Power and Weakness
Power and weakness. These seem to be opposites. In the world today we see the powerful and the powerless. There is a wide gulf between them and it seems to be getting wider. Power and weakness don’t seem to have much to do with each other. But these apparent opposites meet at the cross of Christ: “For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you” (2 Corinthians 13:4). Though Jesus was crucified because of weakness, He lives by God’s power.
Jesus Christ, the all-powerful Creator of the universe who made us to be His in love comes to the cross in voluntary weakness. He is taken captive, falsely accused, mocked, beaten, made physically weaker, nailed to the cross, lifted up and mocked some more. He suffered and died in agony. Yet this weakness is momentary. It is through this weakness that God’s power of forgiveness becomes real to us. God accepts Jesus’ sacrifice for us as the price of our sins. God saves us because of Jesus’ death on the cross: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Though we are powerless, God saves us by the power of the cross. This is the gospel, the good news: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5). Christ died to pay the penalty we owe to God but are powerless to pay.
We are powerless to overcome sin on our own. Think of the problems at Corinth in contemporary terms. They are in awe of the famous. They are fascinated by the latest trends and swayed by flashy speakers. There is political infighting. Some burn with passion and sexual immorality. Some are prone to divorce. Others are confused about their gender identity. Neighbours want to sue one another. Many misuse God’s gifts and are competitively selfish instead of loving. Some worship the wrong things. Some are uncertain about life after death and others live as if there is no tomorrow and no death.
These are problems we are powerless to overcome on our own. Paul knew the Corinthians were powerless to overcome. God knows we are powerless to overcome. So God gives us power to overcome through the cross: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). God gives us power through the cross because He knows we can’t become good on our own. We can’t make ourselves good to come to Jesus at the cross. It’s the power of the cross that makes us good so that Jesus can bring us to God our Father.
Jesus came to die for us in voluntary weakness. We come to Him in real weakness. He is raised by God’s power. We will be raised by God’s power. We are forgiven and cleansed by the power of His blood. We are raised from baptism with His power to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-11). We live by the power of the cross. At the cross and in baptism there is an exchange: our sins for His life, our weakness for His power. We die with Him but are raised with His life in us. As we walk with Him, His strength is perfected in our weakness.
Perhaps Paul wrote more of weakness and God’s power to the Corinthians than other churches because he knew how much they needed the power of God, His gospel and His Spirit to overcome their weaknesses and be saved: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). “We preach Christ crucified….Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24) “…that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). “For the kingdom of God does not consist in word but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power” (1 Corinthians 6:14). About our mortal to resurrection body: “it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” (1 Corinthians 15:43). “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7). “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). “Christ . . . is not weak toward you, but mighty in you….For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you” (2 Corinthians 13:3-4).
God can do powerful things through our weakness: He feeds thousands with a young boy’s "five barley loaves and two fish" (John 6:9). He teaches volumes through a widow’s tiny offering. He gives victory through Gideon’s downsized army. He works through Paul and the Corinthians’ weaknesses to bring us two powerful letters on how to live and love forever. We are weak living sacrifices in jars of clay through which His power works. He gets the glory.
A profound paradox. Power and weakness meet at the cross. Our weakness meets His power. His power works and is perfected in our weakness.