The Twentieth-Century Church Must Regain Her Divine Heritage
By David Dawson
The waning power of the church is a favorite topic in many circles these days. The church is often unjustly represented as an emaciated body with the death-rattle already in its throat. We who love the church and willingly pour out our life’s blood for it know that in spite of all its weaknesses and failings (which we humbly admit), it is still the institution that is making a deeper impression on the lives of men and nations than any other agency in the world.
It is, however, admittedly true that many a local church is woefully lacking in dynamic power that characterized the church of the Apostolic Period and wanting in spiritual power to cope with the twentieth century conditions. It is likewise tragically true that a majority of those who make up the membership of the average church today are minus the victory-giving power that God intended that Christians should possess….
The promise of this power came from the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ just before He left the world. “Ye hall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you,” He said (Acts 1:8) and then He continued, “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me.”
He did not leave us to speculate about the source of this power, for He told us that the power would proceed from the Holy Ghost.
The need for every Christian and every church is in the New Testament word “Power,” which has in it the omnipotence of God. Someone has well said that in trying to keep abreast of the world, the church has lost the spirit of power from her breast…. In the name of a prostrated civilization, we need to turn to God and to realize there is omnipotent power available through the Holy Spirit….
Many of us are convinced that nothing will solve the problems that menace the nations today except another great awakening wherein churches of all denominations will be profoundly stirred, and in consequence, receive another visitation of God’s power, for it is “not by might, not by power, (army), but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Zech. 4:6).
Partnership with the Holy Spirit is indispensable for the accomplishment of the work of God.
The supreme need of the church is not more eloquence, money, members, methods, or organization, but a new recognition of the place of the person and office work of the Holy Spirit in the life of its members and ministers….
Failure to Recognize Him
One of the most tragic statements of the Gospels is that Jesus Christ was in the world and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.
When the light of eternity is flashed on our day, one of the most tragic truths that we shall see revealed will be that the Holy Spirit was in the church in our day, and He made the church, and the church knew Him not!
Many earnest Christians are afraid to even think of the Holy Spirit, fearing that they may become fanatical. The Holy Spirit did not make fanatics at Pentecost. He transformed them from timid, self-seeking followers, to bold, sacrificing, heroic messengers of Jesus Christ, preaching His Gospel with wondrous power, joy, and effectiveness….
At the very threshold of the Bible, you find God, the Holy Spirit, operating in the work of creation: “And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). How wonderfully He did His work in the beginning is attested by the beauty of the world that He brought out of chaos. His work today is still to bring light where darkness prevails and order out of chaos. We need to get to our knees until He moves upon our hearts, our nation, and our churches!
As you stand on the doorsteps of the Gospels, you are faced with the omnipotent work of the Holy Spirit in the incarnation and throughout the life of Jesus.
Let us note here that the same Holy Spirit who formed the physical body of Christ at the incarnation is the One who is today forming the spiritual body of Christ out of believers.
On almost every page of the Old Testament, we find fingerposts pointing to the Messiah that would come. On almost every page of the Gospels, we are told of the coming of another One who would play an important part in the lives of the disciples and of the church He would create. Almost the whole of Christ’s last wonderful message contained in John (chapters 14, 15 and 16) was concerning this coming One.
The Holy Spirit, the Source of Power
When we open the historical book of the New Testament, the Acts, we are again compelled to recognize the place of the Holy Spirit. The Acts has sometimes been referred to as “the Gospel of the Holy Spirit.” In the first chapter we have it recorded that the glorified, triumphant Saviour is about to ascend. The disciples wanted the Lord to answer some debatable questions for them, but He brushed these questions aside and preached them a striking sermon on their greatest need, that of power to carry on the work He had started.
In the vital message to His disciples, He seemed to say that the all-important thing was that they should receive the Holy Spirit. He knew that if they were Spirit-led they would not fall into blunders about God’s plan of salvation through the Cross, or the formation of the church. Would that we likewise would catch this heavenly truth again!...
A sweeping revival would come to the church if Christian workers of the world would realize that all real success in Christian work is dependent on our relationship with the Holy Spirit. Power is God, the Holy Spirit, at work in us and through us….
If all Christians only knew the power and the blessing of being filled with the Holy Spirit, they would never rest until they had received this great gift which is always manifested in experience, conduct, and character.
Oh, that the church of Jesus Christ would realize more fully that without the power of the Holy Spirit all merely human efforts, methods and plans are like propelling a boat by puffing at the sails with our own breath!
– From More Power To The Church.