10 Key Bible Verses on Weakness

10 Key Bible Verses on Weakness

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.

1. 2 Corinthians 12:9–10

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. Read More

My grace is sufficient. Paul says that God’s grace “is sufficient” (in the present tense), underscoring the ever-present availability and sufficiency of God’s grace, for Paul and for every believer, regardless of how critical one’s circumstances may be (cf. Rom. 8:31–39). my power is made perfect in weakness. Paul was not allowed to speak about his heavenly revelations (2 Cor. 12:4, 6) but he quotes Christ’s declaration (“My grace is sufficient”) to underscore that his earthly weaknesses (not his revelations) would be the platform for perfecting and demonstrating the Lord’s power. This is the main point of 2 Cor. 12:1–13 and the foundation of Paul’s self-defense throughout 2 Corinthians.

2. Psalm 103:13–14

As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. Read More

God is a father to his people as a whole (Ex. 4:22–23), and to the particular faithful members (Prov. 3:12). Of course many human fathers fail to embody this idea; this image assumes that biblically informed people have an intuition of what fathers ideally should be like. But it also serves as a goal for faithful fathers: they will seek more and more to be the kind of father who shows compassion to his children.

3. 1 Corinthians 1:26–29

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. Read More

Just as the message and its messenger (Paul) were foolish by the world’s standards, so most of those in Corinth who believed the message were foolish by those same standards. God’s transformation of them into his people (by choosing them to be saved) in spite of their humanly unimpressive pedigree excludes all boasting in ancestry, accomplishment, or affiliation with one preacher or another (see also 1 Cor. 3:21–22).

God chose what is weak . . . to shame the strong. The themes of the lifting up of the downtrodden and the reversal of human status are prophesied in the OT (e.g., 1 Sam. 2:1–8; Isa. 61:1; cf. Luke 1:52; John 9:39).

4. Romans 15:1–3

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” Read More

A Call for Mutual Acceptance between the Strong and the Weak. Paul addresses a specific dispute, probably over whether Christians need to abide by Jewish food laws. Paul clearly sides theologically with the “strong” (who did not feel compelled to follow those laws), but he encourages them not to despise or scandalize the “weak.”

The strong have a responsibility to tolerate and support the weak instead of living selfishly to satisfy their own desires. The Christian life centers on strengthening others. Christ is the supreme example of living for the glory of God, as is shown in the citation of Ps. 69:9.

5. 2 Corinthians 11:30

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. Read More

God triumphs amid human weakness, embodying the principle of Christ’s crucifixion (1 Cor. 1:27; 2 Cor. 10:3; 2 Cor. 12:5, 9; 2 Cor. 13:4, 9).

6. Romans 5:6

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Read More

In this and the following verses, Paul grounds the subjective experience of God’s love (Rom. 5:5) in the objective work of Christ on the cross. Weak here denotes lack of moral strength and is parallel to ungodly.

7. Hebrews 4:15–16

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Read More

sympathize. Jesus is able to identify with his people (cf. Heb. 10:34) because of his human experience and the sufferings he endured while being tempted (Heb. 2:10–18, esp. Heb. 2:17–18). tempted. The Greek (peirazō) can refer either to temptation intended to bring one down or to testing designed to build one up; both connotations probably apply here (cf. Matt. 4:1–11; Luke 22:28). without sin. Though Jesus was tempted in every respect, that is, in every area of personal life, he (unlike every other human) remained sinless, and thus he is truly the holy high priest (Heb. 7:26–28; cf. 5:2–3). In their temptations, Christians can be comforted with the truth that nothing that entices them is foreign to their Lord. He too has felt the tug of sin, and yet he never gave in to such temptations.

Draw near (Gk. proserchomai, “approach, go to, draw near to”) is used consistently in Hebrews to represent a person approaching God (7:25; 10:1, 22; 11:6; 12:18, 22; cf. Ex. 16:9; 34:32; Lev. 9:5; Deut. 4:11), which is possible only when one’s sins are forgiven through the sacrificial and intercessory ministry of a high priest (Heb. 7:25; 10:22). The encouragement to “draw near” to God’s throne implies that Christians have the privilege of a personal relationship with God. Confidence translates Greek parrēsia (“boldness,” “confidence,” “courage,” esp. with reference to speaking before someone of great rank or power; cf. Heb. 3:6; Heb. 10:19, 35). It indicates that Christians may come before God and speak plainly and honestly (yet still with appropriate reverence), without fear that they will incur shame or punishment by doing so. throne of grace. God the Father, with Jesus at his right hand (Heb. 8:1; Heb. 12:2; cf. Heb. 1:8), graciously dispenses help from heaven to those who need forgiveness and strength in temptation (see Heb. 2:18).

8. Romans 8:26–27

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Read More

Although Christians do not always know God’s will in prayer, the Spirit himself intercedes for them in and through their unspeakable groans (cf. Rom. 8:23). This does not refer to speaking in tongues, since what Paul says here applies to all Christians and, according to 1 Cor. 12:30, only some Christians speak in tongues.

God always answers the requests of the Spirit in the affirmative, since the Spirit always prays in accord with God’s will.

9. Isaiah 40:28–31

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. Read More

God never suffers setbacks, and he helps those who do.

Even youths. Human strength at its best inevitably fails. Only the promise of God can sustain human perseverance.

wait for the LORD. Savoring God’s promise by faith until the time of fulfillment. renew. Find endless supplies of fresh strength.

10. Matthew 11:28–30

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Read More

Come to me is an invitation to trust Jesus personally, not merely to believe historical facts about him. All who labor and are heavy laden refers in the immediate context to those oppressed by the burden of religious legalism imposed on people by the scribes and Pharisees. But the wider application is that Jesus provides “rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29)—that is, eternal rest for all who seek forgiveness of their sins and freedom from the crushing legalistic burden and guilt of trying to earn salvation by good works.

yoke. The wooden frame joining two animals (usually oxen) for pulling heavy loads was a metaphor for one person’s subjection to another, and a common metaphor in Judaism for the law. The Pharisaic interpretation of the law, with its extensive list of proscriptions, had become a crushing burden (cf. Matt. 23:4) but was believed by the people to be of divine origin. Jesus’ yoke of discipleship, on the other hand, brings rest through simple commitment to him (cf. 1 John 5:3).

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