What is “power”? It is important to know that a wrong understanding of things can lead to false hope and meaningless expectations. We live at a time when the much noise of Charismaticism has deafened ears of people so that they no longer can hear what Scriptures actually say. Drama has overshadowed reality in many assemblies of Christians.
In the year 2011 I was in Karamoja in Uganda. After a brother from Kenya ended his preaching ( it was a simple sharing which encouraged believers never to worry but to stay strong in Faith), brother John Mark walked to the pulpit to dismiss the small gathering in a tent as he said “We thank the Lord for His mighty hand in this service. The hand of the Lord is through his ministers who bring the Word.” If I was back in my pentecostal faith this would have been confusing: how could he say a ‘mighty visitation of God’ when no sign or miracle had occured?
Consider this: Elijah was a mighty prophet who performed great signs and wonders. His successor was Elisha. This man received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and signs also manifested in his ministry (2 Kin. 2:9). In the opening of the New Testament we read about a baby who was to be born and named John and was to have “the spirit and power of Elias” (Luk.1:17). Now, if you lived at the time of this prophecy, what would you have expected of John’s ministry? For many, “Spirit and Power of Elijah” equals “Signs and Wonders.” But when we look at John 10:41 we read that in his ministry John “did no miracle“! In this we see that the Truth of Scripture cannot be perceived by merely comparing stories or words. This should lead us to the important question – What was the Power of Elijah?
The Power of Prophets
The Power of Elijah, or any other true prophet, is the Word of God. It is in the prophet’s ability to truly speak in the Name of the Lord that sets him apart. Like the children of Israel were admonished, “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him” (Deu.18:22). Now, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…by whom he also made the worlds” (Heb.1:1-2). That was the Word which was in the beginning and by which everything was made (Joh. 1:1-4).
The people who receive the Word are given power to become sons of God (Joh. 1:12). Unfortunately, what many people have received is not the power of the Word but a mere appearance (form) of godliness. Like apostle Paul admonished, they have “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:5). The true Gospel is seasoned with power that can convert a person into a truly godly person. That is true salvation – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16)!
In all this we see that the true Gospel is not a mere intellectual teaching or dogma. It has life and power to transform people. Likewise the men who carry this Word of Power proclaim it with authority for it is like fire shut up in their hearts (cf. Jer.20:9). When people heard the Lord Jesus teach, they were “astonished at his doctrine for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the [intellectual] scribes” (Mat.7:28-29).
Out of the Power of the Word flows Deliverance
Many years ago, I took my Bible and with my friend went into the neighbourhood to share the Word of God. As we walked on the roadside we noticed a woman who was sitting at the door of her house. We went where she was and told her we were going round the compound to share the Gospel. She welcomed us. As I began to speak the Word she began to manifest demons. The power of God’s Word was present to challenge the demons that resided in her heart.
Out of the power of the Word flows salvation, joy, healing, and deliverance. The Word never flows out of signs. It should be signs flowing from the Word. Never give ear to any sign that does not proceed from the Word of God. That is a lying wonder (2 Thes.2:9). In this we can discern the true Gospel from the false one. The false one is dead. It has no life-giving power to transform hearts. The false Gospel is like a stove that is supposed to carry electricity but is not connected to any power source. It can have all the claims to have power but yet has none. But the stove with power flowing through it is live and no flies will sit on its hot plates. Just how many times have we seen believers oppressed by evil spirits of worry, depression, carnality, conflicts with other people? The spirits are free to sit on them because they are cold and no power of the Word abides in them! It is important to know that the Gospel is not in Word only, it has Power! (1 Cor.4:20, 1 Cor.2:4-5).
When the Word is spoken and the Holy Spirit speaks to the heart of a person, they will experience the piercing Sword of the Spirit (cf. Luk.2:35). The Spirit will convict the worldliness in a heart (Joh. 16:8) and bring it to repentance. That is what happened to the people Peter preached to on the day of Pentecost – “Now when they heard this [the preaching of Peter], they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles , Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Act.2:37). The same Word that brings conviction also comes with the Joy that gives strength and liberates a person (Neh.8:10, Joh. 8:32).
The Power of the Spirit makes you a Witness
In Acts 1:8 we read that, “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me.” The word “witness” used here doesn’t mean going about from house to house trying to make converts to a doctrine. Neither does the word “witness” mean performing miracles. The word used in the Greek manuscript is “Martyr”, a person who dies for the cause of Christ. Yes, when a person has truly received Christ, they die to their flesh as they yield themselves to the leading of the Spirit. They become ‘martyrs’. Like Paul they can say, “I die daily” (1 Cor.15:31). In dying to their will and desires, they let Christ manifest in them and by that they truly become His witnesses. Yes, through them the world will see that Jesus Christ is still alive and living in people – “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal.2:20).
Here is counsel: Seek not signs and wonders. Seek for a closer relationship with God. Abide in His Word and live simply as a child of God. There is a time for everything. At the time of Elijah God used his prophet with miracles. But in John, a man who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, no miracle was wrought. However, at all times God’s Word has always manifested with Power. The question is: have you the eyes to know what is the power of God?