The power of the Holy Spirit – What is it?
Power is defined as 1) the ability to act effectively and 2) the capacity to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. These two definitions accurately describe the power of the Holy Spirit. Because the power of the Holy Spirit is literally the power of God, the ability to act and influence is infinite, unlimited, and eternal. In this way, the power of the Holy Spirit is different from any other kind of power.
The Spirit's power was first seen acting effectively in the act of creation, for it was by His power the world came into being (Genesis 1:1–2; Job 26:13). Not only was the Spirit's power effective, it was more effective than anything known before or since. The power in creation was unique in that it produced everything from nothing. This raw, incomparable power could only belong to God, the Creator. The Spirit's creative power is seen in His creating new life in believers, producing spiritually alive beings out of those who were once dead in sin (John 3:6; Ephesians 2:1–2; Titus 3:5). To this day, the salvation of souls is a supernatural work only made possible by the Holy Spirit's power as He turns men from darkness to light.
The power to influence the behavior of others and the course of events is seen throughout the Bible as the Holy Spirit empowered men to bring about God's will and foreordained plans. The Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power, enabling him to do wonderful things, sometimes under great hardship and persecution (1 Samuel 16:13). Although the Spirit did not permanently indwell God's people in the Old Testament, He worked through them and gave them power to achieve things they would not have been able to accomplish on their own. All of Samson's feats of strength, for example, are directly attributed to the Spirit coming upon him (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14).
The power of the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples of Christ to turn the world upside down with the powerful preaching of the gospel. They could not have accomplished this in their own power. Jesus promised that the Spirit would come, live within them, and empower them in a miraculous way. "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The disciples, who had been in hiding from the Romans after the crucifixion, became filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit's power was made manifest to a great number of people that day, resulting in the conversion of about 3,000 (Acts 2:41). The day of Pentecost was the beginning of the indwelling power of the Spirit living within those He saves (John 14:17; Acts 2:1–4).
Stephen, the martyr, is a perfect example of the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit. Stephen was filled with faith and the power of the Spirit (Acts 6:5, 8) and did many wonders and signs before the people, who were unable to resist the power of the Spirit in him (Acts 6:10). When he was falsely accused and put to death, the same power enabled Stephen to die with faith and glorify God to the end (Acts 7:55–56).
The Apostle Paul gave all the credit and glory to the Spirit, whose power enabled his message to pierce the hearts of sinful men and bring them to salvation. He knew it was not his apologetics, hermeneutics, or persuasive ability that brought people to Christ: "My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:4–5).
The power of the Holy Spirit to influence people and change the course of events is also seen in the early church through the dispensation of the spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, teaching, wisdom, and more (1 Corinthians 12:7–11). The Holy Spirit still works in the world today, accomplishing God's will through believers. His power leads us, convicts us, teaches us, and equips us to do His work and spread the gospel. He also works in unbelievers who are not able to resist His power to bring about God's plans and purposes.