Do you ever wish that you could have been one of the twelve disciples? I know I would have loved the opportunity to get alongside Jesus himself, watch Him heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and receive the kind of hands-on training that those twelve men received.
Perhaps you find it as fascinating as I do that even after those three life-changing years, Jesus didn’t seem to think that the disciples were ready to just get on with the Great Commission! Just before He ascended to heaven, He told them, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
In other words, “Wait! You’re not ready yet… but you will be ready when the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon you”. Jesus made it so clear that in order for them to carry out any kind of ‘new covenant ministry’, they (and we too) would be utterly dependent upon the power of the Holy Spirit. This means that no amount of human equipping will ever be enough – no degree, no discipleship program, no practical experience. Of course, these things can and often do help, but unless He (the Spirit) is doing the ministry through us, our efforts will be in vain.
What’s even more challenging is that in today’s verses, Paul reminds the believers in Corinth that His ministry to them was not just with words, but with a clear demonstration of the Spirit’s power. Perhaps to make His point even more clear, a few verses later He actually refers to the new covenant ministry as ‘the ministry of the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:8).
Paul was naturally a very intelligent man, full of zeal and a great teacher, but none of that was enough for the task God had for Him. We all have things that we’re good at, but God is seemingly less interested in people seeing our gifts than them seeing His power.
In order for people to see and experience His power, we first have to decrease. That means not only being full of the Holy Spirit, but submitting all our desires and decisions to Him, thus being led by the Spirit and not by the flesh. As we continue to die to ourselves and take steps of faith and obedience, we’ll begin to see the biblical demonstration of God’s power working through us and we’ll affect the lives of others.
We’ll know when we’re in that place, because we’ll no longer be living in the confines of our natural ability and we’ll see God doing things through us that would be simply impossible from a human point of view. As He works through us (His body), people will come to repentance and faith in Christ, get baptised in water, be filled with the Holy Spirit, receive physical and emotional healing, be delivered from all kinds of bondages and become more like Jesus. This is how we’ll know we’re really operating in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The real test of whether we’re fulfilling our part of the new covenant ministry isn’t whether we’ve been theologically trained, attend church regularly, lead a large ministry or have a very busy schedule. It all comes down to whether or not individual lives are being transformed by the truth of the gospel and the demonstration of the Spirit’s power.
This is the Great Commission that Jesus gave us, and which the apostle Paul was getting on with. In fact, without the power of the Holy Spirit you and I have absolutely no chance of playing a genuine part in it, and that’s exactly how God intended it to be. ‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power’ (1 Corinthians 4:20).
Prayer: Father, I want to thank You today that You’re willing to demonstrate Your power in and through us for the advancement of Your kingdom. I want to thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit to live in us and to work through us. I want to say sorry for the times that I’ve limited the work of Your Kingdom to simply words, and haven’t expected You to demonstrate Your power through me. Would You help me to let go of my unbelief and the reliance I’ve had on my natural abilities. Would You help me to grow in faith, that, as I decrease, You’ll work mightily through me and that lives will be transformed by the power of the gospel. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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