February 13, 2005

A Dosage of Humility

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: 1 Corinthians Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:26–31


A Dosage of Humility

1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Pastor Randy Smith

In moments of extreme anguish just hours before He would proceed to the cross, Jesus Christ prayed to the Father. And through the testimony of Scripture, we are permitted to eavesdrop on this conversation (in John 17). Remarkably as we listen to this prayer, we hear our Lord praying for us right here at the Grace Tabernacle. Oh, the name of our church isn't mentioned, but He did pray for all who will believe in Him through the Apostle's teaching. And that includes us!

And what was so preeminent on our Savior's heart regarding His future church? Was it our happiness? Was it our health and wealth? Was it our prosperity? No, Jesus, in the midst of His personal torment prayed "that (we) may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that (the Father) sent (Him), and loved (us), even as (He has) loved Jesus" (Jn. 17:23).

This theme for unity is continued throughout the Bible. We hear more of love and unity than we do divorce and adultery. The sin of disunity is mentioned in almost every New Testament letter. Among the "deeds of the flesh" we read about "enmities," "strife," "disputes," "dissentions" and "factions" right alongside "idolatry," "sorcery" and "drunkenness" (Gal. 5:19-21). We are told to "reject a factious man after a first and second warning" (Tit. 3:10). Though many may consider disunity a trivial issue, nothing, throughout the past 2,000 years, has done more damage to cripple the church of Jesus Christ. Internally, wars are waged with one another, while externally our testimony is discredited before the world. Our Lord's desire for unity is completely ignored, while Satan, the master of division, the one who masquerades as an "angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14), delights in such destruction.

One Pastor said:

Anything that pleases God is a target of the enemy. Satan, our adversary, promotes disunity. He is out to destroy the church. He specializes in using church people to accomplish this. These are not demon-possessed people. These are true believers, well-meaning saints. Often they are pillars of the community with strong personalities, deserving respect, but they are sometimes used to divide the church.

Satan can use us by filling our hearts with self-seeking motives. He is an expert at taking our unresolved anger and causing great pain. We easily become blinded to what we are doing, and soon become his instruments for division in the Body.

The real enemy is not the person we are reacting against because of his disruptive behavior in the church. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world" (Ephesians 6:12). The enemy is the devil, who delights in disunity. He hides in the background, preferring we not recognize his role in our conflict. Riding on our selfishness, he can work through well-meaning folks like us (Donald Bubna, The Harvest is Great but the Laborers are Grumbling, May, 1999).

The Apostle Paul was also concerned for church unity. Once he received wind from Chloe's people that there were divisions in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 1:11), he made it his top-priority to address this specific issue. A man sleeping with his father's wife, lawsuits within the church, stepping over weaker believers, divorce, sexual immorality, heretical doctrine and mishandling the Lord's Supper and spiritual gifts will all have to wait. The problem of disunity was placed on the forefront of the Apostle's heart.

As we have learned the past few weeks, the man concerned for God's glory, wasted no time. In chapter one, Paul identified the problem. Beginning in verse 11. "For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, 'I am of Paul,' and 'I of Apollos,' and 'I of Cephas,' and 'I of Christ'" (1 Cor. 1:11-12). He also identified the expected outcome in verse 10. "Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment."

However, we must ask the question, what was ultimately causing these divisions? And how can we prevent divisions and remedy those currently existing? Here is the answer: When it's all boiled down to the core essentials, divisions are caused by pride, and they are abolished by humility.

The Corinthian church, like any other church, had divisions because they, like any other church, had a problem with pride. Much of the discussion in chapters 1-4 exposes their pride. Throughout the letter we read of a church filled with arrogance. So what was Paul's solution to these divisions within the church? They needed a taste of reality. They needed a lesson in humility.

I have entitled this sermon: "A Dosage of Humility." I pray that God will use this message to break us of self-reliance, worldly wisdom and pride and increase our faith, Godly wisdom and humility. May we all follow God's agenda of descending to greatness and in doing so become more humble leading to a more unified church, the kind of church our Lord desired in His prayer.

This will not be an easy message to hear, and it is definitely not an easy one to preach. However, I believe all I am about to say is in line with Holy Scripture. Let us begin.

This past Christmas I was humbled by my cousin. I was fighting off the jealously as I watched his son unwrap a massive remote control black Hummer Jeep. Behind the Hummer was a trailer that contained a remote controlled Harley Davidson motorcycle. I don't want to overstate this too much, but this is about as cool as toys gets! As I observed my cousin applying the racing stripes, tinkering with the off-road roof lights and revving up the engine, I couldn't help but think of my adventures three hours earlier as I assembled the Barbie Cruise Ship for my three daughters.

Now I don't want to be too rough on the Barbie Cruise Ship. After all, the gift was not for me but for my daughters. And it has brought them much enjoyment. But for the sake of discussion, let's pretend they were ungrateful for the big Christmas present. Let's say that Hailey wanted the Barbie Jetliner rather than the Barbie Cruise Ship. Does she really think she has the money to purchase either one of these on her own? Let's say Kayla wanted the model offered at a different store. Does she really think she has the means to get to either of the stores on her own? Let's say Natalie is disappointed with the assembly. Does she really think she has the ingenuity to follow the directions on her own? There is nothing any of my daughters contributed to receive this gift. Their complaining (pretending it was real) stems from total arrogance and pride. On the contrary, they should be thankful that they received such a gift that was completely beyond their means to produce. From an adult perspective, any complaining or divisiveness among them is foolish and outright offensive.

Paul's beef with the Corinthian church is along the same lines, but to a much more serious degree. While they were fighting and backbiting and quarreling, revealing their pride in all its glory, they needed a stern reminder as to how they became Christians in the first-place.

The Bible says that all people are spiritually "dead in (their) trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1; cf. Col. 2:13). It's obvious that spiritually dead people don't seek God. The Scriptures confirm, "There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one" (Rom. 3:11-12). As a matter of fact, Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (Jn. 6:44). Do you realize that we as humans are so far from God that He must grant us even the faith we need to believe to accept His gift of salvation? Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, is this Pastor saying that we have contributed absolutely nothing to our own salvation and apart from God working in our lives we would still be lost in our sins? That's exactly what I'm saying because that's exactly what Paul told the prideful Corinthian church in verse 30. "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus."

To the best of my understanding, well over 99% of Lake Como has rejected Jesus Christ. In my flesh, I'd love to look down my nose at all the unbelievers and condemn them for not being as wise as me for accepting Jesus - but I can't. I'm forced to remain humble. I know how much I loved my sin. I know that He had to first change my heart to desire Him. I know that only by His doing that I am in Christ Jesus. I know that He is the author of my faith (Heb. 12:2). I know, as it says in verse 30 that He is my righteousness and sanctification and redemption. I have no room to boast regarding anything I did to achieve my salvation. And neither do you. "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus."

Paul continues to humble this prideful Corinthian church. As he reflects on the congregation he says in verse 26, "For consider your calling, brethren." In other words, consider those whom God has called to Himself from the dark Corinthian culture to form His church. He goes on to say in verse 26 "that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble."

Imagine Paul saying, "Corinthians, do you think you have all the answers? Do you think you can separate yourself from others and cause divisions in the church? Do you really think you have the right to judge one another? Your disunity is a result of your pride. You wouldn't be here if God didn't call you to Himself and when we consider those whom He did call it's often those who lack brilliance, might and nobility. What do you have that you did not receive from God? And since all you have is a gift from Him, how dare you regard yourself as superior? Folks, let's not forget our humble estate!"

Paul continues in verse 27, "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are" (1 Cor. 1:27-28).

Often we think if God would only save a popular political figure or a famous athlete or a hip entertainer that such a person would really help to further the cause of Christ. But often this isn't the way God works. Verse 28 says He chooses "the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are." God works through the world's rejects so He might receive greater glory for His power.

Maybe this story will help to illustrate.

During a Billy Sunday evangelistic campaign, a mentally impaired boy came faithfully each night to sing in the choir. 'Joey was not very bright,' said Homer Rodeheaver, the well-known song leader for Billy Sunday, 'but he never missed any of our meetings and wouldn't leave until he shook my hand. Sometimes I was embarrassed by the way he constantly tailed me, and I secretly wished he'd go away.' Then one evening a man came to Rodeheaver and said, 'Thank you for being kind to my son, Joey. He's not right mentally, but never has he enjoyed anything so much as singing in the choir. He worked hard doing simple chores for people so he could contribute to the collection. Through his pleadings, my wife and five other children came to this evangelistic campaign and have now received Christ. Last night his 75-year-old grandfather, who has been an atheist all his life, trusted the Lord, and tonight his grandmother also came forward. Now our entire family is converted' (Our Daily Bread, April 2).

Has God used any of us to lead that many people to Christ? Why do we need to be humble? Because God uses the broken and weak things of the world to accomplish His purposes.

Three times in these verses 27 and 28 we read about God's sovereign choice - "God has chosen," "God has chosen," "God has chosen." God specializes in choosing the foolish and weak things, the base and despised. In Matthew 11 Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants" (Mt. 11:25; cf. Lk. 10:21). He takes those unworthy of the world's attention and makes them citizens of His kingdom. He takes those who come with nothing to offer, as greater opportunities to display His power.

Consider the forerunner chosen by God for the Messiah. John the Baptist had no formal education, no training in trade or profession, no money, no military rank, no political position, no social pedigree, no prestige, and no oratory skills (MacArthur, 1 Corinthians, p. 51). He wore "a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt. His diet consisted of "locusts and wild honey" (Mt. 3:4). Yet he was chosen to be the first voice to break over 400 years of prophetic silence. And in reference to Him, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist" (Jn. 11:11a)!

Consider Jesus Christ, when it came time to choose His Apostles (Jn. 15:16). He bypassed the religious, political, and intellectual elite. He chose ordinary men with ordinary skills and used them to transform a world.

Consider God when it came time to choose an elect nation. He chose Israel. Was it because they were mighty? Moses told them in Deuteronomy 7, "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you" (Dt. 7:7-8a). And through this nation God would send the Messiah.

Why? Why does God design it so that He is 100% responsible for our salvation? Why does He enjoy in upsetting the standards of the world? Why does He call unlikely figures to Himself? Verse 29 gives the reason. "So that no man may boast before God."

You see, if it were my wisdom that led me to Christ, I would have some room for boasting. But verse 21 says, "The world through its wisdom did not come to know God." The wisdom of the world leads to strife, divisions, pride and the rejection of Jesus. If it were my good deeds that contributed to my salvation, I would have some room for boasting. But verse 30 says I need His righteousness, His sanctification and His redemption. My righteous deeds are nothing but filthy rags in the sight of God (Isa. 64:6). If it were at least a desire that originated within myself that led me to Christ, I would have some room for boasting. But verses 27 and 28 say He chose me. Verses 2, 9, 24 and 26 say He called me. Verse 21 says He saved me. And verse 30 says "by His doing (I am) in Christ Jesus." If I could look at myself and say there was something in me that God liked, something He felt could benefit His kingdom, I would have some room for boasting. But verse 26 says there are not many Christians wise, mighty and noble according to the flesh. Verse 27 and 28 say He has chosen the foolish, weak, base and despised things of the world.

Paul spoke a lot about the Corinthians' sins in chapter one, but we don't find one commentating word about anything in the Corinthians themselves. Maybe that's why he began the letter in verse 4 by saying; "I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus."

God has designed it in such a way that none of us can take any credit. There is nothing we did to deserve, earn or produce our salvation. All of us stand empty before Him. We are all leveled at the foot of the cross. God orchestrated His plan, verse 29, "So that no man may boast before (Him)."

We recall the third stanza of the Christian classic, "Rock of Ages:"

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Augustus M. Toplady, 1776

Where is the room for boasting? In ourselves? That's as foolish as it gets! No, our boasting should be in the Lord! We've been created to boast in that which is good. It comes very naturally for us as humans. But we as humans are not good. When we boast in ourselves we sin. However, when we boast with the right attitude over the right Object we actually have the capacity to honor God. According to verse 31, "So that, just as it is written, 'Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord'" (cf. 2 Cor. 10:17).

The quote comes from Jeremiah 9: "Thus says the LORD, 'Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,' declares the Lord" (Jer. 9:23-24).

We learned so much about Paul's focus on the cross the past two weeks. We should not be surprised that he made a similar comment in Galatians 6. "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14).

You see, God didn't call us from the world only to see us act like the world. We have been crucified to the world. We jettison the foolishness of the world, but we keep the cross. We bear it joyfully for the sake of Jesus. We deny ourselves and follow Him gladly boasting in all He has accomplished on our behalf.

And when the whole church adopts this attitude of humility and seeks to bring God glory in all things, we will have a unified environment. We will be the jars of clay that seek not to exhibit our own beauty, but rather His grace that mightily works within us. We will prefer one another. We will speak positively of each other. We will forsake our rights. We will reconcile relationships. We will avoid that which causes division. We will promote unity because all of these are the fruit of self-denial, the fruit of humility, and the fruit of God's presence and therefore all of these give further opportunity to boast in the Lord.

When I was flying to Armenia, I was inadvertently placed in first class. I had never experienced that portion of the plane before, so it was tremendous blessing. It was definitely a blessing I didn't earn or deserve. Now do you think I had the audacity to look down at others whom I believed didn't belong in that section? Do you think there was any complaining out of my mouth? Do you think I walked around with a superiority complex? Do you think I had any room to boast in myself?

Folks, it is the mercy of God that permits us another breath of air. None of us deserve to be in Christ and none of us are any better than the other in the eyes of God. Paul's goal in this morning's text is to put us in our rightful place. We all originated from the dirt. We all still struggle with sin. We are all saved solely by God's grace. We all think too highly of ourselves.

We need to cool the pride and increase the humility. We need to decrease as He increases in our lives. And in doing so, we will extinguish all divisions that stem from pride and promote the unified environment our Savior prayed for His final hours before He would suffer for our pride on the cross.

other sermons in this series

Apr 22


Edification or Self-Exaltation

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:1–40 Series: 1 Corinthians

Apr 15


Everything Minus Love Equals Nothing

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1–13 Series: 1 Corinthians

Mar 18


You Need Us

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:21–27 Series: 1 Corinthians