26.Behold your calling. As the mood of the Greek verb ( βλέπετε) is doubtful, and the indicative suits the context equally as well as the imperative, I leave it to the reader’s choice which of them he may prefer. The meaning is manifestly the same in either case, for supposing it to be the indicative (ye see,) he would in that case summon them as witnesses — as of a thing that is manifest, and call them forward as it were to a thing that is present. On the other hand, understanding it in the imperative, he stirs them up, as it were, from their drowsiness to a consideration of the matter itself. The term calling may be taken in a collective sense to mean the multitude of those that are called — in this sense: “Ye see what description of persons they are among you that the Lord has called.” I am, however, rather inclined to think, that he points out the manner of their calling, and it is a most forcible argument, because it follows from this, that, if they despise the abasement of the cross, they in a manner make void their calling, in which God had acted in such a manner, as to take away all merit from human wisdom, and power, and glory. Hence he tacitly accuses them of ingratitude, because, forgetful alike of God’s grace and of themselves, they regard the gospel of Christ with disdain.
Two things, however, must be observed here — that he was desirous from the example of the Corinthians to confirm the truth of what he had said: and farther, that he designed to admonish them, that they must be entirely divested of pride, if they duly considered the order of things that the Lord had observed in their calling. To put to shame, says he, the wise and noble, and to bring to naught things that are Both expressions are appropriate, for fortitude and wisdom vanish when they are put to shame, but what has an existence requires to be brought to naught By the choosing of the poor, and the foolish, and the ignoble, he means, that God has preferred them before the great, and the wise, and the noble. For it would not have sufficed, for beating down the arrogance of the flesh, if God had placed them all upon a level. Hence, those who appeared to excel he put in the background, in order that he might thoroughly abase them. That man, however, were an arrant fool, who would infer from this, that God has in this manner abased the glory of the flesh, in order that the great and noble might be shut out from the hope of salvation. There are some foolish persons that make this a pretext for not merely triumphing over the great, as if God had cast them off, but even despising them as far beneath them. Let us, however, bear in mind, that this is said to the Corinthians, who, though they had no great distinction in the world, were nevertheless, even without any occasion, puffed up. God, therefore, by confounding the mighty, and the wise, and the great, does not design to elate with pride the weak, the illiterate, and the abject, but brings down all of them together to one level. Let those, therefore, that are contemptible in the eyes of the world, think thus with themselves: “What modesty is called for on our part, when even those that have high honor in the view of the world have nothing left them?” (98) If the effulgence of the sun is obscured, what must become of the stars? If the light of the stars is extinguished, what must become of opaque objects?” The design of these observations is, that those who have been called by the Lord, while of no estimation in the view of the world, may not abuse these words of Paul by pluming their crests, but, on the contrary, keeping in mind the exhortation —
Thou standest by faith, be not high-minded, but fear,
may walk thoughtfully in the sight of God with fear and humility.
Paul, however, does not say here, that there are none of the noble and mighty that have been called by God, but that there are few He states the design of this — that the Lord might bring down the glory of the flesh, by preferring the contemptible before the great. God himself, however, by the mouth of David, exhorts kings to embrace Christ, (99) (Psalms 2:12,) and by the mouth of Paul, too, he declares, that he will have all men to be saved, and that his Christ is offered alike to small and great, alike to kings and their subjects, (1 Timothy 2:1.) He has himself furnished a token of this. Shepherds, in the first place, are called to Christ: then afterwards come philosophers: illiterate and despised fishermen hold the highest rank of honor; yet into their school there are received in process of time kings and their counselors, senators and orators.