“Not by Might nor by Power, but by My Spirit”
1. SCRIPTURE READING:
Acts 19:1-10 ~ “And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all. 8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”
We see in vs.1 that Paul, while in Ephesus, met some people who claimed to be disciples of Jesus Christ, because Luke, as the author of the book of Acts, tells us in vs.1, that Paul met some disciples.
In vs.2a, Paul asked them a very interesting question ~ “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” We can immediately ask ourselves, why did Paul ask them this question and what was their response? Well, we find their very surprising answer in vs.2b ~ “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
From this question and response, there are two questions for us to consider:
• Paul says in Eph.4:17 ~ “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” And in 1 Pet.4:2-3 ~ “…so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” After observing therefore our lives as professing Christians, I wonder, whether Paul would ask the same question, namely ~ “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2).
• The second question that we should ask is: “Have we or are we doing what we should be doing in reference to the Holy Spirit?”
After observing our lives, would Paul be convinced that we are depending on and ministering in the power of the Spirit rather than the power of the flesh? Would Paul be convinced that we are ministering through the Holy Spirit or would he think our lives are being conducted in the power of the flesh?
If Paul were to ask some professing Christians these questions, I suspect that none of them would give the exact answer that the Ephesians gave, namely… ~ “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (vs.2b). They would probably respond by giving him some general facts about the Holy Spirit. But, unfortunately apart from knowing some general Biblical facts about the Holy Spirit, the way that many professing Christians live and even minister is not all that different. In either case, the consequences of erroneous or wrong ideas about the Holy Spirit are disastrous.
John MacArthur’s response to this, is the following: “…to do so it’s too short cut sanctification” and, I would like to add, “… it is to sabotage our ministry to people.”
In the book of Galatians, Paul makes it crystal clear that errors concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives and ministries are serious.
3. ERRORS AND THE HOLY SPIRIT:
What kind of errors concerning the role of the Holy Spirit do we get?
• Misunderstanding and misapplying His role in the lives and ministries of believers.
• Ignoring and neglecting His role in believers’ lives and ministries.
In Gal.3:1-5, Paul makes some shocking statements and asks some stunning questions to the professing Christians who were misunderstanding and neglecting the ministry of the Holy Spirit – let’s look at it ~ “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith.”
Paul therefore makes it crystal clear, that errors concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives are serious and therefore he urges us to take notice of Gal.5:16 where he says ~ “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
4. LESSONS FROM ZECHARIAH:
In our attempt to live the Christian life, no truth is more important for us to learn and more difficult to remember than the truth stated in Zach.4:6. But, before we read the verse, we must quickly look at some background information:
• Setting: In 536 BC, the Israelites returned from exile to Judah.
• The problem: Everything was burnt down and destructed.
• The task: Re-building Jerusalem, homes, the temple.
• God’s promises: The enemies will be destroyed and Jerusalem will be protected.
• The power – Zech.4:6: “…Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”
The lesson then, is that what the people of God needed to hear and remember in 536 BC, is exactly the same lesson that we need to hear in 2017 – and it is a lesson that we need to remember ~ “…Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zech.4:6).
We cannot do anything with our wealth, or our intellect, or our training, or our experience, or our educational degrees, personalities or whatever – no, it is only by His Spirit. God may use many of the things that I’ve mentioned, even as in the time of Zachariah God used skilled craftsmen to get the job done. But ultimately, we must realise that any real godly change is accomplished by the Spirit of God.
5. PAUL’S TASK:
Let us return to Paul. For Paul, the Christian life was not only hard, it was impossible. 2 Cor.2:15-16a describes the task to which God has called him to ~ “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” As he contemplates, he is forced to ask the question in vs.16b ~ “And who is equal to such a task?” We find more of the same theme in 2 Cor.3:5-6. Here we see that Paul:
• Recognises the difficulty of the task – his own weakness and inadequacy.
• He also recognises the power and sufficiency of the Holy Spirit.
So, we must realise – we are totally inadequate, but God isn’t. He can do what we can’t do as we trust Him and depend on Him. For us and for Paul it is Zech.4:6 ~ “…Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”
6. WHAT THE SPIRIT CAN DO:
Now with that in mind, let me remind you more specifically of some of the things the Bible says what God, the Holy Spirit can do:
• The Holy Spirit can give life to people who are dead in their trespasses and sin ~ “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (Joh.6:63 – also see Eph.2:1-5; Gal.5:25).
• The Holy Spirit can cause people to be born again, regenerate and renew them – He can make them new creatures ~ “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” (Joh.3:3 – also see Titus 3:5; 2 Cor.5:17).
• The Holy Spirit can make us want to worship God from the heart ~ “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (Joh.4:23-24 – also see Phil.3:3).
• The Holy Spirit is also the “Parakletos” – He helps and comforts us ~ “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. ‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you’” (Joh.14:16-18).
• The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness and judgement. Joh.16:7-9 ~ “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. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me…”
• According to Rom.8:2 and Gal.5:16-19, He can enable us to put off sinful desires and deeds ~ “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom.8:2).
• In tandem with the Rom.8:2, we also learn that the Holy Spirit can set us free from the law of sin and death ~ “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom.8:13-14).
• According to Rom.5:5, the Holy Spirit can shed God’s love in our hearts ~ “…and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
• The Holy Spirit can deliver us from a spirit of slavery and bondage to fear (Rom.8:15).
• He can help us to overcome our weaknesses and He can help us to know how to pray (Rom.8:15).
• The Spirit of God can equip us for ministry through dispersing spiritual gifts (Rom.12:3-8; 1 Cor.12:3).
• Rom.14:17 teaches us that the Holy Spirit produces in us, righteousness, peace and joy.
• He can cause us to be abundantly hopeful (Rom.15:13).
• He enables us to be holy and He can purify us (Rom.15:16; 1 Pet.1:2).
• The Holy Spirit can enable us to know the mind of Christ and understand God’s Word (1 Cor.2:12, 14).
• According to 1 Cor.6:9-11, the Holy Spirit can enable us to make drastic changes in our character and lifestyle.
• The Holy Spirit can wash and clean us on the outside and inside – He can sanctify us ~ “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor.6:11).
• He is able to transform us into the image of Christ (2 Cor.13:8).
• Eph.1:17 and 3:17 teaches us that the Spirit of God can help us to be filled with godly wisdom and love, and according to Eph.2:8 (and 1 Cor.12:4; Gal.5:22, 23, 25, 26), He produces faith in our hearts, and blesses us with love, patience, humble hearts, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
• Vss.14-16 of Eph.3 reads as follows ~ “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” He can therefore give us inner strength in order to control our emotions, thoughts, desires and affections.
• The Holy Spirit can break down racial barriers ~ “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So, then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph.2:18-19 – see also 4:3).
• We find one of the most beautiful promises in Eph.4:30 ~ “…the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” In other words, He can preserve and keep us in the faith by His special sealing for the day of redemption.
• The Spirit can make us internally powerful, loving and prudent (2 Tim.1:7).
• Eph.5:18-6:9 tells us that the Holy Spirit can help us to be godly and submissive wives, godly and loving husband’s, respectful and obedient children; faithful and good parents, good employees and employers.
• And finally, according to Gal.5:16, the Spirit can help us to live under His control rather than under the control of our feelings, and obey God from the heart rather than our desires.
It is very clear from what we have learnt from the Word, that the Holy Spirit, is the One that can change us to become the godly men and godly women, He wants us to be.
The Holy Spirit as “Agent of Change” can therefore, change our spiritual situations, because we confess Jesus Christ as Lord. We must always remember that change is possible regardless of a person’s past or present, personal tendencies, or character deficiencies (2 Cor.9:8; Matt.19:26; 1 Cor.6:9-11; Hebr.7:25; Gal.5:22-23; Eph.3:21).
If the Holy Spirit is the “Agent of change,” then we should expect Him to use the means He has chosen to produce that change (Joh.17:17; 2 Cor.3:18; Hebr.3:12-13; 10:24-25; Eph.4:11-16; Rom.10:17; 2 Tim.3:15-17; Acts 20:32).
But despite all these wonderful promises, we must always remember that we should be careful not to resist, grieve, offend or quench Him. Eph.4:30 says ~ “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…” (also see Acts 7:51; 1 Thes.5:19; 1 Cor.6:19-20; Hebr.10:29).
We also have to set our minds on the things of the Spirit and seek to get to know His mind (Rom.8:6-7; 1 Cor.2:14-16; Col.3:1-4; Phil.4:8). We have to depend and rely on Him in all of our attempts to personal change or help others change (Matt.11:25; 2 Tim.2:24-26; Luke 9:51-56).
If the Holy Spirit is the “Agent of Change,” then we ought to give Him the credit for any ministerial success – for any changes that take place in our lives or in the lives of others (1 Thes.1:3; 2:13; Rom.1:7).
7. THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:
I would like to end our teaching on the Holy Spirit, by giving you an illustration of the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us look at Matt.26:57-59, as well as vss.69-75 and see what the situation was before the Holy Spirit’s power came into action and then Acts 3:1-11 to see what came into action afterwards ~ “Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death… … Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus the Galilean.’ But he denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you mean.’ And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ And again he denied it with an oath: ‘I do not know the man.’ After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.’ Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know the man.’ And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.”
And afterwards, when the Spirit’s power come into action? Acts 4:1-11 ~ “And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.’”
Can we as professing Christians testify to such a kind of “before” and “after”?
Also see the following:
• Before – 1 Cor.6:9-10 : After – 1 Cor.6:11.
• Before – Titus 3:3 : After – Titus 3:4-8.
• Before – 1 Thes.1:9 : After – 1 Thes.1:9-10.
• Before – Philemon 9, 11, 18 : After – Philemon 10, 11, 12, 13.