4 For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you. 5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? 6 But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.
When I first read this passage today, I thought that it meant Jesus was crucified because of His weakness, but that’s not what Paul is saying here. He is saying that He was crucified because of weakness that wasn’t His own. Just as Paul said in verse 21 of chapter 5 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Jesus took on the weakness in the flesh to fight for us. As we identify with Christ (read Romans 6), we then do the same. We humble ourselves and recognize our weakness and because we recognize it, we also are able to experience the power of God in our lives. It seems a bit weird because this is a spiritual concept, not a worldly one. Yet, Paul describes this concept throughout his letters to the Corinthians:
but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, (1 Cor. 1:27)
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Cor. 12:10)
It appears that Paul changes subjects about this and implores the Corinthians to test themselves to make sure they are of the faith. While my analytical mind and the human response to want a sort of litmus test to discover a negative or positive result immediately kicks in, I don’t think that approach can be applied to this. This kind of “testing” cannot be easily defined by a simple yes or no answer. The reason is because our flesh wars with our spirit. While the spirit of God resides in us, our old habits and untransformed mind wants to tell and guide us differently. The test isn’t just a once and done question that we answer and move on from the result, rather it is a question we must constantly ask ourselves as a part of our spiritual growth.
Do I really believe in God and what He says? This is a constant question I ask myself. It is what started me writing this blog years ago. It is a vulnerable place to put ourselves in, but it’s necessary to grow spiritually. If we look back to Jesus’ sermon on the mount, He opened it with a passage we call the Beatitudes (or “beautiful attitudes” as one teacher taught me). As we read it, we find that these qualities that Jesus describes are quite integral to a life of service and humility. They seem like good suggestions of how to live life, but how hard are we striving for them? How much do we identify with them? The difficult truth is that these things are not possible in our lives without the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit residing in us. Without entering into an intimate relationship with Jesus, we won’t be able to achieve any of these things. I realized that some of these things are temporarily achievable, but to live all of them out every moment of our lives is impossible without the power of God. The one that always challenges me is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This is where the weakness that Paul was talking about integrates with being in the faith.
If we are prideful and cannot recognize our own weakness or need for God’s strength in our lives to overcome the slavery and burden of sinfulness in this world, then we don’t believe. We have no faith in God if we don’t think we need Him in our lives; nor will we put ourselves in a position to experience His power. Regardless of the reason, our lack of belief in His existence and our need for Him or resistance to trust Him at His word is an indication that we truly do not believe. As humans, we fight against accepting weakness. Our core being struggles against humility. We never like being told we are wrong, weak, or unable to do something on our own. It is difficult to accept help from others. Being in the faith means living a life of surrender to God in response to His deity, love, and desire to be close to us. This isn’t to mean we won’t struggle with it; relationships take time and work. But our desire to seek Him and know Him more is evidence of our faith.
Sometimes I think of what we call “extremists” who do some crazy things in the name of their god, but I wonder, do I believe in my God that much? Would I be willing to set myself aflame or blow myself up or sacrifice my only son because God told me to do it? Regardless if we agree with the motives of these “extremists,” we must at least recognize the faith of these folks who put it all on the line and sacrifice all. Do you have that kind of extreme faith?