March 9, 10:00 a.m.
Speaker: Phil Johnson
Topic: The Power of the Remnant
Passage: 1 Corinthians 1:25–31
The church is a chosen remnant of humanity at large—the "few there be that find" the strait gate and the narrow way. The principle Scripture aims to teach when it applies the word "remnant" to faithful Israelites (especially when the Bible puts so much stress on the purpose of God in redeeming a remnant) is true of the Gentile church as well.
In the plan and purpose of God, the steadfast faith of a small, disadvantaged minority is more vital and more effectual than the collective clout of a powerful majority. Christ's kingdom has never been advanced by the prestige, skill, and sophistication of an imposing army. God ordinarily accomplishes His work on earth through the steadfast devotion of a faithful but otherwise unimpressive remnant.
We as Christians (and especially you and me as church leaders) are not called and sent by Christ to be cool, clever, or coercive in order to impress the world; we are called to be faithful, and to proclaim the gospel without altering the message or abridging it.
The work of God and the triumph of His truth does not ultimately require fleshly power, human ingenuity, popular consensus, prestige, and the approval of the rest of the world. We don't need to try to "fix" the gospel to make it sound less foolish. It is not our prerogative to try to make the gospel of Jesus Christ more pleasing to the world.
God's truth does not need to be propped up by majority opinion. God ordinarily accomplishes His purposes through a rag-tag remnant that looks fairly small and seems pretty feeble. But that is on purpose. This is essential to God's strategy and His plan of redemption: He has chosen to use a wretched remnant, not an army of aristocrats and intellectuals.
Earthly wisdom is foolishness in God's estimation. Human strength is utterly impotent compared to the softest whisper of divine power. Worldly prestige has zero right to boast in the presence of God. God is utterly unmoved by the combined weight of all human power.
Why did God choose to advance the kingdom of Christ through the testimony of an unimpressive remnant?
It Confounds the Wise
Those who are thought wise in this world are "put to shame." Their ignorance is revealed by simple truths that the world deems foolish, and worldly wisdom is exposed as utter foolishness by the simplest, most elementary of biblical truth.
Paul tells us he purposely did not try to make the gospel message sound any less foolish. It is a simple message: Jesus Christ crucified. He acknowledges that the gospel is a stumbling block to some and sheer foolishness to others, but he purposely preaches it anyway.
Why? Because it is "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:23–24). Paul tells us, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation" (Rom 1:16).
And so, the foolish-sounding truth of God confounds the worldly wise. It puts them to shame. It exposes their utter lack of understanding.
And the duty of the faithful remnant is to proclaim the truth anyway, regardless of whether people think it sounds foolish. Because it is the power of God for the salvation of the remnant, and in the end, the gates of hell will not prevail against it. This truth keeps the truly faithful remnant steadfast.
It Frustrates the Strong
One of the most fascinating paradoxes (and one of the most important truths) we learn as Christians is the principle spelled out in 2 Corinthians 12:9: "Power is perfected in weakness." Fallen humanity has a sinful tendency to forget that God is the source of all strength. Even though we pray, "Thine is the. . . power, and the glory," it is a universal tendency for human beings to take credit for whatever strength they have.
All human strength is graciously given by God. It's something to be grateful for, not to be proud of.
The world sees the church as foolish, weak, and lacking in prestige. This is intentional. "God has chosen the weak things of the world to [frustrate the] strong" (1 Cor 1:27).
This is God's deliberate strategy. You cannot improve on the scheme or inject enough style, sophistication, and status into the church to make your message and ministry better appeal to the prejudices and preferences of this world. God's chosen strategy does not need to be strengthened.
It Humiliates the Proud
God hates human pride that thinks it has a reason to boast while it stands before Him. Our only power does not lie in might or power or human wisdom or clever strategies—or any of the fleshly instruments we tend to rely on
The gospel itself "is the power of God for salvation." And we don't need a large army to win this spiritual war. We just need to learn to rely on Him who truly is our strength and our salvation. The battle is His. The strength is His. The triumph will be His
God chooses a remnant rather than a massive multitude "so that [our] faith [will] not be in the wisdom [and power] of men [and majorities], but in the power of God."
One last thing: If you ever feel ashamed of the church or your fellow believers because they seem foolish and feeble and menial, you need to reorient your perspective. Don't look at the church through a worldly lens. This congregation that looks so unimpressive to the world—people without a clue, without clout, and without class—are actually some of the most blessed, beloved, and privileged people ever.
Even with all that gracious privilege we have nothing to boast about. That is the whole lesson of the Remnant and the reason it is such a powerful principle. To God alone belongs "the kingdom and the power and the glory forever."