The Power of the Holy Spirit
by R. A. Torrey
(from How To Obtain Fullness Of Power by R.A. Torrey, ©1897, Fleming H. Revell Company)
"Power belongeth unto God."
The Holy Spirit is the person who imparts to the individual believer
the power that belongs to God. This is the Holy Spirit's work in the
believer, to take what belongs to God and make it ours. All the
manifold power of God belongs to the children of God as their
birthright in Christ. "All things are your's" (I Cor. 3:21). But all
that belongs to us as our birthright in Christ becomes ours in actual
and experimental possession through the Holy Spirit's work in us as
individuals. To the extent that we understand and claim for ourselves
the Holy Spirit's work, to that extent do we obtain for ourselves the
fullness of power in Christian life and service that God has provided
for us in Christ. A very large portion of the church knows and claims
for itself a very small part of that which God has made possible for
them in Christ, because they know so very little of what the Holy
Spirit can do for us, and longs to do for us. Let us study the Word,
then, to find out what the Holy Spirit has power to do in men.
We shall not go far before we
discover that the same work which we see ascribed in one place to the
power of the Word of God is in other places ascribed to the Holy
Spirit. The explanation to this is simple. The Word of God is the
instrument through which the Holy Spirit does his work. The Word of God
is "the sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17). The Word of God is also the
seed the Spirit sows and quickens (Luke 8:11; I Peter 1:23). The Word
of God is the instrument of all the manifold operations of the Holy
Spirit, as seen in Chapter 1.
If, therefore, we wish the Holy
Spirit to do His work in our hearts, we must study the Word. If we wish
Him to do His work in the hearts of others, we must give them the Word.
But the bare Word will not do the work alone. The Spirit must Himself
use the Word. It is when the Spirit Himself uses His own sword that it
manifests its real temper, keenness and power. God's work is
accomplished by the Word and the Spirit, or rather by the Spirit
through the Word. The secret of effectual living is knowing the power
of the Spirit through the Word. The secret of effectual service is
using the Word in the power of the Spirit. There are some who seek to
magnify the Spirit but neglect the Word. This will not do at all.
Fanaticism, baseless enthusiasm, wildfire are the result. Others seek
to magnify the Word, but largely ignore the Spirit. Neither will this
do. It leads to dead orthodoxy, truth without life and power. The true
course is to recognize the instrumental power of the Word through which
the Holy Spirit works, and the living, personal power of the Holy
Spirit who acts through the Word.
But let us come directly to the consideration of our subject: What has the Holy Spirit power to do?
1. Turn to I Corinthians 12:3,
"Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit
of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is
the Lord, But by the Holy Ghost"
The Holy Spirit has power to reveal
Jesus Christ and His glory to man. When Jesus spoke of The Spirit's
coming, He said: "But when the comforter is come, whom I will send unto
you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from
the Father, He shall testify of me" (John 15:26). And it is only as He
does testify of Christ that men will ever come to a true knowledge of
Christ. You send men to the Word to get a knowledge of Christ; but it
is only as the Spirit takes the Word and illuminates it, that men ever
get a real living knowledge of Christ. "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost."
If you wish men to get a true knowledge of Jesus Christ, such a view
that they will believe on Him and be saved, you must seek for them the
testimony of the Holy Spirit. Neither your testimony nor that of the
Word alone, will suffice, though it is your testimony, or that of the
Word, which the Spirit uses.
But unless your testimony is taken
up by the Holy Spirit and He Himself testifies, they will not believe.
It was not merely Peter's words about Christ that convinced the Jews at
Pentecost. It was the Spirit Himself bearing witness. If you wish men
to see the truth about Jesus, do not depend upon your own powers of
exposition and persuasion, but cast yourself upon the Holy Ghost and
seek His testimony. If you wish yourself to know Jesus with a true and
living knowledge, seek the witness of the Spirit through the Word. Many
a man has a correct doctrinal conception of Christ, through a study of
the Word, long before he has a true personal knowledge of Christ
through the testimony of the living Spirit.
2. Now let us turn to John 16:8-11:
"And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of
righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on Me;
Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; Of
judgment, because the prince of this world is judged."
The Holy Spirit has power to
convict the world of sin. This is closely connected with the preceding;
for, it is by showing Jesus and His glory and His righteousness, that
the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment.
Note the sin of which the Holy Spirit convicts, "Of sin, because they
believe not on Me." It was so at Pentecost, as we see in Acts 2:36, 37.
You can never convict any man of sin because that is the work of the
Holy Spirit. You can reason and reason, and you will fail. The Holy
Spirit can do it very quickly. Did you never have this experience? You
have shown a man passage after passage of Scripture, and he was
unmoved, and you have wondered why the man did not break down. Suddenly
it has occurred to you, "Why, I am not looking in my helplessness to
the mighty Spirit of God to convict this man of sin, but I am trying
the man of sin myself." Then you have cast yourself upon the Spirit of
God for Him to do the work, and conviction came. The Spirit can
convince the most careless, as experience has proven again and again.
But it is through us that the
Spirit produces conviction. In John 16:7, 8, we read, "...I will send
Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin,
and of righteousness, and of judgment." It was the Spirit who was sent
to Peter and the rest, who convicted the three thousand through Peter
and the others on the day of Pentecost. It is ours to preach the Word
and to look to the Holy Spirit to produce conviction (See Acts 2:4-37).
3. In Titus 3:5, we read,
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His
mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the
The Holy Spirit has power to renew
men or to make men new, to regenerate. Regeneration is the Holy
Spirit's work. He can take a man dead in trespasses and sins, and make
him alive. He can take a man whose mind is blind to the truth of God,
whose will is at enmity with God and set on sin, whose affections are
corrupt and vile, and transform that man, impart to him God's nature,
so that he thinks God's thoughts, wills what God wills, loves what God
loves, and hates what God hates.
I never despair of any man when I
think of the power of the Holy Spirit to make new, as I have seen it
manifested again and again in the most hardened and hopeless cases. It
is through us that the Holy Spirit regenerates others (I Cor. 4:15). As
we have seen in Chapter 1, the Word has power to regenerate; but it is
not the bare Word, but the Word made a living thing in the heart by the
power of the Holy Spirit. No amount of preaching, no matter how
orthodox it is, and no amount of mere study of the Word will
regenerate, unless the Holy Spirit works. Just as we are utterly
dependent on the work of Christ for us in justification, so we are
utterly dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit in us in
When one is born of the Spirit, the
Spirit takes up His own abode in him (I Cor. 3:16; 6:19). The Holy
Spirit dwells in everyone who belongs to Christ (Ro. 8:9). We may not
have surrendered our lives very fully to this indwelling Spirit; we may
be very far from being "full of the Spirit"; we may be very imperfect
Christians, but, if we have been born again, the Spirit dwells in us,
just as Paul said to the Corinthians, who were certainly very far from
perfect Christians, that He did in them. What a glorious thought it is
that the Holy Spirit dwells in me! But it is also a very solemn
thought. If my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, I certainly ought
not to defile it, as many professed Christians do. Bearing in mind that
our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit would solve many problems
that perplex young Christians.
4. We find a further thought about the power of the Holy Spirit in John 4:14,
"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never
thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of
water springing up into everlasting life"
You may not see at first that this
verse has anything to do with the Holy Spirit, but compare John7:37,
39, and it will be evident that the water here means the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, then, has power to give abiding and everlasting
satisfaction. The world can never satisfy. Of every worldly joy it must
be said, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again." But the
Holy Spirit has power to satisfy every longing of the soul. The Holy
Spirit and He alone can satisfy the human heart. If you give yourself
up to the Holy Spirit's inflowing, or rather upspringing, in your
heart, you will never thirst. You will not long for the theater, or the
ballroom, or th card party, or worldly gain, or honor. Oh, with what
joy unutterable and satisfaction indescribable the Holy Spirit has
poured forth His living water in many souls! Have you this living
fountain within? Is the spring unchoked? Is it springing up into
everlasting life? In Romans 8:2, we read,
"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
The Holy Spirit has power to set us
free from the law of sin and death. What the law of sin and death is we
see in the preceding chapter (Romans 7:9-24). Read this description
carefully. We all know this law of sin and death. We have all been in
bondage to it. Some of us are still in bondage to it, but we do not
need to be. God has provided a way of escape. That way is by the holy
Spirit's power. When we give up the hopeless struggle of trying to
overcome the law of sin and death, of trying to live right in our own
strength, in the power of the flesh; and in utter helplessness
surrender to the Holy Spirit to do all for us; when we live after Him
and walk in His blessed power; then He sets us free from the law of sin
There are many professed Christians
today living in Romans 7. Some go so far as to maintain that this is
the normal Christian life, that one must live this life of constant
defeat. This would be true, if we were left to ourselves; for in
ourselves we are "carnal, sold under sin." But we are not left to
ourselves. The Holy Spirit undertakes for us what we have failed to do
ourselves (Romans 8:2-4). In Romans 8 we have the picture of the true
Christian life, the life that is possible to us, and that God expects
from each one of us; the life where not merely the commandment comes,
as in chapter 7, but where the mighty Spirit comes also, and works
obedience and victory. The flesh is still in us, but we are not in the
flesh (Romans 8:12,13, compare v.9). We do not live after it. We "live
after the Spirit." We, "through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the
body." We "walk in the Spirit,"; and do "not fulfill the lust of the
flesh" (Gal. 5:16). It is our privilege, in the Spirit's power, to get
daily, hourly, and constant victory over the flesh and over sin. But
the victory is not in ourselves, not in any strength of our own. Left
to ourselves, deserted of the Spirit of God, we would be as helpless as
ever. It is all in the Spirit's power. If we try to take one step in
our own strength, we shall fail.
Has the Holy Spirit set you free
from the law of sin and death? Will you let Him do it now? simply give
up all self-effort to be free from "the law of sin and death", to give
up sinning; believe in the divine power of the Holy Spirit to set you
free; and cast yourself upon Him to do it. He will do it. Then you can
triumphantly cry with Paul, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death" (Rom. 8:2, R.V.).
6. We find a closely allied but larger thought about the Holy Spirit's power in Ephesians 3:16, R.V.,
"That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, that ye
may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inward man."
The Holy Spirit strengthens the
believer with power in the inward man. The result in this strengthening
is seen in verses 17 to 19. Here the power of the Spirit manifests
itself not merely in giving us victory over sin, but (a) in Christ's
dwelling in our hearts; (b) our being "rooted and grounded in love";
(c) our being made "strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the
breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ
which passeth knowledge..." (Ephesians 3:18, 19). It all ultimates in
our being "filled unto all the fullness of God."
7. We find a still further thought about the Holy Spirit's power in Romans 8:14, R.V.,
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."
The Holy Spirit has power to lead
us into a holy life, a life as "sons of God", a godlike life. Not
merely does the Holy Spirit gives us power to live a holy life, a life
well-pleasing to God when we have discovered what that life is: He
takes us by the hand, as it were, and leads us into that life. Our
whole part is simply to surrender ourselves utterly to Him to lead and
to mould us. Those who do this are not merely God's offspring, which
all men are (Acts 17:28); neither are we merely God's children: "These
are sons of God."
8. Further down in the chapter there is a new thought. Romans 8:16, R.V.,
"The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."
The Holy Spirit bears witness with
the spirit of the believer that he is a child of God. Note that Paul
does not say that the Spirit bears witness to our spirit, but with
it--"together with our spirit," is the exact force of the words used.
That is, there are two who bears witness to our sonship: First, our
spirit bears witness that we are children of God; second, the Holy
Spirit bears witness together with our spirit that we are children of
How does the Holy Spirit bear His
testimony to this fact? Galatians 4:6 answers this question, "And
because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our
hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (R.V.). The Holy Spirit Himself enters
into our hearts and cries, "Abba, Father." Note the order of the
Spirit's work in Romans 8:2,4,13,14,16. It is only when "the law of the
Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin
and death" (v.2), and so "the righteousness of the law might be
fulfilled" in me "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit"
(v.4), and I "through the Spirit of God do mortify the deeds of the
body" (v. 13), and when I am surrendered to the Spirit's leading
(v.14), it is then, and only then, that I can expect verse 16 to be
realized in my experience, and that I have the clear assurance of
sonship that comes from the Spirit of God testifying together with my
spirit, that I am a child of God. There are many seeking this testimony
of the Holy Spirit in the wrong place; namely, as a condition of their
surrendering wholly to God, and confessing the crucified and risen Lord
as their Saviour and Lord. The testimony of the Holy Spirit to our
sonship comes after all this is done.
9. An exceedingly important thought about the Holy Spirit's power is found in Galatians 5:22,23,
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering,
gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there
is no law."
The Holy Spirit brings forth in the
believer Christlike graces of character (Compare Romans 5:5; 14:17;
15:13). All real beauty of character, all real Christlikeness in us, is
the Holy Spirit's work. It is His "fruit." He bears it; not we. Note
that these graces are not said to be the fruits of the Spirit; they are
the "fruit." There is a unity of origin running all through the
multiplicity of manifestation; and not some of these graces, but all,
will appear in everyone in whom the Holy Spirit is given full control.
It is a beautiful life that is set
forth in these verses. Every word is worthy of earnest study and
profound meditation: "Love," "joy," "peace," "longsuffering,"
"gentleness," "goodness," "faith," "meekness," "self-control." Is not
this the life we all long for, the Christ life? Is it not natural to
us, and it is not attainable by an effort of the "flesh," or nature.
The life that is natural for us is set forth in the three preceding
verses (19-21). But when the indwelling Spirit is given full control in
the one He inhabits; when we are brought to realize the utter badness
of the flesh, and give up in helpless despair of ever attaining to
anything really good in its power; when, in other words, we come to the
end of self, and just give over the whole work of making us what we
ought to be to the indwelling HOLY SPIRIT, then, and only then, these
holy graces of character are His "fruit."
Do you wish these graces in your
character and life? Renounce self utterly, and all it's strivings after
holiness; and let the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you, take full control
and bear His own glorious fruit. We get the same essential truth from
another point of view in Galatians 2:20 (R.V., Am. App.), " I have been
crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ
liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in
faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave
Himself up for me."
Settle it clearly and forever that
the flesh can never bear this fruit, that you can never attain these
things by your own effort, that they are "the fruit of the Spirit." We
hear a good deal in these days about "ethical culture," which usually
means a cultivation of the flesh until it bears the fruit of the
Spirit. It cannot be done, until thorns can be made to beat figs, and a
bramblebush, grapes (Matt. 12:33, Luke 6:44). We hear also a good deal
about "character building." That is all very well, if you let the Holy
Spirit do the building, and then it is not so much building as
fruit-bearing. (See, however, II Pet. 1:5-7.) We hear also about
"cultivating graces of character," but we must always bear in mind that
the way to cultivate true graces of character is by submitting
ourselves utterly to the Spirit to do His work. This is "sanctification
of the Spirit" (I Pet. 1:2; II Thess. 2:13).
We turn now to the Holy Spirit in a different direction.
10. John 16:13, R.V.:
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you into
all the truth: for He shall not speak from Himself; but what things
soever He shall hear, these shall He speak: and He shall declare unto
you the things that are to come."
The Holy Spirit has power to guide
the believer "into all the truth." This promise was made in the first
instance to the apostles, but the apostles themselves applied it to all
believers (I John 2:20, 27). It is the privilege of each of us to be
"taught of God." Each believer is independent of human teachers. "Ye
need not that any man teach you." This does not mean, of course, that
we may not learn much from others, who are taught by the Holy Spirit.
If John had thought that, he would never have written this epistle to
teach others. The man who is most fully taught of God is the very one
who will be most ready to listen to what God has taught others. Much
less does it mean that when we are taught of God we are independent of
the Word of God. For the Word is the very place where the Spirit leads
His pupils, and the instrument through which He teaches them (John
6:63; Eph. 6:17; Eph. 5:18, 19; Comp. Col. 3:16). But, while we may
learn much from men, we are not dependent upon them. We have a divine
teacher, the Holy Spirit.
We shall never truly know the truth
until we are thus taught. No amount of mere human teaching, no matter
who our teachers may be, will give us a correct apprehension of the
truth. Not even a dilligent study of the Word, either in the English or
original languages, will give us a real understanding of the truth. We
must be taught of the Holy Spirit. And we may be thus taught, each one
of us. The one who is thus taught, even if he does not know a word of
Greek or Hebrew, will understand the truth of God better than the one
who knows the Greek, the Hebrew, and all "the cognate languages," and
is not taught of the Spirit. The Spirit will guide the one He teaches
"into all the truth," not in a day, or in a week, or in a year, but
step by step.
There are two especial lines of the
Spirit's teaching mentioned. (a) "He shall declare unto you the things
that are to come." Many say we can know nothing of the future, that all
our thoughts on that subject are guesswork. Anyone taught of the Spirit
knows better than that. (b) "He shall glorify me [i.e., Christ]: for He
shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you." This is the Holy
Spirit's especial line, with the believer as well as the unbeliever, to
declare unto them the things of Christ and glorify Him.
Many fear to emphasize the truth
about the Holy Spirit, lest Christ be disparaged. But no one magnifies
Christ as the Holy Spirit does. We will never understand Christ, nor
see His glory, until the Holy Spirit interprets Him to us. The mere
listening to sermons and lectures, the mere study of the word even,
will never give you to see the things of Christ. The Holy Spirit must
show you, and He is willing to do it. He is longing to do it. I suppose
the Holy Spirit's inmost desire is to reveal Jesus Christ to men. Let
Him do it. Christ is so different when the Holy Spirit glorifies Him by
taking of the things of Christ and showing them unto us.
11. Turning to John 14:26, R.V., we find again the Holy Spirit's power to teach, but with an added thought,
"But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in
My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance
all that I said unto you."
The Holy Spirit has power to bring
to remembrance the words of Christ. This promise was made primarily to
the apostles, and is the guarantee of the accuracy of their report of
what Jesus said. But the Holy Spirit does a similar work with each
believer who expects it of Him and looks to Him to do it. He brings to
mind the teachings of Christ, and the words of Christ, just when we
need them, for either the necessities of our own life or of our service.
How many of us could tell of
occasions when we were in great distress of soul, of great questioning
concerning our duty, or great extremity as to what to say to one whom
we were trying to lead to Christ, or to help; and just the scripture we
needed, some passage we had not thought of for a long time, and,
perhaps, never thought of in this connection, was brought to mind. It
was the Holy Spirit who did this, and He is ready to do it even more,
when we expect it of Him.
It is without significance, that in
the next verse after making this great promise, Jesus says: "Peace I
leave with you; My peace I give unto you"? Look to the Holy Spirit to
bring the right words to remembrance at the right time, and you will
have peace. This is the way to remember Scripture, just when you need
it, and just the Scripture you need.
akin to what has been said in the two preceding sections is the power
of the Holy Spirit as seen in I Corinthians 2:10-14, R.V.:
"But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit
searcheth all thing, yea, the deep things of God. For who among men
knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man, which is in him?
even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God. But we
received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from
God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God.
Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth,
but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with
spiritual words. Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the
Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know
them, because they are spiritually judged".
In these verses we have a twofold
work of the Spirit:(a) The Holy Spirit reveals to us the deep things of
God, which are hidden from and are foolishness to the natural man. It
is pre-eminently to the apostles that He does this, but we cannot limit
this work of the Spirit to them. (b) The Holy Spirit interprets His own
revelation, or imparts power to discern, know, and appreciate what He
Not only is the Holy Spirit the
author of Revelation--the written Word of God. He is also the
interpreter of what He has revealed. How much more interesting and
helpful any deep book becomes when we have the author of the book right
at hand to interpret it to us! This is what we always may have when we
study the Bible. The author-- the Holy Spirit-- is right at hand to
interpret. To understand the book we must look to Him. Then the darkest
places become clear. We need to pray often with the psalmist, "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wonderous things out of thy law" (Psa. 119:18).
It is not enough that we have the
objective revelation in the written Word; we must also have the inward
illumination of the Holy spirit to enable us to comprehend it. It is a
great mistake to try to comprehend a spiritual revelation with the
natural understanding. It is the foolish attempt to do this that has
landed so many in the bog of higher criticism. A man with no aesthetic
sense might as well expect to appreciate the Sistine Madonna, because
he is not color blind, as an unspiritual man to understand the Bible,
simply because he understands the laws of grammar of the vocabulary of
the language in which the Bible was written. I would as soon think of
setting a man to teach art merely because he understood paints, as to
set him to teach the Bible merely because he understood Greek or Hebrew.
We all need to recognize the utter
insufficiency and worthlessness of our own righteousness, which is the
lesson of the opening chapters of the epistle to the Romans, but also
the utter insufficiency and worthlessness in the things of God, in our
own wisdom, which is the lesson of the first epistle to the
Corinthians, especially the first to the third chapters (see e.g. I
Cor. 1:19-21, 26, 27).
The Jews had a revelation by the
Spirit but they failed to depend upon Him to interpret it to them, so
they went astray. The whole evangelical church realizes the utter
insufficiency of man's righteousness, theoretically at least. Now it
needs to be taught, and made to feel, the utter insufficiency of man's
wisdom. that is perhaps the lesson this ninteenth century of
overweening intellectual conceit needs most of any.
To understand God's Word, we must
empty ourselves utterly of our own wisdom and rest in utter dependence
upon the Spirit of God to interpret it for us (Matt. 11:25). When we
put away our own righteousness, then, and only then, we get the
righteousness of God (Phil. 3:4-7, 9; rom. 10:13).When we put away our
own wisdom, then, and only then, we get the wisdom of God (Matt. 11:25;
I Cor. 3:18; I Cor. 1:25-28). When we put away our own strength, then,
and only then, we get the strength of God (Is. 40:29; II Cor. 12:9; I
Cor. 1:27,28). Emptying must precede filling- self poured out that
Christ may be poured in. We must be daily taught of the Spirit to
understand the Word.
I cannot depend today on the fact
that the Spirit taught me yesterday. Each new contact with the Word
must be in the power of the Spirit. That the Holy Spirit once illumined
our mind to grasp a certain passage is not enough. He must do so each
time we confront that passage.
Andrew Murray has put this truth
well. He says, "Each time you come to the Word in study, in hearing a
sermon or reading a religious book, there ought to be as distinct as
your intercourse with the external means, a definite act or
self-abnegation, denying your own wisdom and yielding yourself in faith
to the divine teacher" (The Spirit of Christ, p. 221).
The Holy Spirit has not only power to teach us the truth, but also to
impart power to us in communicating that truth to others. We see this
brought out again and again.
I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech
or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined
not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And
my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but
in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not
stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."- I Cor. 2:1-5,
"Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost" (I Thess. 1:5).
"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you" (Acts 1:8).
The Holy Spirit enables the believer to communicate to others in
"power" the truth he himself has been taught. We not only need the Holy
Spirit to reveal the truth in the first place; and the Holy Spirit in
the second place to interpret to us as individuals the truth He has
revealed; but in the third place we also need the Holy Spirit to enable
us to effectually communicate to others the truth He Himself has
interpreted to us. We need Him all along the line. One great cause of
real failure in the ministry, even when there is seeming success, and
not only in the ministry but in all forms of service by Christian men
and women, is from the attempt to teach by "enticing words of man's
wisdom," i.e., by the arts of human logic, rhetoric or eloquence, what
the Holy Spirit has taught us. What is needed is Holy Ghost power,
"demonstration of the Spirit and of power."
There are three causes of failure
of Christian work. First, some other message is taught than the message
which the Holy Spirit has revealed in the Word. Men preach science,
art, philosophy, sociology, history, experience, etc., etc., and not
the simple Word of God as found in the Holy Spirit's Book-- the Bible.
Second, the Spirit-taught message, the Bible, is studied and sought to
be comprehended by the natural understanding, i.e., without the
Spirit's illumination. Third, the Spirit-given message, the Word, the
Bible, studied and comprehended under the Holy Spirit's illumination,
is given out to others with "enticing words of man's wisdom" and not
"in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." We need, we are
absolutely dependent upon, the Holy Spirit all along the line. He must
teach us how to speak as well as what to speak. He must be the power as
well as the message.
14. The Holy Spirit has power to teach us how to pray. In Jude 20, R.V., we read,
"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit."
Again in Ephesians, 6:18, R.V.,
"Praying at all seasons in the Spirit."
The Holy Spirit guides the believer
in prayer. The disciples did not know how to pray as they ought, so
they came to Jesus and said, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). "We
know not how to pray as we ought," but we have another helper right at
hand to help us (John 14:16, 17). "The Spirit also helpeth our
infirmity" (Romans 8:26 R.V.). He teacheth us to pray. True prayer is
prayer "in the Spirit," i.e., the prayer in which the Spirit inspires
and directs. When we come into God's presence to pray, we should
recognize our infirmity, our ignorance of what we should pray for or
how we should pray, and, in the consciousness of our utter inability to
pray aright, look up to the Holy Spirit and cast ourselves utterly upon
Him to direct our prayers, to lead out our desires, and guide our
utterance of them. Rushing heedlessly into God's presence, and asking
the first thing that comes into our minds, or that some thoughtless one
asks us to pray for, is not "praying in the Holy Ghost," and is not
true prayer. We must wait for the Holy Spirit, and surrender ourselves
to the Holy Spirit. The prayer that God and the Holy Spirit inspires is
the prayer that God the Father answers. From Romans 8:26, 27, we learn
that the longings which the Holy Spirit begets in our hearts are often
too deep for utterance; too deep, apparently, for clear and definite
comprehension on the part of the believer himself, in whom the Holy
Spirit is working. God Himself must "search the heart," to know "what
is the mind of the Spirit" in these unuttered and unutterable longings.
But God does know "what is the mind of the Spirit." He does know what
those Spirit-given longings mean, even if we do not, and these longings
are "according to the will of God," and He grants them. So it comes
that He is "able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or
think, according to the power that worketh in us" (Ephesians 3:20).
There are other times when the Spirit's leadings in prayer are so plain
that we 'pray with the Spirit and with the understanding also' (I Cor.
15. The Holy Spirit has also power to lead out our hearts in acceptable thanksgiving to God. Paul says,
"...Be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and
hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to
the Lord; giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." Ephesians 5:18-20, R.V.
Not only does the Spirit teach us
to pray, He also teaches us to render thanks. One of the most prominent
characteristics of the "Spirit-filled life" is thanksgiving. True
thanksgiving is "to God, even the Father," "in the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ," "in the Holy Spirit."
16.The Holy Spirit has power to inspire in the heart of the believer in Christ worship that is acceptable to God.
"For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and
glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Phil. 3:3, R.V.
Prayer is not worship, thanksgiving
is not worship. Worship is a definite act of the creature in relation
to God. Worship is bowing before God in adoring acknowledgment and
contemplation of Himself. Someone has said, "In our prayers we are
taken up with our needs; in our thanksgiving we are taken up with our
blessings; in our worship we are taken up with Himself." There is no
true and acceptable worship except that which the Holy Spirit prompts
and directs. "Such doth the Father seek to be His worshipers" (John 4:23, R.V.).
The flesh seeks to enter every
sphere of life. It has its worship as well as its lust. The worship
which the flesh prompts is an abomination to God. Not all earnest and
honest worship is worship in the Spirit. A man may be very honest and
very earnest in his worship, and still not have submitted himself to
the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the matter, and so his worship is in
the flesh. Even where there is great loyalty to the letter of the Word,
worship may not be "in the Spirit," i.e., inspired and directed by Him.
To worship aright we must "have no confidence in the flesh." We must
recognize the utter inability of the flesh, i.e., our natural self as
contrasted with the divine Spirit who dwells in and should mould
everything in the believer, to worship acceptably. We must realize also
the danger there is that the flesh, self, intrude itself into our
worship. In utter self-distrust and self-abnegation we must cast
ourselves upon the Holy Spirit to lead us aright in our worship. Just
as we must renounce any merit in ourselves, and cast ourselves utterly
upon Christ and His work for us for justification; just so we must
renounce any capacity for good in ourselves, and cast ourselves utterly
upon the Holy Spirit, and His work in us, in living, praying, thanking,
and worshiping, and all else we are to do.
17. Let us next consider the Holy Spirit's power as a guide. In Acts 13:2-4, we read:
they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Seperate
Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And
when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they
sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed
unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus."
The Holy Spirit calls men and sends
them forth to definite lines of work. The Holy Spirit not only calls
men in a general way into Christian work, but He also selects the
specific work and paints it out. "Shall I go to China, to Africa, to
India?" many a one is asking, and many another ought to ask. You cannot
rightly settle that question for yourselves, neither can any other man
settle it rightly for you. Not every Christian man is called to China
or Africa or any other foreign field. God alone knows whether He wishes
you to go to any of these places. He is willing to show you.
How does the Holy Spirit call? The
passage before us does not tell. It is presumably purposely silent on
this point, lest, perhaps, we think that He must always call precisely
the same way. There is nothing to indicate that He spoke by an audible
voice, much less that He made His will known in any of the fantastic
ways in which some profess to discern His leadings, e.g., by some
twitching of the body, or by opening the Bible at random, and putting
the finger on a passage that may be construed into some entirely
different meaning than that which the inspired writer intended by it.
But the important point is that He made His will clearly known. He is
as willing to make His will clearly known to us today. The great need
in Christian work today is men and women whom the Holy Spirit calls and
sends forth. We have plenty of men and women whom men have called and
sent forth; we have far too many who have called themselves. There are
many today who object strenuously to being sent forth by men, by any
organization of any kind, who are, what is immeasurably worse than
that, sent forth by themselves, not by God. How shall we receive the
Holy Spirit's call? By desiring it, seeking it, waiting upon the Lord
for it, and expecting it. "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted,"
the record reveals.
Many a man is saying, in
self-justification for staying out of the ministry, or for staying home
from the foreign field: "I have never had a call." How do you know
that? Have you been listening for it? God speaks often in a still small
voice. Only the listening ear can catch it. Have you definitely offered
yourself to God to send you where He will? While no man ought to go to
China or Africa unless he is clearly and definitely called, he ought to
definitely offer himself to God for this work, and be ready for a call,
and listening sharply that he may hear it when it comes. No educated
Christian man or woman has a right to rest easy out of the foreign
field until they have definitely offered themselves to God for that
work, and it is clear no call from God has come. Indeed, a man needs no
more definite call to Africa than to Boston, or New York, or Chicago.
18. We learn something further about the Holy Spirit's power to guide in Acts 8:27-29. First, we have the story of Philip:
"And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of
great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the
charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then
the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot."
Second, the second word is about Paul and his missionary party:
"And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been
forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the Word in Asia; and when they
were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia; and the
Spirit of Jesus suffered them not." --Acts 16:6, 7, R.V.
The Holy Spirit guides in the
details of daily life and service as to where to go and where not to
go, what to do and what not to do. It is possible for us to have the
unerring guidance of the Holy Spirit at every turn in our lives. For
example, in personal work it is manifestly not God's intention that we
speak to everyone we meet. There are some to whom we ought not to
speak. Time spent on them would be time taken from work which would be
more to the glory of God. Doubtless Philip met many as he journeyed
toward Gaza, before he met the one of whom the Spirit said: "God near
and join thyself to this chariot." In the same way is He ready to guide
us in all the affairs of life: business, study, social
life--everything. We can have God's wisdom, if we will, at every turn
of life. There is no promise more plain and explicit than James 1:5: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." How shall we gain this wisdom? James 1:5-7 answers. Here are really five steps.
That we lack wisdom. We must be conscious of and fully admit our own
inability to decide wisely. Not only the sinfulness but the wisdom of
the flesh must be renounced.
We must really desire to know God's way, and be willing to do God's
will. This is implied in the asking, if the asking be sincere. This is
a point of fundamental importance. Here we find the reason why men oft
times do not know God's will, and have not the Spirit's guidance. They
are not really willing to do whatever the Spirit leads. It is the
"meek" whom He guides in judgment, and the meek to whom "He will teach
His way" (Psalm 25:9). It is he who "willeth to do His will" who "shall
know" (John 7:17, R.V.).
Third: We must ask, definitely ask guidance.
Forth: We must confidently expect guidance. "Let him ask in faith, nothing doubting" (vss. 6 and 7, R.V.).
We must follow step by step as the guidance comes. Just how it will
come no one can tell. But it will come. It may come with only a step
made clear at a time. That is all that we need to know--the next step.
Many are in darkness because they do not know what God will have them
to do next week, or next month, or next year. Do you know the next
step? That is enough. Take it, and then He will show you the next. (See
Numbers 9:17-23). God's guidance is clear guidance (I John 1:5). Many
are tortured by leadings which they fear may be from God, but which
they are not sure about. You have a right, as God's child, to be sure.
Go to God and say: "Here I am, heavenly Father; I am willing to do Thy
will, but make it clear. If this is Thy will, I will do it; but make it
clear if it is." He will do it, if it is His will and you are willing
to do it. You need not and ought not to do that thing until He does
make it clear. We have no right to dictate to God how He shall give His
guidance, as, e.g. by "shutting up every other way," or by a sign, or
by letting us put a finger on a text. It is ours to seek and expect
wisdom, but it is not ours to dictate how it shall be given (I Cor.
19. In one more direction has the Holy Spirit power. Read Acts 4:31; 13:9, 10,
"And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were
assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and
they spoke the Word of God with boldness."
The Holy Spirit has power to give
us boldness in testimony for Christ. Many are naturally timid. They
long to do something for Christ, but they are afraid. The Holy Spirit
can make you bold if you will look to Him and trust Him to do it. It
was He who turned the craven Peter into the one who fearlessly faced
the Sanhedrin and rebuked their sin. (See Acts 4:8-12.)
Two things are manifest from what
has been said about the power of the Holy Spirit in the believer:
First, how utterly dependent we are upon the Holy Spirit at every turn
of Christian life and service. Second, how perfect is the provision for
life and service that God has made, and what the fullness of privilege
that is open to the humblest believer, through the Holy Spirit's work.
It is not so much what we are by nature either intellectually, morally,
spiritually, or even physically that is important; but what the Holy
Spirit can do for us, and what we will let Him do. The Holy Spirit
often takes the one who gives the least natural promise and uses him
far more than those who give the greatest natural promise. Christian
life is not to be lived in the realm of natural temperament, and
Christian work is not to be done in the power of natural endowment but
Christian life is to be lived in the realm of the Spirit, and Christian
work is to be done in the power of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit is
eagerly desirous to do for each of us His whole work. He will do for
each of us all we will let Him do.
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