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Christ the Power and Wisdom of God

18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

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18. For the preaching of the cross, etc. In this first clause a concession is made. For as it might very readily be objected, that the gospel is commonly held in contempt, if it be presented in so bare and abject a form, Paul of his own accord concedes this, but when he adds, that it is so in the estimation of them that perish, he intimates that no regard must be paid to their judgment. For who would choose to despise the gospel at the expense of perishing? This statement, therefore, must be understood in this way: “However the preaching of the cross, as having nothing of human wisdom to recommend it to esteem, is reckoned foolishness by them that perish; in our view, notwithstanding, the wisdom of God clearly shines forth in it.” He indirectly reproves, however, the perverted judgment of the Corinthians, who, while they were, through seduction of words, too easily allured by ambitious teachers, regarded with disdain an Apostle who was endowed with the power of God for their salvation, and that simply because he devoted himself to the preaching of Christ. In what way the preaching of the cross is the power of God unto salvation, we have explained in commenting upon Romans 1:16

19. For it is written, etc. He shows still farther, from the testimony of Isaiah, how unreasonable a thing it is that the truth of the gospel should be regarded with prejudice on the ground that the wise of this world hold it in contempt, not to say derision. For it is evident from the words of the Prophet, that their opinion is regarded as nothing in the account of God. The passage is taken from Isaiah 29:14, where the Lord threatens that he will avenge himself upon the hypocrisy of the people by this kind of punishment, that wisdom will perish from the wise, etc. Now the application of this to the subject in hand is this: “It is nothing new or unusual for men to form utterly absurd judgments, who appear in other respects to be distinguished for wisdom. For in this manner the Lord has been wont to punish the arrogance of those who, depending on their own judgment, think to be leaders to themselves and others. In this manner did He, among the Israelitish people of old, destroy the wisdom of those who were the leaders of the people. If this happened among a people, whose wisdom the other nations had occasion to admire, what will become of others?”

It is proper, however, to compare the words of the Prophet with those of Paul, and to examine the whole matter still more closely. The Prophet, indeed, makes use of neuter verbs when he says, Wisdom will perish and prudence will vanish, while Paul turns them into the active form, by making them have a reference to God. They are, however, perfectly the same in meaning. For this is a great prodigy which God declares he will exhibit, so that all will be filled with astonishment. Wisdom, therefore, perishes, but it is by the Lord’s destroying it: wisdom vanishes, but it is by the Lord’s covering it over and effacing it. As to the second term αθετεῖν, (which Erasmus renders reject,) as it is ambiguous, and is sometimes taken to mean efface, or expunge, or obliterate, I prefer to understand it in this sense here, so as to correspond with the Prophet’s word vanish, or be hid. At the same time, there is another reason that has weighed more with me, 8383     “Combien que j’aye vne raison encore plus valable, qui m’a induit a changer ceste translation;” — “At the same time, I have a still more forcible reason, which has induced me to alter this translation.” — that the word reject was not in accordance with the subject, as will appear ere long. Let us see, then, as to the meaning.

The Prophet’s meaning, without doubt, is precisely this, that they would no longer have governors that would rule well, because the Lord will deprive them of sound judgment and intelligence. For as he elsewhere threatens to send blindness upon the whole nation (Isaiah 6:10,) so here, upon the leaders; which is just as though he were plucking the eyes out of the body. However this may be, a great difficulty arises from the circumstance, that the term wisdom or prudence was taken by Isaiah in a good sense, while Paul quotes it for an opposite purpose, as though the wisdom of men were condemned by God, as being perverted, and their prudence set aside as being mere vanity. I confess that it is commonly expounded in this way; but as it is certain that the oracles of the Holy Spirit are not perverted by the Apostles to meanings foreign to their real design, I choose rather to depart from the common opinion of interpreters than to charge Paul with falsehood. In other respects, too, the natural meaning of the Prophet’s words accords not ill with Paul’s intention; for if even the wisest become fools, when the Lord takes away a right spirit, what confidence is to be placed in the wisdom of men? Farther, as it is God’s usual way of punishing, to strike blind those who, following implicitly their own judgment, are wise in their own esteem, it is not to be wondered if carnal men, when they rise up against God, with the view of subjecting His eternal truth to their rashness, are turned into fools, and become vain in their imaginations. We now see with what appropriateness Paul makes use of this testimony. Isaiah declares that the vengeance of God upon all those that served God with their own inventions would be, that wisdom would vanish from their wise men. Paul, with the view of proving that the wisdom of this world is vain and worthless, when it exalts itself against God, adduces this testimony from Isaiah.

20. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? This expression of triumph is added for the purpose of illustrating the Prophet’s testimony. Paul has not taken this sentiment from Isaiah, as is commonly thought, but speaks in his own person. For the passage which they point to (Isaiah 33:18) has nothing corresponding to the subject in hand, or nearly approaching to it. For in that passage, while he promises to the Jews deliverance from the yoke of Sennacherib, that he may magnify the more this great blessing from God, he shows how miserable is the condition of those that are oppressed by the tyranny of foreigners. He says, that they are in a constant fever of anxiety, from thinking themselves beset with scribes or questors, treasurers, and counters of towers. Nay more, he says, that the Jews were involved in such difficulties, that they were stirred up to gratitude by the very remembrance of them. 8484     The passage referred to in Isaiah is happily rendered by Lowth:-Thine heart shall reflect on the past terror: Where is now the accomptant? where the weigher of tribute? where is he that numbered the towers? The last of these expressions Lowth explains to mean, “the commander of the enemy’s forces, who surveyed the fortifications of the city, and took an account of the height, strength, and situation of the walls and towers, that he might know where to make the assault with the greatest advantage.” — Ed. It is a mistake, therefore, to suppose that this sentence is taken from the Prophet. 8585     “The words of Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:20, ποῦ σοφός; ποῦ γραμματεύς; ποῦ συζητητὴς κ.τ.λ., are not, as some have imagined, a quotation of the words of this verse,” (Isaiah 33:18;) “the only points of agreement between them being merely the occurrence of γραμματεὺς, and the repetition of the interrogative τοῦ. It is not impossible, however, that the structure of the one passage may have suggested the other.” — Henderson on Isaiah. — Ed The term world, ought not to be taken in connection with the last term merely, but also with the other two. Now, by the wise of this world, he means those who do not derive their wisdom from illumination by the Spirit through means of the word of God, but, endowed with mere worldly sagacity, rest on the assurance which it affords.

It is generally agreed, that by the term scribes is meant teachers. For as ספר, saphar, among the Hebrews, means to relate or recount, and the noun derived from it, ספר, sepher,, is used by them to signify a book or volume, they employ the term סופרימ, sopherim, to denote learned men, and those that are conversant with books; and, for the same reason, too, sopher regis is often used to denote a chancellor or secretary The Greeks, following the etymology of the Hebrew term, have translated it γραμματεις, scribes 8686     The Hebrew phrase referred to occurs in 2 Kings 12:10 ספר המלך (the king’s scribe.) It is rendered by the Septuagint, ὁ γραμματεύς τοῦ βασιλέως The corresponding Greek term, γραμματεις is employed by the classical writers to denote a clerk or secretary, (Demosth. 269.19.) The γραμματεις (notaries) “had the custody of the laws and the public records, which it was their business to write, and to repeat to the people and senate when so required.” — Potters Grecian Antiquities, volume 1. — Ed He appropriately gives the name of investigators 8787     Calvin, here has manifestly in his eye the original meaning of συζητητης, which is derived from συν and ζητεω (to inquire together,) and comes very naturally to mean one that indulges in arguments or disputes. The term was applied to the subtle Sophists, or disputants in the Greek academies. — Ed to those that show off their acuteness by starting difficult points and involved questions. Thus in a general way he brings to nothing man’s entire intellect, so as to give it no standing in the kingdom of God. Nor is it without good reason that he inveighs so vehemently against the wisdom of men, for it is impossible to express how difficult a thing it is to eradicate from men’s minds a misdirected confidence in the flesh, that they may not claim for themselves more than is reasonable. Now there is more than ought to be, if, depending even in the slightest degree upon their own wisdom, they venture of themselves to form a judgment.

Hath not God made foolish, etc By wisdom here he means everything that man can comprehend either by the natural powers of his understanding, or as deriving aid from practice, from learning, or from a knowledge of the arts. For he contrasts the wisdom of the world with the wisdom of the Spirit. Hence, whatever knowledge a man may come to have without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, is included in the expression, the wisdom of this world This he says God has utterly made foolish, that is, He has convicted it of folly. This you may understand to be effected in two ways; for whatever a man knows and understands, is mere vanity, if it is not grounded in true wisdom; and it is in no degree better fitted for the apprehension of spiritual doctrine than the eye of a blind man is for discriminating colors. We must carefully notice these two things — that a knowledge of all the sciences is mere smoke, where the heavenly science of Christ is wanting; and man, with all his acuteness, is as stupid for obtaining of himself a knowledge of the mysteries of God, as an ass is unqualified for understanding musical harmonies. For in this way he reproves the destructive pride of those who glory in the wisdom of the world so as to despise Christ, and the entire doctrine of salvation, thinking themselves happy when they are taken up with creatures; and he beats down the arrogance of those who, trusting to their own understanding, attempt to scale heaven itself.

There is also a solution furnished at the same time to the question, how it happens that Paul in this way throws down upon the ground every kind of knowledge that is apart from Christ, and tramples, as it were, under foot what is manifestly one of the chief gifts of God in this world. For what is more noble than man’s reason, in which man excels the other animals? How richly deserving of honor are the liberal sciences, which polish man, so as to give him the dignity of true humanity! Besides this, what distinguished and choice fruits they produce! Who would not extol with the highest commendations civil prudence 8888     “La prudence civile, c’est a dire la science des lois;” — “Civil prudence, that is to say, the science of laws.” (not to speak of other things,) by which governments, principalities, and kingdoms are maintained? A solution of this question, I say, is opened up to view from the circumstance, that Paul does not expressly condemn either man’s natural perspicacity, or wisdom acquired from practice and experience, or cultivation of mind attained by learning; but declares that all this is of no avail for acquiring spiritual wisdom. And, certainly, it is madness for any one, confiding either in his own acuteness, or the assistance of learning, to attempt to fly up to heaven, or, in other words, to judge of the secret mysteries of the kingdom of God, 8989     See Institutes, volume 1. — Ed. or to break through (Exodus 19:21) to a discovery of them, for they are hid from human view. Let us, then, take notice, that we must restrict to the specialities of the case in hand what Paul here teaches respecting the vanity of the wisdom of this world — that it rests in the mere elements of the world, and does not reach to heaven. In other respects, too, it holds true, that without Christ sciences in every department are vain, and that the man who knows not God is vain, though he should be conversant with every branch of learning. Nay more, we may affirm this, too, with truth, that these choice gifts of God — expertness of mind, acuteness of judgment, liberal sciences, and acquaintance with languages, are in a manner profaned in every instance in which they fall to the lot of wicked men.

21. For since the world knew not. The right order of things was assuredly this, that man, contemplating the wisdom of God in his works, by the light of the understanding furnished him by nature, might arrive at an acquaintance with him. As, however, this order of things has been reversed through man’s depravity, God designs in the first place to make us see ourselves to be fools, before he makes us wise unto salvation, (2 Timothy 3:15;) and secondly, as a token of his wisdom, he presents to us what has some appearance of folly. This inversion of the order of things the ingratitude of mankind deserved. By the wisdom of God he means the workmanship of the whole world, which is an illustrious token and clear manifestation of his wisdom: God therefore presents before us in his creatures a bright mirror of his admirable wisdom, so that every one that looks upon the world, and the other works of God, must of necessity break forth in admiration of him, if he has a single spark of sound judgment. If men were guided to a right knowledge of God by the contemplation of his works, they would know God in the exercise of wisdom, or by a natural and proper method of acquiring wisdom; but as the whole world gained nothing in point of instruction from the circumstance, that God had exhibited his wisdom in his creatures, he then resorted to another method for instructing men. 9090     The reader will find the same train of thought as above in the Institutes, volume 1. — Ed. Thus it must be reckoned as our own fault, that we do not attain a saving acquaintance with God, before we have been emptied of our own understanding.

He makes a concession when he calls the gospel the foolishness of preaching, having that appearance in the view of those foolish sages (μωροσόφοις) who, intoxicated with false confidence, 9191     “Et outrecuidance;” — “And presumption.” fear not to subject God’s sacred truth to their senseless criticism. And indeed in another point of view nothing is more absurd in the view, of human reason than to hear that God has become mortal — that life has been subjected to death — that righteousness has been veiled under the appearance of sin — and that the source of blessing has been made subject to the curse, that by this means men might be redeemed from death, and become partakers of a blessed immortality — that they might obtain life — that, sin being destroyed, righteousness might reign — and that death and the curse might be swallowed up. We know, nevertheless, in the meantime, that the gospel is the hidden wisdom, (1 Corinthians 2:7,) which in its height surmounts the heavens, and at which angels themselves stand amazed. Here we have a most beautiful passage, from which we may see how great is the blindness of the human mind, which in the midst of light discerns nothing. For it is true, that this world is like a theater, in which the Lord presents to us a clear manifestation of his glory, and yet, notwithstanding that we have such a spectacle placed before our eyes, we are stone-blind, not because the manifestation is furnished obscurely, but because we are alienated in mind, (Colossians 1:21,)and for this matter we lack not merely inclination but ability. For notwithstanding that God shows himself openly, it is only with the eye of faith that we can behold him, save only that we receive a slight perception of his divinity, sufficient to render us inexcusable.

Accordingly, when Paul here declares that God is not known through means of his creatures, you must understand him to mean that a pure knowledge of him is not attained. For that none may have any pretext for ignorance, mankind make proficiency in the universal school of nature; so far as to be affected with some perception of deity, but what God is, they know not, nay more, they straightway become vain in their imaginations, (Romans 1:21.) Thus the light shineth in darkness, (John 1:5.) It follows, then, that mankind do not err thus far through mere ignorance, so as not to be chargeable with contempt, negligence, and ingratitude. Thus it holds good, that all

have known God, and yet have not glorified him,
(Romans 1:21,)

and that, on the other hand, no one under the guidance of mere nature ever made such proficiency as to know God. Should any one bring forward the philosophers as exceptions, I answer, that in them more especially there is presented a signal token of this our weakness. For there will not be found one of them, that has not from that first principle of knowledge, which I have mentioned, straightway turned aside into wandering 9292     “Extrauagantes;” — “Extravagant.” and erroneous speculations, and for the most part they betray a silliness worse than that of old wives. When he says, that those are saved that believe, this corresponds with the foregoing statement — that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation Farther, by contrasting believers, whose number is small, with a blind and senseless world, he teaches us that we err if we stumble at the smallness of their number, inasmuch as they have been divinely set apart to salvation.

22. For the Jews require a sign This is explanatory of the preceding statement — showing in what respects the preaching of the gospel is accounted foolishness At the same time he does not simply explain, but even goes a step farther, by saying that the Jews do not merely despise the gospel, but even abhor it. “The Jews,” says he, “desire through means of miracles to have before their eyes an evidence of divine power: the Greeks are fond of what tends to gratify human intellect by the applause of acuteness. We, on the other hand, preach Christ crucified, wherein there appears at first view nothing but weakness and folly. He is, therefore, a stumblingblock to the Jews, when they see him as it were forsaken by God. To the Greeks it appears like a fable, to be told of such a method of redemption.” By the term Greeks here, in my opinion, he does not mean simply Gentiles, but has in view those who had the polish of the liberal sciences, or were distinguished by superior intelligence. At the same time by synecdoche, all the others come in like manner to be included. Between Jews and Greeks, however, he draws this distinction, that the former, striking against Christ by an unreasonable zeal for the law, raged against the gospel with unbounded fury, as hypocrites are wont to do, when contending for their superstitions; while the Greeks, on the other hand, puffed up with pride, regarded him with contempt as insipid.

When he ascribes it to the Jews as a fault, that they are eagerly desirous of signs, it is not on the ground of its being wrong in itself to demand signs, but he exposes their baseness in the following respects: — that by an incessant demand for miracles, they in a manner sought to bind God to their laws — that, in accordance with the dullness of their apprehension, they sought as it were to feel him out 9393     There can be no doubt that Calvin refers here to an expression made use of by Paul in his discourse to the Athenians, Acts 17:27 Εἰ ἄρα γε ψηλαφήσειαν αὐτὸν καὶ εὔροιεν (if haply they may feel him out and find him.) The allusion is to a blind man feeling his way The same word is employed by Plato, (Phoed. footnote 47, edit. Forster.) ̔Ο δε μοι φαινονται ψηλαφῶντες οἱ πολλοι ὣσπερ εν σκοτει, (In this respect the many seem to me to be feeling their way as it were in the dark.) — Ed in manifest miracles — that they were taken up with the miracles themselves, and looked upon them with amazement — and, in fine, that no miracles satisfied them, but instead of this, they every day gaped incessantly for new ones. Hezekiah is not reproved for having of his own accord allowed himself to be confirmed by a sign, (2 Kings 19:29, and 2 Kings 20:8,) nor even Gideon for asking a two-fold sign, (Judges 6:37, 39.) Nay, instead of this, Ahaz is condemned for refusing a sign that the Prophet had offered him, (Isaiah 7:12.) What fault, then, was there on the part of the Jews in asking miracles? It lay in this, that they did not ask them for a good end, set no bounds to their desire, and did not make a right use of them. For while faith ought to be helped by miracles, their only concern was, how long they might persevere in their unbelief. While it is unlawful to prescribe laws to God, they wantoned with inordinate desire. While miracles should conduct us to an acquaintance with Christ, and the spiritual grace of God, they served as a hindrance in their way. On this account, too, Christ upbraids them, (Mark 8:12.)

A perverse generation seeketh after a sign.

For there were no bounds to their curiosity and inordinate desire, and for all that they had so often obtained miracles, no advantage appeared to arise from them.

24. Both Greeks and Jews He shows by this contrast, that the fact that Christ was so unfavorably received, was not owing to any fault on his part, nor to the natural disposition of mankind generally, but arose from the depravity of those who were not enlightened by God, inasmuch as the elect of God, whether Jews or Gentiles, are not hindered by any stumblingblock from coming to Christ, that they may find in him a sure salvation. He contrasts power with the stumblingblock, that was occasioned by abasement, and wisdom he contrasts with folly The sum, then, is this: — “I am aware that nothing except signs has effect upon the obstinacy of the Jews, and that nothing soothes down the haughtiness of the Greeks, except an empty show of wisdom. We ought, however, to make no account of this; because, however our Christ in connection with the abasement of his cross is a stumblingblock to the Jews, and is derided by the Greeks, he is, notwithstanding, to all the elect, of whatever nation they may be, at once the power of God unto salvation for surmounting these stumblingblocks, and the wisdom of God for throwing off that mask.” 9494     “Pour oster et faire esvanoir ceste vaine apparence, et masque de sagesse;” — “For taking away and causing to vanish, that empty show and mask of wisdom.”

25. For the foolishness of God While the Lord deals with us in such a way as to seem to act foolishly, because he does not exhibit his wisdom, what appears foolishness surpasses in wisdom all the ingenuity of men. Farther, while God appears to act with weakness, in consequence of his concealing his power, that weakness, as it is reckoned, is stronger than any power of men. We must, however, always keep it in view, that there is a concession, as I have noticed a little ago. For no one can but perceive, that in strict propriety neither foolishness nor weakness can be ascribed to God, but it was necessary, by such ironical expressions, to beat down the mad presumption of the flesh, which does not scruple to rob God of all his glory.

26. Behold your calling. As the mood of the Greek verb (βλέπετε) is doubtful, and the indicative suits the context equally as well as the imperative, I leave it to the reader’s choice which of them he may prefer. The meaning is manifestly the same in either case, for supposing it to be the indicative (ye see,) he would in that case summon them as witnesses — as of a thing that is manifest, and call them forward as it were to a thing that is present. On the other hand, understanding it in the imperative, he stirs them up, as it were, from their drowsiness to a consideration of the matter itself. The term calling may be taken in a collective sense to mean the multitude of those that are called — in this sense: “Ye see what description of persons they are among you that the Lord has called.” I am, however, rather inclined to think, that he points out the manner of their calling, and it is a most forcible argument, because it follows from this, that, if they despise the abasement of the cross, they in a manner make void their calling, in which God had acted in such a manner, as to take away all merit from human wisdom, and power, and glory. Hence he tacitly accuses them of ingratitude, because, forgetful alike of God’s grace and of themselves, they regard the gospel of Christ with disdain.

Two things, however, must be observed here — that he was desirous from the example of the Corinthians to confirm the truth of what he had said: and farther, that he designed to admonish them, that they must be entirely divested of pride, if they duly considered the order of things that the Lord had observed in their calling. To put to shame, says he, the wise and noble, and to bring to naught things that are Both expressions are appropriate, for fortitude and wisdom vanish when they are put to shame, but what has an existence requires to be brought to naught By the choosing of the poor, and the foolish, and the ignoble, he means, that God has preferred them before the great, and the wise, and the noble. For it would not have sufficed, for beating down the arrogance of the flesh, if God had placed them all upon a level. Hence, those who appeared to excel he put in the background, in order that he might thoroughly abase them. That man, however, were an arrant fool, who would infer from this, that God has in this manner abased the glory of the flesh, in order that the great and noble might be shut out from the hope of salvation. There are some foolish persons that make this a pretext for not merely triumphing over the great, as if God had cast them off, but even despising them as far beneath them. Let us, however, bear in mind, that this is said to the Corinthians, who, though they had no great distinction in the world, were nevertheless, even without any occasion, puffed up. God, therefore, by confounding the mighty, and the wise, and the great, does not design to elate with pride the weak, the illiterate, and the abject, but brings down all of them together to one level. Let those, therefore, that are contemptible in the eyes of the world, think thus with themselves: “What modesty is called for on our part, when even those that have high honor in the view of the world have nothing left them?” 9898     “Dieu ne permet de presumer d’eux mesmes;” — “God does not allow them to have confidence in themselves.” If the effulgence of the sun is obscured, what must become of the stars? If the light of the stars is extinguished, what must become of opaque objects?” The design of these observations is, that those who have been called by the Lord, while of no estimation in the view of the world, may not abuse these words of Paul by pluming their crests, but, on the contrary, keeping in mind the exhortation —

Thou standest by faith, be not high-minded, but fear,
(Romans 11:20,)

may walk thoughtfully in the sight of God with fear and humility.

Paul, however, does not say here, that there are none of the noble and mighty that have been called by God, but that there are few He states the design of this — that the Lord might bring down the glory of the flesh, by preferring the contemptible before the great. God himself, however, by the mouth of David, exhorts kings to embrace Christ, 9999     “A faire hommage a Christ;” — “To do homage to Christ.” (Psalm 2:12,) and by the mouth of Paul, too, he declares, that he will have all men to be saved, and that his Christ is offered alike to small and great, alike to kings and their subjects, (1 Timothy 2:1-4.) He has himself furnished a token of this. Shepherds, in the first place, are called to Christ: then afterwards come philosophers: illiterate and despised fishermen hold the highest rank of honor; yet into their school there are received in process of time kings and their counselors, senators and orators.

28. Things that are not He makes use of similar terms in Romans 4:17, but in a different sense. For in that passage, when describing the universal call of the pious, he says, that we are nothing previously to our being called, which must be understood as referring to reality in the sight of God, however we may appear to be something in the eyes of men. Here, the nothingness (οὐδενεια) of which he speaks must be viewed as referring to the opinion of men, as is manifest from the corresponding clause, in which he says that this is done in order that the things that are may be brought to naught For there is nothing except in appearance, because in reality we are all nothing. Things that are, therefore, you must explain to mean things that appear, so that this passage corresponds with such statements as these: —

He raiseth up the poor out of the dunghill, (Psalm 113:7.)

He raiseth up them that are cast down, (Psalm 146:8,)

and the like. Hence we may clearly see how great is the folly of those who imagine that there is in mankind some degree of merit or worthiness, which would hold a place antecedent to God’s choice.

29. That no flesh should glory Though the term flesh here, and in many passages of Scripture, denotes all mankind, yet in this passage it carries with it a particular idea; for the Spirit, by speaking of mankind in terms of contempt, beats down their pride, as in Isaiah 31:3The Egyptian is flesh and not spirit It is a sentiment that is worthy to be kept in remembrance — that there is nothing left us in which we may justly glory. With this view he adds the expression in God’s presence For in the presence of the world many delight themselves for the moment in a false glorying, which, however, quickly vanishes like smoke. At the same time, by this expression all mankind are put to silence when they come into the presence of God; as Habakkuk says —

Let all flesh keep silence before God, (Habakkuk 2:20.)

Let every thing, therefore, that is at all deserving of praise, be recognized as proceeding from God.

30. Of him are ye. Lest they should think that any of those things that he had said were inapplicable to them, he now shows the application of those things to them, inasmuch as they are not otherwise than of God For the words ye are are emphatic, as though he had said — “You have your beginning from God, who calleth those things which are not,” (Romans 4:17,) passing by those things that appear to be; and your subsistence is founded upon Christ, and thus you have no occasion to be proud. Nor is it of creation merely that he speaks, but of that spiritual existence, into which we are born again by the grace of God.

Who of God is made unto us As there are many to be found who, while not avowedly inclined to draw back from God, do nevertheless seek something apart from Christ, as if he alone did not contain all things 100100     “Toute plenitude;” — “All fulness.” (Colossians 1:19.) in himself, he reckons up in passing what and how great are the treasures with which Christ is furnished, and in such a way as to intimate at the same time what is the manner of subsistence in Christ. For when he calls Christ our righteousness, a corresponding idea must be understood — that in us there is nothing but sin; and so as to the other terms. Now he ascribes here to Christ four commendatory titles, that include his entire excellence, and every benefit that we receive from him.

In the first place, he says that he is made unto us wisdom, by which he means, that we obtain in him an absolute perfection of wisdom, inasmuch as the Father has fully revealed himself to us in him, that we may not desire to know any thing besides him. There is a similar passage in Colossians 2:3

In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Of this we shall have occasion to speak afterwards when we come to the next chapter.

Secondly, he says that he is made unto us righteousness, by which he means that we are on his account acceptable to God, inasmuch as he expiated our sins by his death, and his obedience is imputed to us for righteousness. For as the righteousness of faith consists in remission of sins and a gracious acceptance, we obtain both through Christ.

Thirdly, he calls him our sanctification, by which he means, that we who are otherwise unholy by nature, are by his Spirit renewed unto holiness, that we may serve God. From this, also, we infer, that we cannot be justified freely through faith alone without at the same time living holily. For these fruits of grace are connected together, as it were, by an indissoluble tie, 101101     The reader will find the same train of thought as above in the Institutes, volume 2. — Ed. so that he who attempts to sever them does in a manner tear Christ in pieces. Let therefore the man who seeks to be justified through Christ, by God’s unmerited goodness, consider that this cannot be attained without his taking him at the same time for sanctification, or, in other words, being renewed to innocence and purity of life. Those, however, that slander us, as if by preaching a free justification through faith we called men off from good works, are amply refuted from this passage, which intimates that faith apprehends in Christ regeneration equally with forgiveness of sins.

Observe, on the other hand, that these two offices of Christ are conjoined in such a manner as to be, notwithstanding, distinguished from each other. What, therefore, Paul here expressly distinguishes, it is not allowable mistakenly to confound.

Fourthly, he teaches us that he is given to us for redemption, by which he means, that through his goodness we are delivered at once from all bondage to sin, and from all the misery that flows from it. Thus redemption is the first gift of Christ that is begun in us, and the last that is completed. For the commencement of salvation consists in our being drawn out of the labyrinth of sin and death; yet in the meantime, until the final day of the resurrection, we groan with desire for redemption, (as we read in Romans 8:23.) If it is asked in what way Christ is given to us for redemption, I answer — “Because he made himself a ransom.”

In fine, of all the blessings that are here enumerated we must seek in Christ not the half, or merely a part, but the entire completion. For Paul does not say that he has been given to us by way of filling up, or eking out righteousness, holiness, wisdom, and redemption, but assigns to him exclusively the entire accomplishment of the whole. Now as you will scarcely meet with another passage of Scripture that more distinctly marks out all the offices of Christ, you may also understand from it very clearly the nature and efficacy of faith. For as Christ is the proper object of faith, every one that knows what are the benefits that Christ confers upon us is at the same time taught to understand what faith is.

31. He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord Mark the end that God has in view in bestowing all things upon us in Christ — that we may not claim any merit to ourselves, but may give him all the praise. For God does not despoil with the view of leaving us bare, but forthwith clothes us with his glory — yet on this condition, that whenever we would glory we must go out of ourselves. In short, man, brought to nothing in his own estimation, and acknowledging that there is nothing good anywhere but in God alone, must renounce all desire for his own glory, and with all his might aspire and aim at the glory of God exclusively. This is also more clearly apparent from the context in the writings of the Prophet, from whom Paul has borrowed this testimony; for in that passage the Lord, after stripping all mankind of glory in respect of strength, wisdom, and riches, commands us to glory only in knowing him, (Jeremiah 9:23, 24.) Now he would have us know him in such a way as to know that it is he that exercises judgment, righteousness, and mercy For this knowledge produces in us at once confidence in him and fear of him. If therefore a man has his mind regulated in such a manner that, claiming no merit to himself, he desires that God alone be exalted; if he rests with satisfaction on his grace, and places his entire happiness in his fatherly love, and, in fine, is satisfied with God alone, that man truly “glories in the Lord.” I say truly, for even hypocrites on false grounds glory in him, as Paul declares, (Romans 2:17,) when being either puffed up with his gifts, or elated with a base confidence in the flesh, or abusing his word, they nevertheless take his name upon them.