The True Manifestation of God’s Power

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 1 Cor. 2:1-5

Scientists have finally admitted that the universe is infinite. They have come to the conclusion that there is no end to space.

They believe that with all the scientific advancement at their disposal and with all the astounding “light year” discoveries they have made so far, they have barely scraped at the outer frontiers of the known universe!

I am saying this because there may be some readers who might have come to the conclusion that I have harped on 1 Corinthians 2:2 almost to tatters. But I am of the opinion that we probably have not even scratched at its surface! Such is the richness of God’s Word that we cannot claim to have studied any one scripture “enough”.

So, let us have another go at 1 Corinthians 2…

There are Christians, especially among Pentecostals, who have a wrong perception of the words “power of God”. Many Pentecostals especially associate these words with the hype that is generally to be found in many charismatic churches.

I am convinced that God can and He does move in many ways. In other words, there are aunthentic external manifestations of God’s power, in miracles, in healings, in His provision to us and in countless other ways that God chooses to manifest His power.

But ever since the days of the apostles there have always been false manipulations of the power of God as well within the church, manipulations which Paul in his epistles associated with the forces of darkness. We can clearly see this in 2 Cor. 11:13-15 where he warned the church against the practitioners of these manipulations: “13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”

Today, in particular, the ante has been upped on the hype and manipulations, and there is little spiritual discernment of what is and what is not of God.The church, lacking in such discernment and desiring to gratify the flesh more than God, follows after the glamour and hype that these men offer. In Africa in particular, many charismatic churches have turned into circuses which the devil himself would envy.

But in the context of 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul is not talking about any physical manifestation of God’s power, real or imagined. Indeed, nothing he says there has anything to do with the outer working of the gifts of the Holy Spirit nor, more so, with the empty, carnal emotionalism that is associated with the phrase “power of God” today.

In the context of this scripture Paul is talking about the ability of God’s power to change people’s hearts and to bring them into a resemblance in character with the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, power to change us into the image of Jesus Christ.

The most powerful demonstration of God’s power, Paul is saying, can only be found in its ability to make a person to live a holy life. Paul was so concerned with this that he “determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”!

In other words, Paul bound himself to this one purpose, the effecting of that change in men and women’s lives where men and women are set free from the power of sin to live a holy, sinless life. This goal – being set free from the power of sin – must have been very, very important, for someone of the spiritual (and even mental and physical!) calibre of Paul to purpose to “not know anything” else!!

In 2 Corinthians 13:2-3 he writes the Corinthians: “2 I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare: 3 Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.”

In other words, he was telling the Corinthians that the power of the gospel that he carried was in its ability to deal with sin. If the gospel someone was carrying encouraged them to sin, then Paul would deal with the person and his ‘gospel’. Paul was a man who carried the power and authority of the gospel because he lived a crucified life. And here he was warning the Corinthians that they better straighten their act, before he arrived. Apparently, he had warned them severally, but the self-styled ‘apostles and prophets’ in that church continued living in sin while hiding beneath their ‘powerful ministries’.

Paul was warning everyone to stop sinning. Period.

I repeat here: there is no greater demonstration of God’s power in a Christian’s life than for him to stop sinning and reflect the totality of the character of Jesus Christ in his or her life.

[Below: As I waited for the bus in Shinyanga, I struggled to get a clear shot of an African queen]

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The True Gospel of Jesus Christ

Joh 15:12-13 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

1Co 9:27  But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

This is the true gospel of Jesus Christ, a gospel that crucifies the flesh. This is the revelation that the Apostle Paul received from Jesus and it is the gospel that he and the early Apostles preached.

The following account is the fictitious story of two fictitious Pentecostal churches in a fictitious country. The two initially started off as one church in the early years when Pentecostalism was taking root in that country. Indeed, this church was the first and biggest Pentecostal church in the land. One day the top bishop convened an impromptu council meeting in which he announced that there would be some leadership restructuring involving some of his subordinates. Unfortunately, the move was perceived by a section of the leadership to have not been made in good faith. The brother who was affected by the reshuffle had a lot of influence and he stood his ground and refused to surrender his position. The leader, on the other hand, declared that this brother would have to move. A deadlock ensued and the outcome was that this second brother and his supporters broke away and started another church, under a different name.

Many years passed and both these denominations grew and became powerful and had large followings. They were the vanguard of the Pentecostal movement and they were easily the two biggest Pentecostal denominations in that country. The two leaders of these churches became not only powerful bishops, but God gave them much grace and both were endowed with much spiritual power and they had miracles, signs and wonders evident in their ministries. The bishop who broke away had the more powerful ministry and one trademark of his ministry was that during his evangelistic crusades he would simply breathe into the microphone and demons would begin popping out of people. The whole country was filled with the knowledge of them as the two most powerful Pentecostal preachers. More importantly, they were recognized the world over as great men of God, men who had birthed and nurtured the Pentecostal movement in their part of the world.

During the years that followed the signs of bad blood that flowed between these two leaders showed in the many battles that they fought in courts of law over buildings and many other things. In the natural course of events, many other ministers broke off from these two big denominations and started their own churches. These young ministers, aware of the inner struggles that these two leaders were engaged in, tried to bring them to reconcile. One such occasion was done on such a huge national platform that it was reported even in the nation’s media. They shook hands in public and everyone breathed a sigh of relief, confident that these men of God had at last settled their differences.

The years went by and our two leaders had become old. Then, one day, the bishop who started the second denomination died. There was a large, national mourning for him because many prominent people had passed under his ministry. A number of government officials had got born-again under his ministry. Even the president of the country announced he would be attending the bishop’s funeral.

But, alas! just a day before the funeral of this bishop was to take place, the other church, from which he had broken off, moved to court to block his burial because news had transpired that this bishop was to be buried at the grounds of one of the churches where there was still a case in the courts regarding the ownership of that property!

The judge who was to preside over the new case realized that a scandal was looming because the burial had already been announced and the president was to attend. He therefore called the two parties together and, using some diplomacy, he allowed the burial to proceed while he promised to handle the matter later on. The upshot of it all was that the bishop of the first church failed to attend his compatriot’s funeral!

This unbelievable state of affairs had gone on for over 40 years. End of story.

This account might seem far-fetched and it could be fictional indeed, but there are many such stories in real life. Preachers and Christians alike appear to be okay on the outside – powerfully proclaiming  the gospel – but in their hearts they harbor every kind of unpleasantness towards one another. We are like the graves that Jesus talked about in Luke 11:44 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.”

We need to make sure that everything is okay on the inside – in our hearts – while we still have the opportunity here on earth. God is not interested in our ministries. Nor is He concerned with outer appearance and all our ‘busy-ness’ on His behalf. Not, certainly, as much as He is in the condition of our hearts. That is why we need to hear the gospel that is founded on the apostolic foundation, which is the only gospel that can confront our carnal natures. It is the only gospel that can renew us from the inside. I thank God there is power in the gospel of Jesus Christ! We need to humble ourselves and allow God’s hand to deal with our hearts. Otherwise, we risk being rejected by God on the last Day, even if we were effective ministers or Christians here on earth. We need to hear the gospel where the Cross of Christ is preached in its fullness. There alone will we learn to walk with a pure and humble heart, gladly turning the other cheek; losing our lives and our rights; patiently giving our lives to one another and showing forth the example of love that Jesus left us to follow.