Power From On High
By Oswald J. Smith
The Holy Spirit is able to make the Word of God as successful now as in the days of the apostles. He can bring in souls by hundreds and thousands as well as by ones and twos. The reason why we are no more prosperous is that we have not the Holy Spirit with us in might and power as in early times.
"If we had the Spirit sealing our ministry with power it would signify very little about talent. Men might be poor and uneducated, their words might be broken and ungrammatical; but if the might of the Spirit attended them, the humblest would be more successful than the most learned of divines, or the most eloquent of preachers.
"It is extraordinary power from God – not talent – that wins the day. It is extraordinary spiritual unction, not extraordinary mental power, that we need. Mental power may fill a chapel, but spiritual power fills the church with soul anguish! Mental power may gather a large congregation, but only spiritual power will save souls. What we need is spiritual power."
– Charles H. Spurgeon
"Let the Spirit be lacking, and there may be wisdom of words, but not the wisdom of God; the powers of oratory, but not the power of God; the demonstration of argument and the logic of the schools, but not the demonstration of the Holy Spirit – the all-convincing logic of His lightning flash, such as convinced Saul before the Damascus gate.
"When the Spirit was outpoured, the disciples were all filled with power from on high; the most unlettered tongue could silence gainsayers, and with its new fire burn its way through obstacles – as flames fanned by mighty winds sweep through forests."
– Arthur T. Pierson
"The ministers of the Gospel must needs have this power of the Holy Spirit, because otherwise they are not sufficient for the ministry. For no man is sufficient for the work of the ministry by any natural parts and abilities of his own, nor yet by any acquired parts of human learning and knowledge, but only by this power of the Holy Spirit.
"Till he be endued with this, notwithstanding all his other accomplishments, he is altogether insufficient. And therefore the very apostles were to keep silent, till they were endued with this power; they were to wait at Jerusalem, till they had received the promise of the Spirit, and not to preach till then. (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:1-8.)
"If they have not this power of the Holy Spirit they have not power at all. And therefore, seeing the ministers of the Gospel have not power from beneath, they must needs have power from on high; seeing they have no fleshly power, they must needs have spiritual power; seeing they have no power from earth and from men, they must needs have power from heaven and from God: that is, the power of the Holy Spirit coming on them; or else they have no power at all."
– William Dell
But who is in the anointing today? Who has the experience? It is promised. It is indispensable, and yet we labor on without it, working in the flesh like the disciples who toiled all night and caught nothing. And just so will it be with us. An hour’s work in the Spirit will accomplish more than a year’s work in the flesh. And the fruit will remain.
"It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63). "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). It is Holy Spirit fruit we want, pure gold without alloy, and nothing less. Not the kind that comes undone, but the genuine article that stands the test of time and eternity; the kind we find at the prayer meeting as well as the Sunday services. Is it this kind of fruit we are bearing? Is there conviction of sin, and do souls come through into the glorious liberty of the children of God?
But have we the enduement of power? I do not mean, have we "claimed it" and gone forth reckoning it ours, but have we the experience? If there is no outcome, we certainly have not! If we are Spirit-filled – there will be Holy Spirit fruit. Men will break down in our meetings and sob out their sins to God. Let us see the fruit if we are to believe in the anointing.
"Ye Shall Receive Power"
And when Peter got it, three thousand were saved. And so with John Smith, Samuel Morris, Charles G. Finney, and others – there was fruit. This is the evidence, this is the test, and only this. If I am a man of God, endued with power from on high, souls will break down under my preaching; if I am not, nothing out of the ordinary will take place. Let this be the test for every preacher. By this we stand or fall.
"I was powerfully converted on the morning of the 10th of October, 1821," writes Charles G. Finney. "In the evening of the same day I received overwhelming baptisms of the Holy Ghost, that went through me, as it seemed to me, body and soul. I immediately found myself endued with such power from on high that a few words dropped here and there to individuals were the means of their immediate conversion.
"Sometimes I would find myself, in a great measure, empty of this power. I would go and visit, and find that I made no saving impression. I would exhort and pray, with the same result. I would then set apart a day for private fasting and prayer, fearing that this power had departed from me, and would inquire anxiously after the reason of this apparent emptiness.
"After humbling myself, and crying out for help, the power would return upon me with all its freshness. This has been the experience of my life.
"When Christians humble themselves and consecrate their all afresh to Christ, and ask for this power, they will often receive such a baptism that they will be instrumental in converting more souls in one day than in all their lifetime before.
"While Christians remain humble enough to retain this power, the work of conversion will go on, till whole communities and regions of country are converted to Christ. The same is true of the ministry."
Where is the soul anguish of bygone days, the wounded conscience, the sleepless nights, the groans and cries, the awful conviction of sin, the sobs and tears of the lost? Would to God we might hear and see it in this generation!
Like Pastor, Like People
And who is to blame? The hearer? Do we attribute it to his hardness of heart? Does the fault lie there? Ah no, my brethren, the fault is ours; we are to blame. Were we what and where we ought to be, the signs would still follow as in the days of old.
Then should not every failure, every sermon that fails to break the people down, drive us to our knees and result in deep heart searching, and humiliation? Let us never blame the people. If our churches are cold and unresponsive, it is because we are cold! Like pastor, like people!
Oh how many there are who have been robbed of their testimony – or who have never known the power of the Holy Spirit in their work!
Their service is ineffective and their witness-bearing null and void, while they accomplish little or nothing for God. Oh yes, they go through the motions, and sometimes they are very active, but it is all in the energy of the flesh, and no spiritual results follow. Souls are not saved nor are believers edified and built up in the faith. Their preaching produces no fruit and their ministry is a ghastly failure. Oh, what a disappointing experience!
But, thank God, this need not be, for "Ye shall receive power," is His promise, and "tarry ye…until ye be endued with power from on high," His command.
The passage in Acts 1:8 literally reads: "Ye shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon you." So that the anointing or enduement of power is that experience which is the result produced by the Holy Spirit coming upon the believer and equipping him for service.
Such anointings are only received in the soul-agonies of deep travailing prayer. The nights and days of agonizing prayer for the souls of men, the countless hours of intercession that we find in the life of David Brainerd; the mighty wrestlings with the spiritual powers of darkness, until the body is wet with perspiration, that were so common to John Smith – this is something that goes much further than present day teaching, but it is the only thing that will produce the fruit, and do the work of which we are speaking.
It is from these hours of prevailing prayer that we go forth to our work in the anointing – to wield the Sword of the Spirit with deadly effect. Prayer is the secret. There can be no substitute. And for each special work there must be a special anointing. It is not merely a matter of yielding and believing now. Ah no! The glorious supernatural results that I am talking of are not obtained so easily. It costs and costs tremendously.
"Why is it so hard to get?" you ask. Why? Because God will not pour His Spirit on the flesh.
He must do His work in us first, and generally it takes a long time, for we will not let Him have His way with us. The savor of our own name, love of praise, or some such sinful obstacle blocks Him at every turn. He cannot humble us; He is unable to break our hearts because we will not yield.
Or else, because He cannot trust us with so great an honor. He knows we will only make shipwreck of it. Oh, the sad, heart-rending incidents of men and women who were once used in mighty revivals, and in the anointing of the Spirit, brought hundreds of souls to God, who lost that cherished blessing and worked in the flesh ever after, accomplishing little or nothing!
They counted it too lightly; they became puffed up and proud; they allowed some little sin to come in; the Holy Spirit was grieved away, and they found themselves like Samson of old, shorn of their strength. At one time when they preached souls cried aloud for mercy under awful conviction. Now they beg and coax; the meetings are dead and cold, while only a handful respond, and even these are not Holy Spirit fruit.
"These All Continued with One Accord in Prayer and Supplication"
"Prayer earnest, prayer united, and prayer persevering – these are the conditions; and these being fulfilled, we shall assuredly be ‘endued with power from on high.’ We should never expect that the power will fall upon us just because we happen once to awake and ask for it.
"Nor have any community of Christians a right to look for a great manifestation of the Spirit if they are not all ready to join in supplication, and ‘with one accord,’ to wait and pray as if it were the concern of each one.
"It is only by waiting before the throne of grace that we become endued with the holy fire; but he who waits there long and believingly will imbibe that fire, and come forth from his communion with God bearing tokens of where he has been.
"For the individual believer, and, above all, for every laborer in the Lord’s vineyard, the only way to gain spiritual power is by secret waiting at the throne of God, for the baptism.
"If thou, then, wouldst have thy soul surcharged with the fire of God, so that those who come nigh to thee shall feel some mysterious influence proceeding out from thee, thou must draw nigh to the source of that fire, the throne of God and of the Lamb, and shut thyself out from the world – that cold world, which so swiftly steals our fire away.
"Enter into thy closet, and shut to thy door, and there, isolated, before the throne, await the baptism; then the fire shall fill thee, and when thou comest forth, holy power will attend thee, and thou shalt labor, not in thine own strength, but ‘in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power’ (1 Cor. 2:4)."
– William Arthur
Oh for the Spirit’s mighty power,
The Unction from above!
Oh for a gracious heav’nly shower,
The fulness of God’s love!
This, only this, our one great need,
Naught else can e’er prevail;
Thus for the Unction now we plead,
It only can avail...
Then shall men turn to Calv’ry’s stream
With burdened hearts of woe;
Salvation then shall be our theme,
And earth be Heav’n below.
– Taken from The Passion For Souls by Oswald J. Smith.