Bauder Asks, “Do You Have the Power of God?”

This is exceptional. Bauder attributes “power” to the Gospel, the Scriptures, and the Spirit of God. In so doing, he takes the focus off of the individual Christian and his effort (think “That was powerful preachin’!”). That is excellent, I think, and very necessary in our day. (HT Greg Linscott)

It raises some questions in my mind, however. I wonder, for example, if it is possible for one to preach the Gospel in a powerless way? When Paul says in I Corinthians 2:4b that he preached to the Corinthians “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (as opposed to a demonstration of the human powers of eloquence and persuasion, vv. 1 and 4), was that exceptional, or is it the normal experience of every preacher of truth? Is the power of God (v. 5) displayed every time someone preaches the truth with humility and accuracy? Or are we right to pray for a unique enabling of the Spirit when we preach, so that we might preach with “power”? Do we ask for God’s power, or do we expect that when God’s Word is proclaimed without distractions by a Spirit-gifted and Spirit-filled messenger that His power will be evident to the hearers…every time?

I ask because I’m not certain. It’s a matter that has come up in previous discussions and even at ordinations without a consensus being reached. I’m leaning away from the “unique” experience idea. On the other hand, I’m hesitant to dismiss the possibility that the Spirit can work through a messenger in a uniquely powerful way on a particular occasion. Even then, though, is it “powerful preaching” or a demonstration of God’s powerful Spirit using God’s powerful Word? Does it have anthing to do with the speaker at all?

What do you think? And why?

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29 Responses

  1. Chris, I’ll outline again the points I have made before.

    What was the “proof” of the power of Paul’s message? The proof was the Corinthians’ conversion. God gloriously saved the Corinthians, even though Paul was “with them in weakness and in fear and much trembling” (1 Cor 2:3). Paul is forcing his conclusion on the Corinthians here: “You think it’s so great to ‘preach with power,’ but God saved you even though ‘all you had’ was weak and ‘unpowerful’ me!” You can see this same line of argumentation from Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:4–5.

    In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul says that the word of the cross (the Gospel) is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Where is the power? It is in the “message that we preach” (1:21), through which God is pleased to save sinners. Were we saved because a preacher “had a special anointing” as he preached, or did God save us by his power manifested in the Gospel?

    My conclusions are two-fold: first, this takes the spotlight (i.e., the glory) off the “Puh-REECH-er” and puts it solely on God, who alone can powerfully and graciously save sinners. Salvation is not dependent on the preacher’s “power”; it is based on God’s sovereign choosing and gracious giving of life!

    Let me just say as an aside that New Testament “preaching” is heralding, not “sermonizing.” Unfortunately, the New Testament does not put the emphasis on the genre of sermonizing that many “preachers” do. The NT emphasis is rather on the careful and accurate proclamation of God’s Word. This leads me to my second conclusion.

    Second, a proper understanding of the “power of the Gospel” takes the emphasis in preaching (“sermonizing”) off of emotional rhetoric (what some today call “powerful preaching”) or even a “pre-game ritual.” It humbles the herald, because he realizes he is only that— a mouthpiece.

    Lest you think I am denigrating preparation, I am not! The importance then is not on our delivery but on the accuracy of our content. Since the power of preaching (“declaring”) is found in the message, it is absolutely essential that we “get it right.” We must be declaring God’s message, because it is through the foolishness of the message we preach (kerugma) that God is pleased to save sinners.

  2. I seem to recall a recent ordination council where this was an issue. Hmmm. :-)

    Paul also described the message preached as “foolishness” (1:21) and “weakness” (1:25). These descriptions were not because of a lack of “enduement.”

    Paul’s point (in 1 Cor 2) is that he didn’t view anything connected with himself as having such an effective result in his hearers that it resulted in their conversion. If my hearers’ spiritual status can be effectually wrought upon by something in me, what does that say about the spiritual condition of the unregenerate (a la 1 Cor 2:14-15)? But now I digress… :-)

    For sake of argument (which is why we blog, eh?), if power refers to something special happening in the preacher, what is the evidence for that? How does one/others know “he’s got it”? How I feel at the time? How my hearers feel? The text doesn’t provide such answers, because that isn’t the point of the text.

    I’m seconding Mark here, which should come as no surprise to you, in light of my enduring this line of questioning last May, right? :-)

  3. Thinking.

    In the interest of not talking past each other, I’m not suggesting that Paul’s preaching “in demonstration of power” had anything to do with his personal ability or lack thereof. I’m wondering if he had a unique spiritual enabling at some times more than others–or even if God just used him more at some times than others. If so, is it wrong to pray for such a display of God’s power? Nor am I suggesting that there is anything “in him” to effect his hearers; I’m wondering if the Spirit worked through Him in a unique way on some occasions.

    I understand the danger of a second blessing or some special “unction” of the Spirit. However, we don’t want to react against that to such a degree that we deny that the Spirit works through preachers on some occasions in a way in which He does not on other occasions. That’s the whole point of revival, even as distinguished by Murray from revivalism in Revival and Revivalism, is it not?

    Perhaps I’m not making any sense. To say “Lord, give me special power” focuses too much on the individual. But is it wrong to say, “Lord, help me preach with power,” or even better, “Lord, demonstrate Your power in a unique way through this message”?

    I also understand that what is often meant by “powerful preaching” is nothing more than the fact that it was emotional, engaging, riveting, etc. But is it right to ask the Spirit to work in a unique way through a message? To repeat the questions from the initial post, do we pray for the Lord to display His power through preaching, or just expect it? Is it exceptional or normal?

    Perhaps you guys can explain or paraphrase I Cor. 2:4 and I Thes. 1:4-5 again so I understand exactly what you take the texts to mean. Thanks for the discussion.

  4. If you are interested in a non-second blessing perspective on this subject, J.I. Packer has some thought provoking things to say in a chapter in a book entitled, “Kingdom and Power” (I think–not at the office right now). Also, his book “Keep in Step with the Spirit” tries to wrestle with the tension between the Keswick emphasis and a more Reformed view of this matter.

    Without getting into the discussion too deeply, I think it is interesting that those who are normally antagonistic to arguments from experience would essentially being using them. Aren’t objections regarding our lack of clarity about the experiential elements of empowerment falling prey to this? To point out that there is some mystery about how this works out isn’t really a proof that there isn’t such an experience.

    It seems to me that you can affirm all that Bauder says without drawing the conclusion that there is no special empowering work of the Spirit. I wonder if we make a mistake if we limit the discussion to the word power. For instance, when Paul prays that the Ephesians might be strengthened by the Spirit in the inner person it would seem that this is another way of speaking of spiritual power. If all believers have all the power they ever need or will receive, why pray like this? Is it a stretch to conclude that Paul’s desire for all believers would certainly be true regarding those who minister God’s Word?

    Or, to take it down another track, if preaching with boldness is the result of the Spirit’s work (e.g., Acts 4:31) and Paul also asked believer’s to pray that he would speak the Word boldly (e.g. Eph 6:19), then isn’t there a connection that merits consideration? In other words, we pray for the Spirit’s work in our lives so that we may speak boldly as we ought to speak. If the Spirit grants this boldness, are we to think this happens without the communication of spiritual strength/power to our spirits in some way?

    Another track would be to think through the whole dynamic of spiritual gifts, particularly the comment in 1 Peter 4:11 that those who serve should do so in the strength which God supplies–if this isn’t empowerment, what is it? It seems clear from 1 Tim 4:14 and 2 Tim 1:6 that the cultivaiton and exercise of spiritual gifts is an experiential matter.

    I think there are other tracks which we might pursue to the same kind of answers. While I decry the kind of man making claims that Dr. Bauder was answering, I think we need to respond to these errors carefully. I am inclined to follow Ian Murray’s approach here (can’t recall the title right now, but he has a shorter book in which he argues for an older evangelical approach to this [read pre-Finney]). I have yet to figure out the complexities of the experience, but I am not prepared to accept that there is no experience of the Spirit’s empowering for those who preach and teach God’s Word.

    The danger, in my mind, is to embrace a position that essentially makes preaching a merely mechanical process, i.e., if I handle the text accurately then there is an automatic bestowal of power. Another alternative also seems out of step with the NT, namely that God will give His power whenever He wants, so I don’t need to be concerned about.

    Got to run for a family commitment.

  5. Chris and Dave,

    I definitely agree that through the filling (control) of the Spirit we can have greater boldness to preach the Word, that we must pray for such boldness (Eph 6:19), clarity (Col 4:4), and success (2 Thess 3:1), all of which are the Spirit’s work in and through us. The opposite of boldness is fear, which is definitely subjective. There is a real and genuine subjective side to the issue, involving preparation, submission, prayer, etc. vis-a-vis the mechanical process thought. Is this (“boldness”) what is meant by “power” in 1 Cor 2:4 though?

    Reading over my comment, particularly the last paragraph, in my rush to avoid a cold dinner (I guess I was moved by my subjective side after all), it appears I did omit legitimate subjective factors (not sure if that’s the right word, but…)

  6. The problem with subjectivity and the experience of power, at least in my subjective experience, is that I seem never to know how to identify the presence of power. There are times when I feel like my tongue is filling my mouth, it is so dry and I feel so empty, yet people testify on some of those occasions of something the Lord did for them through that message. And of course, the opposite is true, I can feel really into it, and yet nothing happens. The discernment of the presence of power is I think in abiding results.

    For example, one of our older gentlemen came to me Sunday morning and asked if he and his wife could join the church. This fellow is over 80. They have been faithful attenders for over ten years now. I think he has been reluctant about membership because of some past experiences. Talking to his wife afterward, she mentioned that her husband has been growing through the preaching. Well, I am glad for it, but I don’t know what stirred him to join the church this Sunday as opposed to sometime earlier.

    How do we get the power? I don’t think we can work it up, but we can ask for it. I believe consistent, faithful, living and preaching in some ways produce spiritual power, but not if power is the goal! And of course, God can put power on anyone or anything he wants. Remember Balaam’s donkey!

    Not sure if this adds to the conversation or not…

    Regards
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  7. Since we originally began talking about 1 Corinthians 2:4, I will say again that Paul’s identification of the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” is not in his preaching, but in the results of his preaching.

    I thought we were just talking about the meaning of “in the power of the Spirit” in 1 Corinthians 2:4, but since we’re going a whole different direction, I guess I have to make some disclaimers here. Let me add a little to what I said before.

    I think Dan and Don have identified the difficulties of knowing that we have “the power.” And of course, we could all point to extreme examples and abuses of the subjective. Clearly, none of us can deny the subjective experience. What Don has described happens more often than we would care to admit: we are really “feeling it,” and everybody gets up and walks out. Or we feel like we are trying to run through wet concrete, and we find that God really used his Word in hearts and lives.

    What kind of work of the Holy Spirit do I pray for as I prepare and deliver a sermon? Well, it’s not really “the old time power, that Pentecostal power.” :-) I pray more along the lines of asking for grace to obey—obey commands such as 2 Timothy 2:15. “Work hard to present yourself as a worker approved to God, one who handles correctly the Word of Truth.” I pray that I will decrease and He will increase (John 3:30). As Dan mentioned, I pray for boldness, clarity, and success. Specifically for the hearers, I pray that they will listen and pay attention. I pray that the Holy Spirit will apply the truth to individual hearts. I pray that the hearers will be doers of the Word (Jas 1:22).

    If I am “denying the subjective,” I certainly can’t see it. However, at the risk of again being labeled “mechanical,” let me throw out this scenario: what could be more “mechanical” than an unbeliever reading the Bible, the Holy Spirit convicting his heart, the Scripture making him “wise unto salvation,” and God saving that person apart from any “empowered” individual?

  8. Here I find myself scrolling through this blog as part of a seminary assignment. It seems to me that Jonah was one of those preachers where the ‘power of the Gospel’ was evident and yet most would conclude that Jonah was not spiritually fit to preach this Gospel. The context of the book of Jonah reveals that God’s power was revealed in the message and not in the messenger – whose life at that time would have or should have disqualified him from that Ninevah assigment. Thank God for such mercy that allows God’s truths to be exhibited even through such preachers as Jonah.

  9. Sorry to jump in late. I’m inclined (in 1 Cor 2 at least) to see the power as an accoutrement of Paul’s preaching rather than a quality or result. That is, it was accompanied by the regenerating and illuminating work of the Spirit (vv. 14-15), so that the heart-changingly persuasive element (vv. 4-5) was not rhetoric, but regeneration.

    MAS

  10. I like the idea of accompaniment rather than result. I wasn’t entirely pleased with the word result when I used it, but I couldn’t think of any better. Good comment.

  11. I think we’re still talking past each other a bit. This understanding is still “subjective” in that the Spirit did not always work in such a manner when Paul preached. It was still exceptional. Again, you can say it was “outside” of Paul, and I’m fine with that…or at least still working through it. But there is still a display of power there which is not the norm and for which we should pray. Right?

    (Edit: perhaps I’m misusing the word “subjective” if I use it to describe something outside of the believer, as you guys are suggesting? Also, Paul seems to use the “demonstration of the Spirit and power” to describe his own ministry, not just the salvation of the Corinthians that accompanied it: “my speech (message) and my preaching.”)

    BTW, here’s the quick take of H. Harold Mare (Expositor’s Bible Commentary) on I Cor. 2:4:

    [H]e does not present his message in a way that depends on overpowering them with wise and persuasive arguments. Though he came in this unostentatious way, yet (alla) he came in a display of spiritual power because of the work of the Spirit.

  12. Chris,

    Fee raises the possibility that Paul is speaking of signs/miracles (esp. tongues) as the demonstration of the Spirit’s power. This is a real possibility. As far as this is the case, I would argue it is not something for which we should pray.

    At the same time, it would seem that there is today something powerfully experiential that happens when God chooses to attend our preaching with his regenerating and otherwise life-changing work. This is of course a subject for prayer. To this end Fee adds,

    “The danger always lies in letting the form and content get in the way of what should be the single concern: the gospel proclaimed through human weakness but accompanied by the powerful work of the Spirit so that lives are changed through a divine-human encounter. That is hard to teach in a course in homiletics, but it still stands as a true need in genuinely Christian preaching.”

    MAS

  13. Chris, (from a chicken, who hitherto, has never once flogged)

    Concerning the question you raised in this blog, let me say this:

    A right, balanced and Biblical conclusion is vital – so indulge my observations. I am bit perplexed about where the question exists on this point. Are there not Scriptural examples where the operative power of the Holy Spirit worked uniquely during preaching? Does this not teach us to pray “for the seasons of refreshing sent from the presence of the Lord”? Is this not what the history of Revivalism in America teaches? Remember Ian Murray’s accurate observation that the early Reformed American preachers were preaching exactly the same thing for 100 years before the preachers who witnessed the Great Awakening. To address the question of your blog, let me ask you a question. What was the difference in the effect among those that preached the same message before the great awakening and those after?

    Is the difference in the operative power of the message preached? EMPHATICALLY NO! The Gospel is always the power of God unto salvation. So, whenever the gospel is preached “accurately”, even if not preached in humility, its inherent power is not lost. Powerless preaching is a fact and there are many causes why the Spirit might be grieved or quenched in the act of preaching. But the message always and forever has the power to save in spite of such hindering human sins and limitations. We might ask then, why are there different responses to the preached gospel; ranging from the most violent resistance with no conversion to multiplied thousands being reached during a single extended message? The answer to that question (which I am making on a larger corporate level) would be answered in the same way if we were to apply the question on an individual level.

    In II Cor 2, Paul implies that the preached gospel is to some a “message of death unto death” and to some a “message of life unto life”. So the difference is certainly not in the message Peter comments that, to some, Christ is: “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which STUMBLE AT THE WORD, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”.

    So what would we identify, on the individual level, as the key to the gospel message actually affecting a change in the receptor and bringing forth fruit unto salvation? I would contend that the “powerful” display of the gospel (which your question is really measuring by its results) is determined by the sovereign operation of the Spirit. An operation, on the individual level, which is truly an inscrutable work of the Spirit (John 3:7-8). I would apply this reasoning exactly when we are blessed to see “results” of the power of the gospel on a larger level. What then differentiates preaching that lacks measurable results (i.e., “powerless preaching”) and preaching where we witness large measurable results. While we would not dismiss aspects of human responsibility to make ourselves “vessels fitted for the masters use”( and there is no doubt we can hinder the message), but the the thing the really differentiates the persuasive power of preaching (since it is the same gospel message) is the sovereign operation of the Spirit.

    So the answer to your question (“should we ask for a unique enabling of the Spirit or should we always expect it”) seems very clearly to me to be BOTH. Do we not pray for the Spirit to effect a power convincing the individual of his need to trust Christ? Why then would there be any question about praying that the Spirit would enable us with a special unction and use our preaching in an unusual way. Like many aspects of Biblical doctrine, the answer to such questions are really not exegetical and certainly not technical. They are answered by the analogy of faith which which compares all relevant Scriptures concluding in an accurate theology. When asking the appropriateness of expecting an unusual operation of the Spirit in preaching, a good Scriptural theology of the Spirit really (IMO) makes the question obvious. Here are just a few things to consider:

    1. That which attended and was very clearly linked with the advent of the Spirit in the new covenant was UNUSUAL power (Acts 2:16-21). It is vital to note, while recognizing the unprecedented and unique aspect of this particular visitation of the Spirit, that it took place in connection with the preaching of the gospel. It was the special operation of the Spirit (using certain phenomenal means) that was the key to convincing men to trust Christ. That is why the context ends with: “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). So the timeless lesson is, and good theology would conclude this, that the manifestations and exertions of the Spirit’s power is to convince men of Christ. Though the outward means are different, the fundamental motivation is the same. So spiritually powerful preaching is indivisible from the special operation of the Spirit. Interestingly, when the disciples waited for the “promise of the Spirit”, what they did was to pray!

    2. What does Acts 1:8 suggest is indivisibly tied to the proclamation of the gospel? The empowerment of the Spirit.

    Think of Romans 15:26 “Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

    I know your question is not “up in the air” on the necessity of the Spirit’s operation for real bonafide power – but on when and why we might expect it. The case I am making is that such powerful displays are in direct connection with the operation of the Spirit; and these truths, when accurately pieced together, argue for looking for and praying for the Spirit’s power in an exceptional way – – – as well as the constant trust in the inherent power of the message itself. These are not competing or mutually exclusive truths.

    3. The 2Cor 3:6 passage makes it clear that it is the operation of the Spirit who enables us to preach, not just knowing the content: “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.

    4. In I Peter 1:2, the entire Trinitarian work in the salvation of individual souls culminates by suggesting that a holy work of the Spirit is what eventuated in the “obedience of faith” that led to forgiveness.

    Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

    5. Does not the entire theology of the Spirit on the point of His enabling us and His historical anointings for special causes and purposes argue for such prayerful anticipation of His sovereign working. The fact is, like in many other areas of Christian living where we fail for lack of right relationship to the Spirit, we will fail in preaching if there is not dependence, prayer, and expectation for the Spirit to do far more through us than we are capable ourselves. Such special empowerment is need even when we are already indwelt with the Spirit and have got the gospel message down pat. – – – – – -This is, in brief, what I think a good Spirit theology teaches.

    So in “leaning away from the unique experience idea”, may I encourage you to not throw the baby out with the bath water and to take a lesson from two men greatly used of God.

    Spurgeon, it is said, walked every step up into the Metropolitan Tabernacle pulpit repeating over and over again ; “I believe in the power of the Spirit”.

    Dr. Bob Jr. wrote a poem with which I have been deeply impressed and have found to be totally true in my own personal pulpit experience. The comments to me by many other saints have also verified this. I copy if for your close attention because it came from a man that really understood the work of the Spirit in relationship to preaching. I also spent the time with this response because of how vitally important I think this matter is.

    “Not every day the preacher’s soul is fired
    But when the spark is there, foundations quake
    And mountains move. Then sinful hearts inspired
    By judgment fears, to penitence awake.
    Spirit anointed, most imperfect clay clay
    Becomes a golden vessel for God’s word
    Which, overflowing, heals and cleans away
    Black doubt and hindering fear. Then Christians stirred
    Know rushing mighty wind, baptizing fire.
    Speaks such a preacher with a prophet’s tone,
    By love consumed, revival his desire,
    Blessed beyond measure, pulpit then a throne.
    Give to this preacher now the heavenly pow’r
    My people wait. Make this the shining hour.”

    TNYE

  14. I read this article by Dr. Bauder and was provoked by the following paragraph:

    “The New Testament has nothing to say about any other anointing different from this one. God offers no special enduement, no separate unction, no second blessing. He gives us everything at the moment of our salvation. We may learn to take greater advantage of His gifts, but we never get more of them—we cannot, for He has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3). No Great Man has any more of the power of God than the humblest saint. If they have genuinely believed, then the Bible college freshman, the factory laborer, and the elderly widow all possess the power of God. They have the gospel, the Word, and the Spirit. They are the Lord’s anointed.”

    I asked a friend of mine about this. I was troubled by the idea of no special enduement or separate unction. I don’t believe in the idea of a “second blessing” as it is commonly expressed. However, as was pointed out to me, the same believers in Acts were filled multiple times.

    Before my pastor preaches, I ask the Lord to fill Him with the Spirit of God, to fill us with the Spirit of God – that he may preach and we may receive. I am asking for something outside the norm, as you say Chris. In other words, I am asking God to do something special that morning. I don’t see a problem with this.

  15. Jim,

    I hope all is going well in CA. You made the comment, “Before my pastor preaches, I ask the Lord to fill Him with the Spirit of God, to fill us with the Spirit of God – that he may preach and we may receive. I am asking for something outside the norm, as you say Chris. In other words, I am asking God to do something special that morning. I don’t see a problem with this.”

    I do not see any problem with praying that prayer, but what in that prayer is something that is not already possessed? I think that is Dr. Bauder’s point. We already have the Spirit and the power that accompanies Him. We simply need to take advantage of the spiritual blessings (power being one of them) that are already our’s in Him.

  16. I hesitate to comment here since I am not entirely sure what I believe. I think I am changing somewhat though.

    There are some who think that the “provision of the Spirit” in Phil 1:19 is a “fresh supply of the Spirit” (objective genitive, if my Greek serves me correctly). Perhaps they will defend that here. I used to be totally opposed to that view. When I first heard it, I was taken aback. (I just wanted to work “aback” into a sentence). Now, I must admit some interest in it. In fact, I probably lean more towards that view now than away from it, though I have not delved into this deeply. (Put it on my list.) It seems like that same principle would be in operation in preaching, witnessing, etc.

    It does seem that the various prayers for power, courage, etc. make little sense if it is something we already have and just need to summon it up somehow, whatever that means. It does seem like we are to be praying for something we do not have. (I guess I am parroting what was already said.)

    I don’t think that means we get “more” of the Spirit. We have all of him we will ever have. But there does seem to be an indication that we are praying for a special work of the Spirit somehow.

  17. Hello, Andrew.

    The first thing that came to my mind was the command to “Be filled with Spirit.” Why command believers to do something that has already been done? Was Paul commanding this as way to help us recognize that we need to realign ourselves to heavenly priorities; is there something supernatural that occurs when we pray for such a filling?

    Things are going well out here. I appreciate the opportunity to minister in a place where it takes a pioneering spirit to reach people with the Gospel. It’s a great privilege.

  18. Pastor Henderson,

    I suspect that Jim means “fill” in the sense of control or influence, as in Eph. 5:18. Along those same lines, Charles Bridges has a very helpful section in his book, The Christian Ministry, regarding the “Want of Ministerial Success.” Bridges lists several reasons but starts with the withholding of Divine influence. Here is a quote to give you a taste of where he is going with this idea:

    And must not we ask – What is wanting to give effect to that order of means, the power of which has been often exhibited, and which we know to be constituted in the purpose of God for the renovation of the world? Mr. Cecil has remarked – ‘There is a manifest want of spiritual influence in the Ministry of the present day.’ This remark sufficiently explains the symptoms of that barrenness which prevails among us. For not more needful are the influences of heaven to fertilize the soil, and promote vegetation, than is this heavenly influence to give quickening power o the word. In vain therefore do we plough and sow, if the Lord ‘command the clouds, that they rain no rain’ upon the field of the spiritual husbandry.

    So, I agree with Jim (if this is what he means) that we ought to pray for this. Lack of prayer could be one reason for the withholding of Divine influence (“power”), but Bridges lists several others – enmity of the natural heart, the power of Satan, local hindrances [i.e., issues peculiar to one’s local church ministry], want of a divine call, want of an entire devotedness of heart, conformity to the world, fear of man, want of self-denial, spirit of covetousness, neglect of retirement [i.e., personal time with God], the influence of spiritual pride, want of personal religion, defect of family religion, and want of faith. You don’t want to read these chapters if you are afraid of what Bridges calls “painful self-conviction.” :)

    I hope everything is going well for you down in Tampa. You would be very pleased with the state of the ministry at Grace right now. There is a great spirit among the people and a developing excitement for the work of the ministry.

  19. My initial post said that participants in previous conversations had failed to reach a consensus on the question of whether or not the Holy Spirit exceptionally empowers preachers at particular times. Obviously, this conversation is no different. That said, I’d at least like to tie up some loose ends and at least make sure we understand each other. So, though I may be the simplest of the participants, as the “host” I’ll try to clear some of the mud out of the water. Nothing is gained by talking past each other. Perhaps this will enable more good and profitable conversation. I’ve appreciated the interaction thus far.

    Based both on the comments and my knowledge of those who made them, I suggest that all of us hold some crucial things in common:

    * We are all opposed to the sort of “exhibitionism” which Dr. Bauder criticized in his article.

    * We all recognize the need for an unusual working of the Spirit of God for spiritual work to be accomplished, be it regenerating the lost or sanctifying the saved. We can’t do it. It doesn’t happen by itself. It’s not “normal,” but “exceptional.”

    * We all recognize that although we are commanded to be honorable vessels, the Spirit can overrule the speaker and use even a carnal messenger, be it Balaam, Balaam’s ass, Jonah, etc. God does as He chooses. Though we can study the Spirit, His ways are ultimately inscrutable (John 3:8). Scripture teaches that He works mightily in the hearts of men, and He does so at some times in ways that He doesn’t at other times, according to His sovereign will. That is undeniable.

    Where we differ is essentially over how we describe that working of the Spirit, and where we believe it takes place. Though different participants in this discussion hold these positions to varying degrees, I think there are essentially two basic theses:

    1. Some want to speak of a unique “enabling” of the Spirit, a subjective experience in which God uniquely blesses a man’s ministry and allows the Gospel to gain ground in an usual way as he preaches it. Again, we would all agree that this is often wrongly assumed to be the case when there has been ranting and raving: “pairful praichin’.” That’s exactly what Paul claimed not to be doing in I Corinthians 1-2; it’s the type of shenanigans that Dr. Bauder’s article particularly criticized. However, it is possible to hold to a sort of unique enabling at particular times without veering into the ditch of Pentecostalism or Fundamental exhibitionism.

    2. Others want to speak of the Spirit doing a miraculous work, but through normal human means—or at least the normal exercise of spiritual gifts. They aren’t denying the need for a supernatural work of the Spirit. However, they would say that such a work takes place apart from the preacher. God works in an unusually powerful way at times, but it should not be attributed to a powerful preacher or powerful message. The evidence of such a work is in the salvation of souls, not some sense of liberty in the pulpit. God certainly displays His power in the heart of the hearer, but it would be inaccurate to describe that display of power as something growing out of the messenger’s experience.

    I think this is an important matter. An abuse in either direction leads to disaster: a “second blessing” position that leads all men to yearn for a special zap which only “the man of Gawd” appears to have on one hand, and a scholastic deadness—a “mere mechanical process”—on the other.

    However, I don’t think anyone has strayed into those two opposing ditches in this discussion. No one is calling for a pseudo-charismatic experience; neither is anyone calling for dead orthodoxy. We need the life-giving power of the Spirit. Without it, our efforts are worse than useless. We all see that. And I think we all recognize the need to earnestly pray for that. So we’re not on different continents regarding the essentials—just different zip codes.

    Does that unique display of power take place in the preacher or the hearer? Or both? There’s the rub.

    Is that a reasonably accurate representation of the various positions?

  20. Todd…er, Todd Samuel,

    That didn’t hurt a bit, did it? Welcome! :)

  21. Andy, I agree with what you wrote. You’re not misrepresenting anything I tried to communicate.

    Chris, I think you’ve done a good job at summing up the two perspectives. Your last question is an interesting one. I would think we all need a unique display of God’s power when the Word is preached. Both preacher and hearer receive the command to be filled/controlled by the Spirit.

    Galatians 5 talks about being led by the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. Both preacher and hearer would need to do so. I don’t think you can disconnect the filling of the Spirit from a unique display of power taking place when the Word is preached.

    God has revealed in His sovereignty that man call upon Him for an enduing of His power. God empowers the man who asks for it. The different zip codes may be the theological grid that we run biblical concepts through.

  22. Thanks, Jim.

    Two quick observations:

    First, in the context of I Cor. 1-2, it’s not possible for the hearers to be filled with the Spirit since they were lost at the time they heard the message. I’d agree with the need for a believing hearer to be Spirit-filled, of course. I’m not sure if I’d equate the type of “empowering” we’re discussing with filling, though. I’ll have to think on it.

    Second, I’m not sure that theological positions (e.g. reformed vs. non-reformed) is the issue. Don’s soteriology is not reformed, but he seems to agree with Mark & Dan, whose soteriology is definitely reformed. Larry is leaning toward the empowerment side, but he’s reformed. Etc., etc. I’d say they’re separate issues.

  23. Yeah, my theology was perfect from the beginning, didn’t need any reformation… !!! Just kidding!!

    Interesting discussions, I have been away all day working on a little renovation project. Another thought occurred to me on this puzzle as I read through the comments.

    I often wonder why people for whom I know a message has direct application can sit there unfazed and unmoved. It is like the Lord gave you a two by four and you have been pounding it between their eyes for the last 45 minutes or so and… nothing. How does that work? On the other hand, I have a few people who are moved and respond to almost every message. They are the really sensitive, devoted, and godly people in the congregation. They are the ones that tell me how the Lord used my lead balloon to bless their hearts, or to change their thinking about something, etc.

    So, could it be that we are talking about a dynamic relationship — there are things that the preacher contributes to the power of the preaching or the lack of it, there are things that the hearer contributes, and there are things that the Holy Spirit and the Word always contribute to one degree or another, according to God’s will?

    Or is my theology showing??

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  24. I didn’t think there were enough “Marks” participating :)

    Regarding praying for a “filling of the Spirit”, etc… Would it be more appropriate to pray that we not “quench or grieve the Spirit” ? (I Thess. 5:19, Eph. 4:30)

  25. Look at all the “impacting” going on! :)

  26. Good morning, Andy. Thank you for the update on Grace of Dacula. We love you guys and miss all of you a lot. I was just talking to a pastor the other day who told me about a church hat he had started and pastored for years. When he left to start another work, the new pastor had completely destroyed he church within two years time. That church is no longer in existence. I am so thankful for Pastor Wood and the leadership there.

    I have no problem at all with what you wrote (as I am sure that you already know). Dr. Bauder’s article seemed to indicate that this power from God was only for “the few”, which is something that I do not see in Scripture. Paul prayed in Ephesians 1 that the Ephesian Christians would be able to comprehend (among other things) the greatness of God’s power that is available to all of those who believe (v. 19).

    That being said, I also understand that the filling of the Spirit plays an unbelievably important part in all of this. And I also pray that God would powerfully work in the midst of our people.

    Have a wonderful day.

  27. Now that we’ve been having this conversation, I’ve begun to notice how George Whitefield used this terminology in his journals. Here are some excerpts from 1739, during which time Whitefield routinely preached to multiple thousands of people almost every day:

    Saturday, April 14. God was with us of a truth. As soon as I had done, I hastened to Gloucester, and preache in the Booth Hall to, I believe, near 5,000 people. Extraordinary power God was pleased to give me. God will work, and who can hinder?

    The next day he writes, “Oh that I could plead the cause of my Lord and King, even Jesus Christ, with greater power!”

    Then on April 16, he writes, “Preached with an extraordinary presence of God among us at my brother’s field about ten in the morning.”

    But the quote I think we will all find most amusing is this one from April 17th:

    At the first, I found myself quite shut up – my heart and head were dead as a stone, but when I came to the inn, my soul began to be enlarged. I felt a freedom in my spirit, and was enabled to preach with power to near two thousand people. Many were convicted. One was drowned in tears, because she had said I was crazy; and some were so filled with the Holy Ghost that they were almost unable to support themselves under it. This I know, is foolishness to the natural and letter-learned men, but I write this for the comfort of God’s children.They know what these things mean.

  28. Chris,

    I understand what you are saying and have no qualms with it. I guess I was thinking about the paragraph Dr. Bauder wrote (the one I cited above) and not necessarily the context of 1 Cor 1-2. Also, I do think that one’s theology may have some bearing upon our discussion here. Perhaps as it relates to the sovereignty of God and not necessarily soteriology?? I don’t know …just thinking.

  29. What a timely find, Andy. Don’t you love stumbling across just the right quote at just the right time? Interesting.

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