The Power of the Holy Ghost
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” — Acts 1:8. Jesus had been ignominiously put to death. His enemies were jubilant, and hell was holding high carnival. Joseph’s newly made tomb had its first occupant. The tomb was sealed tight, and the Roman soldiers were keeping guard by day and by night. It looked as if Christ were a failure. But it had been declared by the prophet of old, “He shall not fail.” Before going to heaven after His resurrection He commanded His disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father. We shall consider the nature of this power, the source of this power, and the use of the power.
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I. THE NATURE OF THIS POWER
“Ye shall receive power.” There are two Greek words in the New Testament both of which are rendered by our word “power.” The one refers to power in the sense of rule, or authority and the other means ability, or force. It is the latter of these words that is used here. There are many kinds of power in the world. There is financial power that controls the pocketbooks of men — social power that controls the customs of men — political power that controls the affairs of people. Then there is electric power that gives light to its millions — motor power that will send an airplane through the air at the terrific speed of six or seven hundred miles an hour — military power that will batter down forts made strong by the passing centuries — and brain power that brings to light the hidden mysteries of the ages. What was this power which the apostles were to receive? Was it, as they anticipated, political power? Certainly in the course of years the church did acquire something akin to the power of the scepter. It took years of labor, sacrifice, suffering, and persecution to acquire the power of state. Very likely this power was given by the hand of a loving Father. It should have been the instrument to promote the Gospel among the nations of the earth. Doubtless this power came when Constantine associated the Cross with the Roman purple. If the church had only accepted this as a means to an end — but alas, it was the instrument of destroying spiritual power! Was this intellectual power? The Gospel has undoubtedly lightened up man’s understanding and fertilized his thoughts. A certain power of knowledge came as result of Pentecost. Our Lord dwelt at length on the illumination of the Comforter. “He shall guide you into all truth.” The unlettered fisherman (Peter) was suddenly the profound expositor of ancient prophecy, and within a short period his teaching brought him into collision with the Sadducean leaders of educated skeptical opinion. Was this the power to work miracles? Our thoughts seem to gravitate toward such a supposition. Some of the apostles and early Christians had this peculiar power, but Christ said, “Greater works than these shall ye do, because I go to my Father.” Was miracle-working power the evidence of having received the Spirit? I do not believe it was, for many in that day and in other days were filled with the Spirit, but never performed such miracles. But what does the Spirit perform in the human soul? It mellows the voice, fills the eyes with tears, sweetens bitterness, cleanses the soul from a fallen nature, and empowers the soul with supernatural strength to meet battles, trials, problems and difficulties. But wherein did this power consist? It was spiritual, personal and moral power. Spiritual power may be felt rather than described or analyzed. It is that mysterious power of God that takes control of the human personality and transforms the life into a living epistle, read and known of all men. Such a power produces spiritual earnestness. Oh, how earnest the hundred and twenty disciples were: after the reception of this power! They might have had streaks of insincerity before its reception, but none can be detected after the infilling of this power. It was the power of heart purity. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” It was this power that transformed the disciples into the moral likeness of God. It cleansed their hearts, and brought purity of thoughts, purity of motives, purity of deeds, and the blessed assurance of seeing God here and hereafter. It was also the infilling of power for Christian service. Oh, how we need this power in prayer, in preaching, in teaching, and in rendering Christian service for others! We need spiritual power to overcome temptations, discouragements, misunderstandings, and the sorrows of life.
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II. THE SOURCE OF POWER
“When the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” The literal translation is, “Ye shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you.” There is but one inlet to this power, and that inlet is the Holy Ghost. He is power. It is useless to seek power from any other source. If you would have purity, seek the Holy Spirit, who is a person. If you would have power for Christian service, seek Him. If you would have greater efficiency in prayer and fellowship, seek Him. If you would have a closer walk with our Lord — a sweeter disposition — a greater burden for earth’s perishing millions — seek Him. There is absolutely no other source for spiritual power. The Holy Spirit is God’s executive in the world. Why do I believe in this power? I believe in it because the Word of God promises it, and records so many instances in which it was gloriously received. The prophet Joel foresaw the coming of this power, and broke forth in graphic language: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.” (Joel 2:28, 29). John the Baptist, that leather-girdled, bronze:– browed, bare-headed, and swift-footed, wilderness preacher, said of Jesus, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” The disciples of Jesus were grieving because He said that soon He would go away, but His consoling reply was, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. “Down at the close of His eventful life Christ commanded His disciples to tarry in the upper room until endued with power from on high. On the day of Pentecost the heart-cry of Jesus was answered. “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” The evangelist Philip went to the city of Samaria for a revival, and the Lord graciously sent it. Many were converted unto Christianity. The Church at Jerusalem hurriedly sent Peter and John to the new converts, that they might be filled with the Spirit. The inspired writer says of their arrival, “Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. And they received the Holy Ghost.” And on we go to the household of Cornelius, the first Gentile to receive the Holy Spirit. It is said of him, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all of them which heard the word.” Upon Paul’s arrival in the city of Ephesus he found a dozen disciples, and he asked them if the Holy Ghost had been received since turning from darkness to light. They replied, “We have not heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” Paul and his coworkers prayed for them and they were filled with the Spirit. How did the disciples receive this power? They waited for it. The command was, “Tarry until ye be endued with power from on high.” They obeyed the command of the Master. They dared not go without this power. To go without it meant to go in their own strength. Not only did they wait obediently for it, but they prayed for it. They were all of one accord, and all praying for the same thing. There was no time limit to this waiting. They were to wait “until” the Spirit came. They prayed until they were emptied of self and filled with God. They were tremendously concerned about this power because it was constant. It was not merely for a specific Occasion, and it was not transitory or occasional. “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, will abide with you forever. “This power was both individual and corporate. It was received by the disciples as a band, and it was also for the individual. The Apostle Peter said on this occasion, while preaching to the multitudes on the streets of Jerusalem, “The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
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III. THE USE OF THIS POWER
“Ye shall be witnesses.” We shall be witnesses for Him in our varied vocations of life. The world will not read the Bible, but it is reading our lives. We are in need of a practical Christianity. The world is not looking for cold theories, but is desirous to see the work of Holiness practiced in the everyday marts of life. Perhaps some of the most effective sermons are preached by faithful Christians in the store, in the work-shop, in the field, and in the home. Oh, the power and influence of a Spirit-filled life in a community! Somehow it is joined to the Omnipotent. Argument can be resisted, logic can be met, eloquence can be overcome and persuasions and invitations scorned and appeals and warnings evaded and disregarded. But the silent force and the power of a godly life and the presence of a devoted and consecrated soul melts the hard heart, turns the stubborn will, and leads the sinner to Christ. Holiness is truth embodied. It is the Gospel on fire, burning on the altar of the heart, beaming from the eyes, breathing from the lips, and preaching from the life, until the world is compelled to believe! We shall also witness for Him in the home, where some of the most trying things of life come. All the members of the home may be Christians, but in that home will come some of the most trying, disappointing and heart-testing things of life. But if our experience of grace will not bear the strain of the home life, a deeper work of grace should be sought and obtained. A careless word, a hasty action, a doubtful practice, indifference to Bible reading, and the neglecting of family worship may be the things that will help damn our children. We may be His witnesses in sickness and death. Many of the early Christians sealed their testimony with a martyr’s death. More than seventy millions of the purest and whitest spirits of earth have gone to heaven by way of the lion’s den, burning stakes, wicked swords, and dark and blighting dungeons. This army has defied fire and flood, wicked men and malignant devils. They have heard the snarl and growl of the lion and leopard, and prayed and rejoiced when the blackened flesh was literally falling from their bones. It was this power that enabled Lamberton, the great English teacher and martyr of the sixteenth century to say when he was being burned to death, “Nothing but Jesus; nothing but Jesus. “John Huss, the Bohemian scholar and reformer, was persecuted and condemned to die. When the blue, hissing flames were: wrapping his suffering body, and he was being roasted to death, he clapped his hands three times, and shouted to his friends and co-laborers, “George! George! George! tell the world that anywhere with Jesus is all right.” This power will help us when we come to the “last mile of the way.” Paul says, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” When we have come to the terminus of the way, and our loved ones and friends have gathered about us, we can look death in the face and say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” An old Scotchman was dying. His friends asked what he thought of death. He said, “It matters little with me whether I live or die. If I die I will be with Jesus, and if I live Jesus will be with me.” If you would have courage to meet death, and wing your flight beyond the stars and reign forever with Jesus, look to the Cross. The Cross of Christ is our only hope. Cling to that blessed Cross. “Rock of ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee, Let the water and the blood, From Thy wounded side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure.” Have you received the Pentecostal blessing? Have you tarried and prayed till you were filled with the Holy Ghost? Have you sought and obtained the Baptism of the Holy Ghost since you were converted? Do you have the witness of the Spirit to this mighty blessing? There will be trying days ahead, and you will need the indwelling of the Spirit. Oh, do not seek this experience merely for power! He will bring power, but along with His power will come purity, a burden for prayer, a clear vision of the world’s needs, and a burden to take the Gospel to every creature. Throw open the door of your heart right now. Invite the Spirit in. It is for you today. Do not delay, the Spirit is ready now!