1 Corinthians 1:20-31 – Boast in Yahweh

{Jeremiah 9:23, RLIV} Thus says Jehovah, “Don’t let the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, don’t let the rich man glory in his riches;

{Jeremiah 9:24, RLIV} but let him who glories glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows me, that I am Jehovah who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight,” says Jehovah.

{1 Corinthians 1:20, RLIV} Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the lawyer of this world? Hasn’t God made foolish the wisdom of this world?<

{1 Corinthians 1:31, RLIV} that, according as it is written, “He who boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.”

THINGS highly esteemed among men are wisdom, power and riches. But it is not the wisdom that comes down from above, nor the power of godliness, nor the true heavenly riches that moth cannot destroy nor rust corrupt that is sought after by the world. (Luke 12:33) Men of the world have not learned the value of these, and therefore they ‘spend their strength for vanity’ (Isaiah 49:4), and they “labor for that which does not satisfy.” (Isaiah 55:2) “The reverence of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom” (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, Rotherham); the faith that lays hold upon the might of Jehovah is the beginning of power (Psalm 68:35; Ephesians 6:10); and the poverty that freely surrenders all things to the will and service of God is the beginning of true riches. (Proverbs 10:22; 13:7; 22:4; Ephesians 1:7,8,18; 2:7) Worldly wisdom, which does not have its foundation in the reverence of Jehovah, tends to self-exaltation and pride (Ecclesiastes 8:1; Isaiah 47:10; Mark 7:20-23; 1 John 2:16; 1 Corinthians 3:19; 8:1,2; James 3:14,15): power in the hands of the ungodly tends to haughtiness and overbearing selfishness (Proverbs 30:12-14; Ecclesiastes 4:1-4; 5:8) and riches, among those who have not learned from God the responsibilities of stewardship, tend only to dwarf the soul, rendering it impervious to the noble sentiments of love and brotherly kindness. — Proverbs 28:20,22; Ecclesiastes 5:10-12; 1 Timothy 6:9,10.

(2) The man who, by dint of labor and strife, succeeds in a measure in gaining one or all of these earthly prizes generally considers himself a wise man; for he does not realize how transient are the treasures, how unsatisfactory they will prove in the end, what snares are in them, nor how great is the value of the heavenly treasure which he has missed while grasping after fleeting earthly things. — Matthew 13:22.

(3) To the worldly who have never known the treasures of divine grace these earthly things are of paramount importance; but to the child of God, if possessed, the things of this world only increase the responsibilities of his stewardship, for they are not his, but Jehovah’s, all being included in his consecration. (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27; 1 Timothy 6:17-19) Whatever, therefore, a Christian has of human learning — education — must be held in subservience to the wisdom of God. No human theories or philosophies that conflict with the Word of God may be entertained. The Word of Jehovah must be the end of all controversy when human reasonings come in conflict with divine wisdom, for the wisdom of this world that arrays itself in opposition to the heavenly wisdom is “foolishness with God,” and will by and by be brought to most ignominious humiliation. (1 Corinthians 1:19; 3:19; Isaiah 29:14) So also the human might that lifts its puny arm in defiance of Jehovah’s power shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy, and the hoarded riches will offer no reward in the day of wrath. — Proverbs 6:15; 11:4; 29:1.

(4) What folly is it then — especially for any one who has been enlightened by the truth, and made a child and heir of God — to forget the importance and value of the unseen heavenly treasure and turn to minding earthly things. For any to glory in such a course is to glory in their shame and folly. But let it not be so with the one who loves God: “He who glories, let him glory in Jehovah.” (1 Corinthians 1:31, New King James Version) “Let him who glories glory in this,” says Jehovah, “that he has understanding, and knows me.” (Jeremiah 9:24) “And this is life eternal,” said Jesus, “that they should know you you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” — John 17:3.

(5) This is the knowledge that does not puff up (1 Corinthians 8:1), the wisdom that comes down from above. (James 3:17) The beginning of this wisdom is indeed the reverence of Jehovah. Nor can we grow in this wisdom except by continued growth in the reverence of Jehovah. If to any degree we cease to reverence supremely Jehovah’s words, or if we cease to cultivate his acquaintance through our privilege of communion and fellowship with him in prayer, in the study of his Word, meditation upon his glorious character and teachings, and in obedience to his will, to the extent of our neglect we fail to realize the blessings of that wisdom that comes down from above.

(6) But if, in the use of these privileges, we open our hearts to receive all that divine grace has in store for us, then, indeed, we may glory in Jehovah. Let such a one “glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows me.” To thus know Jehovah is not merely to know of him, to know something of his works and ways, but it is to know him by that intimate fellowship and communion which, by a living faith, seals the testimonies of his Word upon our hearts and makes us to realize that they are ours personally, that Jehovah himself is our personal friend and helper and counselor and guide. We thus become acquainted with his spirit, his principles and methods of action, — we understand him, — we know how to interpret his providences, to mark his leadings, to observe his attitude toward us and thus daily to walk with him. Thus also we are led to a fuller appreciation of Jehovah’s righteousness and of his loving kindness, which will in due time through his Son, Jesus, establish justice in all the earth. (Psalm 33:5; Isaiah 42:4) Well, indeed, may we glory in Jehovah and in the fact of his great condescension to us personally, when thus we come to understand and know him.

(7) In this blessed sense of the divine love and care, we may say in the words of the Psalmist, “My soul shall boast in Jehovah. The humble shall hear of it, and be glad. Oh magnify Jehovah with me. Let us exalt his name together. I sought Jehovah, and he answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to him, and were radiant. Their faces shall never be covered with shame. This poor man cried, and Jehovah heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of Jehovah encamps round about those who fear him, And delivers them. Oh taste and see that Jehovah is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Oh fear [reverence] Jehovah, you his saints, For there is no lack with those who fear [reverence] him.” — Psalm 34:1-9.

(8) How precious is this experience of the child of God! but it can never be the experience of a proud heart; “for God resists the proud, and gives grace [his favor] to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5,6.) It is hard for those who are rich in the wisdom or power or wealth of this world to do this. (Matthew 19:24-26.) It was hard for the scribes and Pharisees who were rich in titles and honors and praise of men (Matthew 6:5; 23:6; 12:38; Mark 12:38,39; Luke 11:43); it was hard for the whole Jewish nation who were proud of being the seed of Abraham to whom pertained the promises of God (John 8:33); it was hard for the Greeks who were proud of their worldly wisdom and intellectual attainments (1 Corinthians 1:22,23); it was hard for the Romans who were proud of their power and prestige among the nations. And it is hard today for all those who have pride in any thing. (Psalm 10:3,4) It is hard for all religionists whose pride in the sectarian religious systems of Christendom blinds their eyes to so much that is in the Bible; it is hard also for those who boast in human philosophies and science, falsely so called (Colossians 2:18; 1 Timothy 6:20); who are proud of being inventors of something new and strange, and who desire to be thought great and to lead men after them; it is hard for all those who reverence the opinions of men more than the words of Jehovah. All those who either are rich or desire to be rich in the things of this present life, and specially those who are “rich” in a good opinion of themselves, or in self will, find it hard to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. Indeed, the apostle intimates that the greatest battle of each one coming to a knowledge of the truth is along this line; for it is after pointing to the severe humiliation of our Lord Jesus that he says, “So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation [in like manner] with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you [by this severe discipline, this humbling process] both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.” — Philippians 2:12,13.

(9) Those who have endeavored in all sincerity to do so have always found the grace of God sufficient for them; but very few are ever disposed to make the attempt. To all the worldly-wise the preaching of Christ’s death and its purpose is foolishness, and they have no disposition to take up their stakes daily and follow Christ.

(10) It is for this reason that “not many are wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, and not many noble,” are called to share with the Lord in the glory of his Kingdom. They are generally so engrossed with the things of the present life –its pursuits, its cares, its pleasures, etc. — that they have no ear for the Lord’s call. They are not humble enough even to hear the call; much less are they humble enough to obey it and to walk the narrow way of self-sacrifice in which the Lord Jesus leads.

(11) “But God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame those who are wise. God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; 28 and God chose the lowly things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) How truly the wise are being confounded today by the power of the truth in the hands of the humblest of God’s consecrated children! Systems of error which are the growth of centuries are put to confusion and are tottering before it, and the sages of all the sects are troubled by it; for it is becoming more and more apparent to all men that “the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” — Isaiah 29:14.

(12) Why has God chosen these weak, inferior instruments for his great work? why does he not employ the eloquent tongues, the pens of ready writers, and the prestige of great names? Paul tells us why. It is in order “no flesh should boast before God.” (1 Corinthians 1:29) The great work of vanquishing sin and establishing righteousness in the earth is the work of Jehovah being accomplished through Jesus: no human power is adequate to the emergencies of the case. Yet God is pleased to allow his power to operate through any human instrument that is meet for his use — that is, that can be used without injury to itself. If God were to work his wonders through those whose hearts are inclined to pride, that pride would grow, and would arrogate to self the glory that belongs to God, instead of appreciating the honor of being a servant of God, an instrument in his mighty hand — “for the Master’s use made meet.” — Hymns of Dawn 229

(13) God’s use of even the weakest instruments, of those having even a very small measure of talent for his service, sometimes proves an exaltation too great, and that which was a blessing becomes a curse through pride and vain-glory. Such is the perversity of human nature, and such the subtlety of the Adversary in gaining the advantage, that the very texts above cited sometimes become a stumbling-block to many who are not only poor financially, but who are deficient in intellect and education, and who even lack instruction in the divine Word. They forget that the Lord said, “Blessed are you poor”, that is, those who were poor (or became so) as his disciples. (Luke 6:20); or, as Matthew 5:3 records it, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” And they forget that the ignorant as well as the learned, the poor as well as the rich, can become “vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” (Colossians 2:18) It is sad to see “a man [who] thinks himself to be something when he is nothing” (Galatians 6:3), thus deceiving himself, — but specially so, when even the rudiments of education and Christlikeness are lacking. (Hebrews 5:12) We believe that modesty and simplicity are traits to be cultivated by rich and poor alike, who are blessed with a knowledge of the truth, and that any ‘confounding of the mighty’ (1 Corinthians 1:27) should be done kindly and in meekness (Ephesians 4:2; 2 Timothy 2:25), and not in a combative spirit or with a show of gratification over their defeat.

(14) In relation to our topic, above almost every thing else, therefore, beloved, let us guard well our humility. It is only when we are little in our own eyes that God can use us with safety to ourselves. And yet he does not shield us from every test of fidelity. If therefore Jehovah gives you a little exaltation today, a little encouragement of success in his service, receive it humbly, meekly remembering your own unworthiness and insufficiency except as God is pleased to work through you; and be just as ready to receive the humiliations of tomorrow as necessary for your discipline and the proper balancing of your character. If the success of yesterday makes you fret under the humiliation of today, then beware: you are not as roundly developed spiritually as you should be. Whatever may be the triumphs of the truth through us, let us always remember that we are among “the things that are not.” (1 Corinthians 1:28) Let us endeavor therefore to make the Apostle Paul’s experience our own, who said, — “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. I know how to be humbled, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need. I can do all [these] things through Christ, who strengthens me.” — Philippians 4:11-13.

(15) In God’s dealings with his people at all times we can see his care in guarding them against pride and self-sufficiency. If he would choose Israel to be his peculiar people, he permits them first to be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years (Acts 7:6), and then with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm he gathers them to the promised land, but even then, not before allowing them to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Moses, too, the chosen deliverer, was of humble birth. He was slow of speech, and needed Aaron to supplement this weakness. And Paul had his “thorn in the flesh,” from which Jehovah was not pleased to deliver him, though three times he asked Jehovah to remove it; and Jehovah said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (Holman Christian Standard Bible translation), that is, the power of God in Christ, operating through this imperfect earthen vessel, will be more manifest to men than if the vessel itself were a perfect and polished one. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) In that case men might ascribe the greatness of the work to the talent of Paul, and by and by conclude that since Paul is only a man it is only presumption for him to assume to teach other men, etc. But if the power is seen to be of God, and merely working through Paul as a ready instrument — meek, willing and energetic — then the testimony of the grace of God will be weighty with them: and so it was].

(16) To this explanation and assurance from God Paul meekly replied, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me.” — 2 Corinthians 12:8,9.

(17) Jehovah with unerring wisdom has always chosen the meek for every great work. Moses was the meekest man in all the earth. (Numbers 12:3) Meekness was a marked characteristic of all the prophets and ancient worthies. The Lord Jesus was meek and lowly of heart (Matthew 11:29), who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor. (2 Corinthians 8:9) He was of humble birth, born in a manger and reared in the despised town of Nazareth, that he might be called a Nazarene. The twelve apostles were mostly plain men, most of them were fishermen; and so also the whole Gospel Church — not the church nominal, but the true ones written in heaven — have generally been the poor of this world, who were willing to be humbled yet more and more, that the power of Christ might be manifested through them.

(18) Let every one therefore humble himself under the mighty hand of God. This is not the time for exaltation, but for humiliation and trial. The exaltation will come in due time to the faithful. Let our present glory be in that we understand and know the Lord, and in that he condescends to make use of these poor earthen vessels in his service, that it may be manifest to all men that the excellency of the power is of God, and not of men. — 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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