I wrote a commentary on the NT letter of 2 Corinthians which was published in 2020. A number of folks in my church are reading the commentary in small groups. One of the men reading the book asked me yesterday, “What part of the letter affected you the most?” Great question; easy answer. Studying 2 Corinthians made me very aware of the character of the author, the Apostle Paul. With great respect, I learned about his great humility. I was struck over and over again by the famous Apostle’s confession that “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).
By way of background, let me say that in the first century, this was a very difficult church to pastor (to put it lightly). The Corinthian Christians were arrogant and “puffed up” (1 Cor 8:1), imagining that they knew everything and were so spiritually “mature.” But, “false teachers,” “false prophets” had infiltrated the church and were malicious enemies of Paul. They accused their founder and pastor of being weak, ineffective and mild-mannered (see 2 Cor 11:13-15). 2 Corinthians is a defense of Paul’s ministry, his character, and his gospel message. Instead of commending himself and touting his superior position of leadership, Paul focused on his “weaknesses”!
He said that he would boast “as a fool,” but boast “in the Lord.” The readers, unfortunately, thought they were “so wise,” but were actually “putting up with fools” (2 Cor 11:16-21). Thus, Paul said, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness….therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 11:30; 12:9-10). Praise God, who says, “My grace is sufficient for you, and my power is made perfect in weakness”! (2 Cor 12:6). This is a beautiful paradox that Americans have a hard time understanding (not unlike the Corinthians). It seems very contradictory to our culture today to say that there is power in our weaknesses.
The key to this dichotomy, and to Paul’s humility, is the power of Christ, which surpasses all human knowledge, wisdom, opinions, arguments, and philosophies. If we push aside our own selfish ambition, authority, and control, we make room in our lives for the power of Christ. His power and his grace are sufficient if we would just trust him and let him take control.
The perfect example of power in weakness is the cross of Christ. Paul said of Jesus, “to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power” (2 Cor 13:4). Jesus was killed by the authority of the “powerful” Jewish and Roman leadership; yet, he was resurrected by the greater power of God. During his ministry, no doubt Paul trusted in God’s power on a daily basis. To the church in Philippi, Paul wrote: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether will fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Php 4:12-13).
“Likewise,” Paul wrote, “we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you” (2 Cor 13:4). In our dealing with our own opposition and adversaries, we must release our control, learn to live with Jesus, and allow God to deal with the situation.
I experienced the power of God as I wrote the commentary book. I had never written a commentary before, so I struggled under my own power to do it well. Yet, many times I was halted in my writing, hindered and unsure as to what to write. In his time, God would answer my prayers, stay with me, guide me, enlighten me and encourage me to keep going. He would give me ideas, and just the right book for research. In my weakness, God certainly did grant me his power and his insights – every time. I am so humbled by God’s faithful power and grace to help me to do what he asks me to do, and to be what he asks me to be.