Throughout the Bible, the Spirit is shown to bring decisive change. Many people concentrate on only one or two aspects of the Spirit’s work – and miss out on some of His glory. Some emphasise His power for witness, others stress His purity, or spiritual gifts and specialist ministries. If we want to be saturated by the Spirit, we must appreciate every facet of his work. We need to be hungry for every change that the Spirit wants to make. We should not dictate to Him what He should do. We need to be ready for anything!
The power of the Spirit
The Spirit brings power to those whom He fills. In the Old Testament, when the Spirit fell on a select few, He caused them to break out in inspired speech. The same applies to the New Testament pre-Pentecost fillings. After their anointing, John, Elizabeth, Simeon, Zechariah and Jesus all spoke with power and authority. People constantly remarked upon Jesus’ powerful speech. Matthew 7:28-29, Mark 1:27, 6:1-3 & Luke 4:22, 32 illustrate this.
We might think that disciples who had healed the sick, cast out demons, accompanied Jesus for three years and seen His resurrection would be equipped to be witnesses. This was not so. They possessed experience, training and knowledge, but lacked power. In Luke 24:48-49 and Acts 1:4-8, Jesus promised that the Spirit would remedy this deficiency.
Pentecost was the first fruit of the harvest. The three thousand completely converted in one day were the result of the power. The Greek word for power is usually dunamis: a moral, physical or spiritual ability. It is the explosive energy, which makes things happen!
Dunamis is the supernatural power of God by which miracles occur, preaching becomes effective, and people are strengthened.
Power for proclamation
In the Old Testament, the Spirit gave prophets power to speak. In the New Testament, the Spirit also enabled men and women to speak with a power and authority that they did not naturally possess. Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 2:4, “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power”.
At Pentecost, the Spirit transformed the disciples’ speaking. Acts 2:4 states, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak…. as the Spirit gave them utterance”. This prophetic speech – especially tongues – is the key sign that somebody has been baptised in the Spirit.
The Spirit enabled men and women to speak with power and authority that they did not naturally possess. Believers are changed from people whose words about Jesus were widely ignored, into those whose words have an enormous impact. The Spirit gave the apostles power to speak about the wonderful works of God in a way, which amazed and attracted their listeners.
This has been the testimony of God’s people throughout history. The anointing of the Spirit gives our words an enormous impact. We may say almost exactly the same things as before, but now with supernatural authority and power. This makes a vital difference to our evangelism.
Power for miracles
The prophets were the miracle workers of the Old Testament. This applies to the New Testament also. Because of the miracles, the people thought Jesus was a prophet. Acts 6:8 shows that power was the key to Stephen’s miracles. And in Romans 15:18-19, Paul underlines that it is the power of God’s Spirit: “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient – in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”
The Spirit gives power for miracles essentially in the context of evangelism. Signs and wonders are given mainly to convince that the message about Jesus is true. God heals because he cares about sick and needy people, but he cares even more about their eternal destiny!
Often our focus is too much on the healing of believers’ minor ailments. Yet, the power of the Spirit is given to help believers persevere in hardship, and to demonstrate by miraculous signs that Jesus is alive.
Power for warfare
Christians are involved in a titanic struggle with the forces of darkness. The Spirit gives us the power for this spiritual warfare. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 promises that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ….”
We all fight evil in its many different forms – both within us and around us. Only the Spirit’s power can give us victory. We will be defeated if we rely on our own resources or experience. In Ephesians 3:16, Paul prays for his readers that God would grant them, “according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with “dunamis’ through His Spirit in the inner man”. This should still be a constant prayer both for us and for others.
Power for victory
Some Christians see every difficulty as demonic activity and are obsessed with spiritual warfare. Yet many of our problems are just part and parcel of fallen humanity. The devil’s work is not necessarily why rain falls on our washing, our car fails to start, we wake up with toothache, or cat digs up our seedlings. The ordinary problems of life can be overwhelming, but God does give us the grace and strength we need to overcome. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul records God’s promise and his response. “”My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Power for hope
Our observation and experience of society’s breakdown, and our exposure to the media’s constant reporting of the world’s problems, can trigger depression and despondency. We know about God’s glorious promises, but we need the Spirit to translate them into tangible experiences that fill us with joyful hope in the face of yet more grim news.
We need to pray Paul’s Romans 15:13 intercession for each other: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Power for perseverance
Western society demands instant solutions. The fashion is for “fast’ everything. If something breaks, it is discarded and replaced. Many believers have been influenced by the pressure to seek quick solutions to their difficulties rather than God’s power to persevere through hardships.
Please pause and read 2 Corinthians 6:3-10. This special passage helps us to appreciate Paul’s attitude to difficult circumstances. He knew that God gives patience and endurance to endure troubles. Remember, the gift of God’s strength for endurance is often God’s way for us to overcome our personal and family hardships.
Colossians 1:11 promises that we are “strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, for all patience, long-suffering with joy”. The power of the Spirit stiffens our resolve to persevere. He encourages us to keep going in adversity.
Power for the church
Ephesians 1:19-23 is one of the greatest New Testament descriptions of God’s power – and shows that God gives power essentially within the context of the church. The western society emphasises the individual. That emphasis has spread into the church and many leaders have overstressed the importance of our individual response to God. This truth must be complemented by the New Testament focus on corporate response, relationships and activities. Generally, the word “you’ in the New Testament means a plural “you all’ rather than a singular “you on your own’.
The promises of God are more for us together than they are for us apart. The pictures of the church describe one united entity – the body, the bride, the temple, and so on – rather than many small separated units. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the church, not individual believers. Our prayers for power should be “give us’ rather than “give me’!
Power for witness
If we tried to wrap together all the reasons why the Spirit gives us his power, we would have to come to Acts 4:33. “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” Miracles are not only to bless us. They are not only to make our lives more comfortable, but to provide an eloquent and effective testimony for others.
The Spirit’s power is given to enable us to know Jesus better, and to help us reveal Jesus to the world around us. The real test of true spiritual power is whether it brings people into a deep knowledge and understanding of Jesus.