment, God will shame the worldly wise and powerful and well-pedigreed by making apparent his having selected, not them, but the world’s foolish and weak and unpedigreed, to which Paul adds for emphasis “the things that are treated as nothings,” so that they “don’t [even] exist” so far as the world is concerned. He even adds that God has selected them “to incapacitate the things that do exist,” that do count in the world’s estimation. “The things” refers to people, but the neuter gender represented by “things” stresses the qualities of peoples as wise or foolish, powerful or weak, well-pedigreed or unpedigreed, existent or nonexistent by human standards.

Dan Nighswander: Salvation is a gift of grace granted at God’s initiative, not a human achievement. Paul’s intent here is to elaborate on the understanding of grace (see also on 1:3), which has the dual impact of

(1)  underscoring the initiative of God rather than of humans (see also on 3:1-7 below) and

(2)  equalizing the status of all who are in Christ (v. 30).

Ben Witherington (118) captures the significance of this for the circumstances of this letter.

An adequate theology of grace undercuts any thought of earning salvation. Salvation in Christ is not a human self-help or self-improvement scheme, but a radical rescue from a form of slavery out of which one cannot earn or buy one’s way. Paul must establish this theology of grace at the very outset of his arguments because it is on the basis of that theology that he will undercut all factors that promote factionalism. Grace is not only the great unifier but also the great leveler in the Christian community, which if taken seriously nullifies the importance of all cultural devices used to create social stratification.

No doubt the Corinthians had initially accepted that the crucified Christ was the means and guarantee of their salvation, but subsequently they had returned to the values that prevailed in the surrounding culture. Perhaps because they realized the shame inherent in faith based on so foolish an event as a crucifixion, they sought to make it respectable by cloaking it in wisdom that could compete with the wisdom of other faiths and philosophies (Fee: 71). So they had taken to boasting (which represents, in contrast to shame, not honor but shamelessness) about their accomplishments (1:29; 4:7) and their gifted leaders (3:21), they were puffed up (4:7) and arrogant (4:18, 19).

Paul Gardner: In 1:26–31 he addresses the (strange) impact of the gospel on the Corinthians themselves. God in his wisdom did not choose those that might have been expected to be chosen. The Corinthians embody in their number people who lack learning, status, or power. Yet God chose them, and they came to faith. They can only boast in the Lord, for this has happened by his power.

Mark Taylor: The main point of 1:26–31, which extends the argument of 1:18–25, is that God’s choice of individuals is consistent with the message of the cross. Both exclude human boasting and both defy human wisdom.  By human standards the Corinthian church consisted primarily of the foolish, the weak, and the insignificant. The mention of their calling in 1:26, along with the threefold emphasis on God’s choosing (1:27–28) and the assertion that it is “because of him that you are in Christ Jesus” (1:30) places strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation and leads to the conclusion that the Lord is the only proper object of boasting (1:29,31).  As in 1:18–25, Paul appeals to Scripture (1:31), which supports the claim that human criteria are of no consequence to God.  There are two equally likely sources of the citation, Jer 9:22–23 (LXX) and 1 Sam 2:10 (LXX), both of which may have influenced the vocabulary, structure, and theme of 1 Cor 1:26–31.

David Garland: In the context of his denunciations of their divisions, he makes his case: Since all of them were nothing before their conversion, how can any of them think that they have become more special than others when in Christ?


A.  (:26-28) Whom Did God Choose?

  1. (:26)  God’s Election Not Based on Man’s Scale of Measurement

a.  Call to Reflection

                                    “For consider your calling, brethren,

James Boyer: In this section Paul shows that the gospel is foolish when judged on the basis of the type of people who receive it.

Richard Hays: God has not called Caesar or persons of senatorial rank to represent the gospel in the world; instead, he has called this motley assembly which embraces freedmen, tradespeople, and slaves—along with a few people of higher standing (hence “not many,” rather than “none”). The mixed socioeconomic status of the church was one of the most striking features of the early Christian movement. Then, as now, voluntary societies tended to be socially homogeneous. The fact that the early Christian assembly brought together people of diverse rank and background who acknowledged one another as “brothers and sisters” (v. 26) was one of its distinctive characteristics. (As we shall see, precisely this socioeconomic diversity may also have been one of the causes of trouble in the Corinthian church.)

b.  Count By Category

                                1)  Not Many Wise

“ that there were not many wise according to the flesh,

2)  Not Many Strong

not many mighty,

3)  Not Many Significant

not many noble.”

  1. (:27-28)  God’s Election Turns Things Upside Down

a.  Nullifying Human Wisdom

                                    “but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise,”

Leon Morris: “put to shame”, i.e. by the contrast between the estimate the wise form of themselves and that which God’s choice reveals.

b.  Nullifying Human Strength

and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the

things which are strong

c.  Nullifying Human Significance

 “and the base things of the world and the despised God has

chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are

Leon Morris: Katargeo, bring to nought, is not easy to translate.  It occurs twenty-seven times in the New Testament and is translated in seventeen different ways in AV. . .  Basically it means something like “to render idle” or “inoperative”, and all its usages derive from this.  Here the meaning is that the things which are not render completely ineffective the things that are.

Richard Hays: In Paul’s view, the relatively low status of most of the Corinthian Christians is a sign of what God did in the cross and therefore is doing in the world: overturning expectations. God is creating his new community out of unimpressive material precisely to exemplify the power of his own unmerited grace. The social composition of the church is an outward and visible sign of God’s paradoxical election.

Paul Gardner: The final purpose clause of the series parallels the previous two clauses in vv. 27b (“to shame the wise”) and v. 27d (“to shame the strong”). Paul says God has chosen in this manner “to bring to nothing [or ‘destroy’] the things that are” (ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ). This verb (“to bring to nothing”; καταργέω), like the verb “to shame,” indicates judgment and destruction in a number of biblical contexts. These ideas are more explicit in 2:6, 6:13, and especially 15:24 where the word is examined in greater detail. The preaching of Christ crucified completely upends what the world values. Through this gospel God works his purposes of salvation and judgment. He raises up that which seems foolish and weak and “nothing” in the world’s eyes and judges (brings to shame and nullifies) that which the world deems of value.

B.  (:29) Why Did He Choose in That Way?

so that no man may boast before God.”

Richard Hays: What is the purpose of the sign? Paul’s answer is clear and emphatic: “so that no one might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:29). It is axiomatic in the Old Testament that no human flesh (the word that Paul actually uses in v. 29) can stand before the awesome holiness of God or contribute anything that God needs. All self-assertion must melt away before the flame of God’s presence. Accordingly, God has elected to shame the wise and powerful of the world by creating an eschatological community made up of people whom the world scorns; this is an illustration of God’s apocalyptic action of abolishing “the things that are” and bringing a new creation into being ex nihilo (“out of nothing,” v. 28). That point is underscored in verse 30: God is the source of the very existence of the Corinthian community; they have been brought into being by God in Christ Jesus.

David Garland: Boastful Corinthian Christians are no different from their pagan fellow citizens obsessed with exalting themselves and trying to leapfrog over others to attain honor and prominence. Arrogance and contempt for others were at home in Corinthian society and seem to have a secure place in the church as well. . .

Throughout the biblical narrative God consistently chooses the most unlikely figures, and Paul maintains that God has continued this pattern in choosing the believers in Corinth. Hays (1997: 32) thinks that Paul’s statements parallel Hannah’s prayer (1 Sam. 2:1–10) and Mary’s song of praise (Luke 1:46–55), which acclaim God, who “raises up the poor from the dust” and “has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.”


A.  (:30) How Did God Accomplish Our Salvation?

  1. Summary: Salvation is God’s Work – Not Man’s

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus,

  1. List of God’s Spiritual Provisions in Christ Jesus

a.  Wisdom – this has been the focus of this passage

                                    “who became to us wisdom from God,

S. Lewis Johnson: Due to the construction of the Greek sentence, it is clear that wisdom is the dominant word, and that the nouns righteousness, sanctification, and redemption amplify and explain wisdom. Wisdom here, then, is not practical wisdom, but positional wisdom, God’s wise plan for our complete salvation. Righteousness is forensic, the righteousness given in justification, or that which Paul expounds in Rom 1:1-5:21.

Richard Hays: There is no such thing as wisdom apart from covenant relationship with God (righteousness) that leads to holy living (sanctification) made possible by God’s act of delivering us from slavery (redemption) through the cross. Those who are in Christ participate in this covenantal reality. That is what Paul is saying to the Corinthians who revel in their possession of the divine sophia.

David Garland: The metaphors have been assimilated from the OT but have undergone transformation when refracted through the lens of Paul’s Christian faith. He does not discuss what they mean, because he must assume that the Corinthians are already familiar with the concepts. “Righteousness” refers to the state of having been acquitted and sharing Christ’s righteous character. When they are arraigned in God’s court, God will not judge them on the basis of what they are but as those who are guiltless in Christ Jesus. “Sanctification” refers to the state of holiness, which they have only in Christ Jesus and which allows them into the presence of God. “Redemption” refers to the state of being delivered from sin and its penalty (Rom. 3:24–25; Eph. 1:7, 14; 4:30; Col. 1:14).

Gordon Fee: The metaphors themselves lack what we might ordinarily consider logical sequence (i.e., “redemption” brings about our “righteousness” [= right standing with God], followed by “holiness”).  But that misses Paul’s present concern. These are not three different steps in the saving process; they are rather three different metaphors for the same event (our salvation that was effected in Christ), each taken from a different sphere of our human existence and each emphasizing a different aspect of the one reality (cf. 6:11). The fact that he uses nouns to describe this event, rather than verbs, is dictated by the fact that they stand in apposition to the noun “wisdom.”

b.  Righteousness

c.  Sanctification

d.  Redemption – emphasis on future glorification

Ray Stedman: Redemption is the restoration to usefulness of something that has been rendered totally useless. Have you ever pawned anything? I have. You put something in hock and you get some money (never anywhere near what it is worth) from a pawnbroker. That object of value is useless while it is in pawn. It sits there gathering dust on the shelf, or in the shop window, absolutely useless until it is redeemed. But when you go back and pay the redemption price, you restore it to usefulness. Now, that is what redemption is all about, and that is what God is doing with us; he is restoring us to usefulness. We, who in the process of sin have been rendered virtually useless, are gradually being restored. The day will come when it will be complete, body, soul and spirit, and God will open up to us an avenue of service such as we have never dreamed of because at last we have been made useful once more.

Robert Gundry: Confirming that God is the source of this righteousness, consecration, and redemption is the foregoing description of wisdom as originating “from God.” For if righteousness, consecration, and redemption make up the ingredients of this wisdom, then they too must originate from God because they’re God’s. In accordance with preceding statements concerning the cross, “Christ Jesus became for us wisdom” in and through his crucifixion. “For us” means “in our case and for our benefit.” “Righteousness” describes God’s saving us as the right thing for him to do because we’re in Christ Jesus. “Consecration” describes God’s saving us as segregating us from the world to be sacred to him because we’re in Christ Jesus his Son as others are not. And “redemption” describes God’s saving us as liberating us because we’re in Christ Jesus, liberating us according to this context from enslavement to the world’s foolishness.

Anthony Thiselton: Righteousness (v. 30) is used not to denote a level of moral achievement but God’s acceptance of one whose standing has been “put right with God.” Similarly, sanctification does not denote here a state of advanced moral or spiritual growth, but the status of belonging to God, or nearness to God. Redemption does not denote deliverance into some autonomous freedom, as Deissmann urged. It denotes rescue from hostile structural forces, including sin as a power of bondage, to a new state in which the redeemed belongs to Christ as the Lord who has purchased the redeemed. We explain this point more fully in the comments on 6:20, “You were bought with a price.” All of these terms point to a new status and new security as accepted members of Christ’s household or family.

Mark Taylor: Thus Paul reminds the Corinthians that they owe everything to God, that their very existence as the people of God is predicated on the activity of God in Christ. There are grounds for boasting but only in Christ’s redemptive work.

B.  (:31) Why Did He Save us in That Way? (Jer. 9:23-24 quote)

so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

Anthony Thiselton: In Greek literature, characters “glory in” what gives them most delight. Odysseus glories in his cunning, and Achilles in his strength. Christians find their ground of delight in the Lord rather than in qualities or supposed achievements of their own.

Paul Gardner: We have noted from the context of Jeremiah 9:23–24 reasons why Paul should have turned to this text beyond just the mention of “boasting.” In 9:12, Jeremiah questions who may be “wise” enough to understand what the Lord is doing with Israel. The Corinthians seem by their actions not to have understood what God has done with them. In the end, all participation in God’s church, all belonging, all status before the covenant Lord is entirely “because of him [God]” (v. 30). There is therefore a legitimate boasting. There can be no self-glorying, for all glory is due the Lord.