1 Corinthians 1:25
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
Man's Wisdom and God'sH. Bremne 1 Corinthians 1:17-25
The Preaching of the CrossE. Hurndall 1 Corinthians 1:17-25
Paul's PreachingJ. Exells, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:17-31
Paul's PreachingW. M. Taylor, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:17-31
PreachingJ. Baldwin Brown, B. A.1 Corinthians 1:17-31
The Aim of the MinistryC. H. Spurgeon.1 Corinthians 1:17-31
The Cross Neutralised by Theories About ItPrincipal . Edwards.1 Corinthians 1:17-31
The Cross of Christ of None EffectS. Martin.1 Corinthians 1:17-31
The Foolishness of PreachingM. Dods, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:17-31
The Gospel as Preached by PaulA. J. F. Behrends, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:17-31
The Gospel Neither Ritual nor PhilosophyJ. Oswald Dykes, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:17-31
The Preaching Which the Apostle Condemns as IneffectiveJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:17-31
The True Minister of ChristJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:17-31
The True Work of the PreacherH. W. Beecher.1 Corinthians 1:17-31
The World's Greatest Blessing and its Greatest EvilD. Thomas, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:17-31
How St. Paul Regarded the Preaching of the GospelC. Lipscomb 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
The World's Foolishness, and God's WisdomR. Tuck 1 Corinthians 1:19-25
Behold Your CallingHomiletic Monthly1 Corinthians 1:25-28
God Destroying the Conventionally Great by the Conventionally ContemptibleD. Thomas, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:25-28
God's Choice of Feeble AgenciesJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:25-28
God's Choice of InstrumentsH. Townley.1 Corinthians 1:25-28
God's Choice of the Weak and Foolish to Confound the Wise and MightyBp. Phillips Brooks.1 Corinthians 1:25-28
God's Strange ChoiceC. H. Spurgeon.1 Corinthians 1:25-28
Not Many Wise, ., are CalledJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:25-28
The Benefits Arising from Human Learning to ChristianityD. H. Cotes, LL. B.1 Corinthians 1:25-28
The Christian CallingBp. Huntington.1 Corinthians 1:25-28
The Few and the ManyJ. Service, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:25-28
The Gospel as Contemplated by Man and Employed by GodJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:25-28
The Gospel MinistryA. J. Parry.1 Corinthians 1:25-28
The Things Which are NotB. S. Storrs, D. D.1 Corinthians 1:25-28
Weak Things Chosen1 Corinthians 1:25-28

The power of God is seen in nature and in providence, but here we have a new conception of it. Jesus Christ is that Power. In his person, as God manifest in flesh, there resides the potency of the Highest; but the apostle is here thinking mainly of him as crucified. In that cross, which seems to us the culmination of weakness, he sees the very power of God. Consider -


1. The death of Christ manifests the power of God's love. As soon as we understand the meaning of the cross, we cannot help exclaiming," Herein is love!" Nor is it merely the fact of his love to men which it reveals, for this might be learned elsewhere; but it is the greatness of his love. It is the "commendation" of it (Romans 5:8) - the presenting of it in such a way as to powerfully impress us with its wonderful character. Here is the Son of God dying for sinners; and on whichever part of this statement we fix attention, it casts light on this marvellous love.

(1) The Son of God! The strength of God's love to us may be gauged by the fact that he gave up to death his own Son. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son," etc. (John 3:16); "He that spared not his own Son," etc. (Romans 8:32). What a power of love is here! Not an angel, nor some unique being specially created and endowed for the mighty task, but his one only Son. Human love has rarely touched this high water mark.

(2) For sinners! "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Human measures and analogies fail us here. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13); but here is love for enemies. And love, not in mere sentiment, not in simple forbearance, but in self sacrifice - love persisting in its purpose of salvation in the face of hatred and scorn. Thus on both sides the love of God is seen in power. And what a battery to play upon the hearts of men!

2. The death of Christ manifests the power of his justice. No reading of the cross that leaves this element out of account can explain the mystery. In a work the professed design of which is to restore men to righteousness, there must surely be no breach of righteousness; yet it is here put to a severe test. Is the Law impartial? Will it punish sin wherever it is found? What if the Son of God himself should be found with sin upon him? Shall the sword awake and smite the man that is God's Fellow (Zechariah 13:7)? Yes; for he dies there as one "bruised for our iniquities." Surely justice must be mighty when it lays its hand on such a victim. If that modern description of God as a "power making for righteousness" is applicable anywhere, it is so here; for nowhere is he so severely righteous as in the working out of salvation for men. Nothing can more powerfully appeal to conscience than his treatment of the sinner's Surety; and nothing can more thoroughly assure us that the pardon which comes to us through the cross is righteous.

II. THE POWER OF GOD IN THE CROSS AS SEEN IN ITS PRACTICAL EFFECTS, Our readiest measure of any force in nature is the effect it produces, and in this way we may gauge the power of the cross. Take it:

1. In regard to the powers of darkness. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:15; comp. Hebrews 2:14). The execution of this purpose is intimated in Colossians 2:16, "Having put off from himself the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it [the cross]." It is as if ten thousand fiendish arms were stretched out to pluck him from that cross; but he strips them off him, and hurls them back into the abyss. It cost him much to win that victory, even "strong crying and tears" and an agony of soul beyond all human experience; but the triumph was complete.

2. In regard to the actual salvation of sinners. To deliver a man from sin in all respects, undo its direful effects, and fit him to take his place among God's sons, - what power is adequate to this? Take Paul's own conversion, on which apologists have been willing to stake the supernatural character of Christianity. And every conversion presents substantially the same features. It is nothing less than a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) - a calling of light out of darkness, order out of chaos, life out of death; and this is a more wonderful exercise of power than that which gave existence to the universe. The fair temple of God in the soul has to be built, not out of fresh hewn stones, but out of the ruins of our former selves. A poor weak man is rescued from corruption, defended "against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12), and presented at last without blemish before God, - what but Divine power can accomplish this? Add to this the exercise of this power in a countless number of instances. From the steps of the throne survey that radiant multitude, beautiful with the beauty of God and noble with the nobility of Christ, and the might of the cross will need no other proof.

3. In regard to what he enables his people to do and suffer for his sake. Take an active missionary life like that of Paul. Read such a catalogue of afflictions as he gives us in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33, and ask why a man should voluntarily undergo all these. Thousands have followed his example, meeting toil, privation, death, for their Lord's sake. Nor does the power of the cross shine less conspicuously in the sick chamber. How many a Christian invalid exhibits a patience, a meekness, a cheerfulness, which can be found nowhere else! - B.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God stronger than men.
I.ITS DOCTRINE — is foolishness, yet wiser than men.

II.ITS AGENCIES — are weak, yet stronger than men.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

For ye see your calling, brethren.
1. The word "calling" means the great primary truth of religion, viz., that our erring life is governed by a will above it, and is capable of receiving influences of attraction from the Spirit of God. A man's common employment, too, is spoken of as his "calling." But this usage discovers the same origin; for it must have sprung up in days when it was verily believed that each man's business in the world was a sacred appointment. A living faith not only justifies that view, but requires it; for it supposes that in the soul which has confessed its calling there is a power of holy consecration supreme over all the choices and pursuits of the mind.

2. The expression stirs some feeling of mystery. More is suggested than the understanding clearly grasps. But there is something here that is plain enough to common sense, and, to earnest moods at least, very welcome. How many weeks will any of us be able to live without coming to some spot where it will be felt as a rational comfort to believe that all our way was ordered for us by Him who sees the end from the beginning? If there is a "calling," there is one who calls, and who when calling has a right to be heard. It follows that there is one object in existence so pre-eminent that to accomplish that is to fulfil the great purpose of our being, and to fail of that is to miss the chief end. It is only triflers who conceive of their life as without a plan, and have never heard the call of the Master, "Go, work to-day in My vineyard." So true is this, that it has been observed of the most efficient and commanding men in the history of the world, that they were apt to represent themselves as led on by some Power beyond themselves — a demon, a genius, a destiny, or a Deity. But the apostle refers to something higher and holier than any dreamy sentiment like this. Standing on the verities of the gospel, speaking to those that have nominally assented to it, he summons them to a more solemn and searching sense of what it requires of them: "Ye see your calling, brethren." The truth is clear; you see it. It is not of men, but of God, who calls. Christ has lived, and He asks living followers.

3. It is remarkable how perseveringly the New Testament clings to this particular conception of the Christian relation. Disciples are said to be "the called of Jesus," "called out of darkness into marvellous light," "called unto liberty," "called to peace," "called to eternal life," "called" first, to be afterwards "justified and glorified," "called to inherit a blessing," "called in one body" and "one hope," "called by God's grace" to "holiness," to "His kingdom and glory," with "a holy calling," "a heavenly calling." The apostles are "called" from one place, work, suffering, joy, to another. To "walk worthy of the vocation" is made the business of a careful conscience. To make our "calling and election sure" is the victory of our warfare. The promise that subdues all anxiety as to the result is "Faithful is He which calleth you." Notice the prominent teachings of this language.

I. THAT THE BUSINESS OF A CHRISTIAN LIFE IS SOMETHING SPECIAL — a "calling" by itself, to be distinguished from all other occupations. A Christian character springs from its own root, grows by its own laws, and bears its own peculiar fruit. It must have a beginning, which the New Testament everywhere speaks of as being born into a new life. Then there must be a growing into greater strength and goodness, without end. Here, therefore, is a new principle of conduct. It is a Divine calling. Paul speaks as if no pursuit were to be thought of in comparison with it.

II. THAT THIS IDEA OF A "CALLING" INDIVIDUALISES NOT ONLY THE CHRISTIAN OBLIGATION, BUT THE CHRISTIAN PERSON. Paul had no conception of a social Christianity apart from the personal righteousness of the men that make up society. It is your calling. It is quite vain for us to congratulate each other on a state of general integrity and order if we tolerate depravity in ourselves or the class to which we belong. If we have a community here of a thousand people, in which we want to see the Christian graces flourishing, our only way is to go to work and turn one and another of the thousand into a Christian person, each beginning with himself. How weary and indignant God must be at hearing the Pharisaic praises of a Christian religion, legislation, literature, country, from speakers and writers who allow Christianity to conquer no one of their propensities to pleasure or to pride! The vocation is an individual matter. Ye see it, each for himself. The work is for each. "Repent," "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," "Take up the cross and come after Me," are for each. "Ye see your calling."

III. THAT, NOTWITHSTANDING ALL THIS, CHRIST'S TRUTH IS A MATTER, NOT OF PARTIAL, BUT OF UNIVERSAL APPLICATION. The Christian spirit, revelation, privilege, and promises are not meant for a class of men culled out arbitrarily here and there; not for a few persons of special constitutional proclivities or whose circumstances happen to predispose them for a spiritual plane of being, making it easy for them to reach it. The Bible makes no such exceptions. "Whosoever will." Nor is the Christian calling a whit the less universal and impartial for the reason that it is special, requiring a personal consecration. On the contrary, its speciality is the very ground of its universality. The more definite, important, and searching you make the Christian command to be, the more will the principles of its righteousness send their pressure into every department of life, and the spirit of its charity diffuse its fragrance into every nook and corner of the household of humanity. If there were any variations excusing men from this calling, they might be expected to exist either in their nature, their place, or their time. Yet how far these things are from constituting an apology for disregarding the duty of a disciple!

1. Take the inequalities of intellectual equipment. There is not much likelihood of men's seeking a release from taking up the Christian work and cross on a plea of mental infirmity. More probably the plea of exemption will arise in the opposite quarter, and be a pretence of gifts or a culture superior to the need of faith, independent of the humiliating doctrines of the Crucified (vers. 20-24).

2. Take the excuse of unfavourable outward fortunes. What are those fortunes? Poverty and hardship? Unto the poor the gospel was first preached, and in every age it is with them that its simple and consoling truths have found their most cordial and fruitful reception. Wealth and station? But unto whom much is given, of them shall much be required. Or is it the busy and contented state of pecuniary mediocrity or a competency? Yet that is the very state which, of all others, a wise man is represented as praying for, and which common sense would pronounce most favourable to a useful and healthy piety. Indeed, the whole honest spirit of our religion disallows the evasive notion that any position can liberate the child of God from loving his Maker, serving his Saviour, and living in godly charity with his fellow-men.

3. The changing aspects of the times are just as powerless to acquit any single conscience of its accountability for a Christian walk and conversation. Principles do not change with periods. The Christ of whom it is written that He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, is not subject to fluctuation, either in the measure of His affection or in His demands for allegiance.Conclusion: Ye see your calling —

1. Families. On every domestic sanctuary Christ lays She law of a consecrated and holy economy. Set thy house in order; for these earthly tabernacles are to be dissolved. And while they last they take in no calm, no abiding light, save through invisible windows that open upward into the unshadowed and undivided heaven.

2. Parents. To exercise your trust you will have to feel that the Christian character of every child committed to your charge is immeasurably the most urgent interest of your parental office.

3. Men of action. "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you."

(Bp. Huntington.)

Homiletic Monthly.
A concrete fact of faith. Our vague and vagrant life is attracted by a magnetism and swayed by a will superior to itself and supremely wise and good — the Spirit of God. Behold your calling —

I. IS OF GOD. Supreme, authoritative, irreversible. The call of wisdom and love. "Faithful is He that calleth you."

II. HIS GLORIOUS, COMPREHENSIVE BLESSINGS. Called out of darkness into marvellous light — "unto liberty," "to peace," "to eternal life," to "holiness," to "His kingdom and glory." It is "a heavenly calling," "a holy calling."




(Homiletic Monthly.)

How that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. —

1. Undeniable.

2. Lamentable.

3. Worthy of consideration.

II. THE REASON. Not that God despises human wisdom, &c. — it is His gift — but that these gifts are perverted —

1. By pride, in judging the things of God which are beyond human understanding.

2. By unbelief which rejects salvation.

3. By moral blindness occasioning self-sufficiency and independence.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

1. There is a great difference between a historical statement and a doctrinal one. The former tells you something which is true with reference to a particular place or time; the latter what is always and everywhere true. It must, therefore, often be a grave, often a most ridiculous blunder, to take the one for the other.

2. Now, here is a statement which has been often taken as if it were doctrinal, though it is, in fact, historical, with mischievous results; for if these classes are always to be reckoned unchristian and unbelieving —(1) Thoughtful men of all classes would, on that account alone, hesitate to embrace the gospel. If Christianity were only fit for the mob, its prospects would be poor, especially as the education of the people will not suffer from having now been made a national affair.(2) It would be a misfortune for the world if what we call civilisation advances. Each generation more nearly than its predecessor approaches to the condition of the privileged classes of society — the wise, the mighty, the noble.

3. On the other hand, consider the text as historical, and it is plain enough. We still sometimes hear explanations given of how it is that the learned and the great and the noble are not Christians, but —(1) These explanations account for what is not the fact, for there are as many Christians among cultivated and aristocratic people as in any other class; and —(2) These explanations, as a rule, would not account for the fact, if it were one. It is nonsense, e.g., to say that wise men in their conceit reject Christianity because it is simple or because it is supernatural; for there is more conceit, not with those who have some knowledge, but with those who have none.

4. Now if we glance at Corinth, it is easy to understand why the classes specified were more reluctant than others to embrace Christianity.


1. By these the apostle did not mean the great sages of antiquity. It would certainly not be anything to boast of if we had to suppose that Christianity rejected them or they it; for one could wish that the majority of Christians had attained to as lofty, as enlightened ideas as some in the golden age of Greek wisdom entertained and taught. But we have to do here with the men of a degenerate time — smatterers, would-be wise men, pretenders to universal knowledge, which is often largest and loudest where ignorance and frivolity divide between them the empire of the human mind.

2. Nor were they thinkers of our modern type.(1) The principles according to which our scientific men conduct their inquiries are modern discoveries. Our wise men try to discover the facts of nature, life, and history, and construct their theories according to the facts. But exactly the reverse was the common way of the wise men here spoken of.(2) Our modern thinkers are seekers after truth, and they are as likely to discover the truth of Christianity as other people, if not more so. These ancient wise men, on the other hand, were rather like our ignorant and superstitious masses, who take a side without candid inquiry, and are resolute to defend their side just because it is theirs.(3) Our literary and scientific men, as far as they are faithful to their vocation, inquire each man for and by himself, and own no allegiance to a party or a master, but to truth alone. But these ancient wise men, as leaders or adherents of their school, enjoyed what credit and influence they had, and were jealous of new opinions, as possibly inimical to their authority and its repute.


1. When Christianity was new it had all the disadvantages of novelty.(1) So it most repelled those who had least to gain and most to lose by any change. These, of course, were the privileged classes here mentioned.(2) Remember, too, that the changes which Christianity threatened were the most violent, and therefore the most distasteful possible to these classes. They were free, and a great part of the community were their slaves. It is now a maxim — thanks to Christianity — that property has its duties as well as its rights. But that maxim had no existence then.(3) Then it was not some magnate of their own lofty order, or even of their own race, who told those lords of many to become the servants of all; it was a company of artisans, fishermen, slaves, foreigners.(4) Then consider that the gospel was gospel in those days. It was a plain, straightforward declaration of the truth that God is love, and man's true life is love; that to be selfish is to be damned, to love is to be saved.

2. The gospel has no longer these disadvantages. When sons of nobles are ill-paid clergymen, and sovereigns and statesmen are gratuitous defenders of the faith, there is nothing to hinder the great and noble, any more than the poor and lowly, from professing Christianity. And, as regards the practice of Christianity, the case is not different. The mighty and the noble, as a matter of course, now accept, along with their honours and their privileges, a host of duties, public and social, which are enjoined rather by public opinion than by law. So much are things changed, property now has not only duties as well as rights, but has fewer rights than duties, and there are at least as many of these classes as of any other who exhibit the true spirit of Christianity in lives of faith towards God and charity towards men.

(J. Service, D. D.)

1. Of all the apostles St. Paul was the one endued with the greatest natural powers, cultivated with the most assiduous care, and one would have expected him ever to have been the advocate of knowledge. Against this, however, the text is often quoted. But this admits of a double construction — either "that not many wise men after the flesh" were called to believe the gospel, or were called to preach the gospel. Now, that the former interpretation is erroneous will be apparent when we tell you that, although during Christ's life the majority of the Pharisees and rulers did not believe on Him (John 7:48; comp. 12:42), immediately after the day of Pentecost a great company of the priests became obedient unto the faith (Acts 6:7), and also that "many of those who used curious arts at Ephesus brought their books together, and burned them before all men" (Acts 19:19, 20). Since these two classes, converted to the faith, are to be reckoned amongst the wise and learned, with truth it cannot be said, "Not many wise men after the flesh are called" to become disciples of the Messiah. So we conclude that the text means that "not many wise men after the flesh," &c., called the Corinthians into the gospel.

2. Should, however, the correctness of the present version be maintained, we still deny that it was written to warn us against the acquisition of human learning, for the use and abuse of knowledge are not identical, and the text thus understood could only apply to the Greeks, who preferred their wisdom to revelation, and to the Jews, who, having misinterpreted their Scriptures, required a sign to confirm that misinterpretation. The passage which was intended to apply to such as these can never be quoted to condemn that which only becomes reprehensible when it is not made subservient to the religion of our Lord. This is a conclusion worthy your attention, inasmuch as, if disproved, it would tend to cause the pious scholar to throw aside all the aids he might derive from history, criticism, and science in explaining and defending the oracles of God. That such a course would prove a serious detriment to religion the records of our race abundantly testify. Where ignorance has prevailed, there infidelity or superstition has abounded, whilst in the train of knowledge more accurate conceptions of the Deity and of social duties have ever followed. When Christianity was spreading many of the wise, indeed, rejected it, but the more obstinate were found among those whose prejudices in favour of their ancient faith remained unshaken, because their minds had not been trained by knowledge to estimate the value of those doctrines propounded for their acceptance. Note, then —


1. The annals of the Reformation speak an unmistakable language in favour of human acquirements.

2. It is from the arsenal of knowledge that the most formidable weapons have been taken wherewith to resist the assaults of infidelity.

3. The benefits of a knowledge of science, history, &c., to the missionary are simply incalculable.

4. The cultivation of learning greatly conduces to a right understanding of the Bible.

II. THE OPPOSITION TO KNOWLEDGE commenced in primitive times. Whilst and Clement recommended the study of literature, declaimed against it as the source of those heresies which disturbed the peace of the Church. Because philosophers had erred philosophy was condemned; and yet, in defiance of the experience which has proved that there is no necessary connection between philosophy and infidelity, in spite of the fact that Newton and Bacon and Pascal and Boyle have submitted their powerful minds to the teaching of the gospel, the same objection and the same plea is boldly advanced.


1. Prior to the promulgation of the gospel (though there then existed minds as powerful as any which have since adorned the pages of history) the grossest immorality prevailed amongst the wise ones of the earth. Hence we deduce the fact that by itself "the wisdom of the world" now, as then, is unable to reform the morals of mankind. "The world by wisdom knew not God"; and the writings of infidels have confirmed the assertion of our apostle.

2. Knowledge is fatally abused when Scripture is wrested from its obvious meaning in order to make it coincide with some cherished theory or to advance some favourite doctrine. Suppose that by an induction of facts we arrive at a conclusion opposed to a certain portion of the Bible, our duty is to extend our observation till we obtain a result in accordance with that indicated in the Word of God.

(D. H. Cotes, LL. B.)

Note —

I. THE ELECTOR Some men are saved and some men are not saved. How is this difference caused? The reason why any sink to hell is their sin, and only their sin. But how is it that others are saved? The text answers the question three times — "God hath chosen." This will be clear if we consider —

1. The facts. God elected fallen man, but not the fallen angels; Abraham, the Jews, David, &c. God is a king. Men may set up a constitutional monarchy, and they are right in so doing; but if you could find a being who was perfection itself, an absolute form of government would be undeniably the best. The absolute position of God as king demands that, especially in the work of salvation, His will should be the great determining force.

2. The figures —(1) Salvation consists in part of an adoption. Who is to have authority in this matter? The children of wrath? Surely not. It must be God who chooses His own children.(2) The Church, again, is called —(a) A building. With whom does the architecture rest? With the building? Do the stones select themselves? No; the Architect alone disposes of His chosen materials according to His own will.(b) Christ's bride. Would any man here agree to have any person forced upon him as his bride?


1. How strange is the choice He makes. "He hath not chosen many wise," &c. If man had received the power of choosing, these are just the persons who would have been selected. "But God hath chosen," &c. If man had governed the selection, these are the very persons who would have been left out.

2. It is directly contrary to human choice. Man chooses those who would be most helpful to him; God chooses those to whom He can be the most helpful. We select those who may give us the best return; God frequently selects those who most need His aid. We select those who are most deserving; He selects those who are least deserving, that so His choice may be more clearly seen to be an act of grace and not of merit.

3. It is very gracious. It is gracious even in its exclusion. It does not say, "Not any," it only says, "Not many"; so that the great are not altogether shut out. Grace is proclaimed to the prince, and in heaven there are those who on earth wore coronets and prayed.

4. It is very encouraging. Some of us cannot boast of any pedigree; we have no great learning, we have no wealth, but He has been pleased to choose just such foolish, despised creatures as ourselves.

III. THE ELECTED. They are described —

1. Negatively.(1) "Not many wise men after the flesh." God has chosen truly wise men, but the sophoi — the men who pretend to wisdom, the cunning, the metaphysical, the rabbis, the doctors, the men who look down with profound scorn upon the illiterate and call them idiots, these are not chosen in any great number. Strange, is it not? and yet a good reason is given. If they were chosen, why then they would say, "Ah! how much the gospel owes to us! How our wisdom helps it!"(2) "Not many mighty." And you see why — because the mighty might have said, "Christianity spreads because of the good temper of our swords and the strength of our arm." We can all understand the progress of Mahommedanism during its first three centuries.(3) "Not many noble," for nobility might have been thought to stamp the gospel with its prestige.

2. Positively. "God hath chosen" —(1) "The foolish things"; as if the Lord's chosen were not by nature good enough to be called men, but were only "things."(2) "The weak things" — not merely weak men, but the world thought them weak things." "Ah!" said Caesar in the ball, if he said anything at all about it, "Who is King Jesus? A poor wretch who was hanged upon a tree I Who is this Paul? A tent-maker! Who are his followers? A few despised women who meet him at the water-side."(3) "The base things" — things without a father, things which cannot trace their descent.(4) "Things that are despised," sneered at, persecuted, hunted about, or treated with what is worse, with the indifference which is worse than scorn.(5) "Things that are not" hath God chosen. Nothings, nonentities.


1. The immediate reason.(1) "To confound the wise." For one wise man to confound another wise man is remarkable; for a wise man to confound a foolish man is very easy; but for a foolish man to confound a wise man — ah! this is the finger of God.(2) "To confound the mighty." "Oh!" said Caesar, "we will soon root up this Christianity; off with their heads." The different governors hastened one after another of the disciples to death, but the more they persecuted them the more they multiplied. All the swords of the legionaries which had put to rout the armies of all nations, and had overcome the invincible Gaul and the savage Briton, could not withstand the feebleness of Christianity, for the weakness of God is mightier than men.(3) "To bring to nought the things that are." What were they in the apostle's days? Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Diana. Here comes Paul with "There is no God but God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent." He represents "the things that are not." So contemptible is the heresy of Christianity that if a list were made out of contemporary religions of different countries Christianity would have been left out. But where are Jupiter, &c., now? What was true in Paul's day is true to-day. Existing superstitions, though attacked by those who are things that are not, shall yet cease to be, and the truth as it is in Jesus, and the pure simple faith backed by the Spirit of God, shall bring to nought the things that are.

2. The ultimate reason is "that no flesh may glory in His presence." He does not say "that no man"; no, the text is in no humour to please anybody; it says, "that no flesh." What a word! Here are Solon and Socrates, the wise men. God points at them with His finger and calls them "flesh." There is Caesar, with his imperial purple; how the Praetorian guards shout, "Great is the Emperor! long may he live! Flesh," saith God's Word. Here are men whose sires were of royal lineage. "Flesh," says God. "That no flesh may glory in His presence." God puts this stamp upon us all, that we are nothing but flesh, and He chooses the poorest, the most foolish, and the weakest flesh, that all the other flesh that is only flesh and only grass may see that God pours contempt on it, and will have no flesh glory in His presence.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Luther says: "Next unto my just. cause the small repute and mean aspect of my person gave the blow to the Pope; for when I began to preach and write the Pope scorned and contemned me. He thought, 'Tis but one poor friar; what can he do against me?' I have maintained and defended this doctrine in Popedom, against emperors, kings, and princes; what, then, shall this one man do?" We all know what the one man did, and we often see that weak ones who come in the name of the Lord of Hosts conquer where stronger ones have failed. The Lord often chooses weak things in order that we may more easily see that the victory is due to Him.

A native convert originally belonging to one of the lowest castes thus delivered himself in my hearing: "I am, by birth, of an insignificant and contemptible caste — so low that if a Brahmin should touch me he must go and bathe in the Ganges for purification; and yet God has called me, not merely to the knowledge of the gospel, but to the high office of teaching it to others. My friends, do you know the reason of God's conduct? It is this: If God had selected one of you learned Brahmins, and made you the preacher, when you were successful in making converts bystanders would have said it was the amazing learning of the Brahmin and his great weight of character that were the cause; but now, when any one is converted by my instrumentality, no one thinks of ascribing any of the praise to me, and God, as is His due, has all the glory."

(H. Townley.)

In proof of the superiority of the gospel over human learning, the apostle points to their own knowledge of the working of the Divine power and wisdom. Two facts are adduced in proof.


1. The one consisting of the wise, the mighty, and the well-born — the man of thought, the man of action, and the man of leisure. These three he further describes as those who "are" (ver. 28) — those who are deemed somebody, the recognised of the world; those for whose sole interest all things are deemed to exist — what would now be termed "society."

2. The other class consists of the foolish, the weak, and the base, or despised, &c. Those forming this class are further described as those which "are not." They were those who had no status, and were ignored by the world as things utterly beneath notice. Of this class were the bulk of the Corinthian believers. "For ye see your calling." Thus it will be seen that the gospel chose as the subjects of its gracious operations(l) Those whom the so-called wise, mighty, and noble utterly neglected, those who in the estimation of the world "are not."(2) Those who were incapable of helping themselves. Supposing they had been able to help themselves, society's neglect of them would not have mattered so much. Their utter helplessness is indicated by the descriptive epithets. But to such as these came the gospel. This proves its truly benevolent character, and sets it in direct contrast to the world's ways and methods. The spirit of this world is always to give where it sees the prospect of a return. The ancient gods always bestowed their favours upon those who brought to their altars the costliest sacrifices. The world follows the example of its gods. But it is the glory of the gospel that it seeks out the foolish, the weak, the base, and despised (Matthew 11:4, 5). It was a new thing in the world to supply a gospel to the poor. A gospel preached to the poor must be something more than human. God alone can afford such grace as this.

II. ITS EFFECTS UPON ITS SUBJECTS FAR TRANSCENDS THE WORLD'S HIGHEST GOOD AND MOST DESIRABLE POSSESSIONS. The world's highest good are wisdom, might, and nobility, i.e., culture, prowess, and rank. But the gospel bestows upon its subjects far higher things (ver. 30).

1. "Things that are not," i.e., without a status in the world, obtain one in Christ — one infinitely surpassing anything the world can boast of.

2. In Christ they are endowed with qualities far transcending the world's best gifts. Has the world wisdom, might, and nobility? The gospel —(1) Endues men with a wisdom far surpassing in worth the world's highest philosophy or culture — the wisdom that makes wise unto salvation.(2) It confers a might far surpassing in degree and nature the might of the world — the might of right.(3) It endows with a nobility far more glorious than that of blood, the nobility of holiness. Nobility gives a right of entrance into the highest society, holiness into the heavenly society. It requires blood to give the social nobility that men prize. Similarly the spiritual nobility comes of the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanseth from all sin. And by virtue of this we become endowed with rank. The blood is royal blood, and they who come under its influence become royally related — they become kings and priests to God His Father.(4) They who "are not" are redeemed. This state of "being not," i.e., of being without social status, implies a state of slavery. But He Who was made for them redemption brings them freedom from the bondage and degradation of sin, a freedom far more glorious than any social one. From being slaves of sin, and ,though still slaves of men, they become, not merely free, but sons of the heavenly King.

(A. J. Parry.)

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.
Dr. Vinton was a sceptical physician. A friend advised him to read "Butler's Analogy," which satisfied his reason. A short time after he was called to the dying bed of a little girl who whispered that she had something to say to him, that she hardly had the courage, as it was about his peace with God; but she added, "To-morrow morning, when I am stronger, I will tell you." And on to-morrow morning she was dead. This led to Dr. Vinton's conversion, and a grand life in the ministry was the result. Who shall deny that "God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty"?

(Bp. Phillips Brooks.)


1. God has chosen feeble agencies.

2. Has by them confounded the mighty.

II. THE IMPORTANCE OF IT. It shows that Christianity —

1. Regards all men alike.

2. Is independent of human help.

3. Is sustained only by the power of God.


1. The humble should be thankful.

2. The proud humble.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. EVILS EXIST UNDER CONVENTIONALLY RESPECTABLE FORMS. In Corinth dangerous errors wore the costume of wisdom. Power was also on their side. Statesmen, wealth, and influence stood by them, and they appeared "mighty." Here, as in Corinth, evils wear fine clothing, and pass under great names.

1. Infidelity writes and speaks in the stately formularies of philosophy and science. It is a "wise" thing of the world.

2. Licentiousness passes under the grand name of liberty. The vaunted religious liberty of England's population means often only power to neglect sacred ordinances.

3. Social injustice does most of its fiendish work in the name of law.

4. Selfishness goes under the taking name of prudence.

5. Bigotry, superstition, fanaticism, wear the sacred name of religion.

6. War is called glory. Could we take from sin the mantle of respectability that society has thrown over it, we should do much towards its annihilation.


1. Negatively. This language does not mean —(1) That the gospel is an inferior thing. The gospel is not "foolish," "weak," or "base." As a history of facts, as a system of thought, as a code of laws, it is incomparably the grandest thing within the whole range of human thought. What light it throws on man, the universe, God! What influence it has exerted, and what changes it has wrought!(2) That the men appointed as its ministers are to be inferior. This passage has been abused to support the claims of an ignorant ministry, than which few things have tended more to degrade Christianity. There are several things to show that the gospel ministry requires the highest order of mind.(a) The character of the work: "Teaching men in all wisdom."(b) The character of the system. What a system it is to learn! What mines of truth lie beneath the surface of the letter! What digging is required to reach the golden ore! Simpletons call the gospel simple, but intelligence has ever found it of all subjects the most profound and difficult. The greatest thinkers of all ages have found the work no easy task.(c) The character of society. Who exerts the most influence upon the real life of the men and women around him? The man of capacity, thought, sound judgment. If the gospel ministry is to influence men, it must be employed by men of the highest type of culture and ability.(d) The spirit of the work. Humble, charitable, forbearing, reverent. Such a spirit as this comes only from deep thought and extensive knowledge. Ignorance generates a spirit of pride, bigotry, intolerance, and irreverence.(e) The character of the apostles. Where can you find greater force of soul than Peter's, a more searching sagacity than James's, a more royal intellect than Paul's, a finer intuitional nature than John's? They were men of talent and men of thought. And more, they all understood Hebrew and Greek. We require a long college course for this, and then only very partially reach their linguistical attainments.

2. Positively. It means —(1) That the gospel was conventionally mean. It was so in the estimation of the age. The schools, religions, institutions, and great men of the day regarded it with contempt. It was a "foolish" thing to the Greek, a "weak" thing to the Jew, and a "base" and "contemptible" thing more or less to all.(2) The first ministers were conventionally mean. They were not selected from chairs of philosophy, or seats of civil power, or homes of opulence. They were fishermen. The system and its ministers, however, are merely conventionally contemptible, nothing more. But these, like many other things that erring man regard as insignificant and mean, shalt do a great work. The flake of snow is insignificant, but it is commissioned to build up a mountain that shall overwhelm widespread districts. The coral insect is insignificant, but it builds up vast islands, beautiful as paradise. The insignificant things do the work of the world. They clothe the earth with verdure, and provide subsistence for man and beast; they rear majestic forests, and provide materials for building our cities and our fleets. Even so the gospel. What work it has already done! What systems it has shattered! What towering institutions it has levelled to the dust! It has "brought to nought" a vast world of things; and so it shall proceed until all the "things that are" great in the estimation of man, but bad in themselves, are for ever brought to "nought." The little pebble shall smite the giant and send him reeling to the grave; the little stone shall shiver the colossus and scatter its particles to the winds.Conclusion: From this subject we may infer —

1. That so long as evils exist in the world great commotions are to be expected. God hath chosen this system to confound, to put to shame, and bring to nought things that are. "It will overturn, overturn, overturn," the whole system of human things. The gospel, when it first enters a soul, confounds it. When it enters a country and begins its work it is revolutionary in its action. In the first ages it confounded the Jewish Sanhedrin, and the heathen priesthood, and the Gentile philosophy.

2. That the removal of evil from the world is, under God, to be effected through man as man. The gospel is to make its way, not by men invested with political power, scientific attainments, or brilliant oratory, but by men as men, endowed with the common powers of human nature, inspired and directed by the living gospel. Let no one say he is too poor or too obscure, too destitute of artificial endowments to minister the gospel to others; all that is wanted is the common sense, the common affection, and the common speech of man.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.
This clause is the last of a series of clauses, of which each that precedes it prepares the way for it, and by natural progress leads the mind toward it. The foolish and the weak, the base and the despised things — it is only natural that from the last and lowest of these the apostle should step to the things which are not; that is, which have no existence that is recognised by mankind; which arrest no thought, excite no fear, and are not prominent enough to be scorned. And these things, he says, the Lord hath chosen, to bring to nought the things that are; the great institutions, establishments, forces, which mark or mould the constitution of society. He hath chosen them for this purpose, to the end that His name may be magnified by their agency, and His glory be revealed in their ultimate triumph. That the "things which are," at any time, in human society, however venerable, are always liable to be displaced by others which were not in existence, or were not of recognised importance when the former were established. These are facts familiar as any fact of nature, which impress immediately the most careless observer. "Things which are not," so far as men's earlier knowledge is concerned, which exist but in embryo, and are only to be developed by a keener observation, are yet usually superior to the things which precede them, and more replete with a vitalising energy; that thus each industrious community is likely to surpass in its later years the attainments of its earlier, and the race itself to be gradually enriched and elevated as the centuries proceed; these also are facts which modern history clearly illustrates. But these things of which the age knows not and dreams not are all the time present to the mind of the Most High; they are indeed His preordained instruments, not only for working the changes which shall come in the aspects or in the life of society, but for the grander purpose of establishing supremely His kingdom in the world. So here, as everywhere, does Christianity vindicate its origin in God's mind, by placing us at once upon the highest levels of truth, and opening to our minds the widest range for reflection. Let us review the scenes amid which the text was written, and then the events which became its immediate and complete vindication. It was written from that delightful and populous city planted by the Ionian colony on the hills overlooking "the Asian meadows," along the Cayster. In this city of Ephesus, important and peculiar, partly Greek but still more Oriental in its manners and spirit, the metropolis of a province, and with a commerce that drew to its wharves the representatives of all nations, in which schools of philosophy seem so much to have abounded that one of them was opened to Paul for his labours, yet in which the Eastern superstitions and magic haughtily confronted philosophy, and still had a power which they had not either at Athens or at Rome. In this city, where the East and the West were commingled, and within whose spacious walls and harbour was assembled so busy and so various a life, the apostle, coming westward from Antioch, abode for more than two years, and from thence wrote this Epistle. It was written to Corinth, that wealthier, more brilliant, and more luxurious town planted upon the celebrated Greek Isthmus, and by its position attracting the trade not only of Greece, but of all the countries whose shores were washed by either of the seas between whose almost meeting waves it fortunately stood. It is evident, then, at once, what were the institutions which Paul describes as "things that are"; the great established powers in society, which withstood, or at least did not harmonise with, the extension of Christianity. Foremost amongst them we must reckon, of course, that haughty Judaism, dogmatic and secular, into which the religion given by God to the people of His election had by degrees been transformed, and which now had the seat of its dominion in Palestine, but the outposts of its influence in many, cities of the empire. Ennobled and vitalised as it had been at the beginning, by the supreme truth of the being of God, eternal and holy, almighty and wise. the Creator, moral Governor, and Judge of the universe, it received a practical impressiveness from the discoveries which it made of His presence and providence, and of His perfect law. Yet from this religion the nation had early and persistently swung away into grossest idolatries, reproducing in gold the Egyptian Apis beneath the very pavement of sapphire on which the feet of God were treading above the mount; in their subsequent history, polluting the hills which looked out upon Jerusalem with the fury and lust of sacrilegious observances. Second in order of these "things that are" — these powerful institutes of the day of the apostle, opposed to Christianity — must be reckoned of course the heathenism which prevailed outside of the Jews among all nations; which confronted Paul everywhere, ancient as man, but still vigorous in strength, imperial in place, and arrayed in universal opposition to the gospel. First of all it is to be recognised by us that this heathenism which so withstood Christianity was not an altogether artificial system in any nation; that it grew out of real and even deep motions in the general mind, and was not in its substance a matter of chance or a creature of contrivance, least of all an arbitrary and fabricated arrangement either of statecraft or of priestcraft; nay, that it had a certain real moral life in it, and was related not to depraved desire alone, to the lust and the pride which it never denied and too often deified, but related also, however insufficiently, to needs which the soul always feels to be inmost and knows to be abiding. Its answer was a vain one, but it sought to give an answer, to questions which never since the exile from Eden have ceased profoundly to agitate the race. Unconscious prophecies of better things lurked in many of its forms and in some of its traditions. Its sacrifices were efforts to staunch the flow from bleeding hearts. And while the popular mind acknowledged chiefly the hold of its ceremonies and shows, the thoughtful found also some solace or stimulus in its sublimated legends. Then further it must be noticed that as existing in any nation it took the form most germane to that people, to its genius and spirit, to its circumstances and habits; and that everywhere it allied itself with whatever was strongest, whatever most attracted men's minds. Thus in Greece, from the first, it enshrined itself in art; made eloquence its advocate; was indebted for the memorable form which it assumed to the noble poetry in which its mythologies were melodiously uttered. In Rome the same power allied itself with politics, and became a military force. Still further we must remember that in no land was this recent; in none was it devoid of that dignity and authority which were derived from a high antiquity; while to all the peoples, in proportion to their advancement, it was associated with whatever was to them most renowned and inspiring in their history. It was dear to them as the bond which connected their life with heroic ages. There remains a third thing to be recognised as standing among the "things that are" — the powerful institutes and establishments of society, opposed to Christianity — when Paul was writing from Ephesus to Corinth. But this was also the most powerful of all; the most dangerous to assail, to human view the most inaccessible to change or decay; supreme over every force that could touch it, and comparing with them all as the Mediterranean with the restless streams which sought and sank into it. It was, of course, the authority and power of imperial Rome. It was hardly as yet at its uttermost height, this imperial power; for scores of years still slowly passed before that age of Trajan and the Antonines which marked its consummate might and splendour; while it was later even than this that Severus carried his victorious arms to Ctesiphon and Seleucia, transferred the entire legislative power from the senate to himself, and scattered the profuse. memorial of his reign over Africa and the East. And so was this empire now exhibited to Paul, encircling the sea which was the centre of his thoughts, from Carthage to Alexandria, from Alexandria to Ephesus, and on to the very pillars of Hercules, with no sign of weakness. Considering its history, its growth, it seemed hardly so much a construction of man, this empire of Rome, as one of the preordained elements of nature; reaching in its exhaustive roots to the centres of history, and draining the earth to give it nutriment. So it stood before Paul, as at Ephesus he saw it, as everywhere he met it, as he knew and felt it environing the earth. And Paul knew that this mightiest establishment of government on the earth, this impregnable despotism which was touched by no fear, against which human power seemed vain, that this should also, in God's own time, be wrecked and "brought to nought." But how should it be done? By what agencies should. each of these prophesied victories over Judaism, heathenism, and the terrible iron-limbed empire of Rome, be brought to pass? Not, he affirms, by the forces which already are at work in the world, and which may be still further multiplied, and made to bear on this new issue; not by armies revolting, or statesmen conspiring, or philosophers projecting new answers to heathenism; not by nations reclaiming their ravaged rights, or the still existing senate combining with the people to bury the haughty imperial prerogative in a cataclysm of revolution. The forces which God shall employ for this work, and to which He shall give a might irresistible, are simply thus far the "things which are not"; the things which He alone can bring out of the secrets of thought and life, and make triumphant on their mission. How utterly insignificant was Christianity in the beginnings before one temple had sprung toward heaven; before one treatise had wrought its principles into scientific statement, or clothed them in the grace and the majesty of letters; before any government had sought to incorporate its rules into statutes; before any one of all the great names now associated with it had become its bulwark in the popular confidence. In the simply spiritual elements it involved, it was set against this array which opposed it; and of all the auxiliaries which it afterward gained, not one had as yet appeared on the earth. How utterly insignificant seemed then its force! How incredibly inadequate to the end to be accomplished! The truths which had been taught the apostles, and afterward recalled to them and unfolded more fully by the witness of the Spirit, and which were to be enshrined in evangelical narratives, not one of which had yet been written — these were the primary instruments to be used, with the oral proclamation of their principles and laws, for the spread of God's kingdom, and the overthrow of whatever withstood its advance. And these! — it seemed like binding the lightning in the meshes and knots of metaphysical argument. Epistles and talks in the synagogue against armies! The might that lay on letters and lips against the might that ruled from thrones! The publication of doctrines against establishments of power as rooted- as the hills! And yet these were the very agencies — these "things which were not" in every sense — which were not regarded, and which hitherto existed only in germ, these Gospels and Epistles which were still to be written, these teachings and preachings which had scarcely commenced, these Christian forces in life and character which hardly thus far had appeared on the earth — these were the forces which God had chosen to bring to nought the "things that were" — the ancient, immense, and impregnable institutions that stood in all their august might and tremendous effectiveness fronting the gospel. Not with energy only, but with an exact precision of speech, had Paul then described them. The philosopher thought of them, if he thought of them at all, with a contempt only greater than that which he gave to the most absurd or childish of fables. The soldier regarded them less than the mists which had hovered last year around the crests of the hills. To the Jew, in comparison of his august forms and world-challenging miracles, they seemed as frail and shadowy as dreams. The whole: wisdom of the world anticipated as little an impression from them as we that the tiny animalculae in the ocean, streaking its waves with phosphorescent glow, will arrest the revolution of shaft and wheel, and stay the steamship on its march. Those secondary forces, too, which were in time to be evolved by God's plans, and confederated in effective alliance with these, although, of course, existing in embryo, they were, if possible, still more unrecognised, and even unrealised, when Paul was writing. The awakening spiritual longings under Judaism, at which his ministry to so large an extent was sympathetically aimed; the awakening moral instincts within heathenism, whose premonitions he must have felt, of which Plutarch soon afterward became so illustrious an example; the gradual progress of moral decline in all the systems that were rooted in error and maintained by force — all these were things which one by one came into development, each in its time, as the truths and the spirit of the gospel went forward, but which were as latent, when Paul looked forth from Ephesus on the sea, as were the germs of modern oaks. And those still additional procedures and events, also auxiliary to these more silent forces, already were purposed in the mind of the Most High; already He saw their seeds unfolding; but how vaguely, if at all, were they thus far foreshown even to Paul; how entirely unsuspected were they yet by the world! The destruction of Jerusalem by the arms of Titus, who seems to have felt himself but the instrument of a power which he could not comprehend and could not contravene, in his overthrow of the city; the consequent extinction of the Jewish nationality, the final obliteration of all distinctions between the tribes, and the scattering of their impoverished remnant to the ends of the earth — this was a fact lying still as hidden among God's plans. Judaism was surpassed and terminated in a higher religion, more adequate to man's wants, more illustrative of God's glory. Heathenism was not only broken down, but it was made, thenceforth and for ever, the veriest outcast of civilisation. The Roman Empire was as finally extinguished as if the crust of the globe had been opened to swallow it up. And all was wrought within a few centuries by what; at the outset had appeared so unreal or so ineffectual.

(B. S. Storrs, D. D.)

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