Power From On High
By Charles G. Finney
The mission of the Church is to disciple all nations (Matt. 28:19-20). What do we need to ensure success in this great work? How can we get it?
The answer to the first question is this: we need to be clothed with power from on high. Christ had previously informed the disciples that without Him they could do nothing. When He gave them the commission to convert the world, He added, "Behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts 1:5). This baptism of the Holy Ghost, this thing promised by the Father, this outpouring of power from on high is essential. Christ has expressly informed us that it is the indispensable condition of doing the work He gave us.
How will we get power from on high? Christ expressly promised it to the whole Church and to everyone who has the duty to labor for the conversion of the world. He admonished the first disciples not to undertake the work until they had received this outpouring of power from on high. Both the promise and the admonition apply equally to all Christians of every age and nation. No one has, at any time, any right to expect success unless he first obtains this outpouring of power from on high.
The example of the first disciples teaches us how to obtain this outpouring. They first consecrated themselves to this work. Then they continued in prayer and supplication (see Acts 1:14) until the Holy Ghost fell upon them on the Day of Pentecost, and they received the promised outpouring of power from on high.
The disciples had already been converted to Christ, and their faith had been confirmed by His resurrection. But here let me say that conversion to Christ is not to be confused with a consecration to the great work of the world’s conversion. In conversion, the soul deals directly and personally with Christ. It yields up its prejudices and its selfishness, accepts Him, trusts Him, and supremely loves Him. All this the disciples had, more or less, distinctly done; but they had not received a definite commission yet, or a particular infusion of power to fulfill a commission.
However, when Christ had dispelled their great bewilderment resulting from His crucifixion and confirmed their faith by repeated interviews with them, He gave them their great commission to win all nations to Himself. But He admonished them to wait at Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high, which He said they should receive in a few days.
Observe what they did. They assembled, the men and women, for prayer. They accepted the commission. No doubt, they came to an understanding of the nature of the commission and the necessity of the spiritual outpouring which Christ had promised. As they continued day after day in prayer and self-examination, they, no doubt, came to appreciate more and more the difficulties that would beset them and to feel more and more their inadequacy to the task. One must conclude that they, one and all, consecrated themselves with all they had to the conversion of souls as their lifework. They must have renounced utterly the idea of living for themselves in any form. They must have devoted themselves with all their powers to the work set before them. Logically speaking, this consecration, this self-renunciation, this dying to the world, must have preceded their actual seeking of the promised power. They then continued, with one accord, in prayer for the promised baptism of the Spirit, which included all that was essential to their success.
Observe, they had a work set before them. They had a promise of power to perform it. They were admonished to wait until the promise was fulfilled. How did they wait? Not in listlessness and inactivity. Not in making preparations by study and otherwise to get along without it. Not by going about their business and offering an occasional prayer that the promise might be fulfilled. Rather, they continued in prayer and persisted in their petitions until the answer came. They understood that it was to be a baptism of the Holy Ghost. They understood that it was to be received from Christ. They prayed in faith. They held on with the firmest expectation until the outpouring came. Now, let these facts instruct us as to the conditions of receiving this outpouring of power.
We Have the Same Commission
First, we as Christians have the same commission to fulfill. As truly as they did, we need an outpouring of power from on high. Of course, the same admonition, to wait on God until we receive it, is given to us.
Second, we have the same promise that they had. Let us take substantially and in spirit the same course that they did. They were Christians and had a measure of the Spirit to lead them in prayer and in consecration. So have we. Every Christian possesses a measure of the Spirit of Christ, enough of the Holy Spirit to lead us to true consecration and inspire us with the faith essential to prevail in prayer. Let us, then, not grieve or resist Him, but accept the commission, fully consecrate ourselves, with all we have, to the saving of souls as our great life work. Let us go to the altar with all we have and are, and lie there and persist in prayer until we receive the outpouring.
Conversion to Christ is not to be confused with the acceptance of this commission to convert souls. The first is a personal transaction between the soul and Christ relating to its own salvation. The second is the soul’s acceptance of the service in which Christ proposes to employ it.
Christ does not require us to make brick without straw. To whom He gives the commission He also gives the admonition and the promise. If the commission is heartily accepted, if the promise is believed, if the admonition to wait upon the Lord until our strength is renewed is complied with, we will receive the outpouring.
Third, it is of supreme importance that all Christians should understand that this commission to convert the world is given to them by Christ individually.
Everyone has the great responsibility passed on to him or her to win as many souls as possible to Christ. This is the great privilege and the great duty of all the disciples of Christ. There are a great many departments in this work. But in every department we may and ought to possess this power so that, whether we preach, or pray, or write, or print, or trade, or travel, or take care of children, or administer the government of the state, or whatever we do, our whole lives and influence should be permeated with this power. Christ says, "He that believeth on Me…out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38). That is, a Christian influence, having in it the element of power to impress the truth of Christ upon the hearts of men, will proceed from him.
The Great Needs of the Church
The Church has great needs at present. First, it needs the clear conviction that this commission to convert souls is given to each of Christ’s disciples as his lifework. I fear I must say that the great mass of professing Christians seem never to have been impressed with this truth. The work of saving souls they leave to ministers.
The second great need is a clear conviction of the necessity of this outpouring of power upon every individual soul. Many professing Christians suppose it belongs especially and only to preachers. They fail to realize that all are called to preach the Gospel, that the whole life of every Christian is to be a proclamation of the glad tidings.
A third need is an earnest faith in the promise of this outpouring. A great many professing Christians, and even ministers, seem to doubt whether this promise is to the whole Church and to every Christian. Consequently, they have no faith to grasp it. If it does not belong to all, they do not know to whom it does belong. So naturally they cannot grasp the promise by faith.
A fourth need is persistence in waiting on God for the power, as is commanded in the Scriptures. They faint before they have prevailed, and hence the outpouring is not received. Multitudes seem to be satisfied with hoping for eternal life for themselves. They never get ready to move beyond the question of their own salvation and to leave that as settled with Christ. They do not get ready to accept the Great Commission to work for the salvation of others because their faith is so weak that they are unsure of their own salvation. They do not steadily leave the question of their own salvation in the hands of Christ. Even some ministers of the Gospel, I find, are in the same condition and are halting in the same way. These ministers are unable to give themselves wholly to the work of saving others because they are somewhat unsure of their own salvation.…
I have previously said that the reception of this infusion of power is instantaneous. I do not mean that in every instance the recipient was aware of the precise time at which the power began to work mightily within him. It may have begun like the dew and increased to a shower. Oh, for a conviction of the necessity of this outpouring of power and a faith in the promise of Christ!
– Taken from Power From On High by Charles G. Finney. Published by Whitaker House. www.whitakerhouse.com Used by permission. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.