The Nature of Religion
1 Corinthians 4:20
For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

I. IT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD. A kingdom which He hath erected in the hearts of men.

1. Of this kingdom God is the Sovereign. He hath laid the foundations of it, and He therefore of right presides over it, commanding a ready obedience to His will, taking effectual care of its real interests, and administering all its affairs with infinite wisdom and goodness.

2. As the heart is the place where He hath erected His throne, so the powers of it, the understanding, will, and affections, are the proper subjects over which He sways His sceptre.

3. Nor need we be at any loss to determine what are the means or instruments by which the soul of man, restored to the dominion of its rightful Sovereign, is ruled and governed. By the sacred Scriptures the man of religion would have his opinions, affections, and conduct directed, governed, and tried.

4. We are led to contemplate the beauty, order, and harmony of this spiritual kingdom, which is another idea the metaphor naturally conveys.

5. If such be the nature and tendency of religion, how great are the privileges and immunities annexed to this spiritual kingdom!

6. Its stability and duration. It is a kingdom that shall not be moved. The foundation of it is laid in the purpose and grace of Him who wants neither means nor inclination to support and defend it.

II. IT IS NOT IN WORD, BUT IN POWER. It is not "in word," it does not consist in notions, professions, or external forms — things wherein men are too apt to place the essence of it; but "in power," it is an inward spiritual vital principle, which takes hold of the heart and diffuses its influence through the life. It may in general be described as a principle of Divine and spiritual life. If it be considered in reference to the understanding it expresses itself in our perceptions, reasonings, and reflections about spiritual objects; if in regard to the conscience, in a lively impression of the truth and importance of Divine things; if as respecting the judgment, in an approbation of the things which are excellent; if the will, in a concurrence with whatever appears to be the pleasure of God, and in one word, if it be considered in reference to the affections, it consists in the direction of them to their proper objects. The result of all which will be such a course of behaviour as is in the general answerable to this state of the mind. And now with hew much reason may we —

1. Appeal to the judgments and consciences of all men, whether there is not a real excellency in what we have thus been describing! How much then —

2. Is it to be lamented that so little of real religion is to be found in our world!

3. Of what importance is it that we each of us seriously examine ourselves upon this question, whether God hath erected His kingdom in our hearts, and in what it consists, whether in word or in power!

(S. Stennett, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

WEB: For the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

The Kingdom of God not Word, But Power
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