The Ordinary People of the Extraordinary Cross (I Cor. 1:26-31)
The church at Corinth was a blue-collar church. Some were white-collar people (Paul explains that not many were wise, wealthy, and powerful according to the world's standards when called, but he does not write "not any". Nonetheless, Corinth's church was mostly composed of the everyday working man or woman's kind of congregation. In this section of Scripture, Paul wanted Corinth's church to be reminded that ordinary people who respond to the Cross are TRANSFORMED into something forever extraordinary. Again, they must see that it is Jesus in them that offers true wisdom, strength, and significance. There are three areas that Paul investigates as it relates to the identity of the Corinthian church. His point is not to humiliate but to remind them of what God can do through them if they are submissive to his will.
The first category he mentions is wisdom. Paul reminds them that not many were wise according to the world's standards when they were called to Jesus. In other words, there were not too many Einstein's or Newton's among them. So why would God call those who are considered foolish according to worldly standards? Paul writes that it was "to shame the wise." In I Cor. 1:18, 21 Paul reminded the Corinthians that "the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe." The message of Jesus, true wisdom, is foolishness according to the world's standard of wisdom. Paul later reminded them of how their view of Jesus changed after conversion, ultimately changing their identity. He writes, "Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
The next ordinary aspect deals with power and influence. Paul describes the type of person called by God in Corinth before salvation as "not powerful". This means that they lacked great authority and influence in their community, according to the world's standards. God's reason for calling ordinary weak people to be a part of Corinth's church was so that he could strengthen them to have the power to do his will. Paul wrote of this weakness that produced power in II Cor. 12:8-10. He wrote, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
The final aspect of the ordinary that God transformed dealt with their bloodlines and lineage related to their socio-economic status. Paul wrote, "not many were of noble birth". This means that most of the Corinthians were not born of royalty, wealth, or significant influence. However, God is not always one to work primarily through royal bloodlines, military leaders, and wealthy politicians. Instead, God often chooses the lowly of this world to "bring to nothing" those that think they are "somethings." Ultimately, all men are born low and distant from their maker. Faith in Jesus changes that completely. We become a "son" of the Father and joint-heirs with Christ. In I Peter 1:3-5, this change is explained. Peter writes, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
The chasm between those who possess worldly wisdom and those who have true wisdom is vast. Paul reminds us that Jesus is the source of true wisdom in I Cor. 1:30 "And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…" True wisdom from God is the story of Jesus' making a way to offer right standing with God, Holiness in our union with the Father through the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit, and past, present, and future work of the cross of Jesus. This is wisdom's center for humanity. We must be aware of artificial wisdom, the way of worldly wisdom, and its ultimate end. Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death."