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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 the meaning of the word "power" as used in this context?

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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). See Seal of God.
  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.

Thus, it is impossible to be a Christian without the Holy Spirit! No wonder the Gift of the Holy Spirit is called "power" by Jesus in Acts 1:8.

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  • 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? – Nihil Sine Deo Oct 26 at 21:20
  • @NihilSineDeo - astute observation. The Holy Spirit gives the power and He exercises that power at His discretion. Jesus was "full of the Holy Spirit" but did no miracles (in some places) because the people we unprepared - but it was the decision of the Holy Sprint to not perform any signs and wonders. In any case, as pointed out above, the power of the HS is not confined to miracles, it primarily includes spiritual enlightenment of the Christian to know and imitate Christ and produce the fruit of the Spirit, convict of sin, etc, etc. – Dottard Oct 26 at 21:25
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    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? – Nihil Sine Deo Oct 27 at 1:55
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    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 – Nihil Sine Deo Oct 27 at 3:45
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    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. – Spirit Realm Investigator Oct 27 at 13:27

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