1 Corinthians 4:20
For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
The kingdom of God —
I. IS NOT IN WORD. It is one of the leading features of the age to make the gospel consist in phrases. It is a kind of pious fashion to formulate religious truths like the definitions of an exact science, and satisfy ourselves, and condemn others, only as they agree or not with the vernacular of party. There is a grievous lack of earnest originality, a suspicious amount of spiritual plagiarism in colloquial Christianity. Men adopt current phrases as a hypochondriac imagines the normal symptoms of a disease. Falsehoods often repeated at length impress their author with a vague belief of their veracity. And so the hypocrite or the formalist rehearse the spiritual phraseology of faith till they believe themselves believers. During the last century the besetting sin of the Church was a lifeless formality. Men have since learned to lay stress on forms of words in lieu of forms of worship.
II. IS IN POWER. But what kind of power? Not natural, nor moral, nor intellectual power. In these all men vary, but in the power of the text all who are the subjects of it are alike; for "it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." Note —
1. Its commencement in believers in Christ, to "whom gave He power to become the sons of God."
2. In its continuance in them, as they are "kept by the power of God unto salvation."
3. Its influence, so that this Divine "strength is made perfect in our weakness." When I am weak, then I am strong."
4. Its extent, including the final destiny of the body, which is "sown in weakness, but raised in power."
5. Its duration. Christ's people, like their Lord, being kings and priests after the order of Melchisedek, are "made after the power of an endless life."Conclusion:
1. By this power St. Paul would gauge the professions of his rivals. Not by their speech, though they might have had "the knowledge which puffeth up"; nor by their gifts, for they might have gifts without grace, or they might have grace without the gifts. So he would try professors now; for "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink," &c. And the solemn inquiry is, Have we "the form of godliness without the power"? If our personal religion have not power enough within us to subdue our besetments, with all its tongues of men and angels, its mysteries, and knowledge, and prophecy, and it may be, "all faith," it is the "sounding brass and tinkling cymbal." It is not the professing, but the putting on Christ, and by necessary consequence "the putting off as concerning the former conversation the old man with his deeds."
2. A day is coming when the critical inquiry will be, not what doctrinal system we professed, but what was its influence on our hearts and lives?
(J. B. Owen, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.