[b]Tragedy Of A Powerless Church[/b]
[i]by Samuel Chadwick[/i]
The Church of God is the creation of the Holy Spirit. It is a community of believers who owe their religious life from first to last to the Spirit. Apart from Him there can be neither Christian nor Church. The Christian religion is not institutional but experimental. It is not by an ordained class, neither is it in ordinances and sacraments. It is not a fellowship of common interest in culture, virtue or service.
Membership is by spiritual birth. The roll of membership is kept in heaven. Christ is the Door. He knows them that are His, and they know Him. The Church Roll and the Lambs Book of Life are not always identical. No man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit, and confession of the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the first condition of membership in His Church.
The command to tarry in the city until there came the enduement of power from on high proves that the one essential equipment of the Church is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Nothing else avails for the real work of the Church.
The Holy Spirit is no more needed to run bazaars, social clubs, institutions and picnics than He is to run a circus. These may be necessary adjuncts of modem churches, but it is not for power to run these things we need tarry. Religious services and organized institutions do not constitute a Christian church, and these may flourish without the gift of Pentecostal fire.
The Holy Spirits Work
The work of the Spirit in the Church is set forth in the promises of Jesus on the eve of His departure, and demonstrated in the Acts of the Apostles. The Gospels tell of all that Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day in which He was received up (Acts 1:1,2), and the Acts of the Apostles tell of all that He continued to do and to teach after the day in which He was received up.
The Holy Spirit is the active, administrative Agent of the glorified Son. He is the Paraclete, the Deputy, the acting Representative of the Ascended Christ. His mission is to glorify Christ by perpetuating His character, establishing His Kingdom and accomplishing His redeeming purpose in the world.
The Church is the Body of Christ, and the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. He fills the Body, directs its movements, controls its members, inspires its wisdom, supplies its strength. He guides into the truth, sanctifies its agents, and empowers for witnessing.
The Holy Spirit has never abdicated His authority nor relegated His power. Neither Pope nor Parliament, neither Conference nor Council is supreme in the Church of Christ. The church that is man- managed instead of God-governed is doomed to failure. A ministry that is college-trained but not Spirit-filled works no miracles. The church that multiplies committees and neglects prayer may be fussy, noisy, enterprising, but it labors in vain and spends its strength for nought.
It is possible to excel in mechanics and fail in dynamics. There is a superabundance of machinery. What is wanting is power. To run an organization needs no God. Man can supply the energy and enterprise for things human. The real work of a church depends upon the power of the Spirit.
The presence of the Spirit is vital and central to the work of the Church. Nothing else avails. Apart from Him wisdom become folly, and strength weakness. The Church is called to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood. Only spiritual people can be its living stones, and only the Spirit-filled its priests.
Scholarship is blind to spiritual truth till He reveals. Worship is idolatry till He inspires. Preaching is powerless if it be not a demonstration of His power. Prayer is vain unless He energizes. Human resources of learning and organization, wealth and enthusiasm, reform and philanthropy, are worse than useless if there be no Holy Spirit in them.
The Church always fails at the point of self-confidence. When the Church is run on the same lines as a circus, there may be crowds, but there is no Shekinah! That is why prayer is the test of faith and the secret of power. The Spirit of God travails in the prayer life of the soul.
The carnal can argue, but it is the Spirit that convicts. Education an civilize, but it is being born of the Spirit that saves. The energy of the flesh can run bazaars, organize amusements, and raise millions, but it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes a Temple of the Living God. The root trouble of the present distress is that the Church has more faith in the world and the flesh than in the Holy Spirit. Things will get no better till we get back to His realized presence and power. The breath of the four winds would turn death into life and dry bones into mighty army, but it only comes by prayer.
Without The Holy Spirit
The Acts of the Apostles gives us an account of one church destitute of the Holy Spirit. The picture corresponds in many particulars with that of the church in the apocalypse that had lost its Christ. The church in Laodicea was rich and respectable, prosperous and influential, complacent and content, but was blind to the tragedy on the doorstep.
Their worship was faultless in form and passionless in spirit. There was no heresy in their creed, but there was no fire in their souls. The Spirit of Christ was outside. Where Christ is dishonored there can be no Pentecost.
The church at Ephesus had the advantage of a distinguished and brilliant preacher. He was a man of great scholarship, who had won distinction at a great university. No preacher can have too much learning, and the Bible gives due recognition to the fact that Apollos was a learned man. In addition to the wisdom of the schools, he was mighty in the Scriptures...
It seems hardly credible that such a minister should lack the very things essential for the work of the Christian ministry. He had neither Gospel nor power. In his preaching there was no Cross, no resurrection, no Pentecost. He preached Jesus, but he did not know Christ crucified. Peter the fisherman was worth a thousand of him.
Eloquent, learned, Sculptural, impassioned, faithful and courageous, Apollos had no Gospel. Carefully trained, well instructed, a courageous learner, and an effective teacher, he had no vision. Skilled in definition, powerful in debate, earnest in advocacy, he had no power. The colleges had given him of their best, but they left him ignorant of things vital and destitute of the Holy Spirit.
To Pauls keen eye there was something wanting
The people under the preaching of Apollos were upright in life, devout in spirit, faithful in service, and yet without the Holy Spirit.
Their religion was a strict, external observance, not an Indwelling Presence. They lived by rule, not by illumination. God saves from within; they disciplined themselves from without. Religion to them was a joyless burden, for they carried their God on their backs instead of in their hearts.
The Difference The Spirit Makes
Pentecost transforms the preacher. The commonest bush ablaze with the presence of God becomes a miracle of glory. To the Church, Pentecost brought light, power, joy.
No one needed to ask if they had received the Holy Spirit. Fire is self-evident. So is power! Even demons know the difference between the power of inspiration and the correctness of instruction. The only power that is adequate for Christian life and Christian work is the power of the Holy Spirit.
The resources of the Church are in the supply of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is more than the Minister of Consolation. He is Christ without the limitations of the flesh and the material world. He had resources of power greater than those Christ could use, and He makes possible greater works than His...
It is for the Church to explore the resources of the Spirit. The resources of the world are futile. In the fulness of the Spirit there is abundance of wisdom, resources and power, but a man-managed, world-annexing, pretending church can never save the world or fulfill the mission of Christ.
Suppose we try Pentecost!
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon