Irony, Humility and the Workings of God

26 Jan


Photo by xandert on Morgue File.

It’s January 26. Write a post in which the number 26 plays a role.

I was 26 once. Honestly, I do not remember much about it. The only thing I can say for certain about that year is it was 2000 and we had lived through the fallout of Y2K. It all seemed a bit silly to me then, as it still does looking back. I knew of some people who had suddenly become Doomsday Preppers! They stored any and everything imaginable. They started raising chickens or hogs or emus even, to survive the cataclysmic events of Y2K. As we all know, Y2K came and went as uneventful as a winter’s nap. Was there ever any real danger? I do not know. All I know is after it was all said and done, many had egg on their face, as well as plenty of eggs in the fridge from their newly purchased chickens and emus!

I have been preparing for my Wednesday night bible study. I am leading a series in the book of Colossians at our local church. As I prepared yesterday, some of my research took me to the book of 1 Corinthians. The church in Corinth was an interesting lot, to say the least. Paul wrote at least three letters to them: two we have preserved in the New Testament (NT), the other has been lost to time. I am not here going to go into all the Corinthian issues, but when I saw the prompt for today, I thumbed through different passages containing the number twenty-six and then turned to 1 Cor. 1.26. Here is what it says,

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

This verse reminded me of a sermon I just recently heard, by one of my favorite NT scholars, D.A. Carson. His sermon is titled The Ironies of the Cross. In the sermon he points out, as you would suspect, the several ironies concerning the events of the crucifixion of Christ. For instance, he talks about the irony of Christ being mocked as King of the Jews. As he was scourged, the soldiers mocked him by putting a purple robe around him and a crown of thorns upon his head; and, with sarcastic revelry, jeered at him, mocking him, proclaiming him King of the Jews. Not only that, but when he was crucified, above his head, written in three languages, was the charge of the same mockery.

The irony, as Carson points out, is Jesus really was King of the Jews! What the Roman authorities and soldiers did in jest and mockery, was in fact, the truth! At one point of his interrogation, Pilate looks at Jesus and asks, What is truth? Based on the many ironies Carson points out, Pilate did not have a clue as to the answer of his riddle.

Not only that, but Jesus is declared in the NT to be, not only King of the Jews, but King of the Universe: King of kings and Lord of lords. In the prologue to John’s gospel, chapter one, he declares Jesus created all things, as the Word (Logos) of God. Colossians states the same in chapter one, verses fifteen to twenty.

I have taught and discussed with different individuals and classes, what I call the paradoxes of the Christian faith. For instance, Christ taught that in order for us to truly live (unto him) we must die, die to self. Another would be the understanding of being great means being humble and meek. On and on we could go.

Here in 1 Cor. 1.26, we have some more of these ironies or paradoxes, depending on how you look at it. In the passage, Paul teaches us that there is no place for pride or grandstanding on the part of the follower of Christ. In the verses that follow, Paul points out that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. God chose the weak things to shame the strong. He chose the lowly to bring to naught the things that are.

I mean, just think about it. God did this all along the way. Think about the birth of Jesus the Messiah. How many of us would have chosen to bring it about the way God did it? The Messiah, the long-awaited and promised Savior of his people, who is God in flesh, being born in a manger? God incarnate being born as a baby; having to grow and learn and depend on the fumblings of humans for his nourishment and very life? This all seems rather odd. Not only this, but he was born to a virgin maid, married to a tradesman (a carpenter) from a little, no account place called Nazareth? Even Nathaniel, when hearing it reported that Jesus was the long promised Messiah, and learning he hailed from Nazareth, snidely remarked, Has any good thing ever come from Nazareth? Ouch!

This One, who was Savior of, not only his people, but the entire world, had no formal training. He was no Pharisee. He did not attend the rabbinical schools of his day. He was a poor, itinerant preacher, surrounded by a motley crew of disciples: fishermen, tax collectors . . . simple, everyday sort of men. No scholars. No highly educated fellows. Odd indeed.

Yet, this is how God chose to do it.

It is this irony that Paul picks up on in 1 Corinthians. While there are many lessons to glean from Paul’s argument there: one thing is sure, God does not need the wise or strong to accomplish his will and purposes. God is fully sufficient, all on his own, to accomplish what he has planned. Yet, in grace, he allows us to be part of it all.

Paul makes the lesson clear in verse twenty-nine, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. Boasting, arrogance, pride, conceit . . . whatever you want to call it, has no place, absolutely no place, in the lives of believers. The scripture teaches us over and over that all the good that is done in and through us is a result of the grace and power of God. God alone deserves the glory and the praise. In another place, Paul would say humbly that he boasted in nothing except the cross of Jesus Christ.

The Way of Christ is one of humility, meekness and gentleness. This is the example we have learned from our Master. It is the way he commands us to imitate. We are to lead lives of Christlikeness, lives emulating, by the power and grace of his Holy Spirit, the life of our Savior and Lord.

Paul reminds us in Corinthians that God did not choose us because we were so great and mighty. We were not the prized recruit or draft choice that God was anxiously hoping would fall in his lap, so his kingdom could take the next step forward; no, we had nothing at all to offer him, nothing save sin, disgrace and death. But God, who is rich in love and mercy, took our sin, by the death and resurrection of his dear Son, and exchanged it for forgiveness and promised perfection. God took our disgrace upon himself, in Christ, and exchanged it for light and glory and honor. God took our death, Christ dying vicariously for us, and exchanged it for resurrection and life.

Where then is our boasting? Only in the grace and love of God!

Anything less would be ironical, or paradoxical at the least!


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12 responses to “Irony, Humility and the Workings of God

  1. gapark

    January 26, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    there are so many layers in the scriptures. This is especially true in the parables. You can see so many levels of meaning. Great post! Gail @

    • Timothy Murray

      January 27, 2014 at 8:42 am

      HI Gail, thanks for the read and comment!


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