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Why God Uses Nobodies

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: 1 Corinthians 1:18–31; 2:1–5

Our role in the world is not to impress people with our message but to confront them with God’s message, the gospel. The thinking and wisdom of the world have no place in that. It’s the gospel simply presented by humble servants that demonstrates the power of God.


Back in the nineteenth century, evangelist D. L. Moody gave believers a challenge as they navigated through the ocean currents of the world. He said, “A ship lives in the water; but if the water gets into the ship, she goes to the bottom. So Christians … live in the world; but if the world gets into them, they sink.”[1] Their testimony will disappear from sight.

The apostle Paul has begun writing a letter to a church that is effectively sinking. And there are many reasons why—as we will discover together on our Wisdom Journey through 1 Corinthians. However, the primary reason is that the world is beginning to influence this church, rather than the church influencing the world.

Beloved, the devil does not always try to attack the church or divide the church; sometimes, he just tries to join it and then influence it with worldly wisdom. And what Paul does here is contrast the wisdom of the world with the wisdom of God. He writes in verse 18, “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The gospel is all about the saving power of God as we accept the truth that Jesus Christ died in our place and for our sins so that we can have eternal life. We cherish the cross of Christ today.

Back in the days of Paul, Roman citizens would not even talk about crucifixion. It was actually illegal to put a Roman citizen to death by crucifixion. That was not only the worst way to die but also a shameful way to die. Only the lowest types of criminals were crucified.[2]

You would not have talked about crucifixion at the dinner table back then; that would be like talking about the electric chair today.

So, the message that a crucified man had the power to save sinners would have been unthinkable. Paul writes in verse 23 that to “preach Christ crucified [was] a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” The Jews could not imagine their Messiah dying like this; and Gentiles mocked the idea that anybody would follow a crucified man.

A Savior dying on a cross for sinners is not going to appeal to anybody’s pride or reputation.

Centuries ago, the Scottish pastor Robert Murray McCheyne gave a gospel tract to a woman, and she was greatly offended. She said to him, “You must not know who I am!” He replied to her, “Madam, there is coming a day of judgment, and on that day it will not matter who you are!”[3] The only thing that will matter then is whether a person belongs to Jesus Christ.

Paul then delivers a challenge here in verse 20:

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe [the scholar]? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

He is saying that the supposedly wise people of the world do not have anything fulfilling to offer anybody. They cannot give someone a clean conscience or a forgiven heart.   

But here is the good news: Those who believe in Him discover that Jesus is both “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (verse 24). Jesus has the power to save you and forgive you and then lead you with wisdom. Incidentally, you might want to circle the word wisdom in this passage—it is going to show up over and over again.

So, Paul is reminding this little church in Corinth that they are not going to help anybody if they depend on their own wisdom—their own abilities.

He writes rather bluntly in verse 26, “Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards.” In other words, not many of you graduated from universities with academic honors. Paul then continues:

Not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish [looked down on] in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised. (verses 26-28)

This word for “low” might be translated “base” in your translation. It is a word that means “without family.”[4]  

God is using people without family or friends. He invites them to join His family and become His friend.

That is not the wisdom of the world. The world assumes a king will commission the noble and wealthy and well-connected. And sometimes God does. But for the most part, His wisdom is revealed through ordinary people. God uses mightily people without much might. God ordinarily chooses to use ordinary people.

Evangelist Leonard Ravenhill wrote many years ago of a group of tourists visiting special places in Europe. One day they were visiting a beautiful, picturesque village, and they happened to walk by an old man sitting on a bench. In a rather patronizing manner, one of the tourists asked the man, “Were any great men born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope—just babies.”[5]

Beloved, this ought to be the attitude of the believer today. We should think of the church as a collection of nobodies who belong to somebody special—our great Savior and Lord.

Through Christ alone we have “righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (verse 30). Those are all words related to our salvation. The only truly great person you and I know is the person of Jesus Christ. And that is why Paul writes here in verse 31, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

In the opening verses of chapter 2, Paul applies this truth to himself:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (verses 1-2)

Traveling teachers and philosophers were highly regarded in Greece. Their rhetorical skills and logic often held people spellbound. They were the wise men of the day—the Socrates and Platos of the world. Paul is not trying to be one of them. He is not gathering a following.

He came to preach “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” He did not depend on skillful rhetoric or clever methods. Instead, he writes in verse 3, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling.”

Well, who is going to believe someone like that? The truth is, many people did! And that is because his preaching was not a demonstration of natural abilities; rather, as he writes here in verse 4, his preaching was a “demonstration of the Spirit and of [His] power.”

Why? Paul tells us here in verse 5 that He wanted the Corinthians’ faith—and your faith and mine today—to rest not “in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

This is a good reminder for us all today—especially those involved in vocational ministry. A powerful ministry is never the result of the messenger; it is the result of the message. You cannot change anybody’s life with your words or your wisdom. Just deliver the words and the wisdom of Christ, and Jesus does the rest. He alone can change a person and influence a family, a church, a city—even a city like Corinth, even the city where you live and work and play.

And how encouraging this is. We do not have to be eloquent or superior. It is not our ability that matters as much as our availability to Christ. 

[1] AZ Quotes, “Worldliness Quotes,”

[2] John Phillips, Exploring 1 Corinthians (Kregel, 2002), 37.

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Wise (Victor Books, 1983), 23.

[4] Phillips, 47.

[5] Leonard Ravenhill, “Prayer,”

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