In 1 Corinthians 1:17-31 Paul went on to tell us that people make two kinds of foolish demands on the Lord. “The Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:22). He is talking about the two kinds of people — those in the family of God (the Jews), and those outside the family of God (the Gentiles). We know that there are two kinds of people in the family of God — the saved and the lost (Romans 9:6), but there are also two kinds of people not in the family of God — the un-savable and the not-yet-saved (Luke 2:32).
The Jews required signs or miracles to confirm the mission of the Old Testament prophets who were sent to them. That’s the traditional way that they certified their prophets. It was quite natural for them to insist on a sign to prove that Jesus was the true Messiah. Like the Jews of old, many people in the churches today are still waiting for a miracle to establish their faith. Yet, Jesus performed many miracles during His life on earth, and was resurrected from the dead and seated at the right hand of God as the ultimate miracle. Makes me wonder what people are waiting for today!
Paul also said that those outside the church, those who don’t know the Lord seek wisdom — and not knowing the Lord, they seek worldly wisdom, godless wisdom. Many of them seek it as a substitute for God, as a way of salvation. Indeed, liberalism teaches salvation through knowledge or education. The civil government currently preaches salvation through education in their public schools. According to the state, education is the standard cure for everything — poverty, crime, drug abuse, domestic violence, etc. Again, it is not education per se, or wisdom or intelligence itself that is the problem. The problem is godlessness. Godless education or godless wisdom is futile because only God can change the heart. Only God can change the mind.
I’m not trying to undercut the importance of education. It is very important. But education does not save people from sin. Everyone needs education, both categories of the saved and both categories of the lost will benefit from biblical education. The saved need to be educated in godliness for their own sanctification. The lost who are not-yet-saved need to be educated in godliness in order to draw them into salvation and sanctification. The un-savable need to be educated in godliness in order to help them from being as evil as they can be. Even the un-savable benefit from a biblical education. They aren’t saved by it, but they learn about the role of law and the fact that the state has been instituted to punish those who break the law, and knowing that contributes to better behavior, which benefits everyone, including themselves. Conversely, there is no need for godless education. Ignorance of the Bible only serves to encourage godlessness and sin.
Paul goes on to say that “God chose what is low and despised in the world … to bring to nothing things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:28). God did not choose what was popular. He didn’t choose successful people, or beautiful people, or smart people. He chose what was despised, that which is contemptible, least esteemed, and most unpopular. Why would the Lord do that? Because Scripture teaches that people are sinners and that sin likes to be dressed in wisdom, intelligence, popularity and beauty.
Sinners are caught up in their own thinking, their own values. They are caught up in themselves, and will not yield to a superior wisdom. Sinners will not heed Scripture. They refuse to learn from history. They are unteachable because they think that they know better. They cannot escape the limitations of their own desires. They are proud of themselves, even when they are soft-spoken.
Conversely, Paul tells us that God has arranged things “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (v. 29). God alone “is the source of your life in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Everything in Scripture and history points to the fact that God is the author and finisher of human salvation, and that people are sinners and completely unable to save themselves. Salvation is by and through Jesus Christ alone, “whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). There is no salvation at all apart from biblical salvation in Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12).
Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31). All pride is forbidden, except pride in Jesus Christ. We are not to take pride in anything — not in our favorite sports team, not in our own accomplishments, not in our abilities, not in our generosity, not in our theology, not in our church, not in our nation. The only pride a Christian has is pride in Jesus Christ, and the road to that kind of pride goes through the valley of humility.
This is not an argument against cheering on a home team, nor against the playing or watching of sports. But it does stand as an accusation against the contemporary sports industry that drives an unhealthy sports mania that promotes values that are opposed to the gospel.