“…but we preach Christ crucified…For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” -1 Corinthians 1:23, 25
During the sermon on Sunday, I emphasized our calling to be what Martin Luther called, Theologians of the Cross. Christ’s victory came through the seeming defeat of the cross. Therefore, for us who are followers of Christ—servants who are no greater than our master—our posture in the world will also be one of humility. Often, from the world’s perspective, we will appear weak and foolish, but God is at work bringing everything to His good end.
One example of this from the early church is after the execution of Stephen. Following his death, the Bible records: “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered” (Acts 8:1). It would appear with Christians scattering due to the “great persecution” the light of the gospel was being extinguished. Yet, that’s not all of the account. We are also told; “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). God was at work bringing victory through seeming defeat…their scattering was fulfilling the Great Commission.
What sustains us in our posture of humility? The short answer is the gospel. J.I. Packer in his book, Weakness is the Way unpacks the short answer. Speaking of his ministry, the Apostle Paul wrote: “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus…For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:10-11). Commenting on this verse, Packer said:
What was the dying process? Pain and exhaustion with ridicule and contempt, all to the nth degree; a tortured state that would drive any ordinary person to long for death, when it would all be over. But, says Paul, Christ’s messengers are sustained, energized, and empowered, despite these external weakening factors, by a process of daily renewal within. Eventually…“he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake,” to bring you to share in the ever-growing chorus of thanksgiving that gratitude for grace, itself generated by grace, is currently producing “to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:14-15). (pg. 101)
Not only does Dr. Packer described what a ministry of humility looks like, but also what sustains such a ministry, the hope we have in Christ.
Ministers of Christ will keep on keeping on, not matter what…What animates and propels them is the power of their hope as they “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).
God-taught hoping leads to God-given strengthening. When, humanly, we are weak, then in the Lord we are strong. So it was for the apostles and their colleagues two millennia ago, and so it can and should be today for you and me. (pgs. 102-3, emphasis mine)
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 10:9-10