T. PIERCE BROWN
In 1 Corinthians 1:25, we find that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Having read that for over 50 years, I suppose I took for granted that it means, in general, anything that God did that might SEEM foolish is still wiser than what men can plan to do, and anything that might seem weakness is still stronger than anything men can do.
But about 2 a.m. this morning I was gripped again with the majestic theme of the infinite power and wisdom of God, so that my breath almost came in gasps as I tried to grasp anew “the unsearchable riches of Christ” and meditated on his ways that are “past finding out”(Romans 11:33). The awareness struck me so strongly that I was sure I could never have been unaware of it that Paul was not speaking in general. He is speaking of one specific thing–which still astounds and thrills me with its profundity, its simplicity, and its multifarious results. The death of Christ accomplished over 60 things, each of which is infinitely significant with reference to the eternal destiny of man. So the thing of which he speaks in not weakness and foolishness in general, but is the gospel of Christ, which Paul summarizes as “the word of the cross” (1 Corinthians1:18).
The wisdom of the world still concludes, though wrongly, as it does about the problem of evil and many other things, “If God were omnipotent, he could have brought Christ down from the cross, or prevented his being there. If he were a loving Father, and could have, he would have. So, if there be a God at all, he can not be both omnipotent and loving, and probably is neither.” So the wisdom, love, and power of God are all called in question by the wisdom of men.
But the thing that to the world is an indication of foolishness, weakness and lack of love is really a demonstration of infinite wisdom, power and love. Consider again how impossible it is for a president or governor to be just and let a condemned felon–guilty and convicted–go free! He may offer all kinds of excuses and rationalization, but man can not be just and justify the ungodly. God can and does (Romans 4:5)!
Most of my life I have heard preachers say, “God could have saved man on any terms he might choose. but he chose for Christ to die, and for us to be baptized to show our faith in him and his plan.” The statement may be true, but the implications of it are false. That is, we may say, “God can do anything he chooses” and the statement may be true. But if by that we imply that he can CHOOSE to make a rock so big he can not move it, or can CHOOSE to lie (Hebrews 6:18), or can choose to do anything else which contradicts his nature, the implications of what we say are wrong.
Speaking in the accommodative language of Paul, the foolishness of God is the thing being preached (1 Cor.1:21). The thing being preached was that was a God-man who cared enough about me that he died on my behalf (John10:15) and in my stead (1 Peter2:14) so that God can be just and justify the ungodly. This does not mean that God justifies one IN his ungodliness. It means he can make him godly without coercing him or over-riding his freedom of choice.
The weakness of God is not merely some abstract or unknown thing about which we may speculate, but relates specifically to the same point. The omnipotent God was so weak that he could not bring Christ down from the cross and still save us! “He saved others, himself he cannot save” (Mark15:31). They said it in derisive unbelief, but they did not know what a really profound truth they uttered! For, wonder of wonders: He was impelled by the infinite power of his nature–LOVE– that his weakness–his inability to save himself and thus neglect my needs–did what all the power of men could not do.
This was true in at least two areas: First, ten million armed soldiers could not have been able to put Christ on the cross, but God’s “weakness” did. Second, through the “weakness of God”–his inability to find a different or better way to redeem fallen man–millions have been able to do through Christ what they could not do on their own!
Drunkards and dope addicts have become loving, life-sharing persons instead of death-dealing ones. Homosexuals have ceased their perverted sexual practices, and can see sin as instead of thinking of it merely as “an alternative life style”. We could fill pages with the kinds of persons about which Paul says, “Such were some of you” (1 Corinthians6:11) in seeing how the “weakness of God” could cause Paul and multiplied thousands to be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me” (Philippians4:13).
The paradox of an infinitely wise God doing such a “foolish” thing as letting his Son die for sinners, or an infinitely powerful God being weak enough to allow his Son to suffer the cruelest death the depraved mind of man could devise; the paradox of “him who knew no sin being made sin on our behalf ” (2 Cor. 5:21), of him who is the very source of life dying–that paradox is not only the greatest of all time, it is the most significant fact of which the mind of man can be made aware.
If alien sinners can be made to meditate on these facts and consider how foolish it is to reject God’s infinite wisdom, or if Christians can meditate on God’s “weakness” and be made stronger and more zealous to share with others the riches of God’s grace thus manifested, this writing will not have been in vain.