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Receiving The Power

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  • Receiving The Power

    There can be many arguments about the various actions of the Holy Spirit, particularly regarding Baptism (both with water and with the Holy Spirit). The book Receiving The Power by Zeb Bradford Long and Douglas McMurry helps to clarify some of this. Long and McMurry are Presbyterian Charismatics and the book was recommended to me by a Messianic Jew !

    Their thesis is that there are two distinctive ways in which the Holy Spirit acts and these are often confused, not the least because the same phrases are used in scripture regarding them. These two ways are referred to by Long & McMurray as ‘the Spirit upon’ and ‘the Spirit within’

    There are two major motifs in scripture…that reflect two different operations of the Holy Spirit. One motif has the Spirit coming “upon” people for power in ministry. A second has the Spirit coming “within” people for salvation and to develop in them skill, wisdom, godly character and maturity in faith and love. Both motifs are equally important and equally biblical.
    Thus there is an external and internal work of the Spirit. This is true both for the Old Testament and the New.

    The external work corresponds to the charismatic gifts of the Spirit which are given for work of ministry. Examples of the ‘Spirit upon’ from the Old Testament are for example 2Chr 15:1-2 (for prophecy), 1Sam 19:23-24 (ecstatic praise of God), Ez 1:3-4 (for visions).

    The internal work corresponds to the sanctifying gifts of the Spirit, as well as practical gifts. Examples from the Old Testament are Gen 41:38-39 (wisdom), Ex 31:1-5 (knowledge and craftsmanship).

    Long & McMurry use the imagery of a tree where, in the external work, the Spirit gives gifts like those on a Christmas tree, which can be added or removed. They are given for ministry and for the building up of the Church. The internal work is more like the sap permeating the tree giving it life and producing fruit that comes from within. Thus the internal work helps us grow in holiness and spiritual fruitfulness.

    It is important that these two workings are kept in balance.
    As bitter experience has shown, the “Spirit upon” for gifts and power may occur to great effect, but if there is no parallel growth in the inward work of the Spirit, there can follow a loss of power leading to disaster…. Many a large church or impressive evangelistic ministry has been swept away because the preacher or evangelist neglected the inward work of the Holy Spirit becoming proud and unaccountable…

    An opposite but equally tragic situation afflicts the Church when there is an inward work of the Holy Spirit but rejection of the outward work. In this case a believer may pursue moral living, altruistic works, concise exposition of the Word and genuine Christian fellowship but demonstrate no spiritual power to set people free from bondage or fulfil the task of evangelism and making disciples…..

    This half-full Christianity is as scandalous as the other. The world scorns a powerless church as much as it scorns an immoral one…… Surely the answer to both dilemmas is that we open our lives to both kinds of infilling, to the work of “the Spirit upon” and “the Spirit within”.
    Long and McMurry also discuss two different ways in which we can be “filled with the Holy Spirit”

    The second expression the Bible uses, filled with the Holy Spirit, is more complicated but it too can be understood in the context of the inner and outer work of the Spirit.

    When the New Testament speaks of people being “filled with” or “full of” the Holy Spirit, the Greek word reveals one of two concepts. English translations…. Use the same words for both Greek concepts and do not reflect the difference. One Greek term, pleitho, is used consistently for the outer work of the Holy Spirit and usually refers to a brief temporary filling. Another Greek word pleiroo (or its cognate pleires) is used consistently for the inner work of the Holy Spirit and usually refers to something that gets fuller and fuller until it is saturated. This refers to a state of being.

    The distinction between pleitho and plieroo is more or less consistent, whether they speak of being filled with the Holy Spirit or anything else.

    “Filled” for Action
    The filling referred to by the word pleitho is temporary and followed immediately by action. It corresponds to upon or fell upon.

    This kind of filling happens again and again, just as a sponge may be refilled many times…..The disciples were not filled only once on Pentecost, but many times thereafter…..The presence of the Holy Spirit is constant, but the expression of the power is episodic. (my emboldening)
    I think this usage is what might be called an anointing.


    “Filled” as a State of Being
    The other Greek word for being filled with the Holy Spirit, pleiroo (or its alternative pleires), describes something becoming fuller and fuller. The filling does not happen at distinct times, but is a slow progressive saturation, like yeast permeating a dough, and describes a state of being. Usually there is no reference to dynamic action.


    Two Ways of Being Spirit Filled
    We can summarise these findings simply. God wants us to be filled with the Holy Spirit in two distinct senses of the word. He wants us, on the one hand, to be open to all the inner workings of the Spirit in our character, preparing us for eternity and yielding the fruit of the Spirit, especially love. On the other hand, He wants us to be open occasions when we can minister in His power through the gifts of the Spirit.
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