Click here for the reading: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.
Boasting has to do with human accomplishments, but baptism has to do with divine choices. God did not pick the strong. God did not pick the wise. God picked the weak. God picked the foolish. All those categories are human ones – this man is weaker than that one, this man is foolish, while that one is smart – and other categories can be conceived of and preached about. Those categorizations are not false – the modern error that all difference between human beings is unreal. Those categorizations simply do not matter eternally; those categories are not “your calling, brothers.”
Boasting is excluded because it has nothing to do with God’s calling. Even in a city so wealthy and worldly as Corinth, God had not chosen many wealthy or many strong or many well-educated for Himself. Paul does not say God could not choose such people nor that such people are morally inferior to the poor or the weak or the uneducated. Paul is not speaking about God’s being a respecter of persons. Rather, God has worked in such a way in Christ so that He should shame the wise and the strong. Why? “so that no flesh [ESV: human being] might boast in the presence of God.”
This will bring to nothing the things that are. Already, in our preaching, the truths of Judgment Day are made known: what you are is not what you should be. All that you’ve done is not equal to what you ought to have done. You must become somehow completely different. You must die and be born again. At Judgment Day such preaching is too late. Yet now it is not too late. Now is a good time for boasting to be excluded and for what is to be shown for how little it truly is.
God has already done this in Christ. Christ became poor and foolish according to the light of human reason that in Him we might become rich and wise. This is why Christ has become the sole source of so much for His people: wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Paul is not confused about the ordo salutis. He is speaking of Christ as an unending fountain of everything needful. The one who has nothing will receive everything from Christ.
More than this, Christ was made nothing so that we might have everything in Him. There is no Sunday like the Baptism of our Lord for preaching the blessed exchange: what Christ did not have, He took from us for our sakes – such things as sin, foolishness, and death. What Christ did have, He gave to us for our sakes – such things as righteousness, wisdom, and life. Only people who know they are in need of life will receive it from Christ in baptism. Only people who know they are in need of wisdom will receive it from Christ through His Word. He has come to call the sick, not those who have no need of a Physician.