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Weakness and Strength

On this Resurrection Sunday, I’d like to reflect on the power of God that is expressed inextricably at the cross and in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Joel Beeke has expertly drawn this point out in his systematic theology, and so I will take the remainder of this reflection to summarize his thoughts.

Beeke begins by reminding us that “Christ’s crucifixion displays ‘the power of God’ (1 Cor 1:18, 24), a hidden power known only by faith but divine power nonetheless, for ‘the weakness of God is stronger than men’ (v25).”[1] The actual events of the passion week certainly play into the power of God that Paul has in mind, for they are the culmination of “the work God had given him to do (John 17:4).” With that in mind, Christ’s obedience is key to the expression of the power of God on the cross and through Christ’s resurrection. And when we think about Christ’s obedience, we cannot limit ourselves to the passion week.

On the extended idea of Christ’s obedience, Beeke writes that “Christ saved us by his obedience as he increasingly sanctified his holy human nature, not from the presence of sin, but to attain deeper levels of consecration to God’s will. This was a process spanning Christ’s incarnate life in his state of humiliation. God’s incarnate Son was born in holiness, yet he increased in wisdom and piety (Luke 1:35; 2:52).”[2] The power of Christ, then, is wielded in this most unusual way: perfect obedience. Again, Beeke writes,

Christ defeated the power of sin once for all by exercising perfect obedience to God in the most extreme sorrow. Enduring suffering while persevering in obedience to God's will strengthens any man in his rejection of sin and performance of righteousness (1 Pet 4:1-2). Much more the last Adam forged a new, righteous humanity in the fiery furnace of human rejection, Satanic temptation, and divine wrath. Calvin said, “By his wrestling hand to hand with the devil's power, with the dread of death, with the pains of hell, he was victorious and triumphed over them, that in death we may not now fear those things which our Prince has swallowed up.” Christ now imparts by his Spirit the human holiness he perfected in his own human nature.[3]

Here is the power of God in Christ’s crucifixion. It is not a world-domineering power, neither is it a political power. It is seemingly the weakest of power: submission to the will of another for the sake of others. Here is the folly of Christ crucified because it appears to be utter failure. But “the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25 ESV). This, then, is the convergence of Christ’s kingly and priestly offices, for the King of glory is also the Passover lamb, the one who has both the power and the perfection to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Of course, none of this matters if the tomb is still occupied on the third day, for no matter how much we may appreciate the great example Jesus provided in his earthly ministry, it doesn’t make a lick of difference unless he is raised from the dead. Thus, the “weakness” of Jesus’ priestly obedience and sacrifice on Good Friday turns to strength on Easter Sunday when he is raised for our justification (Rom 4:25). Beeke then connects the resurrection with the power God in the following way:

Christ’s resurrection displayed his conquest over the powers of evil. Paul says that God raised Christ and seated him “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come (Eph 1:21).” Christ won the victory over the corrupt human authorities who condemned him to death and continue to persecute his people (Ps 2:1-7; Acts 4:24-28), and over the evil spiritual principalities and powers that war against the church (Eph 6:12; cf. Rev 12:5,17).[4]

Let us, then, celebrate the power of God as it was wielded through the folly of the cross and the vindication of the resurrection. Let’s celebrate the power of Christ’s obedience that has exalted him and saved us.

[1] Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2019), 2.1123. [2] Ibid. [3] Beeke and Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, 2.1125. [4] Beeke and Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, 2.1129.

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