1 Corinthians 4:20
For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
4:14-21 In reproving for sin, we should distinguish between sinners and their sins. Reproofs that kindly and affectionately warn, are likely to reform. Though the apostle spoke with authority as a parent, he would rather beseech them in love. And as ministers are to set an example, others must follow them, as far as they follow Christ in faith and practice. Christians may mistake and differ in their views, but Christ and Christian truth are the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Whenever the gospel is effectual, it comes not in word only, but also in power, by the Holy Spirit, quickening dead sinners, delivering persons from the slavery of sin and Satan, renewing them both inwardly and outwardly, and comforting, strengthening, and establishing the saints, which cannot be done by the persuasive language of men, but by the power of God. And it is a happy temper, to have the spirit of love and meekness bear the rule, yet to maintain just authority.For the kingdom of God - The reign of God in the church (see the note at Matthew 3:2); meaning here, probably, the power or authority which was to be exercised in the government and discipline of the church. Or it may refer to the manner in which the church had been established. "It has not been set up by empty boasting; by pompous pretensions; by confident assertions. Such empty boasts would do little in the great work of founding, governing, and preserving the church and unless people have some higher powers than this they are not qualified to be religious teachers and guides."

But in power -

(1) In the miraculous power by which the church was established - the power of the Saviour and of the apostles in working miracles.

(2) in the power of the Holy Spirit in the gift of tongues, and in his influence on the heart in converting people; see the note at 1 Corinthians 1:18.

(3) in the continual power which is needful to protect, defend, and govern the church. Unless teachers showed that they had such power, they were not qualified for their office.

20. kingdom of God is not in word—Translate, as in 1Co 4:19, to which the reference is "speech." Not empty "speeches," but the manifest "power" of the Spirit attests the presence of "the kingdom of God" (the reign of the Gospel spiritually), in a church or in an individual (compare 1Co 2:1, 4; 1Th 1:5). The kingdom of God in the church, or the kingdom of God in the particular soul. God hath not sent his ministers to subdue souls to himself by fine, florid words and phrases, but by a lively preaching the gospel, while his power attends their plain preaching; and the power and efficacy of the preachers’ doctrine appeareth in their holy life and conversation, so as their people cannot say to them: Physician, heal thyself, as to those spiritual diseases which thou wouldst cure us of. So the kingdom of God in particular souls doth not appear in words, but in the power which the word of God hath upon men’s hearts, in subduing their lusts and corruptions, and bringing their hearts into a subjection to his will. For the kingdom of God,.... By "the kingdom of God" is not meant the kingdom of heaven, or the ultimate glory and happiness of the saints; though that is a kingdom prepared by God, which he gives to his children, calls them to by his grace, and will give them an abundant entrance into, when time shall be no more with them; and though that is not attained to "in", or "by word", by mere talk and profession; not everyone that says Lord, Lord, shall enter into it; or that professes the name of Christ, and prophesies in it; but "in" or "by power"; through the power of God, beginning, carrying on, and finishing a work of grace upon the soul, and keeping it, through faith, unto salvation: nor the kingdom of grace, or that internal principle of grace in the soul, which reigns, and by which Christ reigns there, and by which the saints appear to be kings as well as priests unto God: though this also does not lie "in word", in a profession of faith, in talking about love, and in making pretensions to the knowledge of divine things; nor merely in deeds, and outward actions, in bodily exercise, in a form of godliness, and a round of religion, and a show of righteousness;

but in power: in internal powerful godliness; for true godliness is a powerful thing; faith is powerful, and so is love; and so is prayer, and preaching; and so is all religion, internal and external, where there is the life and truth of grace, and that in exercise. But I rather think the Gospel is here meant, often in Scripture called the kingdom of God, and the doctrines of it, the mysteries of the kingdom; because it is a message from the King of kings; the means of setting up the kingdom or grace in the heart; its subjects are things concerning the kingdom of God; it is what has brought life and immortality, or an immortal life to light; and gives the best account of the invisible glories of the heavenly state, and points out the saints' meetness for it, and title to it; declaring that except a man is born again, and has a better righteousness than his own, even that of Christ's, he shall neither see nor enter into the kingdom of heaven. Now the Gospel is not in "word"; though it lies in the word of God, the Scriptures of truth: and treats of the essential word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ; and cannot be preached without words, even the words of men; yet is not to be preached with wisdom of words, with enticing words of man's wisdom, or in the words which man's wisdom teacheth; nor does the efficacy of it lie in, or depend upon the words of the preacher, or on mere moral persuasion: for whenever it is effectual, it comes not "in word only, but also in power"; 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and by "power" is meant, not a power of working miracles the first preachers of the Gospel had, and by which it was greatly confirmed; nor a godly life and conversation which that enforced upon, and engaged both ministers and people to; but the powerful efficacy of the Spirit, attending the preaching of the Gospel to the quickening of dead sinners, the enlightening of blind eyes, and unstopping of deaf ears; the softening of hard hearts, the delivering of persons from the slavery of sin and Satan, the transforming and renewing of them both inwardly and outwardly; and to the comforting, enlivening, strengthening, and establishing of the saints; all which can never be ascribed to the persuasive language of men, but to the power of God; and which is the more apparent when it is observed what mean and despicable instruments in the eyes of men are made use of: what the doctrines are that are preached, not being of man, nor agreeably to his carnal reason, but esteemed foolishness by him; and the manner in which they are propagated, not in a carnal way, by outward force, but by the foolishness of preaching: and the opposition made to it both by the enmity of man's heart unto it, by the men of the world, and by Satan and his principalities and powers.

For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 4:20. Justification of the γνώσομαι οὐ τὸν λόγον κ.τ.λ[728] by an axiom.

ἐν λόγῳ and ἐν δυνάμει describe wherein the βασιλεία has its causal basis; it has the condition of its existence not in speech, but in power (see on 1 Corinthians 4:19). Comp on 1 Corinthians 2:5. The βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ, again, is not here, as it never is elsewhere (see on Matthew 3:2; Matthew 6:10), and in particular never in Paul’s writings (neither in this passage nor in Romans 14:7; Colossians 1:13; Colossians 4:11; see on these verses), the church, or the kingdom of God in the ethical sense (Neander: “the fellowship of the divine life, which is brought about by fellowship with the Redeemer”), but the Messianic kingdom, in which, at its expected (speedy) manifestation, those only can become members who are truly believing and truly sanctified (Colossians 3:3 f.; Php 4:18-21; Ephesians 5:5, al[730]). But faith and holy living are not established by high-soaring speech (not by τὰ ἐν τοῖς λόγοις φαντάσματα, Plat. Soph. p. 234 E), but by δύναμις, which is able effectively to procure gain for the kingdom (Colossians 1:28 f.; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Corinthians 9:19 ff.; 2 Corinthians 10:4 f.).

[728] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[730] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.1 Corinthians 4:20. “For not in word (lies) the kingdom of God, but in power:” another of Paul’s religious maxims (see note on 1 Corinthians 1:29), repeated in many forms: cf. 2 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Corinthians 13:3 f., etc. The βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ always (even in Romans 14:17) bears ref[785] to the final Messianic rule (see 1 Corinthians 6:9 f., 1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Corinthians 15:50); the “power of God” called it into being and operates in every man who truly serves it. That Divine realm is not built up by windy words. To the same test P. offers himself in 2 Corinthians 13:1-10. For εἶναι (understood) ἐν, see 1 Corinthians 2:5 and note.

[785] reference.20. not in word, but in power] See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 1:5, where the word here used is translated utterance. In the last verse it is translated speech. Like our words sermon and discourse, it contains within itself the notion of matter and oral delivery. Of what the Apostle meant by power, we are scarcely fit judges. We have been too familiar with them from childhood to be able to comprehend what power the Apostles’ words must have had upon the hearts and lives of those who heard them. We may gain some slight idea by comparing them with the best passages of the earliest Christian writers after the Apostles; and still more by comparing them with the utterances of the Greek sophists and dialecticians of the time. The kingdom of God, St Paul would remind his hearers, i.e. His sovereignty over the human heart, is not simply an affair of the intellect, but of the spirit. It does not consist in the acceptance or establishment of certain propositions, but in influence over the life and conscience.1 Corinthians 4:20. Οὐ γὰρ, for not) An axiom.—ἐν δυνάμει, in power) The absence of the article gives force to the meaning, as in Ephesians 4:21. [Weigh thoroughly that in which the power of thy Christianity consists.—V.g.]Verse 20. - The kingdom of God. The Christian life, with all its attainments and all its hopes. Is not in word, but in power. It is not a matter of profession, or of eloquence, or of phrases, but of transforming efficacy. St. Paul always appeals for the corroboration of his authority to the signs and power of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 10:45; Romans 15:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:5), to the "demonstration" of which he has already referred (1 Corinthians 2:4).
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