Life-Study of 1 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider 1:26-31.
In verse 26 Paul says, “For you see your calling, brothers, that there are not many wise according to flesh, not many powerful, not many wellborn.” Here we see that among the believers there are not many wise according to flesh. In verse 27 Paul says, “God has chosen the foolish of the world that He might shame the wise.” To be wise is related to the mind, whereas to be powerful is related to the will.
In verse 27 Paul also says, “God has chosen the weak of the world that He might shame the strong.” When I read these verses many years ago, I wondered how a loving God could shame people. I wondered how He could use the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and the weak of the world to shame the strong. Nevertheless, Paul clearly says that God shames the wise and the strong.
In verse 27 Paul twice uses the word “chosen.” God’s calling (vv. 24-26) is based upon God’s choosing, God’s selection. Both are according to His purpose (Rom. 9:11; 2 Tim. 1:9). God’s choosing was ordained before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4); His calling is accomplished in time to carry out His choosing. God’s calling and choosing are the initiation of the salvation of His predestined people. We did not choose Him; He chose us. We did not call upon Him until He called us. He is the Initiator. All the glory should be to Him!
In verse 26 Paul points out that among the believers in Corinth there were not many wellborn. In verse 28 he goes on to say, “And the lowborn of the world and the despised has God chosen, things which are not, that He might bring to nought things which are.” The Greek word rendered wellborn in verse 26 means highborn, noble, that is, born of a noble or royal family. The church of God is composed not mainly of the upper class, but of the lowborn of the world and the despised. To appreciate the upper class is against God’s mind and a shame to the church.
In verse 28 the word lowborn means base, ignoble, that is, born of common people. Despised also means contemptible. The expression “things which are not” refers to the lowborn and the despised as being as good as having no existence. The lowborn and the despised are of no account in the world.
The threefold repetition of “God has chosen” in verses 27 and 28 unveils to us God’s sovereign dealing with three kinds of people of the world—the wise, the strong (the powerful), and the wellborn. Hence, “things that are” refer to the wellborn, who are counted much in the world but brought to nothing by God in His economy.
In the eyes of man, the lowborn, the despised ones, seem not to exist. They are so looked down upon that they seem to have no existence. Thus, they are “things which are not.” But God uses these very things to bring to nothing the things which are, the wellborn who are counted much in the world. God has chosen the lowborn, the low class, that He might shame the wellborn, those of the upper class.
On the one hand, in verses 26 through 28 Paul refers in a general way to everyone. On the other hand, he refers in a particular way to the Greeks. Certain of the Greeks who had been saved still regarded themselves as wise. In these verses Paul points out that such an attitude is mistaken. Paul seems to be saying, “Believers at Corinth, do not consider yourselves wise. God does not choose the wise. If you regard yourselves as wise, this means that you have not been chosen by God. Likewise, God has not chosen the powerful ones or the highborn ones.”
What do you think about yourself? Do you consider yourself wise or foolish? Strong or weak? Wellborn or lowborn? I do not believe that, deep within, we regard ourselves foolish, weak, and lowborn. We simply do not view ourselves in this way.
Once again we need to know Paul’s spirit in writing this Epistle. The emphasis in Paul’s spirit was that the Corinthian believers were not living as saved ones. Paul seemed to be telling them, “Dear saints in Corinth, you are saved ones, God’s chosen ones. But you are not living the life of chosen ones. Rather, you are living as if you had not been chosen by God. There is no indication in your living that God has chosen you, for you think of yourselves as wise, strong, and wellborn. Brothers, you must realize that God does not choose such ones. If you regard yourselves as wise, this indicates that God has not chosen you. Remember, He has chosen the foolish ones to shame the wise, the weak ones to shame the strong, and the lowborn to shame the wellborn. Thus, do not regard yourselves as wise, strong, and wellborn.”
It is easy to talk about living Christ, but it is difficult to practice living Him. As long as we consider ourselves wise, we do not live Christ. All those who truly live Christ regard themselves as foolish, weak, and lowborn. They think of themselves as nothing and realize that their existence on earth does not mean anything. They can say of themselves, “I am among the things which are not. I live in a certain locality, but my existence here does not mean anything. But although I am nothing, God has chosen me.” I repeat, God does not choose the wise, the strong, or the wellborn. If you consider yourself wise, strong, and wellborn, you reject God’s choosing. By the way you live, you renounce God’s choosing. God shames the wise, the strong, and the wellborn. We all should be able to say, “Lord, I confess that I am not wise or powerful. Instead, I truly am foolish, weak, and among the lowborn.” What was in Paul’s spirit in writing this portion of 1 Corinthians was an emphasis on this matter.
In his spirit Paul also sensed the need to lower down the haughty Greek believers. Certain ones among them may have been very intelligent and wise, but Paul paid no attention to that. On the contrary, he was seeking to point out that the very fact that they had been chosen by God proved that they were foolish, not wise; weak, not strong; and lowborn, not wellborn. Therefore, it was a mistake for the believers in Corinth to think that they were wise and powerful.
We have seen that in verse 28 Paul says that God will “bring to nought” the things which are. The meaning of the Greek word here, as in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 and Hebrews 2:14, is to destroy. To be brought to nought by God actually means to be destroyed by Him. If we study history, we shall see that many people of honor have been brought to nought by God. Many with a high social standing have been destroyed, made nothing, by Him. We should never consider ourselves something. If we view ourselves as something, God will bring us to nothing.
In verse 29 Paul says, “So that all flesh should not boast before God.” This declares the reason for God’s particular favor in His choosing of us. It is that no flesh, no human being, may have any boast, any glory, before Him.
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