1 Corinthians 1:26-29
For you see your calling, brothers, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:…
I. THE FACT. Not many wise after the flesh, mighty, noble, numbered amongst the adherents of Christianity. This was true in apostolic days; it is largely true in our own. Christianity was not established by world power. The Founder and his disciples were poor and of humble social position, and in the ranks of the early Christians were comparatively few possessing means, learning, or rank. Christianity has not been preserved or promulgated by world power. This has sometimes been called to its aid, but the "call" has often been of man rather than of God. The "aid" has frequently been injury. The "arm of flesh" has hindered rather than helped. The Church should not snatch at world power; this is not her strength. Sanctified learning, influence, and position are of great service; but these things in themselves, unsanctified, whilst to carnal judgment promising most signal advantage, often operate as an unmitigated curse. - We may require into the cause of the exclusion as arising from free will. And we may be sure that no calling by God violates human responsibility.
1. The wise after the flesh. These, like the Greeks (ver. 22), are often so filled with human wisdom as not to care for Divine - so absorbed by seeking to know earthly things as to have little leisure for heavenly. Pride is fostered, and pride bars the way to Christ and to God. It is difficult for a very "wise" man to become "as a little child" (Luke 18:17). "Heaven's gates are not so highly arched as princes' palaces; they who enter there must go upon their knees." The wise after the flesh are apt to have stiff legs. When we seek earthly wisdom we should have a care of its tendency. Human knowledge is good, but it need be kept in its proper place, and that is not the first place.
2. The mighty. Often subjects of adulation; have so many at their feet that they find it difficult to sit at the feet of Jesus. Excessive self reliance does not encourage Christ reliance. A sense of sufficiency is very antagonistic to "God be merciful to me a sinner." The mighty are wont to be too mighty, so that they can do without Christ. The mighty know their might, whereas what men need is to know their weakness.
3. The noble. High places are slippery. The command of temptations is great. Wealth, which often accompanies position, multiplies snares. Lofty station often begets a sense of excellence; but to enter the kingdom we need to feel our lack of excellence. It is easy to be great among men and very little before God. Earthly nobility and heavenly are two orders often in startling contrast, Note: Men strive eagerly to be wise after the flesh, mighty, noble, wealthy - and all the while they way be building barriers between themselves and God. How well to commit our ways to the guidance of the unerring wisdom of God; to ask him to "choose our inheritance for us" (Psalm 47:4); to give or withhold as he sees best!
II. THE PURPOSE. Regarding the Church as weak and uninfluential, we might feel some despondency as to its future. "How is Christianity to get on?" might escape our lips. So men are often very anxious to take care of Christianity instead of being very anxious that Christianity should take care of them. There is a sense in which the idea of our defending the faith is monstrous and absurd - it is not we who defend the faith, it is the faith that defends us. The matter is cleared by the revelation of a Divine purpose. God designed:
1. To show his power. He would prove that feeble agencies in his hands are infinitely more mighty than the greatest and most influential not so placed. A "bruised reed" in his hand is more than a sword in another's. Men think that "things seen" are powerful; that which is unseen is much more so. The foolish things confounded the wise, the weak things the mighty, the base and despised things the highly esteemed, - because God was in the former and not in the latter. How this was illustrated in the early Church! - the foolishness of preaching breaking down everywhere the "wise" philosophic systems; the weak disciples triumphing over the marshalled might of Rome; a Church, boasting as its Founder a crucified peasant, and possessing little wealth, influence, or human learning, spreading on all hands, and destroying idolatries venerable in age and powerful in adherents. "God moves in a mysterious way." It is God moving. A Church is made, not by the men who come into it, but by the God who comes into it. The Church needs more divinity. Here is solace for the consciously weak. We cry, "Who is sufficient for these things?" There is but one answer - God!
2. To humble human pride. "That no flesh should glory in his presence." The pride of man budded at the Fall. The all successful stratagem took this form: "Ye shall be as gods." This pride has been the curse of man's existence - it has separated him from God, and led to a fearful multiplication of transgression. When God works in man, a first effect is the abasement of pride. The pride of man which is altogether of the devil, has persuaded man that he is God. God, in the formation and continuance of his Church on earth, dealt a deadly blow against human pride, and showed how powerless were the mightiest things of man when confronted with Divine power working through the weakest. The lesson is that henceforth we are not to glory in men - neither in ourselves nor in others, but we are to glory in the Lord. When we are humbled at his feet, we are in our right posture; when we acknowledge that with him alone are might and dominion and true wisdom, we are in our right minds. - H.
Parallel VersesKJV: For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: