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Wonsuk Ma: Tragedy of Spirit-Empowered Heroes

“Samson and Delilah” (1887) by José Echenagusía
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Spirit’s first priority is to radically transform us on the inside.

Throughout his article, Dr. Ma interacts with various writers who suggest different readings on these stories. However, he does an excellent job at keeping us coming back to his main point, that the real issue is a radical inner transformation, to enhance our personal and character development as a chosen vessel of God. This is the Spirit’s first priority.

The question that is left for the reader is whether the scant scriptural material concerning the initial Spirit experiences of these two men is sufficient to warrant Dr. Ma’s conclusions. He graciously invites the reader to consider the evidence he puts forward. Does his reading of these stories accurately demonstrate that without inner transformation by the Spirit, outward empowering can often lead to moral failure, leaving behind stories of tragic figures?

Without inner transformation by the Spirit, outward empowering can often lead to moral failure.

True leadership is a charismatic gifting in nature, and the Holy Spirit must prepare the vessel ‘inwardly’ to handle the ‘outward’ power. We must cooperate with the Spirit in our character formation. Why? The answer surely is that leadership carries seductive temptations which requires a higher level of awareness, and we all desperately need God’s intervention to escape them.

Who will benefit from meditating on this article? For those who sense a ‘divine agitation’ within them, to those who are called into leadership or public ministry, and especially for those who are involved in training others in ministry, this brief article is a ‘must read’. My only sadness with this article is that it does not explore the same interrogation in the lives of other biblical leaders who had early experiences of the Spirit. Can we make a case for David in 1 Sam. 16:13? Is Gideon another example of tragic moral failure after divine empowerment (Judg. 6-8)? What should be said about Jephthah (Judg. 11-12)? Both these men also had serious character flaws after encountering the Holy Spirit! And yet there is the all-too-brief, but bright, record of Othniel in Judg. 3:7-11 where there is no record of anything negative concerning his character before, during or after his Spirit encounter!

Dr. Ma’s article will motivate the conscientious reader to examine the stories of other Bible ‘heroes’ with an eye to seeing what God did in their early Spirit encounters. Can it be determined whether such experiences were intended to prepare their character for the kind of temptations that power would certainly would bring to them?

The author promises that further articles will be forthcoming concerning the Spirit encounters with the ideal king of Isa. 11, and the servant of God in Isa. 42, where the reader will be able to witness the positive results of ethical and character development. I eagerly look forward to it.

This is a much-needed message for the church today, and I applaud Dr. Ma’s insights as very applicable to the church today. May the Holy Spirit use this article to ‘agitate’ the reader into submitting to his inner work of transforming us into the image of his servant!

Reviewed by Eugene Smith


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Category: Biblical Studies, Winter 2018

About the Author: Eugene Smith currently pastors a church in Northern Ireland. He spent over thirteen years in global ministry, constantly travelling from country to country as a missionary teacher, participating in pastors’ seminars, conferences, Bible schools and church services. Eugene has a strong burden that Spirit and Word be brought together to speak with one voice.

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