1 Corinthians 1:26-31
God Chooses the Low and Despised
The second-century pagan philosopher and Christian antagonist, Celsus, had this to say about Christians: “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 as 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, dishonorable and stupid, and only slaves, women, and children” (Fee, NICNT, 81n11; quoting Origen, Contra Celsum 3.44). Celsus had no respect for Christianity or the Church for the very reason Paul mentions here: Not many of her members were considered wise, powerful, or of noble birth by worldly standards. (Incidentally, some were of noble birth but, granted, only a few.) And even more recently, the nineteenth-century atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche thought Christianity a religion only fit for slaves. (His philosophy of the uberman, the man beyond good and evil, would later feed directly into the twentieth-century monster, the Third Reich.)
These men, and many others, dislike the way God works, the way He orders things, the way He chooses. Man shall always adore the beautiful, the glamorous, the wealthy, the people and things that glitter. This is because we are so enamored with what we see, with pretense. But God is not so taken by outward appearance; God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). And God delights in turning upside-down everything man holds dear. And so He invites the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame to His banquet, and then beats the bushes for more of those the world deems unfit (Luke 14:12-23). He says things like the first shall be last and the last first (Matthew 19:30). Indeed, God seems to have no respect for a man’s intelligence, wealth, or estimation of his own self-worth. So men like Celsus and Nietzsche, who declined to come to the banquet, shake their fist at God for being so, well, … unfair.
And why does God do things this way? “So that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” “So that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” You see, God will save His people by His own method, so despised by man—the crucifixion of His own dear Son. And salvation shall be by His grace, or nothing. Our God gives His glory to no other (Isaiah 42:8), and He deserves all the praise. And He shall have His praise—from the beggar Lazaruses, the Mary Magdalenes, and, I hope, us.