For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ -1 Corinthians 1:26-31, emphasis mine
Being well-read is not a godly virtue. Intellect is not a fruit of the spirit. High IQ is not a mark of sanctification.
Please don’t hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that Christians should aim for stupidity. I am not saying we should be ignorant about the wisdom and knowledge of the world. I am not saying we should shrug our shoulders, throw up our hands, and give up on trying to make any reasonable sense. I am not saying we should forsake good education and retreat into an isolated church bubble.
I am saying that these should not be our confidence, our hope, or our boast.
I’m saying this, because I desperately need to hear it.
This conviction has bombarded me like a sledge-hammer lately, and it strikes squarely in the middle of my pride. Many who know me would describe me as an intellectual, an intelligent woman, smart. For so much of my life I placed so much confidence and security, worth and personal value in my ability to reason out an argument, find chinks in an opposing point of view, write and speak with persuasive eloquence. I collect information like some people collect postage stamps – filing it away for a time I can show it off or auction to the highest bid for praise or admiration. All through school I sat front and middle, poised to raise my hand, smugly asserting that I was in possession of the elusive and all-powerful right answer.
The thought of being perceived as foolish terrified me. I strove to make sure that the world thought me wise, and I craved acknowledgement for my intelligence.
And I have come to the realization that in matters of eternal significance it does me absolutely no good.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. -1 Corinthians 1:18-25, emphasis mine
A few years ago I had utterly stagnated in my faith. I had reached a point where I thought I just knew what I knew and that was good enough. It was time to coast on that and pursue knowing other things – anything. I had read through the Bible several times, studied on my own, taken theology courses at Bible college, and even done a little teaching and writing.
And I was dry. So incredibly dry.
The problem is that I had amassed all the worldly wisdom – even concerning the Bible – that I could. I had studied, studied, studied and knew the information. I could rattle off Greek verb conjugations and discuss the current scholarly debates regarding the authorship of Isaiah. I was confident in my wisdom and knowledge.
What I couldn’t do was explain the gospel.
How could I possibly preach Christ crucified to others if I couldn’t even preach it to myself?
God had to humble me, draw me back into His Word, force me to work through the basics again. Despite all my knowledge, I didn’t understand justification. Despite my ability to decline the Greek word charis, I didn’t get what the Bible meant by the word “grace.” I found this period of my life devastating and humiliating.
If you had asked me back then why I thought I was going to heaven, I would have begun my answer with, “Because I….” Because I understand the Bible. Because I professed faith in Jesus. Because I repented and accepted. These things are important, and the Bible is clear that someone who is redeemed and being sanctified will have evidence of these things in their life. But these things, in and of themselves, do not save.
Now I understand what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:30: “Because of him….” Because Jesus lived a perfect life. Because Jesus died the death I earned. Because Jesus gave me his righteousness. Because Jesus is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption.
Does this sound foolish to you? Do you think that when Christ returns (hopefully quickly!) you will go to heaven because you? Or has God made foolish your wisdom, taking away your right to boast in his presence, and chosen you because of Him?
Are you willing to be thought foolish? Is your confidence in Christ? Or are you terrified of the reproach of the world, clinging to confidence in yourself?
If you do not know what I mean by the term “the gospel,” I encourage you to read a quick post about it here. As always, I love to hear your thoughts and responses!