Community Group Study Guide — Boasting in the Lord
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
It is impossible to not boast. To boast is to glorify or rejoice in something and we do it all the time. Think of boasting as shining a spotlight on something to highlight its beauty or its worth. We do this with things that are somewhat harmless like sports teams, new restaurants we love and cold brew coffee. We also boast about things that are not so harmless like our accomplishments, certain characteristics we may have or think we have like intelligence, power, or people we are associated with. Paul is aware of how destructive this can be to followers of Jesus and he highlights the havoc it was wrecking in the Corinthian church. They took things that could be good and used by God and made them tools of division. Paul calls out three areas in particular: wisdom, power and nobility of birth. The majority of the church did not fit the world’s standards in these areas, but some did and the church divided into these factions around how the world would measure worth. Paul wants followers of Jesus to boast. Instead of boasting in ourselves we are to boast in God; we are to shine a spotlight on God’s wisdom, power and beauty and one way that happens is in whom God has called into salvation that make up the church. In our passage we are warned against confidence in the flesh, shown how God removes our ability to boast and we see the beauty of the church as the family of faith.
Confidence in the Flesh:
The scripture warns us against putting our confidence in the flesh. Paul warns followers of Jesus against being justified in the flesh and finding one’s going worth based on the flesh (Philippians 3:3, Galatians 3:3). The term “flesh” is often used to describe our sin nature, but is also used to focus on our human ability and accomplishments. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 uses the term “flesh” in that second category and it pops up in our passage twice. First, Paul tells them the not many of them were wise according to “worldly standards” (Greek word: Sarx or flesh). Second, we’re told that God saves by his grace so that no “human being” (Greek word: Sarx or flesh) may boast. The church was measuring deservedness based on human accomplishment hence Paul’s admonition for them to “consider their calling”. When it comes to worldly standards of accomplishment they did not measure up as being wise, powerful or from the right heritage. Yet God chose to show them favor even though the world considered them “low and despised”. Why then would they put confidence in the flesh and divide in the church around who people were in terms of the world’s standards? In a way they were going back to who they were before God saved them and used that as a measurement for rank in the church. They understood the gospel theologically, but they were not living it out in their community.
Removing our Ability to Boast:
This plan of God to chose the foolish, weak and “of no importance” had a purpose; the Lord desired to remove our ability to boast in ourselves. He does not want us to be able to shine a spotlight on ourselves and take credit or to compare ourselves against others in terms of worth. Look at 1 Corinthians 1:27-29. God chose what is foolish to shame the wise, what is weak to shame the strong and he chose the “low and despised” (the nobodies) to bring to nothing those “who are” (the somebodies). God wants to turn how the world operates upside down to show the beauty of who he is and how he saves.
If you follow Jesus, think back to how the Lord saved you. Hopefully this exercise fills you with a sense of how unworthy you were and yet loved by God and chosen, pursued and redeemed into his family. Each of our stories of coming to faith will be different in terms of human experiences, but the common thread will be “it was by God’s grace alone as I placed my full trust in Jesus.” You may have been raised in a loving Christian home and taught about how to trust in the Lord or you could have battled years of anxiety and perfectionism or you could have come from a past filled with things you’d be ashamed to revisit. There is no glorying or boasting in who we once were, the Lord saved and redeemed because of his mercy, not because of your worth and each of us stands before the Lord as an object of his grace and kindness in Christ Jesus.
This upside down wisdom of God brings to nothing how the world operates and should work against our own inclination to boast in ourselves.
The Church as a Family of Faith:
Finally, Paul highlights how this brings us together as a family of faith to experience the benefits of who Christ is and what he has done. In 1 Corinthians 1:30 Paul points to our corporate union with Christ. “It is because of Him (God) that you are in Christ Jesus. The “you” there is more like a “y’all” than you individually. It is a corporate term to remind you of who you’re connected with in Christ; you are connected with those the world would count as foolish, weak and of no importance. Paul earlier in our passage purposely called out how they were brothers and sisters for the same reason. Just as you do not choose the family you are born into, you have no control over the family you’re saved into. There will be people you like and connect with and others the Lord will have you in their lives so that you can serve them and still others who may be hard for you to love but the Lord will use to help you grow in holiness.
Because of this we get to boast in Christ Jesus became the “wisdom from God.” Jesus was the wisest person to walk the earth, filled with authority and power and being the Son of God; yet he does not use those things to inflate himself or find confidence in the flesh, but rather he lays them down to bring others into his family. Paul continues, “Christ Jesus became the wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.” Christ is our basis for standing with the Lord, he sets his people apart for a purpose and he bought us back from slavery and death. Not by our works so that no one may boast, rather let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.
Main idea: The manner in which God saves people is meant to shock the world with how foolish it seems. Where the world would rank someone based on their worthiness the Lord saves based on his choosing and grace. This is meant to help us fight against anything that would have us boast in ourselves instead of the Lord.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
How was the Corinthian church struggling by finding confidence in their flesh and boasting in themselves?
Look at the passage, specifically verse 27-29, how does the gospel and one’s salvation work against this tendency in humanity to boast and divide based on worldly ranking?
What kinds of things are Christians likely to boast in today?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:30-31. How does this passage turn the spotlight on Jesus?
What are some of the benefits of being in a family of faith that is not defined by one’s accomplishments or human efforts? How does the church show the wisdom and power of God?