God Uses the Weak
When I am Weak, then I am Strong
Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 1:27 because the religious couldn’t accept a defeated Savior, and philosophers couldn’t believe in a God who would take on frail flesh and die. Paul honed the point later by repeating what God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Basking in this promise, Paul declared, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).
The Inverted Way of Jesus
Jesus’s life and shameful death informed Paul’s thinking. Jesus spent lots of his time with the lost and the least. He talked about the last becoming first and the first becoming last. He embraced the meek and the broken—the humble ones who felt swamped with heavy burdens. He died alone, bitterly forsaken by all.
This is Jesus’s upside-down approach to our world. It is the way of his grace. We live in a world where the biggest, best, and brightest succeed and the littlest, last, and least get trampled. But Jesus disrupts and interrupts our power-fetish and our lust for significance, polishing our reputations and annihilating other people for our success. The ways of our world are interrupted by the inverted way of Jesus. Because of this, Christianity has from its beginning prized weakness and rebuffed strength. In his book on leadership lessons from 1 Corinthians, D.A. Carson writes, “God has not arranged things so that the foolishness of the gospel saves those of us with an IQ above 130. Where would that leave the rest of us? Nor does the foolishness of what is preached transform the young, the beautiful, the extroverts, the educated, the healthy, the wealthy, the upright. Where would that leave the old, the ugly, the illiterate, the introverts, the poor, the sick, and the perverse?”
Despair of Your Ability
This leaves us in despair. But it can be “gospel despair” if it leads to trusting in Christ and not in ourselves. Martin Luther writes, “It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.” This means that we are not operating out of self-sufficiency, but out of total dependency on Christ and in need of being empowered by the Spirit. So, let’s boast in our weakness instead of displaying our self-righteousness and strength. This is obviously folly and nonsense to the world, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.
Justin Holcomb is Executive Director of The Resurgence and oversees leadership development at Mars Hill Church (Seattle). He is an adjunct professor of theology and culture at Reformed Theological Seminary and has a Ph.D. from Emory University. He and his wife, Lindsey, co-authored Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Sexual Assault Victims (Crossway, 2011). For more information about his work and forthcoming books and projects see his website.
This post originally appeared at The Resurgence and is reprinted here with permission.