“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach.” Isa. 61:1.
One Sabbath in Nazareth, Jesus read and applied this prophecy to His preaching of the gospel. (Luke 4:18.) By doing so He gave the Holy Spirit His divinely appointed place in gospel ministry.
Effective preaching of the gospel is impossible without the manifestation of the Spirit of power. Preaching, unaccompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit, is only wasted effort. The objectives of the gospel of Christ are such as require supernatural effort to attain. No mortal man has the power within himself to convert a sinner or to transform a character. No amount of moral teaching can regenerate a depraved life and cause it to reflect the true characteristics of Christ without the power of the Holy Spirit.
Before any preacher of the gospel can hope to have success in soul winning, he must learn to give the Holy Spirit His rightful place in preaching. The ministry of the Holy Spirit in preaching is clearly pointed out in Scripture. Christ made it plain to His disciples that before they went to preach they were to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:49.)
The promise of the Father was made good through His Son Jesus Christ. The moment of Christ’s glorification marked the beginning of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power in the lives and witness of Christ’s followers. The moment that Christ’s sacrifice for sin was accepted in heaven, He immediately fulfilled His promise by asking the Father for the Holy Spirit on behalf of the waiting disciples in Jerusalem.
The story of the happenings both in heaven and on earth, when Christ asked His Father for the Comforter, is recorded in Acts 2. The day of Pentecost had reached the third hour when “suddenly there came a sound from heaven.” In heaven Jesus had been exalted by the right hand of God. He prayed the Father for the gift of the Comforter, and now “having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost,” He shed forth the power which was manifested that, day. Acts 2 :33.
Immediately ,Peter rose up to preach. Signs and miracles happened, and the people “were pricked in their heart.” Acts 2 :37. About three thousand souls were added to the believers that day.
Here we have in direct focus, in one event in history, the inauguration of the gospel commission in the name of Jesus. The pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the evidence upon earth that the sacrifice of Christ had been accepted in heaven. It was also the signal to the disciples in Jerusalem to begin preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, it was the beginning of the perpetual outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the believers in the generations to follow. (Acts 2:39.)
When the time came for the gospel to be carried to the Gentiles (in Acts 2 :5 only the Jews from “every nation” were represented), the Holy Spirit, manifested at Antioch, commissioned Saul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2) to preach to the Gentiles. The church at Jerusalem had by this time been instructed through Peter that the gospel of salvation was for the Gentiles also. (Acts II :18.) Paul, the leading apostle to the Gentiles, is careful to give the Holy Spirit His rightful place in preaching. Linking up directly with Christ’s ascension to heaven, Paul admits:
“Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. . . . When He ascended, He . . . gave gifts unto men. . . . And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers ; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.” Eph. 4:7, 8, 11, 12
With Paul, preaching was not merely speaking “enticing words of man’s wisdom,’ but it consisted in “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” (1 Cor. 2:4, 5.) “The preaching of the cross,” while it seemed foolishness to some, the same as today, became “the power of God” to those who believed. (1 Cor. I:i8.) The “illogical” message of the incarnate Son of God who made atonement for sin, accepted by faith, is sufficiently powerful to regenerate life and transform wicked characters, but only through the workings of the Holy Spirit.
This was a difficult lesson for Paul to learn. He had a high education according to the worldly standard of his day. He was a master of words and logic. But when God called him to preach Christ and Him crucified, Paul’s logic failed, and he had to take time off to discover new words with which to clothe the revealed message of the Son of God. Paul had to divest himself completely of his own learning and ambition. He had to give up all selfish plans and fully surrender to the will of God, whose servant he was.
Moreover, Paul spent several years in isolation and restudy of the Scriptures, with prayer and searching of heart. Taught and guided by the Holy Spirit, the message of the cross became a living reality in his experience. He became “an ambassador in bonds.” (Eph. 6:20.) Throughout his long and fruitful ministry he not only continually maintained a life of “prayer and supplication in the spirit,” but solicited the prayers of the saints on his behalf that he might open his mouth “boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” (Eph. 6: 18, 19.) The ministry of the Holy Spirit has always been manifest in true gospel preaching.
“Divine power alone will melt the sinner’s heart, and bring him, a penitent, to Christ. No great reformer or teacher, not Luther, Melanchthon, Wesley, or White-field, could of himself have gained access to hearts, or have accomplished the results that these men achieved. But God spoke through them. Men felt the influence of a superior power and involuntarily yielded to it.” —Gospel Workers, PP. 34, 35.
This power is the Holy Spirit manifested in preaching. This is the power that is needed now. The Spirit manifests His power in various ways in and through the living preacher. A brief study of some ways this power is shown will impress upon the minister’s heart the importance of Spirit-filled preaching.
“The Holy Spirit must be the living agency to convince of sin. The divine agent presents to the speaker the benefits of the sacrifice made upon the cross; and as the truth is brought in contact with the souls present, Christ wins them to Himself, and works to transform their nature.”—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 144.
Ways Spirit’s Power Is Manifest
1. First of all the Holy Spirit chooses whom He will have as His public representative. When the time came for the gospel to be preached to the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit separated Barnabas and Saul for the work to which the Lord had called them. (Acts 13: I, 2.)
The church at Antioch, now the home base for the gospel ministry, was used of God to select and send forth the apostles to the Gentile world. This work has never been taken from the church. God has designed that the body of believers should recognize men and women when they are called of the Lord for a special work, and then at the opportune time send them forth to preach the gospel. It is through the church that the final commission to preach the gospel is communicated by the Holy Spirit. First the Spirit prepares the life of the one who is to be the Lord’s messenger. Then the individual discovers the call of God through the ministry of the Spirit, and finally the Spirit authorizes the church to give the commission and send the preacher on his mission.
This work cannot always be accomplished in a short time, or even in the same way all the time. The calls of Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter, Paul, and all the great preachers after them present a great diversity of procedure on the part of the Holy Spirit and the individuals themselves, as well as the community of believers. It is, therefore, always necessary for both the one called and the ones giving the commission to ascertain the leading of the Holy Spirit in each individual case. There is no such thing as a uniform pattern to be followed in the call to the gospel ministry. Only the divine Spirit can produce and reveal the necessary evidence for the Lord’s approbation of any call to preach the gospel. When this evidence is lacking, the church should take sufficient time to discover the will of God through the ministry of the Spirit.
2. The Holy Spirit does what the preacher, left to himself, cannot do—works the miracles of grace. Rightly understood, there remains little that the preacher can boast of as accomplished by himself, when a genuine work of regeneration has taken place in sinful lives. It is purely by the grace of God that anyone is privileged to engage in gospel ministry. Any success in preaching must therefore be attributed to the glory of God. This is how the apostle Paul regarded his success:
“I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed. Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God ; . . I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” Rom. 5:7-19.
By the time Paul finished recounting the “mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God,” there was nothing else left to talk about. The great preacher continues to grow in our estimation, because the more closely we follow his report, the nearer we enter into the presence of Christ and the further Paul recedes into the background. It is quite the opposite many times today when a “successful” preacher often leaves one guessing just where God and the Holy Spirit fit into the picture. Before the Holy Spirit’s power can be manifested as in apostolic days the modern minister must become morally capable of enduring apostolic success. He must learn to attribute his success to the Holy Spirit, who works not to glorify man but to glorify God.
“To-day those who forget self and rely on God for success in the work of soul-saving, will have the divine cooperation, and their efforts will tell gloriously in the salvation of souls.”—Gospel Workers, p. 35.
1. The Holy Spirit reveals the mind of God. Again Paul’s experience as a preacher of the gospel can be drawn upon as an example of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the lives of God’s messengers. Paul had many sources of knowledge to draw from, tradition, philosophy, religious history, languages, and so forth. He might have applied this great wealth of learning to-the preaching of the gospel and achieved a praiseworthy record. But when he was confronted by the Saviour of the world, he discovered that his learning was not sufficient either to grasp or explain the “wisdom of God in a mystery,” that the “princes of this world” did not have the slightest conception of what was involved in the great plan of salvation, “for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
“As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. . . . Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” 1 Cor. 2:9-10.
The main purpose of preaching is to reveal the mind of God to the sinner. How then can a minister accomplish this work without knowing the mind of God? And how can he discover the mind of God without the Holy Spirit to reveal the things of God?
2. Here the next manifestation of the Spirit’s ministry in preaching appears. God has revealed His mind to the Holy Spirit, who in turn revealed Himself to His servants : “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1 :21. The Holy Spirit revealed the mind of God to Jesus. The Spirit of the Lord that was upon Christ and anointed Him to preach, awakened Him “morning by morning” and taught Him as a disciple. (Isa. 50 :4.) God therefore revealed His mind to both the prophets and His Son Jesus Christ. (Heb. I :1, 2.) This revelation is contained in the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit, who inspired the Scriptures, has now been promised to the Christian to reach and reveal the meaning of God’s Word.
“The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto yon.” “The Spirit of truth . . . will guide you into all truth.” John 14:26; 16:13.
As the gospel minister applies himself diligently, with prayer and heartsearching to the study of the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will be his Teacher. Bright flashes of truth will come from the Scriptures and illuminate the mind and life of the student. The Word of God. is reborn in the life of the preacher by the Spirit. A new zeal will possess the soul, and a new utterance will be given to the truth. The experience of Jeremiah will be repeated. Men who have been failures in preaching and have perhaps determined in their hearts, as did Jeremiah, not to preach again, will, through a new infilling of the Holy Spirit, as they apply themselves diligently to the study of the Word, be constrained to make known the will of God with unquenchable zeal. (jer. 20:9.)
“Many ministers do not put their minds to the task of studying the deep things of God. If these would have power in their service, obtaining an experience that will enable them to help others, they must overcome their indolent habits of thought. Let ministers put the whole heart into the task of searching the Scriptures, and a new power will come to them. A divine element unites with human effort when the soul reaches out after God.”–Ibid., pp. 98, 99.
“Through the grace of Christ, God’s ministers are made messengers of light and blessing. As by earnest, persevering prayer they obtain the endowment of the Holy Spirit, and go forth weighted with the burden of soul-saving, their hearts filled with zeal to extend the triumphs of the cross, they will see fruit of their labors.” —Acts of the Apostles, p. 278.
Article First Appeared Here. The author is President of the Canadian Union Conference