… He (Christ) is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you …
We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection. This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority – the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. (verses 3-4, 9-10)
Weakness and power. These contrasting words seem to be very much in Paul’s mind.
It was in just the last chapter he told us of a conversation he’d had with the Lord, three times in a row pleading that the “thorn” in his flesh be removed. But the Lord responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Those two very words, direct from the Lord’s mouth. So, Paul pledged to “delight in weaknesses … For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).
I’m sure this was used in Paul’s life for great good in many ways. But it seems to have ideally prepared him for his present conflict with the “super-apostles” who had infiltrated the Corinthian church, undermining his authority and that of the gospel. Among other things, they seem to have accused him of being weak (2 Cor 10:1, 11:21), and therefore inferior. But the Lord has already underlined this word. Weakness is simply an occasion for the Lord himself to intervene with his power. So, now, in face of the accusations of these false teachers, Paul doesn’t need to be defensive, but can instead actually boast of his weakness so that Christ’s power might rest on him. For the good of the Corinthians.
He embraces weakness, in order to see power, following the pattern of Jesus himself. Christ was crucified, the epitome of weakness – nailed to the cross, immobilized, humiliated, pierced through, life ebbing away. Dead. Buried. Yet the power of God raised him triumphantly from death, into life, exalted to the very right hand of the Father. Power indeed!
So, Paul rejoices that he is weak in Christ, knowing that the power of God will meet him also in that very place. By God’s power, in Christ, Paul lives to serve the Corinthians. Weakness is an occasion for God to intervene with power.
In his weakness, Paul is looking to see the Corinthians become “strong,” a word that comes from that same root word “power.” The weakness of the one, leads to power in the other. Again, Paul rejoices.
For us, too, the opportunity is given. Weakness and power. Embrace the weakness of Christ – crucified, laying down life, clothed in humility – that we, too, might be caught up in the power of his resurrected life. Don’t shy away from your weakness, however it may be expressed. Instead, lean into the Lord. Allow his power to be made known.
That others may be strengthened. That others may be built up.
Lord Jesus, praise you for embracing the weakness of the cross. You have called me to follow. Father, praise you that by your power you raised Christ from death into life. May your power be made perfect in me in weakness. Use me in the lives of those you have called me to serve, in family, in church, in community. To your glory. Amen.
Reflect: Where are you most aware of weakness in your own life? Deliberately put it into the Lord’s hands. Ask him to make his power known in you, for the strengthening of others. To his glory.