What is power?
What does the power of God look like in a person's life?
Do you know and experience the power of God in your life?
Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit after He went to His Father. As part of His promise, He said,
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12, ESV
Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, fed over five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, and even raised the dead to life. He calmed the storm with a word and at His rebuke, the fig tree dried up. Did He mean that we would do the same sort of things? Certainly, these works represent a demonstration of the power of God.
In Acts 1:1-2, the New Testament tells us:
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. Acts 1:1-2, ESV
In these verses, we see that Jesus gave commands through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we are given to understand that the Holy Spirit worked in the teaching ministry of Jesus. This is consistent with a couple facts concerning Jesus' ministry. The first fact is that when Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on Him. We find this in Luke 3:21-22 where it says:
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." Luke 3:21-22, ESV
This marked the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. It was at this point that Luke tells us:
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness... Luke 4:1, ESV
Jesus' entire public ministry was done in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the first fact I was referring to. A second fact concerning Jesus' ministry is that He did nothing of His own accord. In John 5:30, He says:
I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. John 5:30, ESV
In addition to this statement that He does nothing on His own, Jesus also said He only spoke what was given to Him by the Father. In John 12:49, He says:
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. John 12:49, ESV
These and other passages point to the fact that Jesus ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit. All that He began to do and teach is continued in and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. As our example and because He was fully human, Jesus showed us what it looks like to live wholly submitted to the Holy Spirit. His teaching and commands were given in the Holy Spirit. He was fully God and fully man. Being fully man, it was the Spirit that led Him into the wilderness and it was the Spirit that empowered His ministry.
Therefore, Jesus told His disciples to wait until the gift that the Father had promised them was given. Acts 1:4-5 says:
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Acts 1:4-5, ESV
This same Spirit that empowered Jesus' ministry was to empower the continuing ministry of His disciples.
However, the disciples were interested in a kingdom. Immediately after the instructions to wait in Jerusalem, the disciples asked Him if this was the time He would restore the kingdom.
Kingdom authority is one kind of power, but it is not the power of the Church at this time. Historically, the Church wielding political authority or power has not resulted in the kingdom of God on earth. Jesus told Pilate, "My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36, NLT) Jesus did not tell His disciples He would not restore the kingdom to Israel. He only told them it was not for them to know the times or seasons the Father has fixed by His own authority. (Acts 1:6-7) When Jesus returns, He will set up His kingdom, then He will exercise the power of rule - then we will have the kingdom of God on earth. During this Church age, Jesus rules the earth only as far as He rules in the hearts and lives of individual believers. Collectively, we have political power and influence; influence not authority.
In addition, individually we receive gifts. Some have the gift of teaching, others have gifts for leading, but none of these gifts are for the building up of our individual kingdoms or control. To use our gifts for the building up of our own little kingdoms, is to work against the purpose of the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus. Gifts are given for the building up of the Body of Christ and for service to others.
In answer to the inquiry about the kingdom, Jesus says:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8, ESV
This statement that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon us brings us back to the question of "What is power?"
In the life and ministry of Jesus, we see that He had power to heal, raise the dead and calm storms. In place of the word “power,” we can use the word "ability." He had the ability to do these things. He was able.
In Acts 1:8, the English word "power," is a translation of the Greek word δύναμιν (dunamin). I always like to point out that this is the word from which we get our word "dynamite." However, this can be misleading. This word δύναμις (dunamis) in its various forms is widely used throughout the New Testament. For example, in Romans 8:7, it says, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot." In this verse, the phrase "indeed, it cannot" uses a form of our word dunamis to point out that the flesh does not have the ability to submit to God's law. For us, the power of God, the power of the Spirit is an enabling power. The Holy Spirit gives us abilities, and thus transforms our lives.
Acts 1:8 says He gives us the ability to be Jesus' witnesses. This one ability involves many abilities combined.
If we are to be Jesus' witnesses, we have to be bold. Paul said, "and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel." (Ephesians 6:19, NASB) Indeed, we see a marked difference in the disciples immediately after the giving of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, people who had been hiding were suddenly out in the street proclaiming boldly the truth about Jesus. It was a new ability, the ability to be bold. This was not boldness for boldness sake. This was boldness for the purpose of making plain the mystery of the gospel.
Another ability the Holy Spirit gives in order to enable our witness is the ability to walk in the light. God rebuked the Israelites saying, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 8:24, ESV) Sin in our lives makes us unable to be Jesus' witnesses. 1 John 1:6 tells us, "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." (ESV) In addition, Galatians 5:16 says, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (ESV)
Christian, we ought to be ashamed of the bickering and arguments among us. We ought to blush at the mere mention of the sins that plague our churches. We are all guilty of not walking by the Spirit and instead, gratifying the desires of the flesh. We must repent and agree with God that these things ought not to be. The problem of not walking according to our profession is not new. Paul said to Titus, "For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party." (Titus 1:10, ESV) If we profess to believe in Christ and yet do not keep His commandments, we are liars. This is the clear word from 1 John 2:4.
Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him… 1 John 2:4
When we talk about the power of the Holy Spirit, we must talk about sanctification, the fact that we are set apart as belonging to God. If we have the power to walk on water, calm storms and move mountains, but live like we are full of demons, then certainly this is not the power of God. 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 teaches this when it says:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-2, ESV
The New Testament teaches that the commands to love God and to love our neighbor sum up the Law. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to love as we ought.
Another ability the Holy Spirit gives is the ability to understand. No one understands the things of God unless the Holy Spirit gives that person the ability or power to understand.
The Holy Spirit gives many abilities. We have examples of these in the New Testament. To explain each one is more than we have time for right now, but some basic principles apply to them all. First, all abilities given by the Spirit are to enable our witness for Jesus. This is why the power is given. Second, and this follows the first, these abilities are not to be used to build our own kingdom or following.
Healing, tongues, prophecy and knowledge are abilities given by the Holy Spirit that have been the source of much contention and conflict in the Church. All of these have two manifestations. The first one seems natural, the results of study and time. The second one seems supernatural, an instantaneous miracle. For example, a good doctor may have the gift of healing that seems to be the result of study and time. While another person may see instantaneous healings in answer to prayer. Medical missionaries see both, and those ministered to often take both as signs of the miraculous power of God at work.
Tongues also are an ability given by the Holy Spirit that also have two manifestations. One seems natural, the result of time and study and the other instantaneous and miraculous. I spoke Japanese. It was a gift. However, I did study for it. The disciples in Acts 2 spoke languages they had never even studied.
The main point is that the abilities given by the Holy Spirit are for a testimony, to enable us to witness. In John 14, when Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, He said:
He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:14, ESV
Just as Jesus promised, "greater works" have been done in His name since He returned to the Father. Many miracles have been attested to, and many miracles have been faked. People fake miracles to gather a following or build their own kingdom. This does not mean real miracles do not happen. It does mean that we trust the Word of God, not miracles. However, as to greater works, consider the millions upon millions of people who have heard the Gospel. Is this not why the Holy Spirit was given? On the day of Pentecost there were 3,000 believers added to the Church on that first day of the Holy Spirit's ministry.
In a 2015 article titled "Pentecost", I said:
As far as I know, there has never been another day in history when 3,000 people gathered in one place made a decision to accept Christ as Savior at the same time. In 2012, the number of people in the world that called themselves Christians stood at 2.2 billion. There is a great difference between being Christian in name and professing Christ. However, there is no way to account for the billions of people throughout history that have called themselves Christian apart from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is still working. “On average, around the world, 178,000 people convert to Christianity every day.
In an article titled "Growth of the Church," I read:
Christianity is the single fastest growing religion in the world. For example, in AD 100 there were 360 non-believers for every believer. Today, there are only nine non-believers for every believer...
There is evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit in our world. Is there evidence of His power in our lives?