by Mike Ratliff
18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE,
AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-19 (NASB)
Genuine humility is found only in genuine believers. What the world sees as humility is often just self-deprecation, which is pride in reverse masquerading as humility. Then genuinely humble believer is the one who sees their true position before God. God’s ways are not our ways. The way people conceive of things naturally is not the way God does. For instance, when the Jews conceived of their Messiah coming they envisioned a conquering hero on a white horse defeating the Romans and setting up His capital in Jerusalem. However, what they got was a baby born in stable who had only a feeding trough for a bed. He did not come into the world at the head of an army to live in palaces. Instead our Saviour came as a man who lived a perfect sinless life, preached the truth, healed the sick, raised the dead then laid His life down as a perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God, to take away the sins of His people.
The Kingdom of God is made up of our Lord’s people here on earth and in Heaven where He rules and reigns. Some day all of creation will be brought under His sovereign control as it is in Heaven right now. Here on earth God’s people see the truth as through a dark glass. We have finite minds that cannot contain the absolute truth about our infinite God. All attacks against Christianity are made via some form of human reasoning or philosophy. The man-made religions in the world all attack genuine Christianity through their “wisdom.” What does scripture tell us about this?
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 (NASB)
Think with me here. The way to God is through Christ alone. The way to Christ is through the cross. It isn’t by becoming smart and educated. It isn’t by being wise in the ways of the world. No, Christians become Christians through the preaching of Christ crucified. This is foolishness or a stumbling block to the uncalled, but to the called it is Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. What the world sees as foolishness is wiser than the highest wisdom of men. The horrible specter of our Lord and Saviour dying on the cross is seen as weakness to men, but is stronger than the strongest thing of which men can conceive. Who are called?
26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 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, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NASB)
This is quite humbling isn’t it? God chose the foolish in the world to shame the wise. Not many of them are wise according to the worldly standards. Not many are powerful or of noble birth. Instead, we are the weak and foolish in the world’s eyes. Why? God did it this way to shame the wise and the strong. Also, those who are called are so much nothing in the world’s eyes and their own that they must know that they may never boast in the presence of God. The genuinely humble believer knows his or her place before God. They do not think they have eternal life because they deserved it or earned it. Does this mean that God is taking a huge chance in trusting such lowly people to be His?
God chose us because there is nothing in us that is good or worthy. It was for that very reason. Within His people there are some who seem to be chosen for special work that defies reason in how impacting it is. This is God working through His special anointed servants. He chose them for this. Why? He chose them because they did not have ends of the their own to serve. These special servants of God do not believe there is anything in them that God could use like that. They were chosen and used because they came to the end of their self-sufficiency. He then chose them to follow Him and obey Him for His purposes.
Those who walk close with their Lord know their poverty. They understand how low they are, but they also know in whom they have believed and they seek His glory in all things. They know they are of no use to God in themselves. They are not out for their own cause. They still see through a dark glass and don’t know all that God is doing. However, they still maintain their relationship with Him, staying in the race He has set before them with their eyes firmly fixed on the Lord. Those who jealously guard their closeness with God are those who appear foolish to the world. Why? They would rather spend time in Bible Study and prayer and service than dissipation. The world has nothing to offer them that can take the place of their spirit-led walk with their Saviour. They know that their relationship with the Lord is far more important than the work they do in service. In fact, this is what God tells us is the most important thing we are to do. Our enemy knows how vital it is as well. He really isn’t too concerned about our feeble ministries, but he will assail our close personal time with God with full warfare. Why? If we are not spending time in the prayer closet and in the Word of God then how well can we serve Him? In fact, if we are neglecting the most important thing we will end up ministering perfunctorily instead of by being Spirit-led.
I used to run long distance in the early eighties. I was in my late twenties and early thirties then. I could run a five-minute mile to finish a 10K race. I was running in a race nearly every Saturday back then. However, there were good weeks and bad weeks in my daily training runs. If I became consumed in fatigue (because I was dwelling on it too much) I trained poorly and that affected my racing big time. However, if I took care of myself by eating right, sleeping right, and working out right I could run a race with a confidence that usually resulted in a good finish. Most of my friends back then would just shake their heads and say stuff like, “I don’t know how you do it. You aren’t built like a runner. How do you do this?” I could do it because I prepared and God gave me the ability to run very efficiently. However, if I became distracted where I did not train or I did not eat right or sleep right then I could not do it.
What is the correlation? We must make up our minds what is more important. Are our desires more important than God’s glory? Is it more important that people think we are “God’s man” or “God’s woman” than it is to see God work in other people’s hearts despite our weaknesses and poverty? You know the answers to those questions. What are we to do about it? We must examine ourselves. We must look closely at our motives for all we do in “ministry” or “service.” Is God central? Is His glory our number one goal in all we do? We are imperfect people, but we can dedicate ourselves to living for these things and God will help us do them if we will come to Him with penitent hearts by being poor in spirit. Then we must commit ourselves to running the race God has set before us, eyes firmly fixed on our Saviour.
Soli Deo Gloria!