Two things are necessary for a successful ministry: one is training, the other is spiritual power. The first may be secured by self-discipline and study. Training is not inherited; it cannot be bestowed as a gift by one person to another; nor can it be transmitted through inheritance. Each individual must acquire his own training, either by attend. ing schools or by personal research and diligent application.
Spiritual power does not nullify the need of training and education. The Holy Spirit does not supply what may be acquired by earnest and constant study on the part of the individual. While spiritual power is to be acquired by each preacher for himself, at the same time it is not an attainment that he can impart to himself. It is a supernatural power, and it must be sought for in a different way than training. Training is attained by contacts with one's fellows either personally or indirectly through the mind, while spiritual power must be obtained by contact with a spiritual being.
Spiritual power may come from two sources—from Satan or from God. The first is obtained by living after the flesh, disregarding the law of God and the life and teachings of Christ Jesus, and being more or less under the direct influence of satanic agencies. This satanic spiritual power is to be shunned and avoided by the servant of God. It is gripping the whole world, but it leads to certain ruin. It is always seen among pagan and heathen peoples, and often even among professed Christians. It is not confined to any climate or to any one people or church or language area. Its central force is rebellion against God, disregard of His word, a deifying of self; and its great master is Satan, the archdeceiver.
The true source of heavenly spiritual power is God. This power cannot be obtained by any individual by spasmodic efforts, or when living in known sin; nor is it obtained through committees or churches. It comes through an individual contact with the Source of divine power through prayer and faith. We may persuade men to seek this power; yet each individual must seek and live for this divine power for himself.
Without this heavenly, divine spiritual power, the only influence of a preacher, no matter how great his ability, eloquence, and learning, is that of mind on mind, of man over man, and is of little value in God's sight. If the power is not from heaven, it must be earthly, satanic, and will certainly end in failure. Either the tree must be good and its fruit good, or the tree and its fruit are evil. A good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit; neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. Every preacher is either good, bearing fruit to the glory of God, or he is bad, bearing the fruit of the carnal heart. We are not part good and part bad. We are not under the influence of the Holy Spirit and at the same time under the influence of Satan.
No amount of order, logic, rhetoric, or learning can ever be a substitute for divine power. All these are as the bones and muscles of the body; but it is the Spirit that gives life. The church must be built on the sure foundation, Christ Jesus, and its dependence must be on the word of God and the Holy Spirit. Christ is the beginning and the end of Christian faith. When the church is so organized that it depends wholly on the Lord for comfort and peace and happiness, it will not seek the pleasures of the world to satisfy the soul. Only Christ can meet the desires and longings of the regenerated heart.
Even the disciples who had been with the greatest Teacher of all time for more than three years; who had heard His instruction from day to day; who had seen the miracles wrought by Him in behalf of the sick and the demon-possessed; who had gone from village to village working many miracles of healing in His name, were not qualified to preach and witness for the Master until they were Spiritfilled. "But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49), was the command given to them by Christ Himself.
Pentecost was the introduction of evangelism to the world. John the Baptist, like a meteor athwart the sky, came and went. Christ had finished His work on earth and ascended up on high. Henceforth the Holy Spirit was to carry on the work of saving men and speaking to their hearts. His first appearance after the ascension of Christ, and the greatest manifestation in all time, was in mighty power. Christ had come in the weakness of physical flesh as a little child. He grew into manhood. When here, no one understood Him or His sacrificial life and death. But when the Holy Spirit descended to carry on the work begun by Christ, He came in such manifest power as man had seen only in the convulsions of nature. No one thought those "cloven tongues like as of fire" were human elements. It was power as "a rushing-mighty wind" that men heard. It was supernatural, surprising, soul-stirring.
It is true we have no other such manifestation of supernatural power surcharging a large number of individuals; but there have been mighty manifestations to individuals. Paul had such a great manifestation of Christ as to overwhelm him when he was on the road to Damascus. Peter and the other apostles testified of an unseen power which confounded their guard, and opened the locked doors of their prison house, and they heard a voice commanding them to go to the temple and preach a risen Christ.
The Holy Spirit does not always manifest Himself through a display of power. Sometimes He comes as a Comforter. That is one of His names. Sometimes He comes to convict of sin. But our great need today is power to move the world. Our times and message demand that we move the world with the third angel's message. This sin-hardened generation is not seeking after God. They do not want Christ. If ever we stir the world, we must have omnipotent power to help us. That power is in the Holy Spirit.
What can our ministry expect, what can they accomplish, that will bring salvation to sinners, without this unction from on high? In one day a single discourse, under the power of the Holy Spirit, brought three thousand souls to Christ. There was convicting power in that short sermon of Peter's,—power inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Let us not forget that that sermon had been preceded by a solemn season of prayer and re-consecration. The disciples' continuing "with one accord in prayer and supplication," reveals the secret of Pentecost. Pentecostal power would not have come in apostolic days had it not been preceded by unity and prayer.
The minister may have training, and may arrange his arguments logically and in proper sequence, and yet fail to move the hearts of men; but let a spark of fire from above give life and power to these gifts, and he becomes an Elijah or a John the Baptist. The preacher becomes mighty when endued with life and power from above; and then only can he be used to God's glory.
The only way that God has provided for the minister to work to His glory, is to be emptied of self and filled with the Holy Spirit. Great power means great surrender and much prayer. And the promise is as certain of fulfillment today as when spoken to the apostles: "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you."
I. H. E.