Jesus Christ knew full well what His followers were facing. He was sending them out, a tiny band of brothers and sisters, into a hostile world which they were instructed to transform, not merely to conform to. They were to go into all the earth and teach all nations, teaching them to observe all things that He had commanded them, and to bring about a radical change of the culture and the lives of the people in the culture.
For this task, Jesus gave His disciples an arsenal of weapons. Of course, He was not giving them swords or siege machines, but the weapons of the Holy Spirit. That is why He emphatically forbade them to begin the task until they had been endued with “power from on high.” The task before them required the awesome miracle working power of God and this is exactly what Jesus Christ gave to His people then and continues to give to His people now.
There are two words in the Greek New Testament that our English Bibles nave traditionally translated with the word “power.” But the meaning is dramatically different.
The first word is dunamis, from which our word dynamite is derived. Dunamis is inherent explosive force. Jesus told his little flock, “you shall receive dunamis (resident explosive force) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8, author’s translation). Those Christians would have a force inside of them that would be greater than all of the thlipsis with which the world system would pressure them. They clearly recognized this fact and boldly proclaimed, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4, KJV).
This was the power to heal the sick, to cast out demons, to still the storms of life. With the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Christians are given resident explosive force. Today we have only the vaguest concept of how much power is power that the Father activated when He created the universe. How much of it has been given to us we don’t know for sure, but we do know that a speck of it – a mustard seed – inside us is enough to empower our words to cause mountains to move.
This is why Christians must constantly refuse those who think that Christianity consists merely of assent to some creedal statement and the observance of a set of rules and regulations. Christianity is life and joy and power in the Holy Spirit, not words and regulations (Gal. 3:1-5). It is a transformed life where we are “seated with him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6, KJV). It is liberation. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty” (II Cor. 3:17). It is being lead by the Holy Spirit. “as many as are led by the Spirit of God’ they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). It is a life of power. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has com upon you” (Acts 1:8).
In addition to resident power, Jesus also gave to His disciples authority. The Greek word exousia, in the King James Bible has been translated “power.” But exousia is a vastly different type of power from that of dunamis.
The hydrogen bombs that the world’s scientists created have power that defies rational calculations. It is resident explosive force sufficient to destroy cities, nations, even all of civilization.
Yet the authority to deploy that awesome power has been placed, with certain safeguards, in the hands of the President of the United States. A President can be a scrawny weakling of a man with great physical strength. Neither would be relevant. What is relevant is that the person who holds that office has been given the authority to act on behalf of the 300 million citizens of a great nation. Power resides in the bombs. Authority to use the bombs resides with the duty elected representative of the nation.
Jesus Christ gave His disciples authority “to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10-19-20, NIV).
Here Jesus gives His disciples authority (exousia) over all the power (dunamis) of the enemy…