And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God…. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. (1 Cor. 2:1-5; 4:20)
As always, let’s be clear about what each passage means when it mentions “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Understanding a correct interpretation forces one to admit that a “demonstration of Spirit” and a “demonstration of power” are not the same thing, though complementary.
THIS IS HELPFUL:
- For combating inaccurate charismatic doctrine about signs and wonders and the filling of the Holy Ghost.
- Because, it reveals one can have a demonstration of the Spirit without having a breakthrough in spiritual realms for the illumination of the hearer(s).
- For safe-guarding people we are teaching from the kind of misunderstanding one can have about what it means to see God’s power accompany our preaching, teaching, or discipleship. Power cannot, must not, and does not mean one’s brash and harsh brand of “boldness” when teaching and/or preaching. It does not mean, “to blast” as in dynamite — a misrepresentation of THE FIRST KIND OF POWER mentioned below.
- Because: in 2 Thess. 2 — the Bible states that Anti-Christ will do many signs and wonders… or give demonstrations of power. BUT, what he will not and cannot give is a demonstration of the Spirit of Christ. Of course, that is because he will work by satan–lies, deceit, pride, vainglory, subjugation, etc.)
Where a passage mentions both “demonstration of the Spirit” and “power,” we must not conclude that these are equivalent. Observe the “and” which separates “demonstration of Spirit” from “power,” making them non-equivalents in this case. A demonstration of the Spirit is a reference to the Spirit-borne attitudes of the Apostle while preaching/teaching/discipling. Yes, he must be filled for that, and the result is powerful. A demonstration of power is a reference to the illumination given and/or signs and wonders done in accompaniment to a simple telling the Gospel. And, none of these things can happen without asking for them (in the case of illumination) or yielding to Him (in the case of showing the mark of being Spirit-filled, agape Love). All of these things lead the hearers of God’s Word to believe. Namely, a demonstration of the Spirit is most likely a display by the Apostle of the Spirit’s fruit, being agape love in one or many of its aspects (e.g. joy, patience, goodness, gentleness, meekness, temperance, peace). Often times, the exact fruit of the Spirit is named later in the context of the passage.
Consequently, a demonstration of power (dumanis) would be either physical miracles and/or illumination to truth/Gospel. Please see below, the description of the SECOND and THIRD KIND OF POWER, because they both relate to dunamis. So, it is imperative to note that when Jesus was promising the Disciples power in Acts 1:8 and Luke 24:49, he was speaking of power to do miracles which accompany the Gospel witness. This is borne out in the entirety of Acts, as the men did perform signs and wonders which accompanied their new-found ability to proclaim the wisdom of God in the Gospel, because they themselves had been illumined.
BUT, all in all, when Christ was promising them power, I believe He meant all 3 of these forms of power because they are what He had (Luke 4:36)–to be effective and bold in the face of opposition, to be channels of illumination, and to perform miracles to accompany the Gospel. One can demonstrate the Spirit but not have a demonstration of power (i.e. signs and wonders, or even illumination/anointing).
THE FIRST KIND OF POWER (exousia) — Authority: Since Christ has all authority in Heaven and in earth, and since He is always with and in His disciples by means of the Spirit, then the believer carries with him the authority of Christ. This authority should not be seen as “the right to rule over people,” but rather, it is an authority over dark and evil spirits (and persons influenced by such or just plain opposed to the Gospel) as they seek to discourage the work/Word of the Gospel. (Matthew 29:18 ff; Book of Ephesians) This is the sort of power must be well understood and lived under in order to cast out demons and also to speak the truth unashamedly in the face of opposition OR to suffer for the Gospel’s sake (Mic 3:8; Acts 6:5, 10; 2 Tim 1:7,8). It is also needed for the Word to have “free course” and so, should be our prayer (1 Thess. 1:5).
THE SECOND KIND OF POWER (dunamis) — Illumination: The convincing done by the Spirit happens through illumination–when the truths of the Gospel are made profoundly impacting (able to defeat specific satanic/worldly lies one has embraced and instill faith in the Word, hope of salvation, and love for Jesus). And so, illumination brings an effect which stands in contradistinction to the wisdom of mankind: belief via the foolishness of preaching. It is the sort of power at work in the individual heart to “clear the way” so the sinner can “hear” the gospel. It is also the “opening” of the heart (Acts 16:14). This is the sort of power needed to “make the Gospel effective” (1 Cor. 2:4; 2 Th 3:1-3).
Though this power is supernatural, and though it stands in contradistinction to the wisdom of man, illumination does not happen apart from the speaker’s God-given wisdom, or skill for navigating life which the Spirit of Christ gives (Proverbs 11:30; Is. 42:3; Matt. 12:20; Acts 6:10). In fact, such a wisdom and Christ-like attitude is absolutely necessary. [i.e. if one has no experiential understanding of salvation and/or compassion for the causes of a sinner’s doubt, hopelessness and lack of love; if he does not identify with the sinner’s blindness; and if the speaker does not share with the lost in the miseries of life in a fallen world, then he cannot possibly be used to illumine someone to the faith, hope, and love of the Gospel. He has not been influenced (filled) by the Spirit of Christ.] When one is consistently influenced (filled, Acts 4:8, 31; 13:9, 52; Eph. 5:18) by the attitudes of Christ [filled with the Spirit], then he is “full” (πλήρης) of the Holy Ghost (Act 6:3).
Admittedly, this power is the result of Christ’s Authority (described above) and deputized upon members of His Church. Without His having authority in spiritual realms, the Gospel of Christ would have no chance of illumining anyone under the blinding of Satan.
THE THIRD KIND OF POWER (alternate usage of dunamis) — Performance of Miracles to Accompany a Gospel Witness: Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8; Romans 15:19. As Strong indicates, this is: force (literally or figuratively); specifically miraculous power (usually by implication a miracle itself): – ability, abundance, meaning, might (-ily, -y, -y deed), (worker of) miracle (-s), power, strength, violence, mighty (wonderful) work. [From Thayer’s definition, 1b we gather dunamis is “power for performing miracles”; From Louw-Nida’s definition “e”: supernatural powers]
Bibliography of Online Lexicon Resources: