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A big head is always an impediment to spiritual growth, and collectively speaking, the Corinthians had one. They inflated their importance by lining up behind leaders, whose importance they also inflated. This led to quarrelsome division. If your importance is tied to your leader’s, then you’re going to argue that your leader is more important than the others’ to make yourself look good.
Paul took a few inches off the Corinthian hat size by reminding them of three things: (1) The message of the cross was foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18-25). (2) Its audience—the Corinthians—were unimpressive (1:26-31). And (3) the messenger who had brought them to faith—Paul—didn’t cut an impressive figure either (2:1-5). If the message, audience, and messenger were humble, the audience couldn’t be proud.
We’ve already looked at the message, so let’s look at what Paul says about the audience in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29:
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
Paul made three factual statements he knew the Corinthians couldn’t deny. “Not many” of them “were wise by human standards,” “influential,” or “of noble birth.” This implies that a few of them were, of course, but most weren’t. It is humbling to look around the sanctuary on Sunday morning and realize you aren’t surrounded by the world’s movers and shakers.
I remember attending church with a group of men on a spiritual retreat. The group included a United States senator. The pastor introduced the senator first, then us afterward. My head swelled. “What must these people think of me that I’m so important that I hang out with a United States senator?” Nothing evidently. No one talked to me afterward. They crowded around the senator. And I was only on the retreat in the first place because my dad was a founding member of the group. Oh, and the group never invited me back. Talk about an inch off your hat size!
So, the church at Corinth wasn’t full of movers and shakers. Yours probably isn’t either. But God is present, and I hear he’s kind of a big deal, the Mover and Shaker of the universe. Paul wrote: God “chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” In other words, God chose us to make a point. As John Ortberg puts it, “There is a God. It isn’t you.”
If that doesn’t shrink your hat size a few inches, nothing will.
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