Acts 1:7-8 (NIV):

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

In verse 8 Jesus promised to his disciples that they would receive "power" when the Holy Spirit came on them. What is meant by "power" in this context?

Related: Is the promise of "power" in Acts 1:8 only for the apostles or for Christians in all ages?

5 Answers 5


In the New Testament, there are several meanings attached to 'power'. It can mean ability - dunamis. Or, to give power - didomi. Or, strength - kratos. Or, strength, force - ischus. Or privilege, authority - exousia. So, what word is used in the text in question? It is dunamis - ability, power.

The text (as quoted in the OPs comments) is perfectly clear. Those waiting disciples were to be given the gift of the Holy Spirit from heaven, which would empower them for a specific purpose, as the rest of Jesus' sentence details:

"...and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

It was specific power for a specific purpose - to be given the ability to carry out the great commission that will remain in force for all Christians until Christ returns in glory. Clearly, the gifted power would not be restricted to just those few disciples who witnessed the resurrected Christ ascending back to heaven just after he spoke those words of command and assurance. The task of reaching out into all the world to witness to the risen Christ has been on-going for near-on two thousand years so far.

This is backed up by what the New Testament says about this particular power of God in Romans 1:16. The writer was the apostle Paul, who had not been present for the Acts 1:8 declaration, but who most certainly did become a witness of the risen Christ, being given power/ability of the Holy Spirit to testify far and near as the great commission required. He wrote:

"That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power [dunamis - ability] of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (emphasis mine)

There have been, and still are, many people who claim to be Christians, but who do not concern themselves to testify (witness) to the good news (gospel) of a crucified and resurrected Christ, who is Saviour and Lord to all who have faith in his finished work. It may be stating the obvious, but those who do not carry out the great commission just do not have the power of the Holy Spirit, given for that task. Some almost appear to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, not wishing to be publicly identified with it, contrary to Romans 1:16.

Of course, there are myriad ways in which testifying to the gospel of Christ can be done, both by those who stand up in public to proclaim an unadulterated, biblical gospel, and via other Christians who quietly testify to the power of the risen Lord by words and deeds in the everyday course of their ordinary lives. "The Lord knows those who are his, and everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." - 2 Timothy 2:19

We can observe claims and see the way lives are lived, and whether words spoken stick to the pure, biblical gospel of Christ. However, the promise is sure, that where the power of the Holy Spirit enables faithful preaching and witness, believing souls will be saved. The responsibility of individual Christians is to ensure we are faithful to the great commission, the Holy Spirit enabling us - giving us the ability - to testify, the Spirit producing miraculous results, as Christ is lifted up and God praised.


The answer to this question about the identity of "power" in Acts 1:8 immediately follows in the next clause - to witness about Jesus!

More generally, Jesus bequeathed the Gift of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22, Acts 1:8, 2:1-4) to His church for several reasons:

  1. To produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22 & 23, see especially v24-26) and so to sanctify (make distinct) the church members.
  2. The above changed life is to be a distinguishing sign or seal of God’s ownership of our lives and a guarantee of better things to come (Eph 1:13, 4:30).
  3. To provide specific guidance for the church (John 16:7-12, 14:17, 15:26 – namely

. o Convict of sin

. o Instruct in Righteous (= right doing)

. o Convict of judgement to come

  1. To build up the church with spiritual (supernatural) gifts and abilities, 1 Cor 12:7, 14:12, and to influence/teach others John 7:37-39. See Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:8-10, 28-30, Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10, 11, 1 Tim 4:14, Ex 35:30-33, etc.
  2. To strengthen the members in their daily walk to live the Christian ideals, Eph 3:16, 17, Heb 2:4, and maintain unity in the Christian community (Eph 4:3-6). The Christian must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5) by receiving the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38) and walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:25, John 6:63, Phil 3:3, John 4:24). In fact the whole life of Christian is to put aside the “psychical” mind and live by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14, 1 Cor 15:44-46, Gal 5:17, Jude 19, John 6:63, 1 Peter 3:18). In short, the Holy Spirit is the only way we can know God, 1 Cor 2:10, 11, 14, John 16:13.
  3. To teach the church more of the character and work Jesus and thus, imitate Jesus, John 7:38, 39, 15:26, 16:12-15, Rom 8:4, 11, Eph 3:17, 18, 4:3-6, 1 Thess 1:6, 4:8, 1 Cor 2:14.
  4. The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets to write Scripture, and explains such spiritual truths to us. John 14:16, 17, 15:26, 1 Cor 2:6-16, Eph 1:17-19, 2 Peter 1:21, 2 Tim 3:15, 16, 1 Thess 1:5, Heb 9:8, 1 Peter 1:12, Ps 119:18.

All these miraculous acts of the Holy Spirit are summed up in the single word δύναμις (dynamis) in Acts 1:8, meaning, "strength, ability, power" (Thayer). In fact, in Rom 8:9 we find,

You, however, are controlled not by the flesh, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

Back to Acts 1:8 which specifically answers the OP's question: the supernatural power/ability/capability bequeathed by the Holy Spirit was to witness about Jesus and win souls the the Kingdom of God and so fulfill the Gospel commission as stated in Matt 28:19, 20.

Thus, it is impossible to be a Christian without the Holy Spirit because we cannot witness without the power of the holy Spirit! No wonder the Gift of the Holy Spirit is called "power/ability" by Jesus in Acts 1:8.

APPENDIX - δύναμις meaning

The Greek word translated "power" by almost all versions, is, correct but could be better. BDAG provides six basic meanings for this common NT word.

  1. potential for functioning in some way, power, might, strength, force, capability, (a) general eg, Acts 1:8, 3:12, Rom 1:16, 20, etc. (b) specifically, the power that works wonders, eg, Acts 10:38, etc.
  2. ability to carry out something, ability, capability, eg, Heb 11;11, etc.
  3. a deed that exhibits ability to function powerfully, deed of power, miracle, wonder, eg, Acts 2:22, etc.
  4. something that serves as an adjuct of power, resource, eg, Rev 3:8, 18:3, etc
  5. an entity of being, whether human or transcendent, that functions in a remarkable manner, power as a personal transcendent spirit or heavenly agent/angel, eg, Rom 3:38, 1 Cor 15:24, etc.
  6. the capability to convey thought, meaning, eg, 1 Cor 14:11.

Obviously, in the case of Acts 1:8, the "power" bestowed on the believers by the Holy Spirit, as the rest of Acts and the NT teaches, was the supernatural abilities to conduct the work that God empowered them to do as documented above. The primary point and object of this ability/capability was the conversion of souls for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Thus, if I were translating Acts 1:8, I would have somewhat interpretatively translated it as:

But you will receive supernatural capability when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Note the immediacy of the first task as illustrated by the very verse itself is to "witness" about Jesus!

  • 3
    One cannot equate the power of the Holy Spirit with having the Holy Spirit. Two different things. “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭4:1‬ Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit yet He performed no miracles or signs. “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭4:14‬ it was only from this point onwards that Jesus’ public ministry accompanied with signs, wonders and miracles began. Are you conflating power with HS? Oct 26, 2020 at 21:20
  • 3
    You are conflating having the HS with receiving power from the HS. It’s as if to say, when you have the HS then anything the HS has to offer is available automatically including the power to witness. Not so, there is a two-way interaction, there is cooperation. He cannot force the power on you and you can’t demand it from Him. It needs to be asked for, desired and sought after and you need to qualify. Not every Christian filled with the HS ALSO have power to witness. Do they still have the HS yes but lack the power. It’s not automatic. 1Cor14:1 why desire prophecy if they already have the HS? Oct 27, 2020 at 1:55
  • 3
    Seems you're missing the other side and laboring only on the HS’s actions. It’s also up to the person to want to be used. Hence receiving power (to witness) is separate to having the HS. You can have the HS and not have power. The HS doesn’t just give out power to those who don’t want it and m/or don’t ask for it. Likewise asking for the power (to witness) doesn’t automatically mean receiving it if the HS chooses to withhold it. I’m not persuaded we agree. But alas Oct 27, 2020 at 3:45
  • 1
    Exactly. For those who have the HS; One either has power or does not. One either has the HS and received power; or has the HS and not received power. To have the HS doesn’t automatically mean having power to witness. Why do you keep laboring this point? Jesus had the Spirit without measure after the temptation in the Wilderness, all seven-fold spirits of God. That logically means not everyone has all seven but still they had the HS. David didn’t have all seven, Jeremiah didn’t have all seven. You’re conflating the Giver with His gifts. I’m now persuaded you’ve never experienced the difference Oct 27, 2020 at 12:28
  • 3
    I agree with @NihilSineDeo that there appears to be some work to be done on the believer's side in order to unleash greater measures of power from the HS. For example Jesus had to fast for 40 days, after which he came back in the HS power. The apostles and disciples had to wait for 10 days in full time prayer (and fasting? I'm not sure about that one) after which they received the HS baptism at Pentecost. And more generally, I can't imagine how a carnal lukewarm "Christian" can be endued with power for witnessing. There is a price to be paid by the believer in order to unleash that power.
    – user38524
    Oct 27, 2020 at 13:27

I'd like to add a few thoughts to Dottard's survey of many of the ways the Holy Spirit exercises power in people's lives. Though I might quibble with one or two clauses, overall I think it is an excellent survey of Biblical teachings on the matter.

I agree with points raised in the comments that:

  • The Holy Spirit can give different people different powers/abilities
  • There is a price to be paid by the believer in order to unleash that power

Your mission, should you choose to accept it...isn't exactly what you had in mind

The answer Jesus gave is more meaningful when considered in light of the question that was asked. Jesus is contrasting the power/ability the apostles are asking about with the power/ability they are being given.

In verse 6 we read the apostles' question:

Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

The apostles appear to have grasped by now that Jesus' mission entails more than the physical liberation of Israel. But even at this point at least some of them are still holding to the common contemporary belief that the Messiah would be liberating them from Rome forthwith. They want to know if this great physical victory they've been waiting for is now at hand.

While affirming in verse 7 that the Father does have power to fulfil the Tanakh's promises regarding the restoration of Israel, Jesus does not tell them when this will be. Rather, He uses the occasion to teach them that there's a much greater victory planned, and they are a part of it.

Let us consider then the following contextual annotations to verse 8:

[You're not getting that power--to physically restore the kingdom of Israel] But ye shall receive power [a different ability, more pertinent to the work at hand], after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you [you've already been promised the baptism of the Holy Spirit multiple times; that's coming and it's going to give you the ability to do the following]: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Jesus is promising the apostles the power to take their witness of Him to the ends of the earth.



What is meant by "power" in this context?

Jesus is promising the apostles that they will be blessed with the ability to carry out a specific mission--that their efforts will catalyze the accomplishment of something that has never before happened in the history of the world: their testimony of the Living Christ, the Son of God, the Risen Lord, the Savior of the world, will be taught in every corner of the earth.

Accomplishing this mission is beyond the apostles' natural abilities. They will be given power through the Holy Ghost to accomplish this work that they could never do on their own.

That the Gospels of Matthew & John are 2 of the 3 most widely read books in human history suggests to me that the apostles did as they were commanded. The plan is working. (for the statistics source 1, source 2)


In my answer to a related question I elaborated on a few related matters:

  • The Holy Spirit brings power, but does not necessarily give the same power to everyone. The latter portion of verse 8 explains what power is being directly promised to the apostles at this time.
  • God gives power & blessings by degrees
  • There is a difference between power & authority
  • Excellent. Israel kingdom stuff is in God's power (v. 7). The apostles power is to witness unto Christ. +1 Jul 9, 2022 at 23:37

Acts 1:8a

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you

The "power" is the abilities that the receiver do not possess. It has the following characteristics;

  1. It is an ability of the Holy Spirit work via a human being. Example: speaking in tongues (other languages) Acts 10:46
  2. The ability is temporary. It is given in due time the Holy Spirit see fit. We do not have command on that ability. Example: Eutychus raised from the dead at Troas. Acts 20:7-12

James in his book had told us how do we receive the power. James 1:5-7

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

The word "Power" may be too fascinating to Christian at all times. However, the reality is we are not looking for the "Power", instead, we are looking inside ourselves the "faith" and "believe without doubt". Then certain "Power" will be received at certain time that glorify our God.

  • I fail to see how Euthycus is is an example of time limitation. Paul was exactly witnessing at that very time. I think you ought to explain or use another example please Jul 10, 2022 at 10:54
  • @Nihil Sine Deo - Do you believe Paul consistently had the power raising people from dead? Or you believe Paul always had the power but not using it very often? Only God and His spirit had the power. Even Elijah and Elisha, when they raised the kids from the dead, Their work was keep on praying, hoping the Lord would grant their pray (1 Kings 17:22 & 2 Kings 4:32-35). When Euthycus was raised from the dead, Paul was not the witness, he was the miracle performer. The time limitation of these special abilities is obvious, as long as you realize you never have it and it suddenly happens on you. Jul 10, 2022 at 15:10
  • Raising some one from the dead is not witnessing it’s accompanying with signs and miracles the witnessing. You’ve conflated two subjects. Jul 10, 2022 at 18:24
  • I'm sorry Nihil Sine Deo, I think we have a different understanding to the word "power" in Acts 1:8. You emphasize on "power to witness", focus on the whole context. I emphasize on "power" alone, focus on the miracles of early Christians. You certainly get a point here that can claim as a norm. My focus shifted as the modern Christians mostly are lack of faith, poor witnesses, and always looking for miracles to live a Christian life. I prefer they look for their faith, the corner stone, instead of power/miracles. With faith we will receive power, the power to witness. Jul 11, 2022 at 2:29
  • The question was specific not general Jul 11, 2022 at 12:09

Let’s consider this word δυναμιν in the LXX

You encounter it first in Exodus 12:17. While the Hebrew speaks of God leading the hosts, the Greek speaks of God leading the force out of Egypt. The children of Israel in their numbers were a force to be reckoned with.

Next Exodus 14:28 the hosts of pharaoh or the army of pharaoh in the Hebrew is called the force in the Greek. Same in Exodus 15:4. An army is indeed a force to be reckoned with

Number 6:21 in speaking of the Nazarite bringing a sacrifice, the word in the Greek is used to describe the limitation of his sacrifice based on his economic status. In other words if he was unwealthy and the power of his wealth was reduced he could bring a sacrifice proportional to his financial strength. Still used to determine power, in context is power of the purse.

Number 31:9 the LXX speaks of despoiling their force, which could mean either their army or whatever it was that made them strong such as their wealth or live stocks or all three. They were despoiled of their force.

Deuteronomy 3:24 the Hebrew says God has shown His greatness and strong hand but the LXX say God has shown His strength and POWER

Deuteronomy 8:17 the LXX emphasizes what the Hebrew and the English call wealth as great ability or great power.

I’m not going to go through all the OT occurrences let’s move to Acts 1:8

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭1:8‬ ‭

You will receive great ability, a great force, a great power. And this is connected to witnessing. So those who receive this power, will be able to witness with the comparative strength of Pharaoh using his army.

This is not an ordinary form of witnessing. It must be and indeed it is, superior to any human’s abilities to witness, regardless of rhetoric expertise.

It, the power is indeed like the Hand of God as described in Deuteronomy 3:24, it is a force to be reckoned with like an army or a whole nation of millions of individuals, it is incredibly powerful. And historically this has been the case. This power gives one incredible power to witness. Incredible boldness. It is not salvific to the witnesser, it’s purpose is witnessing to spread the truth about Jesus the Christ everywhere and to all people. It even has the ability to grant knowledge of other languages, intimate knowledge about one’s inner thoughts and indeed can be used in conjunction with one or multiple other gifts of the spirit.

They didn’t receive the Holy Spirit, they received power

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.