The word of the day is “cross.” What one thing in this world is the most desirable? The answer must be power, for when one has enough power, one can gain whatever else one desires. But what kind of power is most valuable? In today’s reading, Paul gives the answer. It is the power of the kingdom. He writes, “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power” (OSB vs. 20). Today we learn what the power of the kingdom is.
In our reading of 1 Corinthians 4:17-5:5, Paul warns his congregation in Corinth that he intends to visit them to deal with their disobedience. Some of them are puffed up with pride. They are boasting that Paul will not come to confront them. But Paul warns that, God willing, he will come, and he will test the power of his critics. He says that he “will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but [their] power” (OSB vs. 19). The Greek term for “know” means “recognize” or “perceive” (Strong’s #1097). In other words, Paul is saying that when he comes, he will find out what power those who are criticizing him with fanciful words really have. But he will not come with the power of the kingdom, not empty words.
The Power of the Kingdom
But what is this power of the kingdom? Paul wrote that when he began his work in Corinth, “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (OSB 1 Corinthians 2:4).
The apostle referred to miracles and dramatic conversions that accompanied his proclamation. But what was the message? In 1 Thessalonians, the apostle explains that “our gospel did not come to you in word only but also in power and in the Holy Spirit with much assurance” (OAB 1 Thessalonians 1:50). This verse makes it clear that the Good News that Paul preached was the Word of the Cross. The apostle said as much when he wrote, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (OSB 1 Corinthians 2:2). We can conclude that the power of the kingdom is the cross. Thus, Paul wrote, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (OSB 1 Corinthians 1:18).
No Power Can Prevail Against the Cross
The cross was the ultimate demonstration of the everlasting and almighty love of God. Nothing could prevail against it. No force could coerce it. No punishment could intimidate it. No authority could rule over it (OSB John 19:11). By it the Lord triumphed over the powers of death, the devil, and the grave.
Every martyr testified to the same power, for the most horrible cruelty could not dissuade the saint from offering himself on the altar of his faith. And so it is with every act of self-giving love. Nothing can be taken from it that is not already given. Nothing can be added to it that is not already bestowed. And those who give up everything for the love of Christ in this world gain everything in the kingdom.
The Cross Fulfilled the Promise of the Kingdom
Therefore, the promise of the kingdom is fulfilled in the cross. For the reign of God is the way of self-giving love. Wherever there is self-giving love, there is the kingdom. Those who give themselves in love gain everything, for they possess the kingdom of pure love.