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1 Corinthians 1:25 says:

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Has God ever been weak? What does it mean to say that God has weakness? What was this weakness Paul was talking about?

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In context, Paul is talking about Christ crucified (1:23), i.e. a submission to shameful death which surely looked too "weak" to be the activity of God. And yet this "weakness" is stronger than men's strength, because through it God conquered sin and death.

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  • If God had a weekness then the bible contradicts itself because we are told over and over he is perfect and unchanging...meaning there is nothing for him to improve apon. Aug 20 '16 at 5:30
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Rather than “foolishness” and “weakness,” both abstract nouns, for which the apostle Paul would likely have used (as he did a few verses earlier) the Greek μωρία1 and ἀσθένεια,2 respectively, we should understand μωρὸν3 and ἀσθενὲς4 as adjectives functioning substantively as concrete nouns, each referring to some concrete thing rather than an abstract concept.

In this context, the concrete “foolish thing” (τὸ μωρὸν) and “the weak thing” (τὸ ἀσθενὲς) likely refer to Christ himself insofar as he is crucified, i.e. “Christ crucified,”5 for it was the preaching by the apostles of Christ crucified6—“the preaching of the cross”7—that is identified by the abstract noun “foolishness” (μωρία) with respect to those who perish (i.e, unbelievers).8 However, “to those who are called,”9 the same Christ crucified is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.”10

Since, then, the same “Christ crucified” is perceived differently between two groups (unbelievers and believers), the phrase “the foolish [thing] of God” does not mean that there is something foolish (or weak) in God, or that God does something foolish (or weak), objectively. Rather, it is according to the unbelievers that “Christ crucified” is weak or foolish, subjectively. On the other hand, according to the believers, the same “Christ crucified” is powerful and wise, subjectively.


Footnotes

1 cf. 1 Cor. 1:18, 1:21, 1:23
2 cf. 1 Cor. 2:3
3 lemma μωρός
4 lemma ἀσθενής
5 1 Cor. 1:23
6 1 Cor. 1:21
7 1 Cor. 1:18
8 1 Cor. 1:21
9 1 Cor. 1:24, i.e., the believers, cf. 1 Cor. 1:21; the saved, cf. 1 Cor. 1:18
10 ibid.

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Here is a really great commentary talking about just that. It's not the fact that God is foolish or weak but even what appears so to us is still so much better than our human efforts...

Because the foolishness of God - That which God appoints, requires, commands, does, etc., which appears to people to be foolish. The passage is not to be understood as affirming that it is really foolish or unwise; but that it appears so to people - Perhaps the apostle here refers to those parts of the divine administration where the wisdom of the plan is not seen; or where the reason of what God does is concealed.

Is wiser than men - Is better adapted to accomplish important ends, and more certainly effectual than the schemes of human wisdom. This is especially true of the plan of salvation - a plan apparently foolish to the mass of people - yet indubitably accomplishing more for the renewing of people, and for their purity and happiness, than all the schemes of human contrivance. They have accomplished nothing toward people's salvation; this accomplishes everything. They have always failed; this never fails.

The weakness of God - There is really no weakness in God, any more than there is folly. This must mean, therefore, the things of his appointment which appear weak and insufficient to accomplish the end. Such are these facts - that God should seek to save the world by Jesus of Nazareth, Who was supposed unable to save himself Matthew 27:40-43; and that he should expect to save people by the gospel, by its being preached by people who were without learning, eloquence, wealth, fame, or power. The instruments were feeble; and people judged that this was owing to the weakness or lack of power in the God who appointed them.

Is stronger than men - Is able to accomplish more than the utmost might of man. The feeblest agency that God puts forth - so feeble as to be esteemed weakness - is able to effect more than the utmost might of man. The apostle here refers particularly to the work of redemption; but it is true everywhere. We may remark:

(1) That God often effects his mightiest plans by that which seems to men to be weak and even foolish. The most mighty revolutions arise often from the slightest causes; his most vast operations are often connected with very feeble means. The revolution of empires; the mighty effects of the pestilence; the advancement in the sciences, and arts, and the operations of nature, are often brought about by means apparently as little suited to accomplish the work as those which are employed in the plan of redemption.

(2) God is great. If his feeblest powers put forth, surpass the mightiest powers of man, how great must be his might. If the powers of man who rears works of art; who levels mountains and elevates vales; if the power which reared the pyramids, be as nothing when compared with the feeblest putting forth of divine power, how mighty must be his arm! How vast that strength which made, and which upholds the rolling worlds! How safe are his people in his hand! And how easy for him to crush all his foes in death!

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