God doesn’t think and do as we think and do, and clearly He does not think and do as we think He ought: ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”(1) An example of a difference might be seen when God called Abraham to be a father of nations. He gave him a wife who was barren. Eventually, contrary to all nature, he had a son, Isaac, who also received a barren wife. Ultimately, however, Jacob was born. Jacob, Isaac’s son, in turn, married a girl that he did not love and another whom he did, but who was also barren. Three barren generations, according to human wisdom, is hardly the way to propagate and populate a multitude of peoples and nations. We simply would not have done things that way! God’s ways are not our ways!
Again in the New Testament when God desired to develop a people for Himself, a capable people endowed with wisdom and ability, He began with a very small group of very incapable, unlearned and seemingly undesirable men. Had the religious leaders and the rabbis of the time been garnering disciples, they would have chosen from the ranks of the ceremonially clean, the ones they thought righteous according to the Law, men of sufficient intelligence and interest to study the Torah, perhaps with a view to becoming rabbis themselves, certainly men who were examples to others, who could display sterling disciple qualities; (men whom John the Baptizer through the Spirit’s wisdom called ‘offspring of vipers’.(2))
Instead, Jesus, doing His Father’s will, called to Himself a curious cross-section of contemporary society: down-to-earth and somewhat self-centred fishermen, more concerned with who was greatest among them than the Great One who walked in their midst; zealots who were in almost constant revolt against the Romans rather than those who were zealous for the things of God; a despised turn-coat tax collector suspected of fleecing rather than feeding God’s sheep; and one other who seemed to rob them blind, whose end was destruction. Jesus’ twelve disciples excluded His very own family, though after His crucifixion some are named as part of His people. His disciples had a mixture of Greek and Semitic names, perhaps a Judean along with Galileans, indicating a real microcosm of the Judaism of His day.
Nor, as we see, was this to be a unique choosing of disciples, as Paul reminded the Corinthian church: ‘For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world ‘ the weak things ‘ the base things ‘ the things which are despised ‘ and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things which are, that no flesh should glory in his presence’.(3) The wisdom and nobility of this world might have been highly prized by those of Corinth and those like them of Greek and Roman origins who prized their wisdom, but again we are reminded of the vast differences between the ways of God and men. Not only is the word of the cross foolishness to those who are perishing, but God still uses those who might be considered foolish and of no consequence to convey His message, ‘fools for Christ’s sake’.(4) It is not the brilliance, strength and nobility of man that can appreciate the plans of God, not human self-confidence, but self effacing faith that opens for us the narrow way and an understanding of His Word that enables us to realize that we ‘have the mind of Christ’.(5) If Christ had chosen His own followers on the basis of human wisdom and good breeding the twelve apostles, the heroes of the New Testament, as well as us might well have been passed by. Instead He chose the very ordinary, turning human understanding and the worldly way of thinking upside down, that He might do extra-ordinary things through His own to His glory and one day receive them – and others through them – into the glorious courts of heaven.
Not only were the unschooled and ignoble called to discipleship and the fellowship of the Son of God, but a long list of those possessed in earlier days of the grossest sins had been likewise called, washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God,(6) not because God had any affinity with iniquity, but to demonstrate His grace and mercy and to prove the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf. God has called the dead in transgressions to life in Christ and as those so called we glorify His name.
In the wisdom of God not only has the way of salvation been hidden from the wise and understanding and revealed to babes, but the path of the disciple as well seldom discloses to the unbeliever the glories that shall be and the peace we have now in our hearts. Even the Apostle Paul was considered foolish, was defamed in his ministry, dishonoured, disgraced, reviled, persecuted and considered the off-scouring of all things. He laboured at his own expense, and was sent out as Christ was sent out; a lamb in the midst of wolves, weak for the sake of the weak, a servant of men that his Master might be glorified and the gospel might flourish. At times even reviled among churches that should have known better, he suffered at the hands and tongues of his brethren. His day of acknowledgement and reward awaits God’s soon-coming day of recompense.
God, like Paul, does not wish that His message be distorted by association with the things that are so prized by the wisdom of this world. Those things, which James describes as sensual and demonic, are the very antithesis of the wisdom that is from above, which is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering and without hypocrisy.(7) All in the New Testament churches and we ourselves were called as we were;
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come!(8)
It has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him.(9) In the meantime we should strive daily to be more like Him here and now. That desire, rather than an undue striving to excel in the things of the world, is to be our aim.(10) The Holy Spirit through the Word of God reveals what a balance in these things should be.
We are not, therefore, to continue in the behaviour and character in which we were called. We commence our discipleship as infants in Christ. Then we are taught and begin to grow. We find that the message of the cross which at first attracted us through the Spirit’s gracious working contains more than justification. It concerns our sanctification; it concerns a renewal of attitude and action in response to the revelation of God; it calls for righteousness in thought and deed. It teaches us that the way to exaltation is humility and often humiliation, the way of obedience the way to the revealed wisdom of God. Our involvement in this call by Christ is to an active rather than passive participation in what God has called us to, an inclusion in something amazingly and completely different from what is all around us. We actually talk to God and expect answers! We are invited to bring our praises right into His very sanctuary. We are welcome to discuss our individual concerns, but more than that, when as a people for God we present the fruit of lips making confession to Christ’s name(11) we join with saints, angels, and heavenly beings, thrilling the heart of God with thoughts of His Son. Thanks be to God that we were called as we were! Thanks be to God that we are not now as we once were! Thanks be to God that there are even better things ahead!
(1) Is.55:8,9 (2) Mat.3:7 RV (3) 1 Cor.1:26-29 (4) 1 Cor.4:10 (5) 1 Cor.2:16 (6) 1 Cor.6:9-11 (7) Jas.3:15, 17 (8) C.Elliott (9) 1 John 3:2 (10) 1 Cor.7:17, 24 (11) Heb.13:15 RV
Bible quotations from NKJV