In his wisdom, and in response our willful rebellion against him, God decided that fallen sinners would be saved, not by works, not by strength, not by merit, but through faith alone in Christ alone. As Luther said, God “made all things depend on faith [in Christ] so that whoever has faith has everything, while the one who lacks faith has nothing”. I want to take this post to highlight this fact: God could have chosen to save mankind through any other means. Romans 9:15 tells us that God can have mercy on whom he wants to have mercy. He can save whomever and however he wants to! And it’s because of the fact that God is God.
So, if God wanted to, he could have decided that only those who were strong enough, or did enough works, or loved him enough, or asked for help, would be saved. Of course, if God had chosen that salvation depended on our own performance, no one would be saved. Paul tells us that no one can outwork their sin debt (Gal 2:16); in fact, without God’s help, we are bound to sin (Rom 3).
But, God did not choose works as the method of salvation. In fact, God chose and ordained that all who want to be saved have to go through Jesus Christ. God chose that sinners would be forgiven and redeemed through Jesus Christ broken, bloodied, dying, and weak, on a Roman cross meant for criminals.
This message sounds foolish to the world, because this is not natural to our fleshly minds. Salvation by the merit of Another sounds completely foreign to us. In our own minds, the natural way to salvation would be through strict obedience to a set list of rules. The most natural way to rid ourselves of debt is to pay it off ourselves. The most natural way toward perfect righteousness is to do and say all the right things — to follow the rules perfectly. Instead, God chose to save through the work of Christ. He chose that our debts would be paid in full through Jesus. He chose that our forgiveness would come through Jesus suffering our punishment for us. He chose that our worthiness would come through the perfect righteousness of Christ. God chose that the way of salvation would be upside down.
But, why did God choose that sinners would be saved through the foolishness of this gospel (1 Cor 1:18)? Why did he choose this method of redemption?
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that “in the wisdom of God…it pleased [him] through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe…, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor 1:21, 29).
When it comes to God’s redemption of sinners, he wanted to save us through Jesus that we might not boast in ourselves. God wanted to leave no room for pride. And in fact, if God had made salvation available through human works, or adherence to a moral code, or human will power, there would be room for bragging! This would not bring glory to God. This would not bring enjoyment in God. Instead, it would bring glory to the sinner. It would bring attention and honor to those who worked hard enough or did better. But God wanted the glory for his saving of sinners to go to him alone.
So God chose Jesus as the source of salvation, that we might boast in him alone! This is why Paul says, “and because of [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord'” (1 Cor 1:30). Paul then asks, “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?…For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 20, 25).
God didn’t want redeemed sinners to boast and brag about their own ability to save themselves. He wanted all the credit to go to Him! And for that, he chose Christ as the means, that the one who boasts would do it in him. For this, our wisdom is nothing compared to him. And our strength is nothing compared to him.
Thomas Constable said, “God has chosen this method so the glory might be His and His alone.”
And John Calvin rightly says: “Let every thing, therefore, that is at all deserving of praise, be recognized as proceeding from God…of all the blessings that are [given in salvation], we must seek in Christ not the half, or merely a part, but the entire completion…[assigning to Him] exclusively the entire accomplishment of the whole”.