1 Corinthians 4:20 - All Talk, No Action?
1 Cor 4:20 (KJV) For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in
1 Cor 4:20 (TLB) The Kingdom of God is not just talking; it is
living by God's power.
"God's rule is shown in the lives of people by what they do
rather than by what they say," (UBS Translator Handbook Series)
The religion of the Lord Jesus is not in word-- in human
eloquenee, excellence of speech, or even in doctrines; but in power, in the
mighty energy of the Holy Spirit; enlightening, quickening, converting,
and sanctifying believers; (Adam Clarke Commentary)
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. [Matthew Henry Commentary]
Some people talk a lot about faith, but that's all it is--talk.
They may know all the right words to say, but their lives don't
reflect God's power. Paul says that the kingdom of God is to be 'lived,'
not just discussed. There is a big difference between knowing the
right words and living them out. Don't be content to have the right
answers about Christ. Let your life show that God's power is really
working in you. [Life Application SB]
It is not their high-sounding words that matter; it is their
deeds. Jesus never said, "By their words you shall know them," He said,
"By their fruits you shall know them." The world is full of talk
about Christianity, but one deed is worth a thousand words. [Barclay
People who talk eloquently about the kingdom may be
troublemakers. The test is whether their lives demonstrate God's power.
Paul was not interested in the natural abilities...; he wanted to
see evidence that God was changing their lives. [Jamieson, Fausset,
And Brown Commentary]
I wanted a BB gun so badly. I was only six or seven. When
Grandpa Zeluff grinned, and showed me the gun-shaped package under the
Christmas tree, I was so excited I could hardly wait.
Everyone seemed to smile at me as the presents were passed out,
one by one, till only that gun-shaped present remained. Then I had
it in my hands! I tore off the paper - and almost burst into tears.
It was a popgun. A toy for a toddler. It didn't shoot BBs. It fired
a cork, all of two to three feet.
I choked out a "thank-you" to Grandpa Zeluff, and went outside.
And then I did cry.
I suspect that many Christians have looked under the Christmas
tree and seen a Christ-shaped package. They've opened it with great
excitement, but somehow the power they expected to find just hasn't been
there. In their life, Jesus has seemed about as effective as that
popgun of mine, able only to poof out a cork or two.
Why? Why should our faith fizzle, and become a popgun
experience? In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul gave a number of reasons. First, we get
sidetracked (vv. 1-7). We either criticize or rely on ourselves and our
leaders, forgetting that the source of all success and the focus of our
faith is God. Try relying on mere men for a while - on any mere man -
and your faith will never generate more than popgun power.
Second, we get comfortable (vv. 8-17). We assume that
Christianity is a matter of soft pews, dressing up on Sabbaths, and
maintaining the respect of outsiders. We forget that the Apostles, who
displayed dynamic spiritual power, saw Christianity as a calling to
selfless service. Paul suffered to serve others. Concentrate on comfort
rather than service, and you have all the popgun power of a popgun
Finally, we get arrogant. We know the right words, and we treat
Christianity as if it were just a matter of words rather than a matter of
living as citizens of a heavenly kingdom. When faith is a matter of
talk rather than a daily walk with Jesus, the power simply is not
I wept when I got my popgun that Christmas. What a
disappointment. But how much more terrible to become a Christian expecting to
experience God's power, and then to settle for a popgun religion.
You don't need to.
Keep your focus on Jesus. Concentrate on service. And walk daily
with the LORD. [The 365-Day Devotional Commentary]
"Shortly before Christmas, John Sung [later the great evangelist
of China] accompanied some fellow students to a special
evangelistic campaign at the First Baptist Church. He expected to hear Dr.
Haldeman, an eloquent and learned preacher, but instead, the speaker was a
15-year-old girl! She spoke simply and yet powerfully. The proud, skeptical
heart of the Ph.D. scientist was moved to the depths. He determined to
discover for himself the secret of such spiritual power. He began reading
Christian biographies 'to investigate the secret of the effective ministry
of great Christians of the past' and 'soon discovered that in each
case it was the power of the Holy Spirit that made the difference.'
Turning down opportunities to teach science in America and China, he
decided rather to give his life to preaching the Gospel." John T.
Seamands [The 365-Day Devotional Commentary]