The Acts Church is our example and our challenge. We receive power when we receive the Spirit, but it only operates when we obey and step out in faith to witness. God’s power will work with His purposes alone. If Pentecost doesn’t manifest in our lives, we need to look at our willingness to go and be His witnesses.
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
The word shall is often misinterpreted. It indicates a future tense but is absolute – as absolute as will, which is imperative. In other words, it’s not negotiable. It isn’t might or possibly or could. When Jesus said ‘shall’ it was unequivocal. It was a take-home promise which nothing could alter, delay, or cancel. And it’s a promise that is still active for every single believer today. Pentecost had an historic event but it’s also a continuous event. Every believer filled with the Spirit will receive power and will be witnesses. There are no favourites, no exceptions, and no compromises. What God has said will be. It must be because He cannot deny Himself. His Word itself contains the seed of fulfilment – the power of God to bring it to pass. That’s what makes it a Living Word. It contains the power to make itself happen according to His will.
Receive power and be witnesses.
We cannot separate the two parts of the promise because one is the purpose of the other. We receive power so that we can be witnesses. It’s true that the outworking of the power in and through us has a personal impact on our lives. But this is not its primary purpose. The power works in us so that it can work through us. Yes, we benefit enormously from it, but it’s not intended only to transform us and bring us personal blessings. They happen, but the purpose in all of this is so that we can be witnesses. The ‘pass it forward’ principle isn’t a worldly discovery. It’s Bible-based and is lived out in our testimony. Rivers of living water aren’t stored in us. They must flow out of us and feed others. It was breaking and sharing the bread and fish that enabled the feeding of the multitude.
Not only that, but our witness will be to all the ends of the earth. That’s what God has decreed. This doesn’t mean we all have to rush off and sign up as missionaries. But it does mean that we have to look beyond the familiar. The power in us is not only for us or for our immediate church and family. It’s for others – for those outside our circle of comfort. The ‘ends of the earth’ are anything beyond which we are familiar, comfortable, or conform to our expectations. It’s because stepping out into our particular ‘unknown’ is daunting that we receive power. On our own, we couldn’t do it. If we expect to receive, we must also expect to go, to witness, and to exceed our limitations in unfamiliar territory. The first part of the promise won’t operate without the full measure of the second.
Did we receive power?
When we look at the early church and the manifestation of power they exhibited, we see that they lived this promise. At the same time, we must ask ourselves: did we receive power? The church has now been established for thousands of years. Surely the manifestation of power should produce the ‘greater things’ He also promised? After all, we’ve had a few thousand years to ‘practise’ and get it right. Yet we fall dismally short of the early church, not only in power but in witness. There are those who go, who witness and evangelise and through whom God releases His supernatural power. But they are the tiny minority. Even a brief look at the history of the church makes it clear that the majority of believers manifested the power through witness and testimony. Of course, it also reminds us that the majority of these were persecuted and martyred.
This last truth is perhaps one reason why we fall short as the body of Christ. Why risk persecution when someone else can do it? Comfortable Christianity is the other reason for our shortcomings. We’re conditioned by wrong teaching to receive power for our own benefit. The focus has shifted from all the world to all for me. The perception is that His unlimited blessing are poured out on me because He loves me, and I don’t need to do anything. But Jesus brought reciprocal relationship and reciprocal identification. We cannot escape that if we want the full measure of salvation through the cross. If we believe the Bible, the answer to our question is yes. If we received the Spirit, we received the power. It’s in us. We have it. But it doesn’t operate fully until we go and witness. We see the power when we live its purpose.
Receive power is past and future tense.
There are truths about the power of God we easily overlook. The first is that we receive power when we receive the Spirit. It’s a done deal. The Spirit is the power of God to accomplish His purposes. He cannot be separated from the power. If we have Him, we have the power. In this respect, it’s past tense. It has already happened and nothing can change or cancel that. Yes, the disciples waited to receive power, but once they received the Spirit they hit the ground running. There was no more waiting. It was accomplished and they stepped out in faith. We may not have had tongues of flame dancing above our heads and rushing winds, but we did receive the Spirit. When we say we are Spirit-filled, it’s already an accomplished fact. It has already happened and we don’t need to wait for it.
The future tense refers to the spiritual truth that ‘be filled’ really means ‘be continually filled’ in the Greek. It’s dynamic in that it’s living, active, and ongoing. We don’t have a measure of power. Rather, we have access to all the power. A good analogy is plugged in and switched on. The supply is endless – Eskom excluded, of course, for South Africans. But God’s power has no restrictions or outages. It’s constant and freely available. We receive power constantly as we witness. It never fails, never runs out, and never delivers less than what we need. But we can only be continually filled if we use what we already have. Try pouring two cups’ worth of water into one. God won’t keep pouring if we’re not using what’s in us. We don’t need for more power if we don’t draw on what is already available.
Receive power for God’s purposes.
The remarkable thing about God’s power is that it doesn’t manifest if it doesn’t operate. It’s like keeping a desk lamp in a cupboard. We won’t see the power at work. Take it out and plug it in, however, and the power is immediately visible in the light it gives. If we believe the Bible – the immutable Word of God – we receive the power when we receive the Spirit. So it’s already in us. But if we don’t use it for the purposes of God, it won’t manifest. His power will never operate for anything outside His purposes. We cannot expect it fulfil our desires like some kind of ‘magic’ fix. God’s power cannot be separated from Him. His purposes cannot be separated from Him. They are inextricably linked by His will. So if we’re not seeing the power manifest, it’s because we’re not in His purposes.
Ouch. It’s a harsh conclusion, but today’s verse validates it. We can all accept that the Acts church is our model. The simple truth is that they manifested the power because they lived to be witnesses. For them, ‘let Your will be done’ wasn’t empty words. It was a prayer they lived in each moment. Their lives were yielded to the command to go, to witness, and to step beyond their comfortable boundaries. When we receive power, this is the result God has ordained. It’s both the by-product of and the purpose behind the power. The real question, then, is whether we live our lives in total witness wherever we can. If we aren’t prepared to accept the second, we’ll never see the first manifest in and through us as God desires. We need to examine our hearts and see what’s holding us back.
Receive power is God’s purpose and desire.
We justify why we don’t want to ‘go’ or actively witness to others. But it’s direct disobedience to God’s will. He has said ‘you shall’ and that’s clear cut with no fuzzy grey areas to hide in. It’s an imperative, a command. If we don’t, we’re effectively saying that His power is meaningless. For the I AM to put His power inside us is an awesome privilege. To ignore this is not only rebellion but also denigrating His power, which is as good as denigrating Him. We make it unimportant and irrelevant. His desire and purpose become subject to self. Who we are and what we want or don’t want takes precedence. But what right do we have to ignore the purpose and desire of the God who made us, redeemed us, and purchased us with His blood? When He says receive power and be witnesses, He expects obedience.
Forgive us, Lord, for treating Your power with indifference which is contempt. Restore in us a right understanding of what Your power in us means. Stir our hearts to obedience and surrender to Your perfect will. Enable us to go and be Your witnesses, so that Your power can be fully manifest according to Your purposes and Your glory revealed in all we are.