For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. (27) But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; (28) and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, (29) that no flesh should glory in His presence.
What the apostle Paul is saying here is that very few of the hundreds which were chosen to populate these lists have been chosen by God and listed by Him in the company of the redeemed. In other words, God’s gracious purpose of election has turned the social order upside down! Instead of the wise, mighty and noble; God has chosen the foolish, the weak and the despised!
But notice that Paul does not say that God has not chosen any of the wise, mighty or noble; but not many. George Whitefield, the evangelist of the Great Awakening, had much of his expenses underwritten by a noble lady known as the Countess of Huntingdon. She was both wealthy and influential and as a believer she used her wealth and influence for the propagation of the gospel. She used to say that she was saved by a “M,” meaning the difference between “many” and any in verse 26. But the majority of Christians throughout the ages have not been the rich and famous, but the poor and obscure. Paul’s point in this text is that this is intentional on God’s part! As commentator Gordon Fee has noted:
God, it turns out, deliberately chose the foolish things of the world, the cross, and the Corinthian believers, so that he could remove forever, from every human creature, any possible grounds on their of standing in the divine presence with something in their hands.
Literally, God has chosen the mora (Gk. for foolish), the morons! God has chosen the weak, the base agene or “no birth” as opposed to the eugeneis noble or “well born” of verse 26. The despised and the “nobodies” things which are not.
How despised were the early Christians? In the late 2nd century, an opponent of Christianity named Celsus wrote:
Their injunctions are like this. “Let no one educated, no one wise, no one sensible draw near. For these abilities are thought by us to be evils. But for anyone ignorant, anyone stupid, anyone uneducated, anyone who is a child, let him come boldly”. By the fact that they themselves admit that these people are worthy of their God, they show that they want and are able to convince only the foolish, dishonourable and stupid, and only slaves, women and children.
Quoted by Origen in Contra Celsum 3.44 (transl. H. Chadwick; Cambridge, 1965, p. 158).
But what Celsus would see as the shame of Christianity, the apostle Paul sees as its own glory and ultimately the glory of God Himself! No flesh will glory in God’s presence!
To God Alone Be the Glory!
Soli Deo Gloria