“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Paradox of “When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong”

…Paul expands on this theme of wisdom and foolishness in his letters to the Corinthians:

“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God.” – 1 Corinthians 3:18-19

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?...For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men…God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.” – 1 Corinthians 1:20, 25, 27-28

“For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.” – 2 Corinthians 13:4

“When I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10
He first applies the language of wisdom and foolishness to the Gospel, “the word of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18). In the world’s eyes, especially to first-century Jews and to citizens of the Roman empire, it was foolish – seemingly contradictory – to think that a Savior or Messiah would be “crucified in weakness” (Paul calls it “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles”; see “The ‘Foolish’ Wisdom of the Cross,” “A Strange Way to Triumph”).

The paradoxical wisdom of the cross flows into the lives of God’s people, who are given understanding only when they learn to be weak and humble “little children” (see previous post). Furthermore, God consistently uses people who are weak, lowly, poor, or unworthy in the world’s eye (see “The Paradox of ‘The Last Shall Be First’”) in order to accomplish his purposes (characters such as David, the unlikely shepherd boy, youngest of eight brothers – see 1 Samuel 16). Why? Paul’s answer is clear: “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:29) – so that we would see clearly that it is not man’s strength or knowledge, but “a secret and hidden wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 2:7) that triumphs, the paradoxical wisdom that chooses “things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.”

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