Power For A Purpose

TEXT: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NKJV).

THOUGHT: The risen Christ has been presenting Himself and teaching His disciples for a period of forty days. The “kingdom of God” was a main theme in Jesus’ instruction even as it was before He was crucified.  As the Apostles are assembled with the risen Jesus, evidently for a last time (1:9), a question is asked concerning the kingdom being restored to Israel “at this time.” The specific answer to that question is not given, except to say that the answer is not for them to know at that time.  As you read the narrative, this specific question from the Apostles (evidently) comes after Jesus has been speaking about the “Promise of the Father” (1:4), the Holy Spirit.  Jesus has been telling them what was to happen in the next few days and that is the focus in our text. It is also the focus of the Book of Acts. Acts recounts the history of the continuation of the ministry of Jesus by His Spirit through His Apostles and disciples.

As we study this theme verse in the Acts of the Apostles, we must seek to appreciate the promise of our Lord to empower us for His service. The Lord does not want us to seek to achieve His purpose and plan in our own strength. Indeed, that is a strategy for failure and discouragement. No, He wants us to depend upon His power to accomplish His purpose.


Looking at Acts 1:8, Let’s consider first:

1. The Necessary Power to be a Witness (“But you shall receive Power……”)

In the light of the “Promise of the Father” (1:4), these Apostles were to receive power in and through the Holy Spirit. This reception of power is to be as specific as John’s baptism, but now it is not a water baptism, but a Spirit baptism. This event and experience were to be so important that these Apostles were commanded not to leave Jerusalem, “but to wait” (1:4). Acts 2 accounts the initial coming of the Spirit in fulfillment of Jesus’ words and God’s promises found in various Old Testament prophecies. We read of subsequent receptions of the Spirit at strategic points in the spreading of the witness and the Word (8:17, 10:44-48, 19:5-6). Certainly,the account in Acts 2 is foundational in our understanding of the empowering of the Spirit, and it receives the fullest explanation in the preaching of Peter (2:14-39). This empowering of the Spirit was next on the Lord’s agenda for His people, and it was critical to His future ministry through His Apostles and disciples (1:1).

Clearly there are various ways that these Scriptures can be applied. And what is revealed in the Book of Acts needs to be viewed within the context of Biblical Revelation as a whole, a study we cannot do here. We certainly need to avoid needless controversy or confusion in our present-day application of these historical accounts. There was a foundational uniqueness to the original Apostles’ ministry, especially as it had to do with the writing of Scripture itself. At the same time, I believe that we are still within this next stage in salvation history, and the power of the Spirit is essential in continuing the ministry of Jesus (1:1).

We must, first of all, as my father used to say, “Believe the promise” of the Father. The Holy Spirit’s presence and power are promised necessary blessings. Do we believe the promises of God? Do we believe this promise specifically? Are we willing “by faith” to seek and depend upon the power of the Spirit for fruitful witness and serving? The initial “waiting” in Jerusalem was not repeated exactly in subsequent history, but prayer and dependence were and are repeated. The significance and necessity of the Spirit’s empowering and enabling for every facet of Christian witness are clearly to be believed and then lived. Our understanding of this power is not to be dependent upon specific outward manifestations, but rather it is to be essential to our living, speaking and serving as Christians.

We really have two options as believers in Jesus as we seek to live for Him and witness for Him. We can seek to do this in our own strength, or we can go forward in witness and mission depending upon the Holy Spirit’s presence and power.

When it comes specifically to our witness and the ministry of the Word, my father (Dr. Stephen Olford) used to say, “Believe the promise, receive the power, and achieve the purpose.” When we speak of “receiving the power,” we are not speaking of a one time unique experience, although some may have never responded in any way to this Biblical truth concerning the Spirit of God, and need to do so. We are emphasizing, rather, specific and continual prayer dependence on the Spirit’s power to anoint and enable witness, proclamation, and spiritual service. The Holy Spirit has come to His people. We do not need to pray for the initial coming of the Spirit of God to His New Covenant people. We would affirm that the true Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9). But, the Christian must be “filled with the Spirit” to live the Christian life (Eph. 5:18), and those who would speak and serve must be empowered (anointed) by the power of the Spirit, even as Jesus was Himself. 

As we have already stated, we really have two options as we seek to live for our Lord and witness for our Lord. We can seek to live and serve in our own strength or in the strength that comes through the Holy Spirit. We can serve and speak in the “flesh,” or we can live, serve, and speak in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord Jesus made it perfectly clear that these Apostles were to go forth in the power of the Holy Spirit. And they were not to go forth at all until the Holy Spirit’s power was available to them. That power is available to us as Christians indwelt by the Spirit of God. We need to believe the promise, receive the power, and go forth to achieve the purpose.


 The Priority Purpose as a Witness (“…. And you shall be witnesses to Me….”)

The receiving of the necessary power should not be separated from the purpose that this power was to achieve according to Jesus Himself. The best way to explain the word “witness” in our text is to read the Book of Acts. The whole book accounts and illustrates for us what a witness is, what the plan for witnessing is, and what a witness can expect.

First of all, a witness is a witness to Jesus. Although there should never be a separation of lifestyle from ministry, throughout the Book of Acts the witness to Jesus is the message of Jesus Christ. The prophecies concerning Jesus, His life and deeds, His death and resurrection, His ascension and exaltation, His return, and the call for repentance and faith (baptism), and the receiving of the promised Spirit are all aspects of this witness. (This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of different aspects of the gospel.)

There is variety in presentation, but the witness is the “Jesus message” - Jesus as Lord and Christ.  The spreading of this Word, even to Rome, is a major theme in Acts. And this Word is the witness to Jesus that was commanded and is empowered by the Spirit’s “coming upon” the apostles (1:4-8).

What were these witnesses to do? What was the plan? They were to take this message about Jesus and declare it “……to the end of the earth.” This witness was to start specifically, historically, geographically and theologically in Jerusalem. We read of that in Acts 2-7. Then we read of the next phase of witness, including Judea and Samaria (8-12). It should be no surprise to us that the latter part of Acts takes us on a number of journeys (13-28), including one that starts in Jerusalem and ends in Rome (21:15-28:31). This “going with the gospel” is God’s plan. As Paul states, this gospel is the “power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Paul himself had his eyes on Spain as he wrote these words to Rome! The purpose is to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere and to everyone.

Young missionaries I know have chosen to go to a dangerous place because there is very little witness there. God may have you where you are because there is very little witness to Jesus in that neighborhood, or at that job site, or in that office. We are to be light where we are. But, we also need to be ready to go where the Lord would take us.

 What are witnesses to expect? The Book of Acts is fascinating in its recording of miracle and struggle, power and persecution, and the reception and rejection of the message. These aspects of the story go side by side. I believe this is instructive to us as we seek to be witnesses to Jesus today. Many of these early witnesses became martyrs for the Lord. Witnessing was not only a “matter of life,” it became a “matter of death” for many.

A misunderstanding emerges if we don’t acknowledge both the power of God and the reality of struggle and suffering for the witness. We have a supernatural message, about a supernatural Savior and Lord, to be preached and shared with a supernatural power, and to be received with supernatural assistance. At the same time, we see problems, disagreements, controversy, and a whole lot of opposition, rejection, and serious persecution in the Book of Acts.  What is clear is that God is fulfilling His purpose and plan even in the midst of struggle and suffering.

God is sovereign and His plan will be completed and victorious. What is clear is that His Spirit is enabling the mission and witness. What is clear, also, is that the message continues to be about Jesus, and that must never change! Whatever the challenges we face, the hand of man cannot thwart the work of God. But, we must be committed to fulfilling His purpose, which involves declaring His Word concerning His Son in the power of His Spirit to the “end of the world.”

What’s next in 2024? The Lord is still calling us to “be witnesses” to Himself, depending upon the power of His Spirit, and committed to seeing His message spread to “our Jerusalem,” to “our Judea and Samaria” and to “the end of the earth.”

This priority purpose must be shared by us as the Lord’s disciples. We should not speculate about matters that are beyond our understanding or are not for us to know. It is so easy to get distracted as believers by other concerns rather than seeking to be about the Lord’s plan and mission.

It is also easy to get discouraged especially when we see few results, or face difficulty and direct persecution. We need to be encouraged by Peter’s affirmation that the Spirit of glory and God rest upon those who are ridiculed for the Name of Christ (1 Peter4:14). Opposition does not mean that the Holy Spirit has left or that the Lord is not at work. The Lord is still working out His plan and we must trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to be faithful in hard times as well as to empower the witness that we present.


Are we depending on the Lord’s Spirit to be His witnesses???

Is His priority our priority as we live day by day?


Believe the Promise - But make sure that we are not quenching the    Spirit due to unbelief, or grieving the Spirit through disobedience or impurity.


Receive the Power - By faith, and a continual dependence. And this power is often experienced as we pray, as we serve, as we speak. God’s adequacy through HIs Spirit is expereinced as we minister in obedience to His commission.


Achieve the Purpose—The Power is for God’s purpose only. God desires His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be exalted, and He has called us to make His disciples of all nations. Are we committed to that purpose? Let’s recommit ourselves to this priority purpose.



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