Monday, May 13, 2019


Great to have Dan Steel from Magdalen Road Church preaching from 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 for us yesterday.  Lots of weakness in the passage.  The message looks weak and foolish, the people who believe are weak and foolish, the ministers of the gospel work by apparently weak and foolish means.  We would love it all to be stronger, more impressive - but as Dan pointed out, that's because we're glory thieves.  We want the gospel and the church to be (and be seen to be) strong, so that we can be confident in ourselves.  Instead, we are forced to be confident in God.

The logic of Paul's position shows that this is God's choice - it is deliberate.  God chooses to use 'weak' things so that we are forced to rely on him.  It might seem as if God is deliberately keeping us weak.  But the deeper logic is that it could not be any other way.  God must use 'weak' things and thus force us to rely on himself - because he is the only source of strength.  If God had given us a 'strong' message, called a 'strong' people - well, we would have ended up weak.  Weak.

Strength doesn't come through intermediate things, not really.  God does not and cannot impart strength through a message or a method which detaches us from himself.  The reason the gospel gives strength is because it highlights our weakness and binds us to God.

Elsewhere Paul tells the Corinthians that because of the Lord he can say 'when I am weak, then I am strong'.  This is so, because God's grace is perfected in weakness.  At various points I have wanted this to mean something like: when I am weak, it is only temporary, because God will shortly provide new strength.  But it isn't that.  It isn't that at all.  Right now, in my weakness, I am strong - but the strength isn't in me.  I am strong only because in my weakness I am forced to lean on God, the only strength.  God is strength, I am weakness.  I am strong only in so far as I am wholly dependent on him.

Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.  It is the waiting, the waiting on him, that brings strength.  The strength never becomes something in us, something we can bank for later; we can never get to a point where we need wait no longer.

So I guess the overall need that we have as churches and as individuals is to be so desperately weak, so thoroughly committed to the weak proclamation of a foolish message, that if anything is going to happen it will have to be God.  It will have to be him.

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