LCN Article
May the Force Be With You

May / June 2016

Gary F. Ehman

What does God’s Spirit in us do for the Christian? Most importantly, it provides us strength.

As Christians observing the Holy Days with our fellow brethren, we must become aware that our journey is not “solo.” We have been called, chosen and are continually being led towards a goal of nearly incredible result—a result we cannot humanly hope to understand in its entirety.

The Apostle Paul explained his hope to the Ephesian brethren, that “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (Ephesians 1:18–19). The Christian who continues the journey towards the fall Holy Days will find it useful to step into Paul’s mind as he encouraged the Ephesians—and us today!

The First New Testament Pentecost

To fully understand, we must review the meaning behind the marvelous concept of the first New Testament Day of Pentecost—and a promise made to us by Jesus Christ shortly before He ascended to heaven: “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Jesus was telling them to wait in Jerusalem until the Day of Pentecost and there, God would fulfill that promise.

But what does it mean to be “endued with power”? Is this power the Holy Spirit, or is it power that flows through, and from, the Holy Spirit? And is this important for us to know? Let’s look at this word “endued.” It is enduō [en-doo’-o], of being clothed or the sense of sinking into a garment. This is what Jesus said the night of the Passover: “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He [it] may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, [that] the world cannot receive, because it neither sees [it] nor knows [it]; but you know [it], for [it] dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16–17).

Jesus said in Luke 24 that the “helper,” that “Spirit of truth,” is “power.” The Greek word for “power” is dunamis [doo’-nam-is]. Primarily, it indicates force, but in this case it means inherent power; power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or force that a person or thing puts forth.

This power is not inherent in human nature, but, as Christians with God’s Spirit, it is now God’s nature in us. The Apostle Peter preached this on the Day of Pentecost in 31ad:

“But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’” (Acts 2:16–21).

The Power of God

What is this power that is behind our very identity as Christians? The word “power” in regard to the Holy Spirit can be defined as authority: “And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease” (Matthew 10:1). The word “power” here is the Greek exousia [ex-oo-see’-ah] and is defined as authority, right and privilege over. These men, not yet converted, went out with the Spirit of God “with” them that each might exercise—in a very limited but marvelous way—the very power of God in serving mankind in his own remote corner of the world.

Power has always been a factor in the course of human events. The earth’s environment around us reveals God’s creative power. King David acknowledged this, praying with thanks: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all” (1 Chronicles 29:11–12). Two different words are used in verses 11–12. In verse 11, the Hebrew for “power” is gebûrâh [gheb-oo-raw’], meaning force, might, mastery. In verse 12 it is kôach [ko’-akh], or strength and might.

God’s power comes to Christians through Christ living His life in us: “For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:4–5, cf. Ephesians 3:20, Ephesians 6:10 and Philippians 4:13). The Apostle John defines this as a spiritual begettal (KJV) transforming the Christian’s inner nature: “Whoever has been born [gennaō, begotten] of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9).

With this as background, what does God’s Spirit in us do for us? Most importantly, it provides strength. Paul, again, sets the stage: “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9).

Note that there is a distinction between the Spirit and mere power: “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4–5). As Christians, we have God’s Holy Spirit and the power of that Spirit, which flows through us from on high.

As mentioned above, Paul reminded the Ephesians of “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power…” (Ephesians 1:18–19). All the previous words are in effect here, and Paul adds another one describing God’s “mighty power.” Two words are combined here. The Greek is kratos [krat’-os] ischus [is-khoos’], the vigor and authority of His ability and forcefulness. Or, simply, the strength of His might.

What We Are Promised

Why is there all of this power, strength, might and ability? And why is it given to Christians—those who have God’s Holy Spirit? Paul explains: “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who [which] is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (vv. 11–14).

The Apostle John made this promise even more clear: “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2:25). John was referencing Jesus’ redemptive prayer regarding the Church: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:1–3). We are sealed by the Spirit to inherit eternal life: “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21–22).

Returning to Paul’s use of the term “purchased possession” back in Ephesians 1:14, the Greek term Paul used is peripoiēsis [per-ee-poy’-ay-sis], meaning the obtaining and preserving of that which you have obtained. The scriptural definition is: “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:22–23). The word “redemption” is apolutrōsis [ap-ol-oo’-tro-sis], the liberation that comes from a ransom being paid. The blood of Jesus—His life—was the ransom price paid; the Christian is the “purchased possession.”

It may be easy for us, individually, to say that Christ and God’s government is what this world needs. Yet God will accomplish this in a specific way, focusing on His Church, made up of the individual members all working as one: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:1–7).

Paul goes on to show a ministry has been ordained and given the responsibility of Church government that is based on creating a fully trained congregation of future kings and priests: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (vv. 11–12).

At a Miletus conference, Paul made it very clear that the ministry must be in concert with those they lead, because they belong to Jesus who purchased them. He wrote: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:17, 28). The Greek phrase “take heed” is prosechō [pros-ekh’-o], meaning that the leadership is to pay attention to, be cautious about, apply themselves to their leadership responsibilities.

It can be tempting for us to say, personally, that since this is the responsibility of the leadership, we can sit back and “do nothing.”  Do we think, “All I have to do is sit back and stay out of the way; to just sort of ‘pay and pray’”? We need to remember that the Holy Spirit—that same Spirit—is given to us, individually—and individually we must do something with it. It is the same Spirit! The gifts may be different, but the Spirit and the power that flows through it is the same.

Each is indispensable in God’s plan: the Father, Jesus, the ministry and you: “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13–14). Can anything be clearer than that? Through the Holy Spirit, God calls each individual Christian as a part of the glorious body of Jesus Christ!

A Unity of Purpose

Of all the Bible’s authors, the Apostle Paul was the most focused on this subject of the Church, stressing its unity of purpose in our attaining the full glory of Jesus Christ. The goal of each individual is in that unity, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). All, no one left out, are to achieve the full stature of Christ, not just a few. Paul emphasizes this with the promise that Christians “speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (vv. 15–16). Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, energizes the ministry and the Church to the full measure of the stature of His glory.

That power resides in every true Christian and it is our individual responsibility not only to avail ourselves of it, but also to use it accordingly: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13). The phrase “work out” in Greek is katergazomai [kat-er-gad’-zom-ahee], meaning to perform, to accomplish or to achieve.

Paul instructed the Church, both the members and the ministry, in this awesome concept: “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:6–7). How wonderful is God’s Spirit and the power that it gives us! It moves us toward the total, complete unity of purpose in His Church for which Jesus, the night before His brutal murder, prayed to the Father “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:21–23).

The word “glory” Jesus used is doxa, meaning majesty, and only God is majestic. But, that majesty is revealed in all true Christians: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:18–19). The word “revealing” here is apokaluptō [ap-ok-al-oop’-to] and literally means to uncover, or to make known. The glory of both God and Jesus is going to be demonstrated to the entire world in us, individually and as Their Church. We are to become glorious as They are glorious.

Tremendous power is going to be expended to give us that same great power, as we become Spirit beings. This is what is going on inside you at this very moment. God is working a great miracle in us: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who [which] dwells in you” (v. 11). We—all Christians today, and those who ever lived—will be as those on that first Pentecost in 31ad, poised, but then in Spirit form, to become a great demonstration of that force—that power of God—for the salvation of all of mankind.

May the force be with you!