Question: "What is the weakness of God (1 Corinthians 1:25)?"
Answer: A host of paradoxical principles exist in God’s kingdom. In the Lord’s economy, weakness and power are opposite sides of the same coin. The apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that the gospel message—the good news that Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross for our sins—is “foolishness” and “weakness” to the unsaved: “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:22–25).
“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved,” explains Paul, “know it is the very power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NLT). The Jews stumbled over the cross of Christ because they were looking for a mighty military leader as their Savior. When Jesus came as a humble servant and died a disgraceful death on the cross, they disregarded Him. They couldn’t see that the most powerful of all beings was walking among them. The message of the cross represented weakness to the Jews and simple-minded nonsense to the Greeks. Today the gospel is regarded in a similar light by those who value the world’s ways of thinking. To the unregenerate human mind, the message of salvation in Jesus Christ is an absurdity swallowed by feeble-minded people.
What Paul dubbed “the weakness of God” is Jesus Christ crucified. This so-called “weakness” only appears to be void of strength, and only to those who are unredeemed. The world sees the Bible and the gospel message as weak. In truth, the gospel is “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). God’s power, at its slightest, least detectable measure, is more potent than man’s greatest strength. No human-generated force or energy can touch or even come close to the strength and power of God.
Only through the weakness of God in Christ crucified could the unrivaled, unconquerable power of God be revealed: God “released [Jesus] from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip” (Acts 2:24, NLT; see also Romans 1:4). God’s power not only resurrected Jesus from the dead but also “seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come” (Ephesians 1:20–21, NLT).
By the same weakness of God in Christ crucified, believers are brought to life with Christ when they repent of their sins and receive His salvation: “For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross” (Colossians 2:12–15, NLT). Through the weakness of God, we are empowered by Him to live in the freedom of Christ. One day God will raise us up by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (1 Corinthians 6:14). He will take our weak human bodies and transform them into glorious heavenly bodies (Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:42–44).
The weakness of God in Christ crucified opened the way for believers to be set free from sin’s control and sin’s curse (Romans 6:6; 8:3; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 7:25). For the child of God, Jesus broke the power of the devil by the power of the cross. Death and the fear of death have been defeated and destroyed (Hebrews 2:14–15; 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54–57). We gain eternal life through Christ’s humble, submissive sacrifice (John 6:40; 11:25–26; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 5:11–12, 20).
German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “God lets himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us . . . not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering” (Christian Quotations, Manser, M., ed., 2016).
The nature of God’s weakness in the unequaled sacrifice of His Son can only be grasped by those who belong to His kingdom. Jesus Christ “was crucified in weakness” but “now lives by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13:4, NLT). The Lord of the universe chooses “the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” and “the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27). God even uses frail, ordinary humans to accomplish His will on earth “to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
The weakness of God is the obverse power of God. It is the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins and the resurrected King of Glory who reigns forever on heaven’s throne.