Wednesday 04 March 2020

Bible Book:
1 Corinthians

‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.' (v. 31b)

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 Wednesday 4 March 2020

Psalm: Psalm 3:1-6


Who belonged to the church in Corinth? There were a few people of high rank. It’s likely that Erastus, the city treasurer, was part of the church (Romans 16:23). The majority, however, were of low status (v. 26), and some would have been slaves. Not all slaves were harshly treated – they represented a considerable financial investment to their owner. But all were routinely described as ‘things’, ‘talking tools’ alongside ploughs and oxen. Paul’s language in verse 28 reflects this – "things that are low, despised, that do not exist". Slaves must have been familiar with this dehumanising approach, and it would surely have further damaged their self-esteem and sense of identity.

Unlike a Roman slave-owner, however, Paul uses this language to contradict it. God has chosen them – the Greek word ‘chosen’ is linked to ecclesia, the word for church – for a purpose: to shame those who are clever and powerful. How does this shame take effect? It’s partly that those who belong to the church have a new status within the chosen group. They know that they are someone precious in God’s sight, even if they are no more than things to their masters.

But there is more to it than that. Paul’s words about the wisdom of the cross would have spoken directly to slaves. Crucifixion was a death reserved for slaves and poor people, the ultimate sanction for those who rebelled against their owners or the state. Jesus had shared that death with them and transformed death itself into the gateway to a life free from sin. Their ultimate fear had become the reason for their hope. Not Jesus’ death alone, but the manner of his death, gave them the promise of a future with God where they would find justice instead of oppression, holiness instead of degradation, and redemption – which for a slave would mean being ‘bought back’ out of slavery into freedom.

Paul’s conclusion "let those who boast, boast in the Lord" draws on Jeremiah 9:24: "let those who glory, glory in this, that they understand me and know me". Paul’s hearers can boast in the Lord with a profound certainty that Jesus understands them and transforms their suffering into life.


To Ponder: 

  • Paul speaks directly to those who were on the margins of his society. How can we tell the stories of Jesus in such a way as to bring hope to those who are on the margins of ours?
  • Where in your life do you long to find justice, holiness and redemption?
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