2017-11-12 Let Him Who Boasts…

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          November 12, 2017

“Let Him Who Boasts…”
Text: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

(READ THE TEXT FIRST TODAY)

A cursory look at Paul’s New Testament letters addressed to churches will reveal varying degrees of joys and problems in each church.  For example, Philippi stands as Paul’s sweetheart church.  We gather from the text that He loved the Philippian church, and they, in turn, loved him back—heartily.  We find relatively few difficulties at Philippi (yet the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche a notable problem, Philippians 4:2-3), and the church supported Paul sacrificially time and again in missionary service (cf. Philippians 4:14-20).  Paul had his daily pressure of care for the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28)—but relatively little of that pressure came from Philippi.

Much more came, alas, from Corinth.  If Paul had a problem church, it stood at Corinth.  Corinth in the first century was a city notorious for its rampant wickedness, and some vestige of this clung to the Corinthian believing households (e. g., the incestuous relationship of 1 Corinthians 5).  Immaturity, expressed often through pride, plagued the church as well.  The symptoms present themselves through Paul’s two letters to the church: party spirit, inequity at the Lord’s Supper, improper estimation of spiritual gifts, complaint that Paul would not accept pay from them, and estimation of Paul as inferior to other apostles—especially in view of his personal appearance.  Paul tackles this pride problem directly in today’s text—and he does it in no little measure in today’s text.

Note God’s calling of His covenant people in Christ.  Not many in the Corinthian church were wise according to worldly standards, nor were many powerful, nor were many of noble birth.  This is not the preferred way of preferring people in our time.  Nor was it the preferred way in Paul’s time.  Yet it is God’s preferred way in every time.  In particular, God chose the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong, the lowly and despised (not the high and honored), and the things that are not to bring to nothing things that are.  This indeed is a strange way to select a people.  Why hath God decreed and acted thus?

God has ordered things thus—as He tells us through Paul–so that no one may boast before Him.  We have done nothing to earn or to curry God’s favor.  Rather, it is only due to the sovereign, free, omnipotent grace of the Father that we are in Jesus Christ, the Son.  Christ Jesus became, and is, for us wisdom from God.  All of God’s wisdom—indeed, the fullness of God Himself—is incarnate in Jesus.  Christ is for us righteousness, for His righteousness is imputed to us—and our sin He bore on Calvary’s cross.  Jesus is our sanctification.  We are set apart for His purposes, and we increasingly are remade to resemble Him.  Jesus not only redeems us, but He Himself is our redemption, for we are purchased by His blood.  You see, the Lord has done all to establish us in favorable relation to Himself.

Therefore, let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.  Jeremiah, over six hundred years before Paul wrote the Corinthians, penned these words as led by the Holy Spirit, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD Who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).  Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, boasts in the things that show his weakness—such as insults, hardships, and persecutions—for when he is weak, then he, in Christ, is strong (2 Corinthians 12:1-10, esp. 12:10).  Let us too boast in the Lord, Who created us, sustains us, and gives us a hope and a future.

If God’s message appears contemptible to the world in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, then His people must appear so to the world in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.  It is not the world’s estimation of us who are in Christ that matters though.  It is God’s estimate of us that matters—and He values relationship with us at the price of His beloved Son’s life.  This is ground for glorying in Him indeed.  Yet we, the redeemed of God in Christ, too often place our boast elsewhere.  For most of us Christians, our boasts are more subtle than those of the world—but equally harmful to our souls.  Let’s examine a few.

Perhaps our boast is in certain facets of a local church: such as its attendance, its buildings, or its cash on hand.  I have a friend who, tongue in cheek, tells me that the unholy trinity is ABC—attendance, buildings, and cash.[1]  Too often, for Christians, we glory in external evidences of churchly success—which may or may not point to true spiritual health.  Perhaps our hope is in highly visible Christians: whether in sports, government, or entertainment—to name but three.  Though we may be pleased in their station in Jesus, they cannot redeem and they cannot satisfy our souls as only Jesus can.  Or perhaps we boast in our material or other success in this world, even if the cause be attributed to Christ.  Remember that our boast is in the Lord alone—and not in His blessings, though we are grateful for them.  Maybe our boast lies in long family chains of Christian ancestors and descendants.  Perhaps our forefathers were pastors, or our fore-mothers were missionaries, or the like.  Perhaps we have several descendants spread over two or three succeeding generations—all of whom standing in saving relationship with Jesus Christ.  These are wonderful, to be sure, and they are occasions for thanks—but, once again, our sole ground for boasting remains in the Lord Himself.

Now, thus reminded or instructed by all the foregoing, let us remember that our sole boast is in the Lord.  Let us glory in Him, and let us declare His worth to others as He leads and enables.

AMEN.

[1] Of course, the Biblical unholy trinity is the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, as denoted in Revelation 16:13.

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