Should We Boast?

1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Third Sunday In Lent.


Rev. David Domanski.

3/3/20243 min read

We’re a nation of competitive braggarts: Whether we’re bragging about our home team’s sports accomplishments or our company’s excellent quarter of record profits, we like to say, “We’re the best!” Because we have a history of competitiveness, we sing, “Anything you can do I can do better” (from Annie Get Your Gun). Muhammad Ali, once startled the nation by announcing, “I am the greatest!” And we remember his famous pose standing over and taunting a fallen Sonny Liston. As much as Americans like to boast, this kind of boasting is nothing new.

The Greeks did it too as we see in verses 20 and 22 of our lesson today. The Greeks thought highly of the wise (philosophers), the powerful (politicians), and those who were nobly born (aristocrats). The Corinthian Church boasted about their leaders (1:10–12), their spiritual life (5:1–6), their spiritual gifts (12:4–11). We Lutheran Christians are tempted to do the same. We’re tempted to claim to have the best denomination, the best theology, and even the best potlucks.

Famous Christian writer, John Bunyan, when first converted, said, “I thought that there was no man in England who pleased God better than I!”

How about us? Might we quietly say this kind of thing to ourselves? “I’ve been a very fine elder, chairman, organist!” “See how faithful I’ve been!” In a strange twist, we may even fall into the trap of boasting about our humility!

So do we boast? I’m afraid so. But should we boast? Well, our loving God makes us look in the mirror (vv 26–29). He tells us to take a good look at ourselves and figure out what we see in the context of “Consider[ing] your calling” (1 Cor 1:26). In terms of living our faith, we see ourselves to be a motley crew. Certainly that was true in Corinth. See how Paul repeats himself for emphasis: “not many, not many, not many.” Not many of us are impressive according to the world OR in terms of our Christian witness. The Church’s enemies liked to point that out. And because of our inadequacies, it may be helpful for us remember that God Himself arranged what we would see when we looked at ourselves in the mirror of His Law.

God established His divine Law for us to use as a measuring stick against our own conduct to shame the wise, the powerful, and the high-born (vv 19–20). God provides us with the mirror of the Law to help us realize that such things may be an obstacle or barrier to fellowship with Him. If we are inflated with ego and full of ourselves, we cannot pass through the door of Christ to God.

A truck driving under a highway bridge was too big to pass and got stuck. A crowd gathered, but nobody knew what to do until a little boy said, “Why don’t you let some air out of the tires?” Thus flattened—including the pride of the crowd deflated by the source of the wisdom—the truck could pass. Does God have to do this to us? Let some air out of us so that we can fit into His space?

God does exactly this in a variety of ways: by embarrassing moments, by allowing outright failures, by the lives and examples of weak, simple, and even disabled people that may rebuke our haughtiness and teach us. So we learn humility over time. We realize that we have nothing to boast about. And eventually, our egos are so held in check that we wouldn’t dare to be proud about anything.

But is there NOTHING we can boast about in God’s presence? Obviously we can’t boast about anything in us. But, in any sense, we must boast! God tells us again, “Consider your new calling (v 30). You are “in Christ Jesus.” Consider how you got to the point where you not only know you have no reason to boast, but you are also assured that God is “the source of your life.” From our death in sin, God delivers us into eternal life in Jesus. That is something to rejoice in, to delight in, and yes, even to boast about! God is good! Let everyone know it!

Think of God as an artist. (See Ideas for Illustrating, p 8.) God is an artist who delights to gather, cleanse, and restore lost sinners. Consider what he has done for us in Christ (v 30). He is our “redemption”—has bought us from the junk heap with his precious blood (v 18). He is our “righteousness”—has restored us to a right relationship with God. He is our “holiness”—has set you apart as someone wonderful. What is God making of you?

The camera zooms in on us. Are you boasting? I hope so! You mean we should be boasting? Absolutely! And we can! But what will the viewers hear us boasting? Let it be this: What a Savior! What a rescue! What life he gives! Let all the members of St. Peter say the same!