The Power of the Spirit

Luke 4:14.---' In the power of the Spirit.'

The Holy Spirit entered upon His rein of sovereignty on this world when Jesus passed through the veil. His coming in His full power---a power transcending altogether the power He had possessed in the world before---was caused by, and was altogether dependent upon, the victory of Jesus of Nazareth in the flesh. The chief characteristic of the disciples of the Lord in pre-Pentecostal days was powerlessness. Everywhere in the gospel narrative we discern their failure to really follow Jesus, and to live such lives as would identify them with Him in the eyes of the beholding world. They were devoted to Him, but they were continually defeated by the enemy, and their lives during that time stand out as a startling disappointment. To them, however, in the days preceding His crucifixion and those succeeding His resurrection, the Lord constantly emphasized the promise of an adequate power to enable them to be in truth His witnesses---which promise was fulfilled in the Person of the Holy Spirit, who descended upon them in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. Subsequently the distinguishing feature of those post-Pentecostal days was powerlessness replaced by Divine power. Now there is probably no consciousness so keen among the people of God today as that of the need of power. In our own lives and in the sphere of our Christian service we bewail our lack of enduement, but often fail to realize that this promise is given unto us---'Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you' [Acts 1:8]---and that therefore a powerless Christian life is at once needless and sinful. In fact, a Christian who lacks power to live and serve is a contradiction of the entire promise and purpose of God. Someone has defined "responsibility" as being "our response to God's ability"; and surely it is so, for upon our response to this all-comprehensive promise of power depends the fulfillment of our large responsibility to the world which awaits our witness to the reality of Christ.

But there is a widespread misconception current as to the nature of the power of the Spirit, and many are earnestly looking for something they may probably never receive. We have for so long exclusively identified the Spirit's enduement with power to preach, to move crowds to repentance, and to do big things for God and men, that we are in danger of overlooking its true character. All Christians are not called to be preachers or leaders, but all are called to do the will of God. From this place the promised power of the Spirit may be defined in general terms as the power to accomplish in us and through us the purpose of God. Thus its operation is bounded by the will of God, and the character of its manifestation in any life is determined by that will. To one it is the power for effective utterance, to another the strength for unselfish intercession, to another the enduement for patient suffering; but to all the power to glorify God before men in just that sphere of life and labor to which He unerringly appoints them. Not a few who have received the promise of the Spirit by faith have nevertheless been keenly disappointed at not experiencing a sudden acquisition of power to do the work which God has assigned not to them but to others; and as a safeguard against this, none of us must forget for a moment that every manifestation of the Spirit's power is entirely contingent upon His government. He sets the members in the body 'as it hath pleased him,' and then imparts to each member the power to fulfill his own individual function---but only that.

Further, the power of the Spirit must not be confused in our minds with the consciousness or realization of that power. To very many the Spirit's power is co-existent with an unvarying sense of utter weakness and emptiness. Not a few among those who have sounded the depths of God's faithfulness to fulfill His promises are continually constrained to say, 'When I am weak, then am I strong,' and to glory in their infirmities while the power of Christ rests upon them.

On the other hand, there is an equal danger of presuming that 'what has been will be,' and of trusting to past experience, without definitely claiming a fresh manifestation of the Spirit's power severally before every act of service, however seemingly trivial, as well as generally for each day's walk and work and witness. It is our Lord's gracious way to give grace for expended grace, and presumption in not seeking a constant renewal inevitably leads to impoverishment, and not infrequently to defeat, with its consequent dishonor to the Lord's name.

Again, the power of the Spirit is bestowed upon us only that Christ may be magnified and exalted in and by us. The truest evidence of His power will be self-effacement, and the recognition that 'the excellency of the power is of God and not of us.' Self-glory and self-aggrandizement cannot be sought simultaneously with the glory of our Lord, and he who seeks to live under the anointing power of the Spirit must be willing to be rendered invisible by the confirmation. Such an one in every hour of Spirit-given triumph will whisper in the listening ear of his Lord, 'Thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory!'

In Christ, timothy. maranatha

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