We have a new question shared with us by Anonymous:
Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have.For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (1 cor 4:18-20)
Here Paul is addressing false apostles who doesn’t have power (Divine signs confirming them) but only words.
Yes,the signs of the Spirit was to confirm the inspired spoken word (1 cor 2:4; heb 2:4) until it was transformed into the written word. Some of the churches believe in the manifestations of the Spirit still ongoing on the basis of this verse (v.20), to prove that, if we are living in the Kingdom era (and we are, as Paul was), the preachers should have power not just words, “for the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power”.
Note: the Kingdom of God is not restricted to Apostles era (signs era) but includes Church era, therefore power/manifestation should continue.”After all what power does the non-pentecostals have, only talk, but no power “, they say.
You didn’t specify a question, but I guess the question is: Is the “power” that Paul talked about the same as “signs”?
Anyways, I will try to comment on all the content of your post. So even if the above question is not all what you wanted to know, I hope all will be clarified.
So first, let me correct some of the errors in the affirmations that you made:
1. In 1 Corinthians 4:18-20 Paul is not addressing false apostles. He is talking about false apostles and he’s addressing the Corinthian believers. Some of those Corinthians took the side of those false apostles while others didn’t. The Apostle tells them that those apostles have deceived them with lies, and so he will show how their words have no divine power in them.
2. Where did you read that the power about which Paul is talking is the “divine signs confirming them”? We should not interpret the Scripture with our feelings and experiences, but we should let the Scripture interpret our experiences. If some groups today claim that the signs are the power of the Gospel, this doesn’t mean that they are right and that we should interpret the word “power” according to their definition. We will see in this reply what the “power” of the Kingdom is.
3. Yes, in the apostolic era, the Lord confirmed the Word preached with signs (see Mark 16:20, and read our study of Mark 16’s signs here). But 1 Corinthians 2:4 talks about the power of the Gospel and not about signs. While Hebrews 2:4 does not talk about the power of the Gospel, but about the confirmation of God that He gave to the Message preached.
4. It is a wrong idea that confirming the Word of God means giving it a power that it didn’t have before. By confirming the Word with signs, God confirms His minister as being inspired and does not give a new power to His Word. Therefore, the signs of an inspired man do not stop when his message is written by him. Paul continued to have signs after he wrote his first Epistles. Besides, there was the whole Old Testament Book, so there was a written Word. And the people in Berea examined what Paul was saying according to that Old Testament Book (see Acts 17:10-11). So even if a man came with great signs, even if he was an apostle or an angel, but he didn’t have the power of God that is in the true Gospel, he is declared accursed (read Galatians 1:8-9). So the sign gifts ceased not because there was a written Word, but because the inspiration ceased and there were no inspired men whose words God had to confirm.
5. What are the “manifestations of the Spirit”? Once again, false teachers today want to interpret this expression according to their wishes, and they make you think that the manifestations of the Spirit mean only the sign gifts. But that’s wrong. Read with me about the “manifestations” of the Spirit:
“But to each the manifestation of the Spirit is given for profit. For to one, by the Spirit, is given [the] word of wisdom; and to another [the] word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; and to a different one faith, in [the power of] the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healing in [the power of] the same Spirit; and to another operations of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; and to a different one kinds of tongues; and to another interpretation of tongues. But all these things operates the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each in particular according as he pleases.” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)
You see that the manifestation of the Spirit is not only about the sign gifts. Although the sign gifts ceased because they are not needed anymore “for profit”, but the other gifts continue. So the manifestation of the Spirit did not cease as the heretics dream that we say. Besides, the power of God’s Word did not decrease with the death of the last inspired man, so the ceasing of the signs did not affect that power. In fact, the power of the Gospel is the energy of the true gifts, and not the opposite. The signs were never and will never be the power or the energy of God’s Word.
Now, after we have clarified these important points, let’s see if the power of the Gospel is the signs that confirm it.
The power of God – Is it the signs?
Let me begin from the verse upon which you built the assumption:
“For the kingdom of God [is] not in word, but in power.” (1 Corinthians 4:20)
First, let me clarify that this “word” is not the Word of God. I guess you are surprised… Well, yes, this is not the Word of God, but the words preached by men. These words have no power in themselves, even if they are very beautiful and deep and eloquent:
“and my word and my preaching, not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of [the] Spirit and of power“ (1 Corinthians 2:4)
These “persuasive words of wisdom” were highly prized in Greek culture. These are all the polished and rhetorical skills by which false apostles deceived men. With such persuasive words of human wisdom you can deceive any man who is impressed by fleshly methods. But these words lack the power of the truth; they are lies! That’s why you have so much deceptions today in the visible Church, as many people follow what sounds good and beautiful and do not look for what is the truth. The truth of the Gospel is the power of any man’s message, and not this man’s eloquence or rhetorical skills. And indeed, the false apostles accused Paul of not having these rhetorical skills:
“For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.”” (2 Corinthians 10:10)
Here is the whole matter! Paul has no charisma, and he has no rhetorical skills! That is a big failure, a Greek would say! How will he persuade people? He should have some oratorical skills and he must use some methods of the human wisdom in order to be able to persuade people. And today, false teachers do not have the power of God’s truth, so they replace that with their charisma and with human persuasive words and speeches and with false signs in order to deceive men. And just as false apostles accused Paul of not being charismatic, the heretics today accuse the true Christians. But all true Christians say with Paul:
“And I, when I came to you, brethren, came not in excellency of word, or wisdom, announcing to you the testimony of God. For I did not judge [it well] to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling; and my word and my preaching, not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of [the] Spirit and of power; that your faith might not stand in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
These are very essential verses to understand what the power of any man’s message is. The power of your message is not how much eloquent you are and how much rhetorical your speech is, but the power of God which is “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified”! Yes indeed that’s the power of the true message, and liars and false apostles do not have that and they even consider it foolishness! Read with me:
“For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but to us that are saved it is God’s power. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and set aside the understanding of the understanding ones. Where [is the] wise? where scribe? where disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom has not known God, God has been pleased by the foolishness of the preaching to save those that believe. Since Jews indeed ask for signs, and Greeks seek wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews an offence, and to nations foolishness; but to those that [are] called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ God’s power and God’s wisdom. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)
So the power is neither in the signs that the Jews seek, nor in the human wisdom that the Greeks seek! The power is Christ crucified, the Word of the cross, the GOSPEL OF GRACE:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)
The Gospel is a saving power. It is the power of God for Salvation to everyone who believes, and not to those who rely on fleshly methods. It’s wholly the power of God, without anything in man.
As it is a power of Grace, so the flesh cannot produce it. Therefore the Pentecostals and the Charismatics have reached a place today where their message has no power anymore, but it only has a fleshly show that impresses those who perish. I do not say that all the Pentecostals and Charismatics are like that, for some of them still preach the Word of the cross as it is. But the main direction of those heretics is towards human methods and deceptions of false signs, so their message gains human approval and loses divine power. Therefore, every true Christian should say with the Apostle:
“And he said to me, My grace suffices thee; for [my] power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of the Christ may dwell upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, in straits, for Christ: for when I am weak, then I am powerful.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Tell the fleshly man that your power is in your weakness, as the real power is in the Grace of God and not in the flesh, and he will mock you. The same is done by today’s heretics.
But do not think that this is a light thing! If a person hates and refuses the knowledge of the truth, he will be impressed by the signs and he will consider them a power from God, and thus he will follow the deceptions of the evil one until he is lost forever in the Lake of fire:
“and then the lawless one shall be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus shall consume with the breath of his mouth, and shall annul by the appearing of his coming; whose coming is according to the working of Satan in all power and signs and wonders of falsehood, and in all deceit of unrighteousness to them that perish, because they have not received the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this reason God sends to them a working of error, that they should believe what is false, that all might be judged who have not believed the truth, but have found pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12)
Those who perish will be deceived by those signs, and they will consider them the power of God, although they are the power of falsehood. The signs were never the power of the true message. True signs are true because they confirm the true message.
So let us not be deceived, and let us keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, and on Him crucified for our sins and risen because of our justification.
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ