By Ryan Shaw
The fulfillment of the Great Commission includes providing a living “witness” among every ethnic people group, language and tribe. To apply this correctly we need to understand what a witness is? The New Testament includes at least two defining factors of a “witness.”
The communication is culturally relevant to the hearer’s worldview and is in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. It is this second factor we want to focus on here.
In 2 Corinthians 2:4-5 Paul tells us, “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
Paul reveals two types of preaching and two corresponding results in people’s lives. Preaching is either in human wisdom (abilities, logic, etc) or with demonstration of the Spirit and power resulting in faith in people or faith in the power of God.
In these verses we find one of the single greatest factors of the current general spiritual malaise in the body of Christ while also seeing why we’re having such little spiritual impact – we tend to communicate from human ability and strength instead of in demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power.
“Preaching” here does not only refer to speaking to great crowds. It includes the disciple who mentors 2-3 others in a small group or coffee shop. Most of us will never speak before thousands but we will speak to groups of 5, 10 or 20. Every believer is in view here.
The principle is clear – the spiritual life of the communicator directly affects the faith of the hearers. Only the Holy Spirit, working through a surrendered disciple, can touch a human spirit. Only communication in demonstration of the Spirit and power produces faith in God that endures.
When “witnessing” of the resurrection of Christ using human understanding, ability and logic, the faith of hearers will be in human wisdom and consequently weak. When communicated in demonstration of the Spirit and power, the faith of hearers rests in the power of God and is strong and stable.
Human wisdom, ability and strength does little to move and impact a human heart towards God – even if the words are doctrinally correct. The demonstration of the Spirit and power refers to words originating from the Holy Spirit which act as a hammer, sword, fire and which cut to the core. The communicating of God’s Word using human ability and persuasion may produce thought provoking ideas yet doesn’t enable spiritual transformation that lasts.
How many consistently hear gospel truth yet are not cut to the heart to see themselves from God’s perspective? How many fill local ministries every week who know the Bible yet are not gripped by its power over their lives?
In Acts 2:37, Peter experienced preaching in the demonstration of the Spirit and power on the day of Pentecost. The hearers, “…were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, brethren what shall we do?”
The only way a disciple communicates in demonstration of Spirit and power is if they are growing in fellowship with the Person of the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to possess more of their lives. Peter had just experienced the glory of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Pentecost was the establishing of the Church and the Holy Spirit was the power of its life. Peter got up to “witness” to Christ and spiritual power gripped the crowd and brought great conviction.
It is because so little of the Church’s “witnessing” today is in the power of the Holy Spirit that so few in the nations come into contact with the living God. It is simultaneously true why much faith today is in people and not the power of God.
Every plant grows out of the root it first sprang from. The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost is that root that today’s Church needs to return to if we hope to spiritually impact a dying world. We long to see unreached people groups experiencing the power of God’s Word as a hammer, sword, fire that they may be cut to the heart and brought unto the Lamb.
Let us affirm our commitment to be people obeying the Holy Spirit and surrendering more of our lives to His control so that our communications are in His authority which penetrates deep.