THE EXCEEDING GREATNESS OF HIS POWER – Part One
Our lives as believers can quickly become mundane when we stop anticipating the great power that God has ordained for us. That power remains an untapped resource for many of us, because we are dull in our discerning God?s working in our lives, and because we have become used to the status quo. There are also teachers who may have sullied the understanding of God?s miracle working power, by proclaiming a new age message that we can create wealth and control our own destiny by what we say and command. The Apostle Paul addresses these teachings in his first letter to Timothy:
…useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. 1Timothy 6:5 (NKJV)
These teachings are especially pernicious because they twist certain Scriptures to convince Christians that God?s word can be used to obtain material prosperity and personal aggrandizement. However, as long as we ask with purely selfish motives, we will not see the supernatural intervention of God, for we read in James:
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. James 4:3 (NKJV)
Nevertheless, just because there is teaching that confuses the issue of God?s great power for us, and even though it has been used to enrich the pockets of its professors, the word of God is not invalidated. Moreover, the word of God stands even if we lose our zeal for it, and stop believing it literally. We may have given up, because when we prayed for something it did not work out as we asked. However, if that is the case, let us consider that the fault lies with us and not with God. "Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar." Romans 3:4 (NKJV). For instance, if we are taking a course in higher mathematics, and we cannot understand the problem we are trying to solve, do we dismiss the subject as flawed? Would we say that a problem in calculus was unsolvable because we are not able to find the answer? Certainly not ? rather we would realize that we have not studied the subject enough to work out the problem. For it would take an extremely ignorant and arrogant person to suggest that calculus must be flawed mathematics because he or she cannot solve a problem in it!
In spiritual matters, then, how much more should we be careful to revere the word of God and accept it as immovable spiritual law, more certain and sure than any mathematics problem. Rather, we must remember that we are deficient in spiritual understanding, due to the world, the flesh, and the devil, even as a young child is deficient in mathematics and would be hard-pressed to take a college-level calculus class. Let us then shed all past doubts and come as a little child as we examine the Scriptures that reveal the great power of God, so that He may be able to restore and invigorate our faith.
His Power Runs the World
In the natural realm, most of us are very dependent on electricity. If the electric power fails, we find that our appliances will not run, which causes great difficulty for us. The refrigerator will no longer cool and the food will spoil. The washer and dryer will not work, nor will the computer operate and the lights in our house will not turn on. If the outage is prolonged, we may have no water, since most water is pumped from wells that need electricity to operate. If electricity is lost in a modern factory, it will also grind to a halt. Expensive machines that are used to manufacture products cannot move at all unless they are animated by electricity. Production stops and nothing can be accomplished without this power.
Similarly, God?s power runs this world. It is not that He started the world a long time ago and it continues, liked an automaton, without His power. Rather, it can only continue with His power. If He stops supplying it, everything stops. We know this from the following Scriptures:
In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind? Job 12:10 (NKJV)
You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. Psalm 145:16 (NKJV)
If He should set His heart on it, if He should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust. Job 34:14-15 (NKJV)
God Promises Us Resurrection Power
And so we see that even as electricity is "life" to a factory and must be continuously supplied, God?s life-giving power must be supplied to the world for it to survive. From this vantage point we can see how involved He is in a world that does not acknowledge Him or know Him. Sin causes much heartache in the world, but a man may choose to sin because of the free will God has given to mankind. God did not make us as robots, but as humans with the ability to obey or disobey Him. And if we obey Him and believe His words to us, His power will be manifest in the world and in our own lives. However, if we do not believe, the ills of the world are exacerbated and proliferate, even as our own lives become more troublesome.
Let us then consider what the Bible has to say about this promised power. For if we are to utilize this gift, we need to understand the breadth and depth of it. We find it explained to some extent in a prayer Paul prayed for in Ephesians.
Three Different Words for Power
Please note that the word power is used three times in the following passage. In verse 19 it is used twice, and in verse 21 it is used once.
…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. Ephesians 1:17-21 (NKJV)
These three uses of the word power, although they are the same word in English are different words in Greek, which is the original language this Scripture was written in as inspired by the Holy Spirit. And it is in the deeper study of what these words mean that a more complete understanding emerges, even as a beautiful flower becomes more magnificent as it blooms.
Meanings for the First Word for Power ? Dunamis
In verse 19 we read of "the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe…" and the word used here for power is dunamis in the Greek language. We may glean the English meaning from the pronunciation of this word, as it resembles the word "dynamite." However, if a person was shown a stick of dynamite for the first time, and it was not labeled as such, there would be no reason for that person to believe that it contained the power to cause a great explosion. Similarly, we find that one of the definitions of the Greek word, which as quoted from BDB Thayers, is: "inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth."
Paul is then telling us that there is power inherent in each Christian, as one regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and in whom the Spirit of the Living God resides. But the definition goes on to also include the efforts of the person in whom the power resides, as it says "which a person or thing exerts or puts forth." What might this mean then for the Christian? How is the potential for this power realized? Is it not true that dynamite requires fire to explode, and without that fire it will stay dormant and useless? Dynamite has been found left over from previous wars that has existed for 80 years or more but was never been used for the purpose for which it was manufactured ? it never exploded. It needed to be put in a strategic position and set off with fire, but instead it became useless and was finally disposed of. Does this not remind of the necessity of being on "fire" for the Lord? Should we then not seek Christ for the baptism we may receive from Him promised in Matthew 3:11(partial) "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
Second Meaning for Dunamis
Another definition for the Greek word dumamis is: "power for performing miracles" Perhaps we question if God has given us the power for performing miracles because we do not see them performed around us. Or do we? Is it not the case that when a person is saved, a miracle of salvation has occurred? When we see God?s hand in straightening out a mess we have at work, or fixing a relationship that has become sour, or giving us knowledge that we lacked, could this be considered miraculous? For the word in Greek for "miracle is semeion and it means "transcending the common course of nature." This would refer to something occurring that would not have happened if there had been no divine intervention. If we then pray that a temper will be restrained, and it is, has this not transcended the common course of nature?
Third Meaning for Dunamis
The third meaning for dumanis is, "power and resources arising from numbers." Particularly in the modern American church, there is a serious deficiency in understanding this aspect of God?s power. John Noble, a prisoner of the Soviets during World War II, tells of how the Christians in the work camps there risked their lives to have fellowship together. Today we read about prison sentences imposed on Chinese Christians who are arrested when they are found fellowshipping in house churches. From these accounts we understand that there is something tremendously powerful when saints meet together, and that it is needful for believers to survive extreme persecution. Yet in free America we find many who have stopped attending services for a variety of reasons, and who also believe that they the suffer no lack from their absence. But we read the following in Hebrews:
…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 (NKJV)
The principle of manifold power from assembling together is stated throughout the Bible, starting in Genesis, where God refers to the power that pagans are capable of when they are in agreement. How much more power must we have when we are in agreement as Christians?
And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Genesis 11:6 (NKJV)
Exponential Power for Believers
In the business world, it is interesting to consider the exponential ability that is gained when a company hires an array of people with special skills and talents. We understand how the electricity animates the machines needed to manufacture a product, and without it nothing will run. However people are also needed to keep a factory operating, and with certain specialists working together processes are methods are invented and refined to enhance the efficiency and profitability of a company. One person brings computer skills, another brings engineering skills, another brings machining ability, and yet another can sell product, conduct accounting, etc.
Likewise, in the church God has placed various gifts to function together, and they are all important for the body of Christ to be victorious in the world. We read in First Corinthians:
But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 1Corinthians 12:20-21 (NKJV)
As we continue to examine the Scriptures, we find that God gave exponential power to Israel, for we read:
How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had surrendered them? Deuteronomy 32:30 (NKJV)
Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you. Levitcus 26:8 (NKJV)
How much more can be done with more people in agreement? If one puts off a thousand and two put off ten thousand, then five can put off ten million, if the exponent is linear. Here the fight is referring to an actual battle, but the spiritual meaning is also clear ? there is much more power with more people. Whether we are referring to the fight with demonic angels, or the fight against the flesh and sin nature we all have to deal with ? there is dynamic, dynamite "power and resources arising from numbers." God has ordained it to be this way, and we will never have the same impact on our society, and the world ? we will never change to world for His glory, if we insist that we must do it individually, and without the cooperation and fellowship of other Christians. God simply does not honor the "Lone Ranger" Christian. And let we argue otherwise, Jesus Christ gives us the example we are to follow. For though there were none that even approached His spirituality, He condescended to fellowship with fallen man, and build His church using them ? not outside the pool of human talent, but through it.
The Beginning Word for Power
We have thus far examined three meanings of the first word used for power in this passage of Scripture. This is the starting point ? simply the beginning word that God uses to teach of His life-changing and world-changing power. There are also two other Greek words used for power in this passage which open up deeper and richer meanings for us, and which will we will study in the second part of this teaching.
June 18, 2006 Copyright 2006