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1 Corinthians 2:4-5 (NIV):

4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

What exactly was Paul trying to say? Any concrete examples of a "demonstration of the Spirit's power" performed by Paul to illustrate the intended meaning of the expression?

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To demonstrate is to confirm. The confirmation or the demonstration is self evident to those observing. When Jesus was asked to heal the official’s son He made an odd statement

““Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”” ‭‭John‬ ‭4:48‬ ‭

He then proceeds to tell the man that the son was healed. The man believes and only arrives home the next day. He confirms the time the child was made whole and the text continues to say

“The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.” ‭‭John‬ ‭4:53-54‬

The question now is, what was the sign and what was the sign pointing to?

  • The sign was the child being made whole one day prior at the seventh hour, the same time the official had spoken to Jesus
  • What therefore was the sign pointing to? That the words Jesus had spoken were true.

If Jesus had spoken about God’s power to heal and declared the child whole but the child did not recover the sign would point to invalidate the message.

In like manner Paul is saying as Jesus told the Pharisees

“but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:38‬ ‭

The works were anticipated of the coming Messiah, the works demonstrated and confirmed Jesus was the Messiah. Even if His words could not be accepted at face value, surely the works spoke for themselves. The Pharisees however did not deny the works, they denied the source of the works.

Paul and the apostles preached a gospel about God’s power to save men from the dominion of the flesh to eternal life. God confirmed their message was pure through signs and wonders

“So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭14:3‬ ‭

This was something that the church has intentionally asked for, an agreement of sorts, they preached the truth and God confirmed their message with healings, signs and wonders

“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭4:29-30‬ ‭

Paul explains often that these two go hand in hand, preaching the gospel and a confirmation with signs and wonders

“For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience— by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:18-19‬ ‭

The ministry of Christ is not merely based on words but also on deeds. The deeds lacking can be for any number of reasons.

  • The message is flawed and God cannot confirm it.
  • There is no baptism of the Holy Spirit, only a sealing of the believer by the Holy Spirit.
  • There is no prayer requests to have God confirm the word preached
  • Or possibly an inhibition of the manifestations by leadership.

Examples of signs through Paul

“It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭28:8‬ ‭

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭16:25-26‬ ‭

“When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand.He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭28:3, 5-6‬ ‭

“And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:9-12‬ ‭

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That passage could be broken into two parts,

Part 1:

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power

Part 2:

that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.


In Part 1, look for instance a bit after in 2 Corinthians 10:10

10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.

Paul here is showing his self weakness which is picked up by others too; while for that context Paul might be less skillful (1 Corinthians 2:3), the power it has comes from the Spirit.

In Part 2, look for instance a bit before in 1 Corinthians 1:18,

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Paul might as well be stating that their faith might be based in "the word of the cross".


All in all, Paul shows through him a demonstration of the power of the Spirit which, and since Paul is preaching the word of God, those that are saved shouldn't only based their faith in his words but also recognize that what he says isn't foolishness (which in itself shows the power of God too).

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First, the phrase "Spirit's power" does not actually appear in the original text of 1 Cor 2:4. The Greek text is: Πνεύματος καὶ δυνάμεως = Spirit and power, suggesting two different entities. (See ESV, NASB, KJV, NET, etc.)

However, the text of 1 Cor 2:5 has, δυνάμει Θεοῦ = power of God. There are numerous references to this throughout the NT and what it means:

  • Luke 4:14, Jesus returned to Galilee [following His temptations in the desert] in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.
  • Rom 15:18, 19, I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, and by the power of the Spirit of God
  • 2 Cor 12:9, But He [= the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me.
  • 2 Cor 13:3, For He was indeed crucified in weakness, yet He lives by God’s power. And though we are weak in Him, yet by God’s power we will live with Him to serve you.
  • 2 Peter 1:3, His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence
  • Acts 4:33, With great power the apostles continued to give their testimony about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And abundant grace was upon them all.
  • 1 Peter 1:5, who through faith are shielded by God’s power for the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
  • 1 Cor 6:7, in truthful speech and in the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left
  • Rom 1:16, I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Greek.

In summary, here is what God's power, or the Spirit's Power enables:

  • The supernatural ability to overcome temptation
  • The supernatural ability to perform signs and wonders [= miracles]
  • The supernatural ability to live with human frailties
  • The supernatural ability to live the Christian life
  • The supernatural ability to witness and effect conversions to the Christian faith
  • The supernatural protection or shielding from the enemy's attacks

This list is not exhaustive but covers the range of God's enabling power.

In 1 Cor 2:4, 5 Paul is probably referring to several of these, but particularly his spiritual gift of conversion of new people to the Christian faith, but probably supported by signs and wonders as needed, etc.

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