But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption– that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 (NKJV)
Paul explains that God and God alone made it possible for us to be in Christ. Think about that for a second. We can’t even take credit for our salvation. Apart from God working in our lives and drawing us we would never have come to Christ. The Bible says that there is none that is good and that none seek after God (see Romans 3:10-12). This explains the way all humans are by nature. We are born with a sin nature and this sin nature leads us down all the wrong paths. Our sin nature has such control over our lives that we don’t even seek God unless He is seeking us first.
This is why Jesus said that no one can come to Him unless they are drawn by the Father (John 6:44). All of our human effort to save ourselves doesn’t actually accomplish anything. It is the Holy Spirit that gives life. The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and begins to bring conviction in our lives that show us our need for Jesus. And if the Spirit of God didn’t do this, we would never see our need for Jesus. This is because no one can come to Jesus unless the Spirit of God draws them.
Our human effort can make us self-righteous, self-sufficient, religious and legalistic. However, our human effort cannot bring the kind of amazing change into our lives that Jesus brings. Think about what we saw about the Corinthians a few minutes ago. They were one thing before they believed on Jesus and then they were something entirely different after they met Jesus. It’s exactly the same with us. We can try so many things to fix ourselves and to change our lives. Our effort may seem to work for a while but eventually they fall short. However, when we meet Jesus He makes extraordinary changes in our lives. These are things that He has become for us and so they are true of us because of Jesus. These are things that we are because Jesus lives in us.
I am wise. The first thing Paul tells us that that Jesus has been made wisdom itself for our benefit. What does it mean that God has been made into wisdom itself for our benefit? As I was thinking on this I was reminded of what the Bible says about true wisdom. Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). While Job tells us that fear of the Lord is true wisdom (Job 28:28). So wisdom as it is used in the Bible could be summed up as knowing God and understanding His ways.
If we think of wisdom in this fashion we can see that Jesus has made us wise unto salvation. In other words, Jesus has given us the wisdom to see that through Him we can know God and receive His salvation. This also means that Jesus has given us the wisdom necessary to understand a measure of the ways that God works in the world. For instance, when we look at the cross we see the wisdom and power of God instead of something foolish or offensive. Jesus has given us wisdom so that we could genuinely know God and understand His ways.
I am righteousness. The way we are in Christ is very different than the way we are apart from Christ. Probably the best picture of what we are like apart from Jesus comes from the prophet Isaiah who says that all our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
One of the pictures associated with this is a cloth that had been used to wrap up putrid, running sore, such as you might find on a leper. If you’ve ever read stories about leprosy you know that a part of what happened was that they open running sores. It’s my understanding that the puss that ran out of these sores could not only infect anyone who touched it with leprosy, but it also smelled terrible.
What leper’s did was they wrapped these open, running sores up in cloth. When the puss soaked through the cloth and began running through the cloth it was then burned. It was so foul and filthy that it couldn’t be made clean and wasn’t usable for anything ever again.
That cloth that was fouled by the open sores of leprosy is kind of the picture that Isaiah is painting here. We can’t imagine touching a cloth like that. Much less proudly holding it up and saying, “Look what I did.” Yet, that is what it’s like to God when we point to our good deeds and say, “Look at what I’ve done” in an effort to display our righteousness. Get the picture here, that isn’t our worst apart from Jesus. That’s our best. The best we can do apart from Jesus is like a filthy rag.
However, Jesus makes us something radically different. The Bible says that Jesus became sin for us so that we could be made righteous in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). The moment we believe in Jesus, God makes an exchange in our lives. He exchanges our unrighteousness for Jesus’ righteousness. Now instead of being infected and impure with sin we are righteous in the eyes of our holy God. We are righteous in Jesus.
I am sanctified. Sanctification is the process where God works through the believer to help them become more like Jesus. Through Jesus we are able to fight against the sinful desires that are constantly warring in our bodies. Not only are we able to fight them, but we are also able to put them out of our lives so that we can better reflect the character and nature of God.
The only reason we can do this is because of Christ. In fact in Colossians 3:10 we are told that it is Christ who created this new nature within us. So we are only able to become more like Jesus because of what Jesus has already done in our lives. He is the one that created the new nature within us. He is the one that gives us the power to strip off the old and replace it with the new. Yes we have to cooperate with Jesus to make this happen, but without Him none of it is possible.
I am redeemed. The idea of redemption is that we have been bought from slavery that would end in certain death. Before Jesus we were slaves to our sinful nature and the Bible tells us plainly that a life like that ends in hell. Because of Jesus we have been freed from slavery to sin and the ultimate punishment for this slavery.
We are all familiar with the idea that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). We’ve all broken God’s Law and therefore earned God’s judgment. Jesus came and redeemed us from slavery to our sinful nature and the judgment our sins earned. He freed us by taking the punishment our sins deserved. His death on the cross in our place allows us to live freely in this life and to face the future with anticipation instead of fear. We can only be redeemed from sin and its punishment through Jesus. All those who have trusted in Jesus for their salvation are redeemed.
When we look at the extraordinary changes that are made in our lives, we are forced to recognize that these are only possible because of Jesus. This leads Paul to conclude this section with a quote from the prophet Jeremiah. He does this to remind us that the cross ensures God gets the glory for our lives.
For further study read Ephesians 4:17-24.
How are people apart from Christ described?
How does this passage say that Jesus has changed us?
What does this passage command believers to do?