1 Corinthians 1:26 “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.”
God does things according to His provision. He does not depend on education, philosophy, science, or any human device for doing His will.
This verse shows that God does not depend on nobility or might to accomplish His purposes. God does not count on either philosophy, or power, or nobility itself to win people to Christ. God uses frail instruments to carry out His ends.
For you see your calling, brethren,
The word “for” indicates further proof of verse 25— “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” The Corinthians could “see” their calling by looking around at the Corinthian congregation. Evidently there were some human greats among them but not many. But the majority was ordinary people.
The word “calling” is the focus of the entire section. Christianity is a divine act, not a human act. The New Testament never uses the Greek word for “calling” for human employment or vocation. It is always an act of calling by God’s initiative.
1 Co 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
If God chose us in His calling, there is no place for human pride. If God takes the initiative and God makes the provision, then there is no place for works. God does the work and God does the calling. The “brethren” needed to take a close look at this.
that not many wise according to the flesh,
Paul modifies the word “wise” with “according to the flesh.” God does not use human norms and standards to establish His plans. He does convey wisdom but not the wisdom confined to time and space—human wisdom, the criterion of human rationalism or empiricism, or even postmodernism.
not many mighty,
God does not put His plan for the gospel at the mercy of the mighty—great power of influence of great leaders, politicians, or military strategy. The glory of God’s conquest does not depend on mighty messengers who can wield authority but on the power of His message supernaturally revealed.
not many noble, are called.
“Noble” are aristocrats, blue blood, families of high decent. God does not try to make the gospel fashionable before people can receive it.
Note the three uses of the word “many.” God did not say “any.” God calls some wise, some mighty, and some noble but not many. Not many great philosophers, presidents, kings or queens of the world are believers. Some of the Praetorian Guard (some of the most influential people in the Roman world—they chose the Caesar) came to Christ (Ph 4:22).
God’s demonstrates His wisdom in the gospel.
The gospel is not a product of human machinations or devises. God uses methodology different from our expectation. He turns our viewpoints upside down. He uses the scandal of the cross. The issue at stake is God’s power, not man’s power. The questions asked earlier in this chapter are “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?” What real value is there in their systems? We can put no trust in their systems.
The issue addressed in this passage is not anti-intellectualism or irrationalism. The question at hand is that man is at the mercy of God in revealing Himself. Man cannot find infinite things by finite methods.
Note T. S. Elliot’s warning of elevating human wisdom too far:
All our knowledge brings us closer to our ignorance.
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death.
But nearness to death, no nearer to God.
Where is the life we have lost in living?
God’s ways “seem” foolish to man (1:25) but the most minimal thing God ever thought is greater than the best thing man ever thought. That is why God uses the weak things of the world to “confound” the great of the world (1:26-28).
God does not choose human greatness to do His work—He rejects it as a value in itself. He does not reject great people but He rejects their greatness as a means of reaching people for Christ. This runs counter to the world system. God chooses the weaker and less noble and weaker to prove the power of His message.
The thesis of this verse gives lie to the idea that only professional athletes, outstanding CEOs, or politicians can testify mightily for Christ.
Human methodologies preempt God’s method of truth—the gospel of Christ. Humility to accept God’s message is a first prerequisite in becoming a Christian. God always works by giving grace to the humble.
Lady Huntington, a noble and very wealthy friend of Wesley said that she was “saved by an ‘M.” God is not top-down in His method; His plan is bottom-up because He wants His messengers to rest on His message.