We obtain the fullness of power that God has provided for us in Christ to the same extent that we understand and claim the Holy Spirit’s work for ourselves. Many in the church claim for themselves only a small part of what God has made possible for them in Christ because they know so little of what the Holy Spirit can do—and longs to do—for us. To find out what the Holy Spirit has the power to do, study the Word of God.
We will not go far before we discover that the same work that we see ascribed in one place to the power of the Word is in other places credited to the Holy Spirit. The explanation of this is simple. The Word of God is the instrument through which the Holy Spirit does His work. The Word of God is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17).
The Word of God is also the seed the Spirit sows and quickens (see Luke 8:11 and 1 Peter 1:23). The Word of God is the instrument of all the varied operations of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if we wish the Holy Spirit to do His work in our hearts, we must study the Word. If we wish Him to do His work in the hearts of others, we must give them the Word.
The Sword of the Spirit
The Word will not do the work alone. The Spirit Himself must use the Word because when He uses His own sword, its real strength, keenness and power are manifested. God’s work is accomplished by the Spirit through the Word.
The secret of effective Christian living is knowing the power of the Spirit through the Word. The secret of effective Christian service is using the Word in the power of the Spirit.
Some believers magnify the Spirit but neglect the Word. This will not do because fanaticism and groundless enthusiasm are the result. Others seek to magnify the Word but largely ignore the Spirit. This will not do either. It leads to dead orthodoxy and to truth without life and power. The true course is to recognize both the instrumental power of the Word through which the Holy Spirit works and the living, personal power of the Holy Spirit who acts through the Word.
The Spirit Reveals Christ
You can send men to the Word to get knowledge of Christ, but it is only through the Holy Spirit’s illumination of the Word that men can get a real, living knowledge of Christ. “No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Corinthians 12:3).For men to get a true knowledge of Jesus Christ so that they will believe in Him and be saved, seek the testimony of the Holy Spirit for them. Neither your testimony nor that of the Word alone will suffice, though it is your testimony or that of the Word that the Spirit uses.
The Indwelling Spirit
The Holy Spirit dwells in everyone who belongs to Christ (Romans 8:9). We may not have surrendered our lives utterly to this indwelling Spirit, we may be very far from being full of the Spirit, and we may be very imperfect Christians. But if we have been born again, the Spirit dwells in us.
What a glorious thought it is that the Holy Spirit dwells in me! But it is also a very solemn thought as well. If my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), I certainly should not defile it, as many professed Christians do. Bearing in mind that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit would solve many problems that perplex young Christians.
The True Christian Life
Romans 8 gives us a picture of the true Christian life. This life is possible, and God expects it from each one of us.
The flesh is still in us, but we are not in the flesh (Romans 8:9, 12-13). It is our privilege, in the Spirit’s power, to have daily, hourly and constant victory over the flesh and over sin. But the victory is not in ourselves, not in any strength of our own. Left to ourselves, deserted by the Spirit of God, we would be as helpless as ever. It is all in the Spirit’s power. If we try to take one step in our own strength, we will fail.
Has the Holy Spirit set you “free from the law of sin and death”? (Romans 8:2). Will you let Him do it now? Simply give up all self-effort to stop sinning. Believe in the divine power of the Holy Spirit to set you free, and give yourself to Him to do it. He will not fail you. Then you can triumphantly cry with Paul, “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
The Spirit Gives Christlikeness
An exceedingly important thought about the Holy Spirit’s power is found in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
The Holy Spirit brings forth Christlike graces of character in the believer (Romans 14:17; 15:13; 5:5). All real beauty of character–all real Christlikeness in us–is the Holy Spirit’s work. It is His “fruit.” He bears it, not us.
It is a beautiful life that is set forth in these verses. Every word is worthy of earnest study and profound meditation: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. The Christ-life is the life we long for.
If you desire these graces in your character and in your life, renounce yourself and all your attempts at holiness. Then let the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you, take full control and bear His own glorious fruit.
Emptying and Filling
Only when we put away our own righteousness will we find the righteousness of God (Philippians 3:4-9; Romans 10:3). Only when we put away our own wisdom will we find the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 3:18; Matthew 11:25; 1 Corinthians 1:25-28). And only when we put away our own strength will we find the strength of God (Isaiah 40:29; 2 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Corinthians 1:27-28).
Emptying must precede filling. Self must be poured out so that Christ may be poured in. We must be taught daily by the Holy Spirit to understand the Word of God. I cannot depend today on the fact that the Spirit taught me yesterday. Each new contact with the Word must be in the power of the Spirit. That the Holy Spirit once illumined our minds to grasp a certain passage is not enough. He must do so each time we confront that passage.
The Christian life is not to be lived in the realm of natural temperament but in the realm of the Spirit. And Christian work is not to be done in the power of natural endowment but in the power of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit eagerly desires to do His whole work for each of us. He will do for us everything we will let Him do.
R. A. Torrey (1856-1928) was an evangelist, teacher and author, as well as the first dean of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.