Christ Covenant Church
Jon Marq Toombs
8 October 2017
Texts: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Last week we started a new series on the Five Solas of the Reformation. Bo preached on the doctrine of Sola Scriptura which says the scriptures alone are “the only rule to direct us how we may glorify God and enjoy him, and what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man.” (WSC Q:2-3)
Today I will be preaching on Solus Christus which says that the person and work of Jesus Christ alone is efficient and sufficient for the salvation of sinners. Jesus Christ alone is the one and only savior of sinners.
The scripture text for our sermon is 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Hear the word of the Lord:
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 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. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
May God add his blessing to the reading, preaching, and hearing of his word.
A Reformation Debate:
In 1539 Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto sent a letter to the magistrates and citizens of Geneva. In the letter he called the Genevans to leave evangelical heresies once for all and to return to the Mother Church.
For Sadoleto, salvation is found only within the Church he calls the mother “who regenerates us all”. A right relationship with the Mother Church is salvific. According to the Cardinal “we obtain this blessing of complete and perpetual salvation by faith alone in God and in Jesus Christ.” On the surface he seemed to agree with the Reformers, however, for him faith alone was not “a mere credulity and confidence in God” that removed the need for charity and duty. The cross and blood of Christ “is necessary and forms the first access we have to God, but it is not enough.”
In his view, a sinner must draw near to God with the right motives, right understanding, right convictions (to summarize his argument).
This sounds just like like a church that some of us used to be part of!
For Sadoleto, salvation is the result of a co-operative process between God and sinners. The gospel of salvation has two main phases. First, God does his part in the cross of Christ. Then sinners must do their part.
He says, “If we lapse into sin…we rise up in the same faith of the Church; and by whatever expiations, penances, and satisfactions, she tells us that our sin is washed away, and we (always by the grace and mercy of God) are restored to our former integrity, these methods of expiation and satisfaction we have the option to use—trusting, when we do so, to find a place of mercy and pardon with God.”
So that means God’s grace gets you started, but your works get you finished.
By way of contrast, for Calvin, salvation is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ. A right relationship with God through Christ alone is salvific. He says:
We show that the only haven of safety is in the mercy of God, as manifested in Christ, in whom every part of our salvation is complete. As all mankind are, in the sight of God, lost sinners, we hold that Christ is their only righteousness, since, by his obedience, he has wiped off our transgressions; by his sacrifice, appeased the divine anger; by his blood, washed away our sins; by his cross, borne our curse, and by his death, made satisfaction for us. We maintain that in this way man is reconciled in Christ to God the Father, by no merit of his own, by no value of works, but by gratuitous mercy. (A Reformation Debate)
I share this story from A Reformation Debate with you for two reasons.
First, I want to you know what was happening at the time of the Reformation and what was at stake. Catholics believed salvation is found in Christ plus the Mother Church. Protestants believed salvation is found in Christ alone. The gospel was at stake.
Second, I want you to know that the more things change, the more they remain the same. There are still deeply religious protestant evangelical groups who believe that salvation is found in Christ plus something else — Christ plus their denomination, or Christ plus their baptismal formula, or Christ plus their desire and effort and works, Christ plus their special prayers.
Sadly, they empty the cross of Christ of its saving power and wisdom. Little do they know, they preach a different gospel which is no good news at all.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is still at stake in our day.
What I hope and pray you hear loud and clear today is that salvation is found in Christ alone. Period. Full stop.
We just read about the message of the cross as God’s wisdom and power, but I want to draw your attention to verse 26.
Let us see how God-centered the gospel is, and how Christ-centered God’s work in the gospel is.
God Called You to Christ Alone – 1:26
Consider your calling.
The word consider is an imperative/command. It means “take a close hard look at” something–in this case take a close look at your calling.
If we were reading 1 Corinthians from the beginning we would see that Paul uses the word call in different ways. He was called to be an apostle (1:1) and the Corinthians Christians were called to be saints along with all other Christians who call on the Lord Jesus Christ (1:2). They were also called into fellowship with Jesus (1:9) and called to believe the message of the cross (1:24).
Consider your calling — Paul reminds us of God’s gracious initiative in our salvation by urging us to take a deeper look at who we were when God called us.
– Not many were wise according to flesh
– Not many were “dynamic” / powerful
– Not many were “eugenic” (well-born)
Paul makes it clear that God called us unconditionally. That means God called us out of the world and into Christ on the basis of what he saw in Christ alone not on the basis of anything he saw in us.
Not our intelligence. Not our influence. Not our integrity. Not our insight.
As Paul explains in Romans 9, God called us by grace before we were born and before we had done anything good or bad. Why?! — in order that his purpose of election might stand: not because of our works but because of Jesus who calls by grace and mercy.
So consider your calling. God called you on the basis of his mercy, not your merits, on the basis of his grace, not your goodness.
The gospel declares that God’s calling and choosing depend on his mercy alone not on our desire or effort at all. God has mercy on whomever he desires, and he hardens whomever he desires.
We were called from something and called to Someone.
God is faithful — he called us from our alienation and separation from God in our sin, and he called us into the communion of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor 1:9).
God Chose You for Christ Alone – 1:27-29
Paul says “God chose” three times in this text and he implies it two more times. In scripture when something is witnessed two or three times, a fact is established.
The Greek word for chose means to pick out, select, choose out of a group, mass, or cluster. Paul is driving home the point that God chose, selected, and picked you out of a sinful mass of humanity.
Here again we see God’s gracious initiative in our salvation. God called us by grace and God chose us by grace. In addition to his gracious initiative we see his gracious purpose.
– God chose the foolish of the world in order to shame the wise.
– God chose the weak of the world in order to shame the strong.
– God chose the “a-genic” (low-born) of the world and
– [God chose] the despicable
– [God chose] the nothings in order to nullify/abolish the somethings.
This is Paul’s way of telling the Church what Moses told Israel:
You are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)
In Christ alone, God hand-picked broken icons, damaged goods, and wrecked sinners in order to destroy the power and glory the flesh by the weakness and shame of the cross.
The gospel of God’s grace is counter-intuitive. God calls the nothings and chooses to make them something for his glory and their good.
God Called and Chose You in Christ Alone – 1:30-31
Now we come to the crux of the text. ἐξ αὐτοῦ [τοῦ θεοῦ] δὲ ὑμεῖς ἐστεἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ Because of God you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
Christ is our true and better safe place. And God alone is the reason you are in Christ. He caused you to get in Christ. He made it happen all by himself without your help, without your cooperation.
As the Shorter Catechism puts it:
WSC 29: We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.
WSC 30: The Spirit applies to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.
WSC 31: This effectual calling and choosing is “the work of God’s Spirit, whereby he persuades and enables us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel, by faith, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills.”
God called you to Christ, and chose you in Christ, and God connected you to Christ.
So, you see, it is really and truly because of him that you are in Christ Jesus.
If you are in Christ, then Christ alone is your Wisdom.
All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. He is your life- and worldview, the sense through which you make sense of life, the universe, everything.
In Christ the wisdom of God created the world, and in Christ the wisdom of God re-creates the world.
This wisdom was manifested in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Those who are perishing regard Christ crucified as foolishness, but those who are called by God regard Christ crucified as the wisdom of God.
The cross makes everything make sense.
In Christ crucified we find the embodiment of wisdom from God – not an earthly wisdom based on human experience, not an abstract wisdom generated by human intelligence, but a heavenly wisdom, rooted and grounded in God’s revelation of Jesus Christ.
In Christ alone we find true wisdom and that wisdom says: Whoever finds me finds life and obtains grace from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.”
If you are in Christ, then Christ alone is your Justification.
WSC Q33: What is justification?
A33: Justification is an act of God’s free grace in Christ, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Christ is the righteousness of God witnessed by the Law and Prophets and revealed in space-time history. He is the one who carried our sins to the cross and laid down his life for us at the cross.
As the prophet Isaiah said: Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities (Is 53:11).
Jesus is the Righteous One who makes us right with God.
If you are in Christ, then Christ alone is your Sanctification.
WSC Q35: What is sanctification?
A35: Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace in Christ, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
Jesus Christ is the Holy One who cleanses your sins and purifies your life. He is the one who teaches us and leads us in the way we should go (Is 48:17) and the one who has chosen you to redeem you (Is 49:7).
He sets you apart for his service and calls you to be saints and helps you overcome sin, the flesh, and the devil by the power of the Holy Spirit.
If you are in Christ, then Christ alone is your Redemption.
This redemption was accomplished by the humiliation and the exaltation of Jesus Christ alone.
WSC Q27: Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?
A27: Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.
Q28: Wherein consists Christ’s exaltation?
A28: Christ’s exaltation consists in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.
Christ is the one who gave himself a ransom for many and purchased us at the cost of his own life and blood (Rom. 3:24-25). He bought us with a price — his priceless and precious blood — and we are no longer our own; we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:20).
Summary: If you are in Christ because of God — you are wise in the wisdom of God in Christ, you are counted as righteous in the righteousness of God in Christ, you are being made holy in the holiness of God in Christ, and you are redeemed in the redemption of God in Christ.
In Christ alone is found the source, the means, and the end of your salvation.
In Christ alone God did for us and our sins what we could never do for ourselves. God offered Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, the sacrifice that takes our sins as far away from us as east is from the west, and turns God’s wrath away from us forever.
In Christ alone God counts our sins against Jesus, and he counts Jesus’s righteousness for us.
Jesus died the death we deserved to die, so that we might live the life that he deserved to live. Jesus suffered all the wrath and fury of God’s judgment as a sinner in our place, so that we might enjoy all the rest and peace of God as saints in his place.
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners — not make them savable, not make salvation possible, but to save sinners. He accomplished his mission. Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
No one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth can bring a charge against those whom God has called and chosen in Christ.
No one can condemn those whom God has justified in Christ.
No can chastise those who God has sanctified in Christ.
No one can cast out those who God has redeemed in Christ.
Nothing and no one will ever be able to cut off from the love of God those are in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So God called you by grace into communion with Christ and God called you by grace into union with Christ. Why? To what end and purpose?
Ultimately, he did it for the praise of his glory, the pleasure of his grace.
Immediately, he did it, so that you would not boast in yourselves at all, and so that you would boast in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
The gospel of God’s grace in Christ leaves leaves you without any reason to boast in yourself even in the slightest thing. It leaves sinners like us no room to boast in ourselves at all, but it gives us every reason to boast in the Lord God alone.
As it is written: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices mercy, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”