The Power of God
[This essay originally appeared in In the Nick of Time on January 26, 2007.]
“Do you have the power of God?” The Great Man bellowed this question in a mock-Texas accent. With popping veins and a hoarse voice, he bawled out a second time, “I said, do you have the POWER of GOD!” Clearly, he thought that the impressionable youngsters to whom he was speaking did not have that power. He went on to tell them what a bunch of failures most of them would likely become (not at all like him). God’s power, after all, was something reserved for the Few. It came only to the spiritual equivalents of Abraham Lincoln and Douglas MacArthur. It had come to him, and he regaled his audience with tales of the revivals that he had wrought. Now he led a school, the whole purpose of which was to prepare the Few; other students would be treated as so much chaff before the wind. Then he dropped his voice to something between a sob and a whisper for his closing question. “Do you have the power of God?”
Whether screamed or sobbed, the question seemed imposing as it dropped from the Great Man’s mouth. It was the kind of question that could send vulnerable adolescents to their dormitory basement to weep and yowl in the hope that God would maybe—just maybe—pour out His power upon them. Oh, to have the power of God!
Who among us would have the effrontery actually to claim to have God’s power? For anyone but the Great Man, would not such a claim smack of arrogance, perhaps even of megalomania?
No, it would not. In fact, knowing whether one has the power of God is rather a straightforward matter. You can know whether you have the power of God by answering a few simple questions.
First, do you have the gospel? On the authority of Holy Scripture, the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16). If you have heard and believed the gospel, then you have received the power of God. It is yours to use any time you wish. You can unleash the gospel on anyone, any time, anywhere. The preaching of the cross seems like foolishness to the lost, but those who are saved know that it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18). When you proclaim the gospel, you are unloosing a message that invariably changes things. You have the power of God.
Second, do you have a Bible? If you do, then you can hold the Word of God in your hands, and the Word of God is “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:2). The Bible has incredible power! Any believer who knows how to use the Bible is able to unsheathe a mighty, spiritual sword. If you have the Bible, then you have the power of God.
Third, did you receive the Spirit when you believed? Jesus Himself foretold that His disciples would receive power after the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8). This was a clear reference to the events of Pentecost. Pentecost was the day upon which the Spirit commenced His baptizing work in the church (Acts 11:15-16). Most likely, Pentecost was also the day upon which the Holy Spirit began to indwell all New Testament saints (John 14:17). Both the baptizing work of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13) and His indwelling (Rom. 8:9) apply to every believer during this age. In other words, Jesus’ promise has been fulfilled. If you are saved, you have been baptized and indwelt by the Spirit of God. You have the power of God.
You can know whether you have the power of God. If you have the gospel, then you have the power of God. If you have the Bible, then you have the power of God. If you have the Spirit, then you have the power of God. To deny that you have the power of God is not humility, it is unbelief. To deny that another believer has the power of God is not piety, it is hubris and deception. God says that He has given His power to all believers. Who would dare to deny it?
But doesn’t God have some extra power, some extra anointing or enduement or unction that He makes available only to a few? Scripture answers this question, too. Writing to every Christian, the Apostle John states that “Ye have an unction from the Holy One” (1 Jn. 2:20). John continues, “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you” (1 Jn. 2:27). There is no such thing as a believer who has not received this anointing from God.
The New Testament has nothing to say about any other anointing different from this one. God offers no special enduement, no separate unction, no second blessing. He gives us everything at the moment of our salvation. We may learn to take greater advantage of His gifts, but we never get more of them—we cannot, for He has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3). No Great Man has any more of the power of God than the humblest saint. If they have genuinely believed, then the Bible college freshman, the factory laborer, and the elderly widow all possess the power of God. They have the gospel, the Word, and the Spirit. They are the Lord’s anointed.
The Great Man is fond of quoting, “Touch not the Lord’s anointed.” That is a good principle. Let’s hope that the Great Man remembers who the Lord’s anointed are. They are the ones who have the power of God.
This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
Isaac Watts (1674–1748)
Eternal Power, Whose high abode
Becomes the grandeur of a God,
Infinite lengths beyond the bounds
Where stars resolve their little rounds!
The lowest step around Thy seat,
Rises too high for Gabriel’s feet;
In vain the favored angel tries
To reach Thine height with wond’ring eyes.
There while the first archangel sings,
He hides his face behind his wings,
And ranks of shining thrones around
Fall worshiping, and spread the ground.
Lord, what shall earth and ashes do?
We would adore our Maker, too;
From sin and dust to Thee we cry,
The Great, the Holy, and the High.
Earth from afar has heard Thy fame,
And worms have learned to lisp Thy Name;
But, O! the glories of Thy mind
Leave all our soaring thoughts behind.
God is in Heaven, and men below;
Be short our tunes, our words be few;
A solemn reverence checks our songs,
And praise sits silent on our tongues.
About Kevin Bauder
Kevin T. Bauder is Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that this post expresses.