ur text incorporates one of the most profound passages of Scripture. It deals with the Biblical thread of thought which presents the Messiah as a "Suffering Servant" who comes to save us through submission and weakness. Jesus was not the reigning monarch who would rule in power, which the New Testament presents as the Christ of the further coming, which will someday be fulfilled. But the Jesus we love came in weakness.
Dictionaries define the word "weakness" as lacking strength, or having some fear, or failing. Yet, our text speaks of "God's weakness" as being a source of strength. What can this mean? Certainly we cannot think of the Almighty God, Creator of the universe, as being weak. Massive amounts of energy were necessary to put the galaxies into place. What can this concept of strength from weakness mean?
Perhaps God knew that sensitive human hearts would be afraid of any show of power so He came to relate to us in weakness. What is weaker than a poor young girl giving birth in a stable in a little town in an occupied country? Is there any greater submission than yielding one's life to death by torture? The Romans felt that they were done with the one who claimed to be the Son of God when he died on the Cross; however, Jesus did not remain dead. His resurrection was God's weakness becoming strong. God indeed did choose to become weak in order to gain our hearts.
Christ died in submission so that we might better understand His great love for us for we are weak. Still, God wants to use our weakness to save the world. Few of us are of a noble birth and not many of us possess any great power. Yet God has chosen us, and the foolishness of our proclamation of the Cross, to capture the imagination and faith of fellow weak persons. Our text explains God's concept best:
(18) "For the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God. Where is the disputer of this world? (20) Hath God not made foolishness the wisdom of this world? (25) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (KJV)
Paul is not saying that Christianity is illogical. Rational thinking is needed to weigh the evidence and to make a clear choice about our response to God's desire to reach us. However, it is an uncomfortable position of vulnerability, and loss of power, for a logical person to step out in faith. Paul knew because he was a logical, well educated, person. Yet, after our research is completed, many decisions of life come down to a faith-based moment of decision. Often in the higher things we must lead with our hearts, as in falling in love, or falling out of an airplane door. It is said that one's first parachute jump is a step of faith; however, even in that, unless it is an emergency first time jump, parachutists have typically had a lot of training on the ground before they make their first step of faith out the door of an aircraft.
Rookie paratroopers are required to listen to lectures and read many manuals before they make that first jump. They practice jumping from towers; first low ones and then progressively higher. By the time they stand in the doorway of the airplane to take that leap of faith they have a lot of assurance that the process will work. But still he had to admit that the final step was by faith.
Most of us exhaust our intellect prior to coming to faith, but ultimately it all culminates in a final step. All along in life we experience vulnerability and powerlessness, as God did in Jesus Christ. This has to be why God chose to identify with us through His sharing in human weakness.
The weakness of God is something that is unique in the world's philosophies and religions. God's weakness sometimes catches intellectuals off guard. Some might initially not want to approach God's tender and meek side, but they soon discover that this is humanity's most natural point of entry. The reality of the situation is that if the only people who could find God were well educated intellectuals, then ordinary people and children would be left out. However, it seems that some of the simplest persons have attained the highest awareness of God through faith. This does not glorify simple-mindedness. It is to say that in the final analysis if we are to know God we each must share in God's weakness as seen in Christ's self limitedness.
Another advantage of God's weakness is that as we share in His infirmity we are made stronger. It is our powerlessness over so much of life that allows us to grow into something of a shadow of Him. It is through giving our lives to Him, and for others, that we are made to become strong in other's eyes, only to eventually become weak in their sight as a living example of God's weakness at work through us.
Let me illustrate this by mentioning that so many of my theology professors seemed all wise and powerful to me. However, as they shared their heartaches and failures we students were able to grapple with our own weakness. Thus, their ministry to us was not only as teachers of wisdom, but also to allow us to know their weaknesses. If they had remained aloof and kept up a false appearance of being powerful in themselves we the students would not have been able to grow from their transparent weaknesses.
Speaking of his
personal "thorn in the flesh," Saint Paul tells how he asked
the Lord three times to take his weakness away, but the Risen Christ's
response was, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is
made perfect in weakness." (II Cor. 12:8-9, NIV). In reference
to Old Testament heroes, the book of Hebrews reminds us of those "whose
weakness was turned to strength." (11:34). It was this same thread
in which God sent His Son as a sacrifice for us. He calls us to a servant
ministry with others, not out of our strength, but through weakness.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor