Bible Society of South Africa

A powerful kingdom – 23 September 2022

By Ben Fourie

Bible text(s)

20For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of words but of power.

1 Corinthians 4:20GNBOpen in Bible reader

Yesterday, we saw how Paul had to admonish the church in Rome because of the petty differences between members about rituals and customs. Today, it is the turn of the church in Corinth to be castigated because of division and dissention among the members. The letter that we use today is called the first letter to the Corinthians, but when one reads chapter 5:9, it seems as if there was an even older letter to them. This letter was mostly about moral issues, but it probably got lost. (The introduction to the Afrikaans Bible 2020 translation shed some light on this). In the letter that is traditionally seen as the first one, he again talks about immorality, lawsuits between believers, marriage, divorce and idol feasts. His biggest worry seems to be the divisions and disputes among members of the church.

As so often happens, these divisions gave cause to grouping around certain leaders. One group followed Paul, another Apollos and, yet, another Cephas. If one reads chapters three and four, it becomes clear that Paul was against what he called, “So then, no more boasting about human leaders!” (1 Corinthians 3:21). It is uncanny how history repeats itself. Today, there is also the problem of many people grouping around leaders, ironically, leaders who were called to be ministers of God. Worldwide, you will find preachers with almost cult status.

Paul brings everything into perspective when he said, in our verse of today, that the kingdom of God is not “a matter of talk, but of power”. Our own little kingdoms are often built around the ideas of one person or a group of persons or even our church denomination, while the true kingdom of God is centred on God, who he is and what he can do. I am going to give a free translation of something I found in the Bybel met Verklarende Aantekeninge: the growth of the kingdom of God is not dependent on any great orator, but on the power of the word itself. In 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 Paul said, “My message and my preaching were not wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

Prayer: We thank you for those who bring your word to us, not by striving to be in the limelight themselves, but do it through the power of the Holy Spirit so that people can believe in you and the kingdom can grow. Amen

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