“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NKJV)
These are final words spoken by Jesus to His apostles before He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9). He uses two “you shall” statements that distinguish the apostles from every other disciple of Jesus. Understanding them eliminates many false concepts about the Holy Spirit, the apostles, and what it means to be witnesses of Jesus. First, Jesus told His apostles “you shall receive power.” Then, He told them when it would happen – “when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” This Holy Spirit baptism was a specific promise made to the apostles, not to every Christian (Acts 1:4-5; Jno. 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15). It would be fulfilled “not many days from now,” and ten days later on Pentecost, it was (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4, 33). Holy Spirit baptism would equip the apostles for their assigned work, which is the second “you shall” statement. Jesus told His apostles “you shall be witnesses to Me.” Witnesses testify of what they have seen (Jno. 3:11). The apostles were witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. They saw Him raised from the dead (Acts 1:22; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39-42; 26:16; 1 Cor. 15:4-8). Christians do not “bear witness” of Jesus because we have not seen Him. They did, and we believe their testimony. Christ gave His church apostles “for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). Let us thank Christ for the apostles, not be led astray by false doctrines that would usurp their power and work.
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” (Romans 1:20, NKJV)
Evidence for the presence and power of God has existed since the creation of the world. Just as the invisible trait of intelligence is seen in the product made by the automobile designer and maker, the inorganic and organic systems of the universe reveal the (invisible) intelligence of our Creator. Again, the (invisible) power of electricity is used to create a car. Without sufficient power, the auto parts (much less the assembly line used to put them together) would yield no assembled automobile. The power unleashed to create the universe (much less sustain it) cannot be successfully denied – or explained – by the materialist. Speculations, hypotheses, and “maybes” are all they can propose. The truth is that nothing comes from nothing. It is precisely our Creator’s deity that gives context and capability to the power necessary to create and sustain the cosmos. We are without excuse for being under wrath when we refuse to honor God and be thankful of His creative blessings (Rom. 1:20-21, 18). It is truly futile and foolish to reject the “clearly seen” evidence of God’s power and Godhood, for “the heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork” (Rom. 1:21-22; Psa. 19:1).
41 And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying. But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him. 43 Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, 44 came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped. (Luke 8:41–44, NKJV)
Do you ever hesitate to seek and to supplicate the Lord by telling yourself He must be too busy to attend to your present trouble? Or, do you conclude that since others are worse off than you, you will not trouble the Lord with your trial? (He already knows what it is.) Or maybe you think your spiritual condition is so severe that He would never save you. This account from the life of Jesus reassures us that God is able to save to uttermost those who call on Him in faith. Christ’s power went out from Him, healing this troubled, suffering woman (Lk. 8:46). Jesus told her, “your faith has made you well” (Lk. 8:48). The faith of Jairus compelled his plea for his daughter’s health. Jesus told him, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well” (Lk. 8:50-55). And, she was. Today, Christ’s power to save sinners goes out from Him through His gospel (Rom. 1:16; Mk. 16:15). All who will call on Him in faith are saved (Acts 2:21, 37-41; 22:16). He is ready and able to save and to bless you. Come to Him without delay (Matt. 11:28-30).
6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:6–7, NKJV)
The indication is that Timothy received a miraculous spiritual gift from the apostle (see also, 1 Timothy 4:14). Whatever the specific gift was, Timothy had a duty to stir it up, to rekindle it as one would stir the embers of a dwindling fire. Being fearful would prevent Timothy from stirring up his gift – from accomplishing his work. Timothy was to be bold and courageous in the power of truth, in the love of God, and in the soundness of mind that is shaped by putting the word of Christ into one’s heart (2 Corinthians 6:3-10). Like Timothy, Christians must stir up the gifts we have and faithful fulfill the will of God. Romans 12:6-8 exhorts us to bold and courageous service as members of the body of Christ. The enemies of truth and opponents of righteousness would have you be too afraid to aggressively stand fast in the faith. But, nothing will be achieved for Christ through fear. May we develop and add virtue (moral courage) to our faith (2 Peter 1:5). Replace fear with the spirit of “power and love and of a sound mind.”
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21, NKJV)
It is essential that the church honors God for the abundant “power that works in us.” Notably, it is “in the church by Christ Jesus” that God’s measureless power is glorified. So, the church is essential. It is essential for the church to know how to give God honor and glory. The church honors God being faithful to obey His will. You see, Jesus died for His church to sanctify it, so it will not have “spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27). God’s will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Therefore, we must love God and not the world (1 John 2:15-17). When Christians defy the will of God and love the world, Christ is shamed and God is dishonored. The church must do more than say it honors God in Christ. Christians must reflect honor for God by how we live. This is done by obeying Him faithfully. This is how to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Such obedience is when and how God’s power works in us (Philippians 2:13). Trust God’s power. Live by faith, obeying Him “with fear and trembling.” He will work in you mightily, and take you home to eternal glory.
6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ 8 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matthew 23:6–11, NKJV)
This passage from Christ’s lips should forever eliminate the clergy-laity distinction. And yet, such hierarchies thrive in many of the churches and denominations of men. Yes, the Scriptures identify different functions of work in the church (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, Ephesians 4:11-12), but these are works of service, not positions of ordination given by the church. An ordained clergy establishes a pecking order of preeminence among Christians that does not exist in the New Testament. We are taught to submit to one another in the fear of God, not elevate a clergy to direct the people in the pews (Ephesians 5:21). The Lord washed feet, but now, people kiss a man’s feet as if he were God (John 13:12-17; Acts 10:25-26)! Pride feeds the desire for power and to be recognized above others. The clergy-laity distinction, that wraps people in garbs of religious hierarchy, separating and elevating one above another, is not from God (1 Corinthians 4:6).
42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42–45, NKJV)
As it was in the days of Christ, so it is to this present hour. Worldly ambition drives many to exercise dominance and control over others, measuring their greatness by positions of power. Such is neither the measure nor the ambition of Christ’s disciples. When a dispute arose among His apostles over positions of prominence in the kingdom, Christ taught that importance and favor are measured by service and sacrifice, not subjugation (Mark 10:35-41). Jesus set the high bar of lowly greatness, serving and dying to save the lost. To be great and first in God’s sight is what matters. So, let us use His measurements of greatness, and serve others as He served us.