The Power of God: Where Does it Come From?
I have been greatly intrigued as of late over the distinction between the power of God and the authority of God. They are definitely connected, yet clearly different. They are distinct in their definition, their source, their purpose and the method by which they increase in the believer’s life.
In last month’s blog we examined the believer’s source of authority. This month we will look at the believer’s source of power.
Although Jesus promised power, He told His disciples they would receive it when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Thus, it is the Spirit of God who imparts the power of God.
Whereas authority is restored to the believer as they are joined to Christ in salvation, power comes to the believer in a separate experience referred to in scripture as a baptism in the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39; Luke 3:16; Acts 1:8). Many are confused by Paul’s reference to this baptism in 1 Corinthians 12:13.
“For in one Spirit we are baptized into one body…”
At first glance it appears as though this baptism is simultaneous to one’s conversion, but this misunderstanding is easily cleared up when one recognizes the clear pattern of baptism in scripture.
There are four distinct baptisms mentioned in the New Testament: John’s baptism of repentance (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:3), the Christian baptism into Christ (Romans 6:3), a baptism of suffering mentioned by Jesus (Mark 10:38) (which we will not be dealing with in this article), and finally, the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16). The laws of biblical interpretation dictate that the first mention of baptism sets the parameters to interpreting it in following chapters.
When one looks at baptism throughout scripture, a clear pattern emerges: the candidate is baptized in a substance and into an experience. Furthermore, baptism is always something that takes place after the fact; it seals what is already a reality.
In John’s baptism, he would baptize people in water (the substance) into repentance (the experience). But he was unwilling to baptize people into repentance unless they were already repentant (Luke 3:7-14). John clearly viewed baptism as a sealing of what was already a reality. He understood his baptism didn’t make anyone repentant, it simply publicly validated what had already taken place in their heart.
Christian baptism in water (Romans 6) follows the same pattern. The believer is baptized in water (the substance) into Christ’s death (the experience). But just as John’s baptism didn’t make anyone repentant, so the believer’s baptism doesn’t place anyone in Christ’s death. This is already a reality realized through the new birth. Water baptism doesn’t save anyone, it publicly seals what was a settled issue.
True to the pattern, the baptism in the Spirit follows the same formula. The believer is baptized in the Spirit (the “substance”) into the body of Christ (the experience). But in keeping with the pattern of baptism, the baptism in the Spirit doesn’t place anyone in the body of Christ, it simply seals this reality already realized in salvation.
This component of being baptized into the body of Christ is an important and grossly overlooked element, however. Jesus told His disciples they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. This power comes in the form of gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-10) which define the believer’s place in the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-28). One of the primary functions of the baptism in the Spirit is to empower us to serve in our role in the Body of Christ. In the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the experience we are baptized into is our functional role in the body of Christ. Like Jesus at His baptism, we are to go down into the water and come up in the Spirit. Having died to ourselves in Christ, we are buried with Him in water baptism. However in the baptism in the Spirit, we are resurrected to live for others.
Both authority and power are crucial for the church. The gifts Jesus gives are gifts of authority to govern the church while the gifts given by the Spirit are power gifts to serve the church. The authority gifts of Ephesians 4 create an environment in which the 1 Corinthians 12 power gifts function, building up the body of Christ, helping her fulfill her mandate.
If we want to live a life of power, we must learn to come under authority. Only then will we fulfill our assignment.