The Power of the Holy Spirit

Dr. Brian Allison

The Holy Spirit sanctifies believers so that they may reflect the very image of Jesus Christ. He spiritually transforms the Christian's character. Now, God's power is the means by which the Spirit achieves this transforming work. Any spiritual accomplishment in the Christian's life, any progress in spiritual maturity, is only achieved by the display and exercise of God's personal power. Ephesians 3:14-21 reads, "For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened in power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."

The Spirit is the Conveyor of God's power

The Spirit Himself conveys the divine power – "To be strengthened with power through [the mediation of] His Spirit." It is self-evident that the Spirit is the means and the Agent of power. For instance, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary to annunciate that she would conceive and bear the Son of the Living God, she inquired, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" (Lu. 1:34). Gabriel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, [which means] and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God" (Lu. 1:35). Again, Christ promised His apostles before His glorious ascension, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The Spirit's presence is synonymous with the power of God. Thus, to have the Spirit is to have God's power. A Christian should not seek the power of God in addition to the Spirit's presence, for in having the Spirit, he also has the power.

Power simply means 'energy which creates an effect' or, simply put, the 'ability to do or act.' Of course, when we think of divine power, we are thinking of limitless energy, boundless ability. Divine power, for instance, created the universe and raised the dead to life again. So, concerning the resurrection, we read the apostle Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1:18-20, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us [or, 'in us' or 'unto us'] who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places."

What an incredible thought! Divine power resides in you, if you are a Christian. If you name the name of Christ as your personal Saviour, this power is available to you. Now, I am not saying that you should view yourself as a 'little god,' though some erroneously have professed such. What I am saying is this: Christians have an infinite, spiritual storehouse at their disposal. Do you believe that? The story is told of two Texan tourists who visited the Niagara Falls, and they were amazed at the grandeur of this great natural wonder of the world. One of them had been there before, and he said to his companion, "Come, I want you to see the bottom of the falls." When they arrived there, he said, "Do you see those falls, that is the greatest unused power in the world." And his companion retorted, "No, it is not. The Holy Spirit of the Living God is." That is true.

Ephesians 3:20 reads, "Now to Him who is able to do exceeding, abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us." We cannot even imagine, we cannot conceive, what God can do for us, and what He is doing for us, in keeping with the display of His potency. It does not naturally enter into our thinking the infinite proportions of spiritual reality which are open to our spiritual experience. Again, do you believe this? Because according to your faith, it shall be done unto you. Christians should not live defeated lives. That is a contradiction in terms. Christians should not be discouraged. They should not be emotionally debilitated. They should not be marked by deficiency (e.g. complaining that they do not have the courage to witness for Christ). No, Christians should be people marked by confidence. They ought to be doing exploits for God. God is the God of the impossible, having limitless power; and this God indwells your heart, if you are a Christian.

You may say, "Well, theoretically I believe that God is the God of the impossible. Theoretically I believe that this power is available; but, practically speaking, I have great difficulty accepting that." My friend, there ought not to be a gap between your theory and your practice. John 14:12,13 reads, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father [and send the Spirit]. And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." Do you believe this text? Do you notice that this passage teaches that you must meet two conditions before experiencing or releasing this power? First, there must be belief; and second, there must be prayer. My Christian friend, you must come to God and ask Him for faith to believe and grace to pray. We need a fresh visitation of God's Spirit. Is that a fool's dream? I don't think so. Either God's Word is true or it is not; and if it is true, let's act on that basis.

The Spirit strengthens through God's power

So, divine power is available to the Christian. Now, the Spirit employs this power to strengthen us – "To be strengthened with power through His Spirit." Logically speaking, power is the natural means of strengthening. Of course, we can be strengthened by other means: sleep, ginseng, exercise, etc. But, by far, the best source of strengthening is divine power. The natural design of this power (according to this text) is to overcome our infirmities, our liabilities, our limitations – all the weaknesses of the flesh. God's power made lame legs strong again. God's power caused blind eyes to see again. God's power made deaf ears hear again. God's power made the faint hearts bold. God's power made the ignorant minds wise.

Because it's God's power, it is God's own strength we enjoy; and this is the wonder of it all. That is the mystery of spiritual union. Again, in Ephesians 1:19 the apostle Paul prays (do you notice that emphasis on prayer) that believers might comprehend and experience the surpassing greatness of God's power. "These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might." God manifests His life in us. His own strength enables us. Thus, with His power and strength, nothing is impossible for those who believe. Similarly, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 reads, "And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me – to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." Do you notice the means by which one experiences strengthening with power? – the grace of God. From our side, we must show faith and we must pray; but from God's side, He must give grace. And so, the question is this: how do we secure this grace? How is this grace made possible for us? James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 read, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." In experiencing His wonderful grace, we will know His power and strength.

The paradox is this: the humblest of saints is the strongest of servants. In your arrogance and pride, you will know nothing, absolutely nothing, of the power, strength, and supply of God. You can make a profession of faith, you can confess the orthodox doctrines of the faith, and still not have an 'ounce' of holy power in your life; and thus have no sense of victory or success. You show me a humble saint, and I will show you one on whom the power of Christ is resting; and he will do exploits for God. Do you need to humble yourself? Do you think too highly of yourself and your accomplishments? Do you think too much of your position and status? Has God been speaking to you about pride? If you do not humble yourself, God will humble you. If you are a child of God, you will either humble yourself or He will break you so that you will humble yourself. Either you will do it willingly, or He may do it painfully.

So, God gives grace to the humble; and in that grace, there is power for strengthening. God's strengthening counters despair and replaces it with hope. His strengthening counters hatred and replaces it with love. His strengthening counters foolishness and replaces it with wisdom. His strengthening counters harshness and cruelty and replaces them with compassion and kindness. His strengthening counters moral impurity and replaces it with holiness. His strengthening counters lack of self-control and replaces it with temperance, etc.

The Spirit's strengthening with God's power produces infinite, spiritual growth

The Spirit's strengthening by means of divine power has a particular end – spiritual transformation – "strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man [that is, in the heart, in the personality, with all its depths and aspects]; so that, Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." The power that is revealed in strengthening produces a spiritual experience of fellowship with the indwelling Christ. What this verse teaches is that if there is no power, then there is no spiritual life. It does not matter how well you 'talk the talk'; if there is no power, there is no spiritual life. Through divine power, faith is created and strengthened. Faith is the necessary instrument to receive and experience all of the spiritual blessings and graces of God. Brother Lawrence, in his book The Practice of the Presence of God, says, "All that I have heard men tell concerning God, that I have read myself, or perceived of Him in my mind, cannot content me. Infinite in His perfection, how can He be portrayed or how can man find words to picture Him? Faith alone can reveal Him or tell me what He is; by faith I learn more of God, and in a very little time, than I could do in the schools after many a long year. Oh! Faith, faith; oh! marvelous virtue, which illumines the spirit of man, and leads him on to the knowledge of his Creator. Oh! virtue altogether lovely, so little known, and still less practiced, yet which, once known, is so glorious, so full of unspeakable Blessing" (p. 109).

Only the instrument of faith can tap into and access the grace of God; and that is the design of the strengthening of God. He strengthens our faith so that we may appropriate and possess the living Christ; so that we may experience Christ in all His fullness in the depths of our being. A strengthened faith experiences and enjoys the glorious reality of the living Christ. Faith makes the indwelling Christ overwhelmingly real. Faith does not create that reality; it simply acknowledges it; and, of course, the deeper the faith, the deeper the spiritual communion. The point is this: we can experience more and more of the indwelling Christ; there are infinite depths still unknown. Oh, doesn't that move your hearts?

Further, simultaneous to this strengthening of faith is the strengthening of love. You see, it is a 'package deal.' When God strengthens us in the inner man, not only are we strengthened in faith, but we are strengthened in love, we are strengthened in patience, we are strengthened in wisdom, etc. But here the emphasis is love – "being rooted and grounded in love" (Eph. 3:17b). Love can take deep root in our hearts and overflow through all our actions and behaviour through the strengthening of the Spirit. As with faith, love can grow endlessly. The strengthening of the Spirit opens up unlimited spiritual possibilities. Thus, we read further, "[So that we] may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth" (3:18). Four dimensions! We physically live in a three dimensional world; yet, spiritually, we can simultaneously experience and enjoy a four dimensional world – the life and fellowship of Jesus Christ. This text is teaching that our spiritual life and experience can be of infinite proportions. God's Spirit strengthens us by God's power in order to enlarge our hearts so that we may, in some sense, comprehend both the infinite, and (as we shall see) the incomprehensible. Only divine power can accomplish the impossible and unthinkable; a power which is limitless, and thus is unrestricted.

Being strengthened in faith and love (and hope), you acquire spiritual capacity and ability to grasp transcendent spiritual realities. What this text is teaching is that you exist on a different plain in walking and fellowshiping with God. By the Spirit's power, a believer enters more into the very life and heart of God. We cannot fully understand it, but it is true. Does this possibility make you thirsty to know the glorious depths of God; not simply to know about God, but to know the glorious depths of God, as well as that inexpressible communion? Is it any wonder that the apostle Paul ends this line of reasoning by stating, "And to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God" (3:19).

What?!? "To be filled up [not with some of God but] to all the fullness of God." How is that possible? I do not know, but it is true. God's power, as ministered by His Spirit, allows believers to experience the depths of God and to know His thoughts (1 Cor. 2:9ff.). Wonder of wonders, He enlarges our hearts to contain Himself; even though "the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain Him" (2 Chr. 2:6; 6:18). Do you believe that? Is it any wonder that the apostle Paul breaks into doxology. When you are confronted with the immensity, the awesomeness, and the greatness of God, all you can do is worship. So the apostle Paul concludes, "To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen" (3:20,21). As Christians, we stand amazed at the majestic reality of God. He deserves worship.

What do you think? Do you want this life and experience? Are you thirsty? I trust that you are; but we must do what the apostle Paul did, and what he recommends. Notice Ephesians 3:14ff.; he says, "For this reason [in understanding the glory of the Gospel and the wonders of God's grace in salvation; in having received the revelation of the mystery, that hidden wisdom], I bow my knees [I enter in to this posture of humble, dependent prayer] before the Father [and I pray] that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory [i.e., in keeping with the expression of His excellence], to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man." Paul recommends praying. So, in order to experience the depths of God's life and fellowship, one thing that a Christian must do is pray and wait upon the Lord. God will choose the time, He will choose the hour, of His visitation. He makes the appointment with your spirit; and when He commands, "Let these dry bones live," you will live.