Not in Talk . . . But in Power!
For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.
1 Corinthians 4:20
In the fourth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul has been dealing with some in the Corinthian church who have been puffed up about their own accomplishments and spiritual prowess. In their arrogance, they have been promoting a false understanding of the Christian life and threatening the unity of the church. Paul, as the founder of the Corinthian church, is deeply concerned. He thinks that he may need to make another visit to Corinth to straighten things out. When this happens, he will examine, not just what the arrogant Christians are saying, but how they are living. “For,” Paul explains, “the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power” (4:20).
The original Greek of this verse reads even more simply, “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” Of course, Paul, of all people, is not denying the importance of the content of the Christian faith, the Gospel and the words with which it is proclaimed. Words do matter, both to Paul and to all Christians. But, in context, Paul’s point is that when God is truly present in our lives, when we are living under God’s sovereignty, then we will experience God’s power.
The prime example of this truth is the ministry of Jesus. He announced the presence of God’s kingdom and demonstrated that presence with works of power. In Paul’s own ministry, the power of God was present in manifold ways. Among the Corinthians, for example, the fact that so many had believed a Gospel that their culture branded as foolish was clear evidence that God was at work.
So it is today. We who follow Jesus are to be his witnesses, telling others what he has done for us. Yet this message will not be persuasive unless it is backed up by evidence of God’s power. If people see God at work in and through us, if they sense his presence in our compassion, our prayers, and our communities of faith, then they will be open to hear what we have to say about Jesus.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How have you experienced the power of God in your life? Where have you seen words about God mirrored in works of divine power?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I am mostly a person of words. Talking and writing come naturally to me. Thus I might be tempted to envision the Christian life primarily as a matter of getting the words right. The words do matter because truth comes packaged in words, and your truth is essential. But it would be easy for me to focus so much on the words I use that I fail to live in your power.
Help me to get the words right. But also, Lord, help me to live the words. As I offer my life to you and live under your kingdom, may you be at work in me and through me. May those who hear my words see their reality in my life.
All praise be to you, God of truth, God of power, King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen.