Calvary Road Baptist Church

“A GREAT CHURCH HAS GREAT POWER”

Acts 1.8

 

For more than thirty years the eternal Son of the living God walked the earth after His birth in Bethlehem, following the supernatural incarnation, by which He left heaven’s glory and took upon Himself human flesh. Six months before His public ministry began; His cousin began his brief ministry at the southern end of the Jordan River. He was the son of Elizabeth, cousin of the mother of Jesus, whose name was Mary. He is known as John, the Baptist.

Turn to Matthew chapter three, where we see a concise summary of the Baptist’s ministry. When you find the passage, stand with me for the reading of God’s Word:

 

1      In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

2      And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

3      For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

4      And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.

5      Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,

6      And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

7      But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8      Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

9      And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

10     And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

11     I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

12     Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

 

John the Baptist clearly predicted a future miraculous sign by which the Messiah could be identified. In those days, when false claims to be the Messiah were common, the absolute proof of His identity would be what we have come to refer to as the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is mentioned in verse 11. A bit more than three years after the Baptist’s prediction, Jesus was crucified. His body was then taken down from the cross and buried in a rich man’s tomb. The disciples were despondent and beyond consolation. However, on the third day, as He had said, Jesus rose from the dead. What an emotional roller coaster they had ridden, from the depths of despair to the heights of rejoicing.

Though even His own disciples were initially resistant to the idea that He had risen from the dead, Jesus showed Himself alive “by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God,” Acts 1.3. He met with them repeatedly over a matter of weeks before His ascension to the Father’s right hand on high. Acts 1.4-9 sums up the final occasion and His glorious ascension:

 

4      And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.

5      For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

6      When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

7      And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

8      But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

9      And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

 

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is recorded in Acts chapter two. Similar events are recorded in Acts chapters eight and ten. While there seems to be no ongoing baptisms of the Holy Spirit with accompanying signs like cloven tongues of fire or the gift of tongues such as we find in Acts chapter two, and to a far lesser degree in Acts chapters eight and ten, we do see a repetition of the granting of power promised in Acts 1.8. Jesus said, “ye shall receive power.” This is not the same power referred to in Acts 1.7, where the Greek word for authority is used. The Greek word in Acts 1.8 refers to power, might, strength, force, and capability.[1] What is this power, might, strength, force, and capability for? Jesus said, “and ye shall be witnesses unto me.”

This we do know. For two thousand years, Jesus has given His disciples the power to witness of Him to the lost, preaching to them the unsesarchable riches of Christ. To be sure, there have been many occasions when believers have been persecuted, imprisoned, downtrodden, and even martyred. However, we have never been silenced, but have always exhibited the power, the might, the strength, the force, and the capability to witness to the lost of Jesus Christ our Lord no matter what. Since the power to witness is a promise, and God is not slack concerning His promises, it must be that the great God, Who reveals truth to us in His great Word about our great Savior and the power that is granted to witness of Him, it is appropriate for us to address this matter of a great church being given great power.

Two considerations related to this matter of a congregation being given great power:

 

First, CONSIDER THE GREAT POWER OF GOD

 

As we ponder and reflect on the great power of God, I would like you to be mindful that the infinite power of Almighty God is quite beyond our observation, for three reasons: First, many of the great exertions of God’s power took place before mankind existed, therefore no mortal was witness to them. Second, many of the great exertions of God’s power take place out of sight of any witnesses, therefore no mortal is witness to them. Finally, many of the ongoing exertions of God’s power are providential in nature, and are interpreted by us as the laws of nature when in fact they are God’s workings.

First, consider the great power of God to create. There are two kinds of creation. One kind of creation is the reformation of what already exists, such as when a potter creates a vessel, or a painter creates a portrait. In each case, what was created was formed, or transformed, from that which already existed. Then there is what is called ex nihilo creation, to create from nothing. Only God can create in this way. This is what God did when He created the universe and all there herein is. He spoke the worlds into existence, and brought forth all that lives, be it animal or vegetable.[2] It is quite beyond the capacity of mortal men to imagine the extent of the power brought to bear to create time when there was previously no time, to create energy when there was previously no energy, and to create matter when before there was nothing. However, that is precisely what God did.

Next, consider the great power of God to sustain what He created. Why does the universe not suddenly collapse? Why do atoms not fly apart in a nuclear fission reaction? Why do atoms not combine in a nuclear fusion reaction? Both reactions occur. Why do they not occur all the time? It is a valid question. Physicists at the University of Chicago, where the first sustained fission reaction experiment was performed under the grandstand of a football stadium in the 1930s, later admitted that they did not know if the reaction they initiated would result in the end of the world, though they went ahead and performed the experiment anyway. Creation took place before mankind was created, so it took place without our observation. Sustaining creation takes place at present, though it occurs in such a way as to lie outside our observation. We see the effects of God’s sustenance, but we refer to it as the laws of nature.

Third, consider God’s power to save souls. Genesis reveals to us that God spoke the universe into existence. However, the salvation of sinners is wrought by God by far more substantial means that His spoken Word. Salvation is by means of the death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ on the cross, His burial, and His glorious resurrection from the dead three days later. How much greater power was brought to bear to save sinners than was necessary to create this universe and all that herein is. However, we must ask, what is salvation that it would require such power? Let me begin by making mention of the new birth. In John 3.3, Jesus told an old Pharisee named Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Moments later, He said to that same man, “Ye must be born again.”[3] What power must be brought to bear to give real life to one who is truly dead. Yet that is precisely what occurs each time a sinner comes to know Jesus Christ, whom to know is life. I know a guy who says, “I died once, and then came back to life.” He refers to a swimming pool accident in which he almost drowned, and he stopped breathing and had no pulse for several minutes. In fact, he did not die and did not come back to life. He almost died. Throughout the history of mankind, no one but God ever has or ever can give real life to one who is truly dead. Yet that is what happens each and every time a sinner is saved. Life is imparted to a soul that is dead in trespasses and sins.[4] My friend, that requires power of a kind known to no scientist, transforming a sinner into a saint and altering his eternal destiny.

 

Now, CONSIDER THE GREAT PROGRAM OF GOD

 

Possessing infinite power and might, it is reasonable to expect God to make use of His power. However, God has no interest in parlor tricks or magic shows. He is a God of mercy and grace, a God of holiness and majesty. He does not perform stunts. Therefore, His power will be exercised to noble ends, not to entertain. In that regard, there are two ways in which God’s power is ordinarily brought to bear, as mentioned by our text:

First, God’s power is brought to bear in the presentation of the gospel. Remember what Jesus said: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me.” This power, evidenced in the lives of even the poor, and the meek, and the sickly, and the downtrodden, and the oppressed, and the persecuted, enables the child of God, which is to say a congregation composed of believers, to witness anywhere and everywhere with effectiveness. The power of God is brought to bear in the life of a congregation in such a way that no believer appears to anyone to be powerful, to be mighty, to be strong, to be forceful, or to be particularly capable. Thus, God’s power is exhibited in a subtle way. Consider the Apostle Paul, for instance: His inspired self-description in Second Corinthians 10.10 reads, “his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” That is Paul describing Paul. How, then, was he able to teach and preach and give witness to Christ’s resurrection from the dead with such power? The power of God that was promised to believers for witnessing. You see, sinners are saved to witness for Christ’s sake. Ephesians 2.10 reads, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Those good works, however, are properly understood to be the work of faith, First Thessalonians 1.3 and 8: “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father . . . For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.” Thus, the professing believer who does not witness, and who will not participate in his church’s outreach, is by the nature of his disobedience denying the very power of God promised to every Christian and to be exhibited in every church in our gospel outreach.

However, that is only half of it. The power of God also involves the response to the gospel. Reflect on Romans 1.16, where Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Thus, we see God’s power is brought to bear in the gospel, and the salvation of those sinners who respond to the gospel by coming to Christ, of which there are two kinds: First, there are those who immediately respond to the gospel. This is the fellow who hears a good gospel sermon in a church, or who reads a strong gospel message in print, and straightway turns from his sins and comes to Christ. Those of you who know Dr. Kreighton Chan may know that he was converted the first time he heard the gospel message. As well, there are those who eventually respond to the gospel. Such was my experience. I first heard the gospel as a six year old boy. However, I was not converted to Christ until eighteen years had passed. There seems to be an approach set forth by the Savior for dealing with those who are at first resistant to the gospel directive, as I was. It was to those who heard the gospel a number of times without responding to it that Jesus commanded to strive to enter in at the strait gate, Luke 13.24: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” Does this command to strive in any way conflict with the gospel of free grace? How could it, since it was a command from the Savior’s own mouth? Whatever difficulties this verse presents to us, Jesus very clearly commanded sinners who had been repeatedly exposed to the gospel to strive to enter into the strait gate, so strive to enter into the strait is precisely what they should do if they are not of a mind to immediately obey the gospel. As well, experience shows us that it is not at all uncommon for those who do not immediately respond to the gospel when they hear it to experience false hopes before they finally come to Jesus. Is this necessary? I have no reason to believe false hopes are necessary, though God does seem to put them to good use to strip a sinner of his pride and presumptions so long as he continues to strive. Once someone comes to Jesus, he will frequently look back on his experiences and discover valuable lessons learned after his false hopes that were useful in guiding him to Christ.

Whatever the precise events leading up to a sinner’s conversion to Christ, be it an immediate response the first time he heard the gospel, or a conversion years after hearing the gospel for the first time, the salvation of any sinner and the salvation of every sinner involves the supernatural creative power of God. How so? The sinner is by his conversion to Jesus made a new creature in Christ, Second Corinthians 5.17. Thus, God’s creative power is brought to bear whenever a lost man comes to Christ.

 

Sometimes young Christians wonder with questions that lie back of every sinner’s resistance to the gospel. “If the power of God is involved, why is it so hard to bring someone to Christ, and why is it so hard for a Christian to live for God? One would think that the power of God would make things easier.”

My friends, God is a Being of such power that accomplishing whatever He wants quickly would be very easy for Him. After all, He did create this universe and all that is in it in six literal days. As well, when He so chooses, He saves sinners suddenly.

What must be recognized is that God is interested in far more than the display of power when He saves sinners. It is no lack of power that results in Christians being persecuted and even martyred for the cause of Christ. As well, it is no lack of power that accounts for the delay of some sinners in coming to Christ, with many being converted years after hearing the gospel for the first time, and some not converted at all.

Were it merely a matter of power, Job would never have been afflicted by the devil. However, God did allow Satan to severely afflict Job. Why did God allow that to happen? It somehow suited His grand purpose for Job’s life.

Why does it sometimes seem so hard to bring a sinner to Christ? It suits God’s purpose, my friend. He is greatly glorified when His children obey Him at great personal cost and sacrifice.

Why must sinners sometimes strive for so long before coming to Christ? Same answer. God is greatly glorified when Jesus is shown by a sinner’s striving to be so precious as to be sought after at great personal cost.

Therefore, know this, Christian. By your witnessing, by your spoken word, and by your participation in this church’s evangelistic outreach, you are giving evidence of God’s great power in fulfillment of His promise.

My lost friend. In the midst of your frustration and confusion know this: Jesus is infinitely powerful to save you from your sins and to give you eternal life should you come to Him. Therefore, come to Him now to be saved from your sins and to be given the gift of eternal life.



[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 262-263.

[2] Psalm 8:3; 33:6; 89:11-12; 102:25; 136:5; 146:6; Isaiah 40:21; 44:24; Jeremiah 10:12; 51:15; Zechariah 12:1; John 1:1-3; Acts 14:15; 17:24; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:10; 11:3; Revelation 4:11; 10:6

[3] John 3.3, 7

[4] Ephesians 2.1



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org