And that repentance [with a view to and as the condition of] forgiveness of sins should be preached in His Name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I will send forth upon you what My Father has promised; but remain in the city [Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:47-49 AMP)
We know that Jesus ministered to tens of thousands in His three-and-a-half-year ministry. Multitudes followed Him. After His crucifixion and resurrection He appeared to more than five hundred followers (I Corinthians 15:6). Yet on the day of Pentecost, we find only a hundred and twenty in the house when the Spirit of God fell (Acts 1:15).
The numbers kept decreasing and not increasing. Where were the thousands after the Crucifixion? Why did He appear to only five hundred? On the day of Pentecost, where were the five hundred? It was to only one hundred and twenty that God’s glory was revealed.
After His resurrection, Jesus told the people not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4). Maybe all the five hundred initially waited for the promise. But as the days passed, the size decreased. Some may have become impatient and decided to go on with their lives and some may have quoted Jesus to “Go into the entire world and preach the Gospel.” We better leave now and do it without waiting for power from on high.”Only those who were completely submitted and surrendered to the Master could make such a commitment.
All of these with their minds in full agreement devoted themselves steadfastly to prayer, [waiting together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. (Acts 1:14 AMP)
With such a command to “Go into the world and preach the Gospel” ringing in our ears, with such admonition to wait in constant, wrestling prayer until we receive the power; with such a power; with such a promise, made by such a Savoir, held out to us, a promise of all help we need from Christ Himself, what excuse can we offer for being powerless in this great work?
What an awe-inspiring responsibility rests upon us, upon the whole Church, upon every Christian. We need to give ourselves no rest until this baptism of power comes upon us. Everyone has the great responsibility passed on to him or her to win as many souls as possible to Christ. This is the great privilege and the great duty of all the disciples of Christ.
There are a great many departments in this work. But in every department we may and ought to possess this power so that, whether we preach, pray, write, print, trade, travel, take care of children, administer the government of the state, or whatever we do, our whole lives and influence should be permeated with power. Jesus Christ says “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) That is, a Christian influence, having in it the element of power to impress the truth of Christ upon the hearts of men, will proceed from Him.
There is need of a great reformation in the church on this particular point. The churches should wake up to the fact in this case and take a new position, a firm stand in regard to the qualification of ministers and church officers. They should refuse to settle on a man as pastor if they are unsure he has power to win souls.
Having witnessed the spiritual fruits of the candidate’s labors, they would certify that they deemed him qualified and called by God to the work of the ministry. Churches should be well satisfied in some way that they call a fruitful minister and not a dry stalk—that is a mere intellect, a mere head with little heart; an elegant writer, but with no fervency; a great logician, but of little faith; a fervid imagination, perhaps, but with no Holy Spirit power.
The churches should inform themselves and look to those seminaries that furnish not merely the best educated but also the most earnest and spiritually powerful ministers. It is amazing that while it is generally admitted that the outpouring of power from on high is a reality, and essential to ministerial success, in practical terms, it is treated by the churches and by the schools as of comparatively little importance. In theory it is admitted to be everything, but in practice it is treated as if it were nothing.
From the apostles to the present day, it has been seen that men of very little human culture, but clothed with this power, have been highly successful in winning souls to Christ, while men of the greatest learning, with all that the schools have done for them, have been powerless as far as the proper work of the ministry is concerned.
And yet we go on laying ten times more stress on human culture than we do on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Practically, human culture is treated as infinitely more important than the infusion of power from on high. Most seminaries are furnished with learned men, but often not with men of spiritual power; hence, they do not insist upon the infusion of power as indispensable to the work of the ministry.
Students are pressed almost beyond endurance with study and developing the intellect, while scarcely an hour in a day is given to instruction in Christian experience. Indeed, I do not know if even one course of lectures on Christian experience is given in the theological seminaries. But religion is an experience. It is a consciousness. Personal fellowship with God is the secret of the whole of it. Doctrine, philosophy, theology, church history take the place of real heart-union with God. Spiritual power and to prevail with God is neglected today in the churches.
If a young man is a good scholar, a fine writer, and makes good progress in Biblical interpretation, the church usually has strong hopes for him. The professors must know in many cases that these young men cannot pray—that they have no fervency, no power in prayer, no spirit of wrestling, of agonizing and prevailing with God. For my part, I expect no such thing of this class of men.
I have infinitely more hope for the usefulness of a man who, at any cost, will keep up daily fellowship with God, who is yearning for and struggling after the highest possible spiritual attainment, who will not live without daily persistence in prayer and being clothed with power from on high. Churches associations and whoever licenses young men for the ministry leave the impression that human learning is preferred to spiritual fervency.
Oh, that it were different and that we were all agreed, practically, now and forever, to hold fast to the promise of Christ, and never to think of ourselves or anybody else as fit for the great work of the Church until we have received a rich outpouring of power from high.