The Few and the Many
1 Corinthians 1:25-28
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.…

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.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

WEB: Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

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