“ For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. 1 Cor. 4:20
This is a serious text, and everybody is likely to admit in his conscience that this is true. The one who desires to stand saved before the throne of God should not thoughtlessly forget this truth, but should rather invoke the Spirit of God for grace to bear it in mind and to examine himself seriously.
That “the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” is so important, because first of all every human heart is a wicked and deceitful thing, full of falseness, lies, deceit and hypocrisy because of which one is always in great anger of deceiving oneself with a seeming piousness, with a Christianity of the lips only, with knowledge and profession, but without possessing true life and power. Secondly, the text we are considering here is a work “in due season” (Matt. 24:45), meaning that the time in which we now live is such that at least in some places, the dear Christians should pay special attention to the fact that “the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power”.
It is true that at all times and places, among the awakened there will always be some who will deceive themselves and content themselves only with a store of knowledge and intelligence and a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof (2 Tim. 3:5). But sometimes it happens that whole congregations content themselves with only words and knowledge. At such times and places it becomes specially necessary to remember that the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
We do not want to hide from ourselves how things were in the congregation to which the apostle addressed these severe words. It was the congregation in Corinth. Paul had preached the gospel to them “not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4) He had announced to them the counsel of God as regards our salvation and they had received it simply and had been blessed with a simple faith. But soon such a spirit got a foothold there, that almost all their attention was paid only to the doctrine, not to the practice; no, to the doctrine, teachings and teachers. It was a matter of Paul and Cephas and Apollos; so that “every one saith: I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:12).
It was obvious they thought less about the fact that it was so bad with their own inward condition, than with the application and power of the doctrine on their hearts and life. Therefore also quite terrible things happened among them without their becoming much worried. And in addition they were content with themselves, “puffed up:, strong and brave in very bad conditions. In the very next chapter from which we have taken our text the apostle says: “Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: we are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom in not in word, but in power.”
Now also where this picture does not completely fit us, it is still a fact that we too are richer in words than in power. Praise the Lord, we are rich in spiritual knowledge, in words and intelligence. We have more of spiritual knowledge than the greatest saints had formerly. Truly one can confess with Bishop Pontoppidan: “If I look at our ancestors, I think that they did more than they knew, but we know more than we do. They are like a fruitful Leah with weak eyes, but we are a barren Rachel with a beautiful face”. Therefore what is now the most necessary thing is certainly the practice, the realization. “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.”
May the idea be far from us – the idea that some have had and still have, that what we have enough of is the preaching of faith and that what is lacking is the doctrine of sanctification; that faith has now been preached enough and that the shortcomings in our Christianity should now be remedied by preaching of law and sanctification. No, it still is true that it is only the despised “foolish preaching”, the power of faith that gives the Spirit, life, power and truth unto sanctification. Where the power and demonstration of godliness missing, there faith and life in Christ are missing.
But the fault is that we do not take the word to heart to apply it, use it and realize it right now, but only gather it in our brains in order to sort out the conceptions and get the doctrine clarified. In other words we spend all the time fabricating, polishing and arranging the weapons, and let the enemy keep the country without using the weapons against him.
The whole of our attention is directed to doctrines and conceptions whereas the very things the Word calls for are forgotten, the heart’s repentance, faith, true confidence, joy, life, love and acquaintanceship with God in Christ, leading to the true sanctification which springs therefrom. That is in some way forgotten. Yet hereby we are in danger of losing the doctrine, the true doctrine ! and we are without the very thing needed most – the kingdom of God within us. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. ”
From Day by Day with God Volume 2
Written by C. O. Rosenius