so that no one may boast before him.
The situation at the Church of Corinth was bad. Very bad, according to the news that had reached Paul. The city itself was doing great – a prominent centre of commerce with its people in prosperity and pursuing intellectualism. All sorts of vices and immorality existed in this city, and it was also famous for its temple of Aphrodite (Goddess of Love according to Greek mythology, and its Roman equivalent is Venus), where a thousand priestesses prostituted themselves in the name of religion. The church had become adversely affected by the immoral environment found in the city. Pride, the pursuit of worldly knowledge and wisdom, immorality and a general lack of knowledge about God, about Jesus and about the Christian way of life led them to a very superficial and sinful Christian life. In the first chapter, apart from his greetings, Paul dives straight into warning them against division and addressed their folly of boasting in human wisdom. In this study, we will look at why Paul claims that no one may boast before the Lord and through our investigation, learn more about the difference between human wisdom and godly wisdom.
From verse 18 onwards Paul begins to address the issue of human wisdom in comparison to godly wisdom, and the whole idea of this comparison can be summed up with this: For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength [1 Cor 1:25]. After the comparison between godly wisdom and human wisdom, for which the conclusion was of course so bluntly put across that the wisdom of God is far more superior to the extent in which even the foolisness of God is better and wiser than the wisdom of men; Paul begins to question the futility of the pursuit of human wisdom at all. Indeed, if there is godly wisdom, and if the lowest and the smallest of the godly wisdom is superior than the greatest of human wisdom, then why would we want to gain human wisdom? Paul adds to that with another point – God doesn’t demand us to be wise. We can be the dumbest person in the land and he can still use us more than how he uses the smartest person in the land. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him [1 Cor 1:27-29].
so that no one may boast before him – I’d like to tackle this verse with two points. Firstly, we have no right to boast before God. Secondly, we have no need to boast before God.
We have no right
Referring again to 1 Cor 1:25, which says that the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, let us at least clarify first that there is absolutely no foolishness in God – except that wise men seem to think that God (and therefore by association, those who follow him) is (are) foolish – For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing [1 Cor 1:18]. So in this case, that foolishness of God – that foolish message of the cross – is far, far, far wiser than the wisdom of the perishing, who believe that God is foolish. Once again, not that there is ever any foolishness or weakness in God, but even if there is, it is only so perceived by men due to our own foolishness and weakness. Yes, in essence, we are not wise enough to understand the wisdom of God. In other words, we are obviously far from the league of God’s wisdom.
Therefore, how can we have the right to ever stand before the Lord and boast about anything at all – be it our strength or our wisdom? It’d be like me going up to Einstein and telling him, hey, did you know how good my physics is? Or it’d be like me trying to play a tune in front of Mozart. I simply am not qualified. We have no right.
We have no need
Referring again to the verse prior to this – God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are [1 Cor 1:28] – we are given a clear indication on how God works. We may live in a largely meritocratic society, where the more intelligent you are, the more skilled you are, the more talented you are, the more opportunities you get. But God doesn’t work that way. The more talented you are, and the prouder you are of your achievements, the more likely it is that God uses something really silly – not that God is silly – or somebody you’ve always felt was dumber – to nullify your pride, to knock off your arrogance, to teach you humility. In fact, looking at the Bible, there are quite a number of people who weren’t exactly great wise men but yet were used greatly by God. God doesn’t need you to be extremely knowledgeable in order to use you. Your value with God doesn’t increase when your worldly knowledge increases. There is simply no need. We may be able to impress men with our great wisdom and knowledge, but God will not be impressed by it, no matter how you boast and show it off in front of the Lord.
Therefore, we cannot boast before the Lord. We have no right to, and even if we think we may one day have the right to – which we won’t – there really isn’t a need to. God doesn’t look for humanly wisdom in us. If anything, the knowledge of the message of the cross – godly wisdom is far more precious in our lives. Let us pursue not the ways and knowledge of men, but let us keep our paths straight and pursue godly wisdom instead. Godly wisdom may be mocked at as foolishness by men, but take heart, because you know that this foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.