The Secret of Power

by Victor Knowles

"Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit . . ."

In a day when greatness in the Kingdom of God seems to be measured by NEMO (numbers, eloquence, methods, organization), it might do us good to revisit Scripture to discover the true source of power.

Zechariah was a young prophet to whom God revealed the secret of power. In about 520 B.C., he was divinely called to encourage Zerubbabel and the Jewish exiles to complete the rebuilding of the Temple. One night he had a vision in which he saw a solid gold lamp stand, affixed with a central bowl. On either side of the lamp stand, two olive trees dropped a steady supply of golden oil into the bowl which was then channeled to the seven lamps by seven "feeding pipes." An angel told Zechariah, "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts'" (Zech. 4:6).

Symbolism is part of the Bible message. God has always used symbols to teach His people (the flaming sword, the rainbow, the bronze serpent, the blood of a lamb, the cross, et al). Here God uses oil to symbolize the Holy Spirit. The lesson for Zechariah and Zerubbabel was that the Temple would be rebuilt—but not by might ("armies," Vulgate) or power—it would be accomplished by the Spirit of God. This does not mean that God does not work through men to do His work because Zerubbabel is called God's "signet ring" (Haggai 2:23), and the two olive branches (Zech. 4:13,14) appear to be two men anointed to lead in the task at hand, Joshua the high priest (Zech. 3:1) and Zerubbabel the governor (a "politically incorrect" combination of "church and state").

This is the word of the Lord to all men today: "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit…" We have substituted the spirit of power for the power of the Spirit. Sam Shoemaker said, "It would take a theologian with a fine-toothed comb to find the Holy Spirit recognizably present with power in much of our ecclesiastical routine." Have we forgotten that the Holy Spirit is the true "administrator" of the church? It was the Holy Spirit of God—symbolized by wind and fire—who brought the church into existence on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47). On that inaugural day the Holy Spirit was not only present—He was president. He is still president. You cannot vote Him out of office.

E. Stanley Jones said, "Why is it when you speak to the modern church about Pentecost that cold shivers go up and down the spines of cultured people?" Perhaps it is because we feel more comfortable operating by human might and power. We like to be in control. Power Point presentations are fine—as long as they come from the true point of power, the Holy Spirit.  But some of us are like the 12 men of Ephesus who, though baptized, had never even heard of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7). That's incredible. The Holy Spirit is mentioned 90 times in the Old Testament and 263 times in the New Testament. How could we be so obtuse?

Today we depend too much on human ingenuity and human agencies. Notice that God told Zerubbabel, "Not by (your) might nor by (your) power, but by My Spirit." The Holy Spirit is called "holy" because He comes from a Holy God. Part of His task today is to make us holy. The Holy Spirit's work is to convict us of sin (John 16:8) and transform us into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). The Holy Spirit is here to make us "holy" and "spiritual." When our lives are under His control, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16) – nor will we "become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another" (Gal. 5:25). Every "church fight" would cease overnight if every Christian would walk in the light of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit worked in the lives of men like Zeruabbel, and I believe He continues His work in people like you and me. He indwells every baptized believer (Acts 2:38), gives us boldness to speak the Word (Acts 4:31), commissions us to service (Acts 13:2), strengthens us with power in our inner being (Eph. 3:16), assists us in our prayers (Rom. 8:26), produces spiritual fruit (Gal. 5:22,23), renews our spiritual lives (Titus 3:5), flows from our lives like a river (John 7:37-39), assures us of our spiritual status (Gal. 5:16), sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts (Rom. 5:5), and is the spiritual glue that keeps the church together (Eph. 4:3).

Every program in the church—education, preaching, prayer, missions, evangelism, spiritual growth, etc.—should be programmed and powered by the Holy Spirit. We do resist the Holy Spirit when we insist on doing things our way. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we leave Him out of our plans. We quench the Holy Spirit when we omit Him from the sequence of events that we orchestrate on our own.

All the obstacles that face the church today—that seem like mountains too high to climb (healing the divisions of the past, making disciples of all the nations)—will become like a plain when we move in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. Like Zerubbabel so many years ago, we will bring forward the capstone amidst shouts of "Grace, grace to it!" (Zech. 4:7).

    Victor Knowles is executive
director of Peace On Earth Ministries (POEM) in Joplin, Missouri. He can be reached via email:

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