As Christians, or at least Baptists, we often talk about God the Father. And about Jesus, the Son. But we don’t seem to talk nearly as much about the Holy Spirit. I suspect that is because his working is not as well know to us. We see God the Father as the moving force behind all of creation. It is his purpose that drives everything. And we see Jesus as the agent of our redemption and the primary character of the gospels. But what about the Holy Spirit?
In reality, the Holy Spirit is essential to our lives as believers. While he may not be as well known to us, we could not even come to Christ, much less live as believers, without him. There are many aspects of what the Spirit does in the life of the believers. But this article will focus on one of them: the power of God that he puts to work within us.
The Power of God
The Greek word ‘dynamis‘ is used 119 times in the New Testament. 73 of those times it is translated as power. It is also translated into a variety of other English words and terms such as miracles, miraculous powers, and abilities. From this word we also get our English words for dynamite and dynamic.
While dynamis is sometimes used apart from God, most commonly it is connected to him. He has all power and he uses that power as needed to accomplish his purposes. God’s power brought the whole creation into existence and preserves it. God’s power raised Christ from the dead. And it is God’s power that gives life to those who trust in Christ.
There are a number of passages that refer to God’s power at work within us. These include:
- Acts 4:33 – God’s grace was working powerfully in the apostles.
- Romans 1:16 – The gospel of the power of God bringing salvation.
- 1 Corinthians 1:18 – The message of the cross is the power of God.
- 1 Corinthians 6:14 – God’s power raised Christ from the dead, and will raise us also.
The Inwelling Holy Spirit
In Jesus final instruction to his disciples (John 13-16) he refers several times to the Counselor / Comforter / Paraclete that he would send to them after he had left. Nothing is said specifically in this passage about power in connection with this Counselor, who we understand to be the Holy Spirit. But he was going to be with them and would be teaching them.
I think we need to be careful about drawing too sharp a distinction between the activities of the three persons of the Trinity. But it does appear from the Scripture that it is the person of the Holy Spirit that indwells the believer. When God is working in my life, it is in the person of the Holy Spirit. And this is true of the power of God at work in my life. That power is exercised by the Holy Spirit.
The Transformative Power of the Holy Spirit
Prior to Pentecost the 12 disciples, as well as Jesus’ other followers, depended on Jesus physical presence. But, as mentioned above, before Jesus left them he promised he would send the Holy Spirit. This is echoed in Acts 1:8. Here Jesus instructs his disciples that they would receive power when the the Holy Spirit came to them. And when they did, they were to go out as his witnesses to the ends of the world.
This power is vividly demonstrated at Pentecost. There was the sound of a rushing wind. Tongues of fire rested on each of them. And they were enabled to speak the languages of the people around them. The disciples were transformed by that experience, never to be the same again.
Why was that? It was not due to the outward manifestation of the Spirit’s coming. The wind and tongues of fire would be memorable, as would the speaking in other languages. But those things would not be enough to transform their lives. Instead, it was the power of God, the Holy Spirit, coming upon them that made the difference.
His Power at Work in Jesus
It may seem strange to think of the Holy Spirit operating in the life of Jesus. After all, Jesus in God. Why would he need the power of the Holy Spirit to work in him? But during his time on earth, Jesus was also as human as we are. And thus was also dependant on the Holy Spirit.
In Luke 4:14 we are told that “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.” This passage clearly shows that the Holy Spirit was active in Jesus’ life and ministry.
The gospels are replete with accounts of Jesus’ healing the sick. But in Luke 5:17 it is mentioned that “the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.” Jesus was healing, not by his own power, but by the the power of God, the Holy Spirit.
His Power at Work in the World
The Holy Spirit is also actively at work in the world. In John 16:8-11, Jesus tells his disciples that when the Holy Spirit comes, he will bring conviction to the peoples of the world.
In Romans 1:16 Pauls says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” The gospel message that Paul proclaimed was not just a matter of words. That gospel was the power of God. The Holy Spirit worked through the gospel to bring salvation to those who would believe.
And in 1 Corinthians 2:4 Paul says that “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” While the power of the Holy Spirit was operating in Paul, it was directed to those who heard the message he delivered. The Holy Spirit will use us, and our words, to work powerfully in the lives of unbelievers.
His Power at Work in the Believer
This is really the focus of this article. How does the power of the Holy Spirit work within the life of the believer. Paul’s example above shows that the Holy Spirit works through our presentation of the gospel to reach unbelievers. But there is much more that his power does in our lives.
One of the things that the power of the Holy Spirit does is to transform our lives. Allowing us to become more and more like Christ, living godly lives. In 2 Peter 1:3 we see that God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” His power fully equips us to live godly lives. Unlike the lives we lived prior to coming to Christ.
In Galatians 5:22-23a Paul expresses the results of the Spirit working within us. His transforming power produces within us “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Those qualities that we may experience in limited quantities in our own selves, are developed to their fullest when the Holy Spirit works within us.
The power of the Holy Spirit, operating in my life, also serves to provide me with the strength I need to serve God. This is most clearly illustrated in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
In this passage Paul expresses that our personal weaknesses really serve to our advantage. Because it forces me to rely on the one who has all power. When I am trusting in the power of God, there is nothing he calls on me to do that I cannot accomplish. Or rather than he cannot do through me.
God’s power works, not only through us, but also in us. In Paul’s prayer for the church, in Ephesians 3:16, he prayed “that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” The prayer for power here was to enable Christ to fully dwell within us.
Hope and Assurance
Another aspect of the power of the Spirit working in us is hope. Not hope in the sense of wishing. But hope as an earnest expectation. In particular the hope that we have as believers. The hope of salvation (1 Thess. 5:8). The hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7).
In Romans 15:13 we see Paul expressing this. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” The power of the Holy Spirit will help us to overflow with hope. It is the Spirit that truly enables us to have real hope.
And 1 Peter 1:5, talking about the living hope that we have, says “who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” God’s power is protecting us as we await the fulfillment of our hope. We may suffer physically, as this passage goes on to express. But God is protecting what really matters.
While the Holy Spirit is often overlooked in discussions about God, he is essential in the life of the believer. In particular, he is the channel for God’s power to work in our lives. He transforms us from carnal to godly believers, empowers us for service, and fortifies our hope to help us through the challenges of life.
The Holy Spirit is God in us. We cannot live as children of God apart from from his presence and working. As believers, we would do well to become more acquainted with the Holy Spirit and what he does for us.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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