It is altogether fitting that we should conclude this brief series on the calling of God with an examination of the text that is before us today. To be called of God is to be special and privileged and to be exalted to a supernatural degree. Given such rarefied status, it would be natural for our flesh to become puffed up with pride, to assume that merit must have played some role in the process. But in today’s text, the Spirit of God through the Apostle Paul disabuses us of any such idea: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence” (I Cor. 1:26-29).
Not chosen on the basis of human merit. When we had pick-up teams chosen in high school gym class, I was invariably the last one chosen. Football, basketball, baseball, soccer—it didn’t matter which sport, I was chosen last or next to last. Humans, you see, choose on the basis of merit. No one with an IQ of 80 will be chosen to preside over MIT. No paraplegic will make the Olympic swim team. No prospective bride will deliberately set out to find and marry the poorest provider in the county (She may wind up with him, but that’s another story.). Men choose on the basis of merit, or at least on perceived merit.
But our text indicates that God does not choose on the basis of merit. Quite the opposite; it pleases Him to call the foolish, the weak, the ignoble, the base, the despised, and those who are virtually invisible, whose existence is barely recognized because of their lowly status. His church is largely made up of a band of nobodies, castoffs, and ne’er-do-wells. When the world looks at the “team” He has called, they see a bunch of failures and losers.
Chosen on the basis of God’s grace. But God is not seeking those whose natural gifts will enhance His glory because there are no such individuals. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to redeem sinners. He came to offer hope to the hopeless, eternal life to the spiritually dead, deliverance to the slave of sin, overcoming grace to the defeated, imputed righteousness to the inherent sinner, and sonship to the orphan. His calling lies above and apart from any human merit. In fact, only our abject sinfulness and absolute hopelessness commend us to His favor.
That we have nothing of value to present to God is half of the equation of grace, the other half is that He takes that nothing and (contrary to mathematical principle) multiplies it by His grace so that these same people are able, by God’s power and according to His will, to “confound” (“shame”) the wise and the mighty and to “bring to nought” (“nullify”) all that is merely naturally impressive.
The upshot of such a work of grace is that “no flesh should glory (“boast”) in his presence,” but instead, “glory in the Lord” (vv. 29, 31). That redemption owes nothing to human merit will bring forth eternal praise and thanksgiving from saints for the unmerited favor that they have received and the Lord will receive the glory that is His just due. May the Lord find in us that which His call is intended to produce.
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