Humility is so not something we work on. It really is what we are, what it means to come to trust Jesus, to need Jesus, because our own works are a crumbly mess.
Thinking that the church at Corinth had the same basic theology as Paul. He calls them saints. He says that they have all things, that they are Christ’s, and that they, like him, have nothing they didn’t receive. Basically they both have received the gift of the gospel. They are Christ’s people, his church.
But then he really goes after them for not living it out. For what kind of theologians they are. He paints this incredible contrast in chapter 4. The “Corinth-way” of being theologians is that they are rich, they have all they want, they are wise in Christ, they are strong, they are held in honor. They are leveraging the gospel to affirm their self-righteousness, their standing.
I'm struck by how amazing this is. You can hear the gospel, believe in Jesus, and live it out in a way that doesn't go to the core of what the gospel is. You can, as a Christian, see the Christ and the cross as a means to self-improvement.
Against that way, Paul illumines another way of living out the theology of the gospel. He calls it the apostles’ way. They are a spectacle to all, sentenced to death, fools for Christ’s sake, weak, held in disrepute, considered scum of the earth, refuse. No leveraging, no honor, no climbing some ladder to self-improvement through the gospel.
I’ve never seen this passage used as support by Forde or Luther, but this passage fits right in with the contrast of being a theologian of glory or being a theologian of the cross. Do you see through the cross to a grander purpose for yourself, to be honorable, strong, improved, and not to die? There you are, the way of Corinth, the theologian of glory.
Or do you see the cross… and stop. The hidden mystery of God in suffering and death. It proclaims our total unworthiness. And we identify with this Jesus, and we await the resurrection from the dead that brings no status here, no strength that the world is attracted to.
Being a theologian of the cross, it seems to no small degree, is essential humility, because it is being struck with the suffering and death of Jesus for me. All is him, naught is me. And in my own suffering, in my own death, in the insufficiency of all I do, is not futility to be railed against, but a trust that, in Christ, I will be raised. There is no hope in me; there is no hope but Christ.
I'm coming to see you, Paul says to the church in Corinth, we will see. The issue is, where is the power? Is it in us, seeing through the cross, stronger and better now? Or is it in our identification with Jesus, because the power is the resurrection? May we all be theologians of the cross.