ACST 39: The Empowerer

Red Lightning Flash The incarnation was a singular event in which the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. Pentecost was another such singular event in which the Holy Spirit came down and resided within the church and began ministering through us. Luke records this event:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…[1]

From that time on, believers had the capacity to minister through spiritual gifts and miraculous ministries. That power came from the presence of the Holy Spirit. Although he has always been present everywhere, from Pentecost on, he has invested himself in the church of Jesus Christ.

the rifle era

Before Jesus, God’s Holy Spirit invested himself in people by coming upon them, to empower them to perform specific miracles, or the enable them to do a particular ministry.

· “And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him, and he took up his discourse”[2]

· “The Spirit of the LORD was upon (Othniel), and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.”[3]

· “Then the Spirit of the LORD was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD…”[4]

· “Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon (Samson), and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat.”[5]

· “When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met (Saul), and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them.”[6]

· “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward.”[7]

· “Then Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied”[8]

· And (Saul) went there to Naioth in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah.[9]

· “The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.”[10]

· Ezekiel said “And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and he said to me, “Say, Thus says the LORD: So you think, O house of Israel. For I know the things that come into your mind….”[11]

The power of God at work could be described as that of a rifle, specifically targeting one person or group, and doing one thing at a time. During this time God’s power for ministry could be said to be available, but not predictable, and not prominent.

the ricochet era

The Messiah’s ministry was to be different than the ministries of these upon whom the Spirit came. The Messiah was to have the power of the Spirit without measure – without limit. The Holy Spirit would rest upon the Messiah and never leave him. Power from God is both available and predictable if you are looking in the right place.

· “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”[12]

· “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”[13]

· “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound”[14]

When Jesus Christ appeared for his public ministry, his baptism by John publically demonstrated that he was this Messiah. The Holy Spirit visibly descended and rested upon him. From that time on, the Holy Spirit manifested God’s power wherever Jesus went.

· “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”[15]

· “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness”[16]

· “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.”[17]

The Holy Spirit manifested his power in Jesus’ life and ministry. That power did not dissipate once a particular miracle happened, but continued to manifest wherever Jesus was. It was like a bullet, which, after reaching its target, would ricochet to the next and the next.

the shotgun era

Jesus promised to pass on that special access to God’s power through the Holy Spirit. He predicted the event that we know as Pentecost. He told them “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”[18] He promised “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.”[19]

On that day, the Holy Spirit came, rested upon, and resided within the believers gathered. But unlike the Old Testament saints, this power was to remain in the believers for the purpose of witnessing the fact that Christ has been raised from the dead. The power was tied to the gospel message, and will not diminish until all have had the opportunity to hear that gospel. The power will remain as long as the mission remains.

· “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”[20]

· “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.”[21]

· “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; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel”[22]

· “and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”[23]

· “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”[24]

· “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being”[25]

· “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us”[26]

· “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”[27]

This era in which we now live is both the era of the Holy Spirit, and the era of the church, through which the Holy Spirit chooses to operate. He has invested himself in us, and his power blasts through the obstacles as we continue to spread the gospel. The power of the Holy Spirit is like the blast of a shotgun, that permeates the whole area where the gospel is being proclaimed.

a powerless church?

Sadly, that power often seems to be missing in the church today. Some feel that this special power was only for the age in which the apostles began to originally spread the gospel, and therefore we should not expect the same kind of power today. They teach that the church should concentrate on showing love and other aspects of the sanctified life, because the special power and gifts have ceased.

It is true that Paul argues for an emphasis on love in 1 Corinthians 13, because the miraculous gifts do manifest temporarily. He was not arguing that the era of the Holy Spirit’s power would end in the first century. He was trying to correct an over-emphasis on the expression of supernatural gifts to the exclusion of the fruit of a sanctified life. Paul encouraged both the manifestation of spiritual gifts and spiritual fruit, because each has its place.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the church seems so powerless today is that she has lost sight of the dual role of the Holy Spirit in the presentation of the gospel. His power is available to both transform us into Christ’s image, and to proclaim Christ’s gospel. It can both build up believers and (through miracles) break down walls preventing belief. Some traditions emphasize the Holy Spirit’s role as a sanctifier, others stress his role as a miracle maker. Both must be seen together to get a clear view of who the Holy Spirit actually is. His power is available to change us, and to draw others to Christ.

baptism and fullness

Another helpful distinction can clarify the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. All believers have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. That is the initial act of entering into the life of someone who has confessed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul told the Corinthians “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”[28] The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not some extra blessing that a believers has to work for – it comes with being part of the body of Christ – no extra charge.

Simultaneous with the initial baptism with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the bible says “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”[29] This fullness of the Holy Spirit was a temporary phenomenon. It resulted in power for miraculous ministry. It came and went, as the apostles continued to spread the gospel.[30]

The church needs to continually seek this fullness of the Spirit to manifest the difference between who we were before Christ, and who we are now. Paul told the Ephesians “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”[31] The old life of debauchery must be replaced by a new life, empowered by the Holy Spirit. This new life involves manifestations of spiritual gifts in which the Holy spirit speaks, sings, and gives thanks through our voices. It also expresses itself in a sanctified life in which we submit to one another instead of trying to rule over each other. Here, again, spiritual gifts and the fruit of the Spirit are working together for the same cause: advancing the gospel.

He is Here

The spiritual gifts and the fruit of the spirit and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit all have one source: the person of the Holy Spirit. They exist because he exists. They will never cease because He will never cease. Since he is here, his power is available to answer our prayers, and to surprise us with unexpected miracles. He is not a mechanistic power, so his work cannot be manipulated. That explains why our prayers sometimes do not result in the answers we expect. He is God, and does not curtail his own sovereignty.

But we should pray, precisely because he is here within us. He has chosen to invest himself in our lives. He has chosen to empower us to fulfill our mission. He has chosen to make us more like Christ. If we are doing what he wants us to do, we should expect his empowerment to do it.

[1] Acts 2:1-4.

[2] Numbers 24:2-3.

[3] Judges 3:10.

[4] Judges 11:29-30.

[5] Judges 14:6. (see also 14:19; 15:14).

[6] 1 Samuel 10:10. (see also 10:6; 11:6).

[7] 1 Samuel 16:13.

[8] 1 Samuel 19:20.

[9] 1 Samuel 19:23.

[10] 2 Chronicles 15:1-2.

[11] Ezekiel 11:5.

[12] Isaiah 11:2.

[13] Isaiah 42:1-3.

[14] Isaiah 61:1.

[15] Matthew 3:16 – 4:1.

[16] Luke 4:1.

[17] Luke 4:14-15.

[18] Luke 24:49.

[19] Acts 1:8.

[20] Acts 4:33.

[21] Acts 6:8.

[22] Romans 15:19-20.

[23] 1 Corinthians 2:4-5.

[24] 2 Corinthians 10:4.

[25] Ephesians 3:14-16.

[26] Ephesians 3:20.

[27] James 5:16.

[28] 1 Corinthians 12:13-14.

[29] Acts 2:4.

[30] Acts 4:8, 31; 6:8; 7:55; 9:17; 11:24; 13:9, 52.

[31] Ephesians 5:18-21.

Author: Jefferson Vann

Jefferson Vann is pastor of Piney Grove Advent Christian Church in Delco, North Carolina. You can contact him at -- !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: