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)

Exceptionalism is a rare gift in this world. It is often only recognized after a lifetime of labor—driving into the headwinds of mediocrity to bring distinction and elevation above the rest of mankind. Exceptionalism is generally recognized in an individual rather than a class of individuals. It is for this fact that many today deny the very idea of “American Exceptionalism.” There is, quite frankly, no reason for an American to think of himself as the exception to the rule of basic humanity. All men are created equal in this regard—as a creation of God, as a fallen human being bearing the marred image of the Creator.

What enables general exceptionalism in otherwise unexceptional people is freedom. Exceptionalism is made possible by freedom from superstition (both ancient and modern), from fear of tyrannical evil, and from meddling by aristocracy (1 Corinthians 1:26). The accountability of both the governed and the government to the laws of the Creator promotes exceptionalism. Any society, people, culture, family, and individual will become exceptional when granted to live freely in allegiance to Christ. This has been the general exceptionalism of western civilization since Christianity, and the root of American exceptionalism to this point in history. Just as Americans have found exceptionalism in freedom, so believers find exceptionalism in Jesus Christ. There is no place for a boastful heart in either case, because exceptionalism is granted by something mightier than the individual—the Savior.

Our text is quite plain. Those in Christ are the privileged recipients of Heaven’s largess. Three times in verses 26 to 28 the phrase “God has chosen” appears in order to remind us of God’s gracious, deliberate choice in calling out for Himself genuine believers. His choice is not primarily the wise (according to man’s reckoning of wisdom), or mainly of the mighty (with ability and power), nor largely of the aristocratic nobles (well-born). Instead, God overwhelmingly chooses out for Himself the “foolish, the weak, the base and despised” (verses 27–28) to confound the arrogant, self-sated, independent power brokers of this world. The end of verse 28 says it all: “the things which are not (naught—the “nobodies”), to bring to nothing (null, idle, abolish, make inefficient) the things that are.” The “exceptional” in this world are brought to shame (their wisdom discovers its foolishness, their might proves powerless, and their earthly high birth cannot compare to heavenly citizenship) because the unexceptional are made exceptional through the freedoms in Christ, so that no flesh may have self-glory in God’s presence (verse 30).

Believers are made free from the superstitions, the misguided presuppositions, blinding prejudices of the God-unaided and God-forsaken mind (Romans 1:18–32). The scales and shackles drop from a believer’s mind as the glorious Gospel enlightens the heart, biblical truth animates original thought, and embraced Christian virtues are acted upon. Fools are no longer fools when they recognize God’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is the key to the righteous wielding of strength. This is God-granted exceptionalism.

The freedoms found in Christ are further described as:

  • Receiving His righteousness. The believer is declared righteous through the shed blood of the innocent Son of God. Therefore the believer loves the righteous standards of God.
  • Receiving sanctification (being set apart for the Lord’s use). Hooker states that righteousness in the believer is “perfect, not inherent” and that sanctification is “inherent, not perfect.” We are to grow in our being set apart for God’s glory.
  • Receiving redemption. This is the capstone of the description of the unexceptional being made exceptional in the freedom found in Christ. The Greek word means “release.”

Your exceptionalism, if you are born again, is living in the freedom found in Christ. Are you making your boast in the Lord (verse 31)? Are you excelling in your Christian pursuits? Trust and obey.