Treasures From the Original

Are You Seeking Spiritual Power in the Wrong Places?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Don't be ashamed to rely on God's power, even when the world, or even other Christians, ridicule you for doing so.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Don't be ashamed to rely on God's power, even when the world, or even other Christians, ridicule you for doing so.

"For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power..." (Colossians 1:9-11)

In these early verses of his epistle to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul speaks of spiritual power in the life of the believer. We note, first of all, that he says that it is God's power - not ours, and not this world's. Believers are to be "strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power." Because genuine spiritual power is God's power, it is infinite, sovereign power. God makes it available to Christians and to churches according to His perfect knowledge of our need. His power operates not for fleshly interests, but for His glory and our greatest good.

Secondly, spiritual power is intimately connected with the glory of God. In the original, the phrase "His glorious power" is more literally "the power of His glory," or "the power of the glory of Him." The connection is that direct.

Dunamis and Kratos

Paul also speaks to believers about the magnitude of spiritual power. He uses two words for power in verse eleven. In the phrase "strengthened with all might" he twice uses the Greek word dunamis - a word signifying inherent power. In the phrase "according to His glorious power" he uses the word kratos - a word signifying demonstrated power.

Paul uses these two words advisedly. The pagans among whom the Colossians lived used dunamis to ascribe power to their deities. Their worship of these deities was a way of appropriating the power, the dunamis, that they allegedly possessed. The pagans used kratos to describe the power of the Roman Empire, and of the emperor himself, who demanded worship as a god. Yes, the pagan deities had dunamis - the inherent power of the devil. And yes, the Roman Empire had kratos - the demonstration of the power of the "prince of the power of the air" operating through the rulers of this world-system.

But Paul is saying this to the Colossian believers: You have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness. Never seek after those kinds of power. My prayer is that you will seek after genuine spiritual power - the true dunamis, which operates in accordance with the true kratos, the demonstrated power of God. As we look a few verses further on in Colossians chapter one, we see the magnitude of that demonstrated power: It is the same power that created and sustains the universe. It is the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. It is the same power that will raise believers from the dead when Jesus comes again and brings God's eternal plan to its glorious consummation.

Seek that kind of spiritual power, Paul says, not the spiritual power of this world.

Seeking Power in the Wrong Places

Today, many Christians have a faulty view of spiritual power, and fall into fleshly traps without even consciously thinking about it.

There is nothing wrong with a big building, but some churches fall into the trap of seeing inherent power in an impressive facility rather than in the Gospel of Christ, which "is the power (dunamis) of God unto salvation for everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).

There is nothing wrong with numerical growth if it is a Spirit-wrought response to the sound preaching of the Word, but some churches fall into the trap of seeing inherent power in large numbers, even if it means sacrificing Biblical truth to achieve them.

Some churches see inherent power in the outward trappings of formalism in worship - or, more often these days, man-centered informalism - rather than bowing the heart in simple but respectful reverence before the sinless Christ who possesses all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18).

In the thinking of many churches today, and in the thinking of many individual Christians, there is no broken-hearted seeking after the power of the Holy Spirit. There is primarily a seeking after "the lust of the flesh" - things that appeal to the senses - "the lust of the eyes" - things that deceive by appearances - and "the pride of life" - things that feed human self-importance.

Don't Be Ashamed to Rely on God's Power

Here are the reasons the Bible says we need spiritual power: We have no power of our own, and we will not find it in the world. Our flesh is inherently weak and sinful. The world is inherently blind to spiritual truth.

Scripture constantly makes the distinction between that which is of the flesh, and that which is of the Spirit; that which is of this world, and that which is of Christ. We are to walk not after the flesh, not after this world, but after the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26, 1 Corinthians 1-2). Earlier in Colossians chapter one, Paul has reminded the church that the One who has made it possible for believers to have spiritual power, and to have wisdom that is far superior to this world's wisdom, is Jesus Christ.

If you are a Christian today, you need to recognize the total weakness and condemnation of your flesh. You need to recognize the worthlessness of the things this world values. You need spiritual power and strength from God because you have absolutely no strength and power of your own to live the Christian life. And for the same reason, the body of Christ must nurture and maintain the vital connection with its Head.

Don't seek spiritual power in the wrong places. Don't be ashamed to rely on God's power, even when the world, or even other Christians, ridicule you for doing so. The early church at Corinth embraced this kind of wrong thinking, just as many Christians do today. Paul set them straight by writing this: "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty...that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God - and righteousness and sanctification and redemption - that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD."

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