Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

A Conduit for the Word and Power

In my line of work, there are times when we request inspections and reports on the condition of underground conduits or pipes to ensure that they remain able to function without blockages, leaks, or collapses.  The ideal conduit remains in original, or near-original shape, in-tact, and free of obstructions to allow water (storm, sewage, etc.) to travel easily without having the flow impeded or diverted. Typically, this flow is regulated by some sort of mechanical device, i.e. valve, gate, weir, or other.  By way of analogy, those who teach, preach, or otherwise communicate God’s Word are to likewise be conduits such that the Word may flow through with power apart from hindrances. If the human being is God’s conduit, then the Word is the material flowing through the conduit and the power is the rate or force at which the Word flows through the conduit all of which is regulated by the Holy Spirit.

Writing under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the believers at Thessalonica, Paul encourages them in the faith by reminding them that the Gospel he spoke to them came not only in word, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with conviction.  

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”  1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

In the passage above, we see that Paul has assurance in the election of the saints he ministered the gospel to in Thessalonica because the effectiveness of God working through the message preached and the evidence wrought in the production of fruit in their lives (vs. 4).  He indicates that the gospel came, not only in word, but in power, and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. That the gospel came with words in significant. Paul, Silas, and Timothy spent 4-6 months ministering the word in Thessalonica.  In Acts 17, we are specifically told that Paul reasoned with them in the synagogue for three straight Sabbaths on the necessity of Christ’s death and resurrection in which he said, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” Acts 17:3  It was necessary for them to use words in their communication of the truth of who Christ is, His life, death, and resurrection.  However, our passage states this in the negative, “not only in word.” This lets us know that words were necessary, but not sufficient in and of themselves.  Instead, the word must be accompanied by power.

Preaching or teaching, here we will simply combine them to mean communication of God’s Word, must be accompanied with power.  Absent of power, the communication, which may be true, orthodox, and accurate, is simply a lecture. It’s nothing more than reading a facts sheet.  There’s nothing to distinguish the powerless preaching of God’s Word from a university seminar lecture. It’s weak and unplugged from the source of power.  No one walks into a room, turns on an unplugged lamp in order to read a book in darkness! Yet this dimness clouds the man who preaches God’s Word apart from power.  This power, according to Vincent, is the “power of spiritual persuasion and conviction: not power as displayed in miracles, at least not principally, although miraculous demonstrations may be included.”  This power is what has been called by some unction, though there is a contingent opposed to such language. (NOTE: This is in NO WAY related to the Roman Catholic sacrament of extreme unction.)  

In trying to wrap our minds around this difficult concept, Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes

“What is this [unction]?  It is the Holy Spirit falling upon the preacher in a special manner.  It is an access of power. It is God giving power, and enabling, through the Spirit, to the preacher in order that he may do this work in a manner that lifts it up beyond the efforts and endeavors of man to a position in which the preacher is being used by the Spirit and becomes the channel through whom the Spirit works.”

This concept of power in preaching the Word is further illuminated in some of Paul’s letters, particularly to Corinth:

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

“And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of the Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:3-5

“For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” 1 Corinthians 4:20

We might also consider: Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8; Acts 4:33; Acts 13:9

The conduit doesn’t have the power in and of itself.  God is the source of the power, the conduit’s responsibility is simply to allow the power to flow through, apart from hindrances.  What are these hindrances? It could be eloquence or the desire for great oration and wisdom apart from the simplicity of God’s Word.  It could be pride of knowledge, a desire to let everyone know that you have a depth of knowledge which is self-validating. It could be sin: laziness, lustfulness, selfishness, anger, envy, jealousy, etc. which can completely stop the power or cause it to leak sufficiently out of the conduit.  Obstructions, leaks, and other defects could be enumerable, therefore it is all the more critical for God’s conduit of the Word to seek the face of God and actively work, by the indwelling power of God’s Holy Spirit, to stay in the presence of God, evidenced much like the glowing face of Moses who shone in the presence of God and veiled his face when he knew the shine had left.

This brings us to observe that the gospel did not come in words only, but in power AND the Holy Spirit.  From our analogy earlier, which breaks down as all analogies do, we concluded that the Holy Spirit was the Regulator of the Word and the power, controlling both the content that flows through the conduit and the force at which it flows.  This is all the more true when we consider the nature of preaching itself as the communication of divine truths in divine power to produce divine results. It has been said that as Charles Spurgeon would climb the stairs to his pulpit, he used to say with each step, “Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit.”  The minister of the gospel’s reliance on the Holy Spirit is of critical importance, indeed it’s mandatory. Reliance on God the Holy Spirit is inversely proportional to reliance on self, the more of the former, the less of the latter…and unfortunately, vice versa.  I have often said, if the Holy Spirit is not accompanying you into the pulpit (or in whatever manner God may have you speak), then sit back down and be quiet.  

The word that was preached to the Thessalonians came with power and the Holy Spirit and produced, “full conviction”.  Preaching the Word with power by the Holy Spirit, necessarily makes demands and brings the results of that which it demands.  Here, it is summarized as, “with full conviction.” Others have translated it as “with full assurance.” Those debates aside, it’s clear that this is the result of the power-filled, Holy Spirit regulated preaching.  It may bring conviction of sin, as in the case of the Thessalonians who heard the Gospel and were brought to repentance of sin and faith in Christ. Though we must hold in tension the reality that it may also bring hardness of heart, as it did with many of the Jews in Thessalonica who heard the exact same message, yet it led them to riot and assault Jason.  Similarly, this preaching may bring assurance of faith, in other words edification, to genuine believers. Genuine preaching always demands and brings a response.

Our passage does not stop there, however.  Some translations, such as the ESV above, end the sentence after “full conviction”.  However, the construction of the Greek sentence joins full conviction and the subsequent phrase that is not seen above.  It perhaps should read, “and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”  The difference is that the ESV translation above makes the character of the “conduit”, keeping with our analogy, a loosely related add-on statement whereas it appears the original sentence construction that their character is integral with the message they preached with power and the Holy Spirit.  The Thessalonians knew what kind of men Paul, Silas, and Timothy were by observation! They knew that the conduits who brought them the word in power and with the Holy Spirit, while not perfect, were nevertheless sound, without obstructions or deflections that would hinder the Word. In other words, the character of the messenger helped to validate the quality of the message.

Preaching the word with power and the Holy Spirit has become glaringly absent in today’s churches.  It seems this can only be due to either obstructed or leaky conduits or a failure to preach with power and the Holy Spirit.  Whatever the cause, it is evident when the power and Spirit are present, yet it is also evident when it is lacking.  Let us conclude by giving the last word to Lloyd-Jones

“Do you always look for and seek this unction, this anointing before preaching?  Has this been your greatest concern? There is no more thorough and revealing test to apply to a preacher.”

The Holy Spirit and the Jehovah’s Witness

 

One of the chief objections that Jehovah’s Witnesses have toward orthodox Christianity is a denial of the personhood or personality of the Holy Spirit (along with a denial of Christ’s deity and a host of other fundamental beliefs).  Because JW’s deny the Trinity, by default they must deny that the Holy Spirit is a divine person at all, instead depersonalizing Him to a power or force.

Conversely, orthodox Christianity recognizes and has always recognized that the Spirit is God, the third member of the Trinity. In John 16, Jesus offers great comfort to His disciples by assuring them that His departure is for their good because He will send another “Helper” or Paraclete.

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

Twist and turn as they may, there really is no consistent way to interpret this passage other than that the Holy Spirit is indeed a person and member of the Triune God-head.  Interpreting this passage to represent the Spirit of God as an inanimate force or power simply violates the entirety of the context and meaning.  That said, there are even clearer passages on the operation of the Spirit that make an even stronger argument that He is more than a mere power or force, but instead does indeed operate as God.

In the book of Acts, perhaps more than any other book, the operations of the Holy Spirit are recorded in abundance.  No coincidence that this book contains the “giving” and “filling” of the Holy Spirit, so it makes sense that we would find a variety of operations by the Spirit on display in this book.  Note below a sample of passages that assert clearly that the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, is indeed a person, not just “a person”, but indeed God.

  • Acts 5:3-4, 93 But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.’” 9But Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’”

In this passage we have the familiar account of Ananias and Sapphira, the husband and wife team that had promised to give the money from the sale of their land to the apostle’s (a vow they were free to NOT make), but instead lied and withheld some of the funds.  If the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force, as the Jehovah’s Witness contends, then how can Ananias lie to Him?  Furthermore, in the very same passage, Peter connects his accusation, “lie to the Holy Spirit” with “you have not lied to man but to God” giving a clear indication of the “personhood” and deity of the Holy Spirit.  In verse 9, where Peter is now confronting the wife, Sapphira, we see that she and her husband have tested the “Spirit of the Lord”.  In this passage the Spirit has been lied to and tested, clearly asserting that the Spirit is not simply an impersonal force or power.

In the New World Translation, the false and apostate translation that the Jehovah’s Witness use, the translation is nearly identical, so this would be a case where you could use their own translation to disprove their beliefs.

  •  Acts 5:32 “And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Again, we see briefly in this passage that the Holy Spirit is a “witness” along with the apostles.  Try using the fact the Holy Spirit is the True witness of Jehovah in your next encounter with the JW’s!

 Acts 8:29 “And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’”

The Spirit is speaking to Philip in this passage, instructing him to join the Ethiopian in his chariot for the purpose of testifying the death and resurrection of Christ to him (using Isaiah 53!).  In the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witness, you’ll find the same wording, however the word “spirit” is lower case.  That should not distract or deter you from the truths of this passage.  The capitalization of the word in the ESV or some of the more reliable translations is simply and interpretive clue to alert you that the context regards the Spirit as God.

  •  Acts 10:19 “And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you.”
  • Acts 13:2-4 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”
  • Acts 21:11 “And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’.’”
  • Acts 28:25 “And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: ‘The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:’”

 Pretty straightforward in these four passages, once again we have communication from the Spirit to a man.  Communication that could not (and did not) come from an impersonal force or power, but from a member of the God-head.  Additionally, in the second passage from Acts 13, we find that it is the Holy Spirit Who has sent out the apostles to Seleuicia and Cyprus.  Once again, the NWT affirms this reading.

  • Acts 15:28 “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements”
  • Acts 16:6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.

In the first passage above we find that the Holy Spirit has communicated approval of the Apostle’s actions, while in the second the Holy Spirit has restrained Paul from speaking the word in Asia.

To assert that the Holy Spirit is a force or power violates not only the meaning and context of the passages listed above, but indeed the English language and the Koine Greek language in which Acts was originally written.  If you kindly, but boldly walk a Jehovah’s Witness through several of the key passages highlighted above, it’s likely they will stare blankly at you with incredulity.  Do not back off.  I’ve talked to JW’s who have been in the cult for decades and they simply have no response to these verses.  Nevertheless, the truth will be presented to them.

It’s not your job to convince or convict them of their heresy, it is the Spirit’s.  He will do it, if and when He sees fit to lift the scales from their eyes, giving them a heart of repentance, and opening their ears to receive the words of truth.  Be faithful in your witness and always be prepared to give a defense to anyone that asks for a reason for the hope that is within you.