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The Empowered Christian Life, by J. I. Packer

In Luke 4:14 we read that, following the wilderness temptation, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” This text introduces not only his works of power but also the words of power that came from his lips. Then, after his resurrection, Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with “power from on high” for the ministry of worldwide evangelism to which he was committing them (see Luke 24:49).

At the beginning of Acts, Luke picks up the same theme. Jesus tells his followers, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Then later we read, “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:33)

Empowered Preaching

Paul likewise has tremendous things to say about the power of God working through the gospel and through its messengers. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). At the end of the lengthy argument that makes up the book of Romans, and speaking of his own ministry, Paul says, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit” (Rom. 15:18-19).

And again, in his first letter to the Corinthians, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:17-18).

“I knew what you wanted,” Paul says in the opening chapters of 1 Corinthians, “and I was resolved not to give it to you. You wanted me to show off as a philosopher, with dazzling arguments, but I wouldn’t do it. And so you thought me a fool.” Rather, Paul says, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor. 2:4-5).

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Category: Living the Faith, Pneuma Review, Winter 2008

About the Author: James I. Packer is a British-born Canadian Christian theologian. He currently serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He received a Ph.D. (Philosophy) from the University of Oxford, Oxford, England. As an Anglican theologian, Dr. Packer has played a major role in British and North American evangelicalism. He has written numerous books and scholarly articles, including the best-selling book, Knowing God.

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