Doing God's Work in God's Way
“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.”—Zachariah 4:6
My message to you this morning is as homely in title as it is simple in development. Yet, despite simplicity and homeliness, there is a certain profundity connected with it, since, from beginning to end it presents the subject as God Himself deals with it in His Word.
The text itself is the beginning of this treatment. The angel’s answer to Zachariah’s query is, “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”
You will agree that this text talks about the doing of God’s work. Zerubbabel, you will recall, is a workman busily engaged with the carrying out of God’s work. Again, this text talks of doing God’s work in God’s way. For, in it, the Spirit, even to Zerubbabel, says: If ever the work of God is to be a success it will be because it is done not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of God.
That the text presents the doing of God’s work in God’s way, is seen from its historical setting. This Zerubbabel is a leader of Israel. In Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, Israel had had her patriarchal period. Under Moses, who numbered them, and Joshua and the Judges, who succeeded Moses, Israel had her tribal period. Under Saul, David, and Solomon, and the many kings of the divided kingdom, Israel had her national period.
Through Assyria’s captivity of the ten tribes, and subsequently, Babylonia’s captivity of the two tribes, Israel had had her exile period. Now, under the leadership of Zerubbbabel, with the assistance of Ezra and Nehemiah, Israel is to have her restoration period. Jerusalem is to be restored, the temple of God is to be rebuilt, and the Jew is to make ready for the coming of his King. This is God’s work, and it is to be done in God’s way. For the message to Zerubbabel is that the work is to be done “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”
What is true of the historical setting of the text is true of its practical application. We are not under law, as were they; we are under grace. They were Israel; we are the Church. But, like Israel, the Church has gone through its several stages, a truth set forth in the content of the seven epistles to the seven representative churches of Asia, in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Beginning with the fervent spiritual note of the epistle to the Church at Ephesus, the age of the apostles, it takes a declining slump until it reaches the condition of lukewarmness, revealed in the Laodicean letter, representative of the present age of apostasy.
But even in an age of apostasy, God always has a remnant, so to speak, upon whom He can depend to do His work in his way. With Israel, and under law, it was faithful Zerubbabel. With the Church, and under grace, it is the true believer. Moreover, the business of this believer is the bringing back of the King. And if ever this work of God is to be done according to the plan of God, it will be done not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord!
It is timely, then, to search the Bible and find out how God does His work through His Spirit. We shall find that, first of all, He sets before us the instruments that He uses. In the second place, having revealed the instruments, He presents the evidence that He uses these instruments. Then having seen the instruments, and the evidence of God’s use of them, He sets before us, in the third and last place, the opportunity that is ours, in the light of both instruments and evidence, of doing God’s work in God’s way—that is, not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.
Instruments that God Uses
It is a striking truth that, throughout the whole of the New Testament as it deals with a people under grace, God uses but two instruments to get His work done in His way. The one instrument is the Spirit-given Word. The other is a Spirit-filled person. Homely truth, simple truth, but profound truth! Let us see.
The Spirit-Given Word
Someone has said that since the Bible has been found true with respect to what it says about other things, it ought to be heard in what it has to say about itself. This is a fair view of the matter, and we will adopt it.
Now, the Bible itself tells us that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is therefore profitable to teach us; and having taught us, to reprove us; and having reproved us, to correct us; and having corrected us, to instruct us in righteousness.
We have tried in every way to render simple the one Greek word here translated, given by inspiration of God. As near as we have come to a single English idea, it is represented by the hyphenated word God-breathed. The simplest possible explanation of the word is found in one of Peter’s epistles.
Peter tells us that “men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit.” He did not say that they were holy men; the translators of the Authorized Version said that. Some of them were far from holy at times, at best they were ordinary men. What Peter literally said in the Greek is this: “But carried along under the Holy Spirit, men uttered a voice from God.”
This, then, is the meaning of the Word being God-breathed: the men who wrote the Bible were carried along by God, the Holy Spirit, thus uttering words of God Himself. And this Word of God, Spirit-given, is one of the two instruments by which God is doing His work in His way. Since He works with this Word it is obvious that He works not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.
The Spirit-Filled Person
When we turn from the Spirit-given Word to the Spirit-filled person, there is much more to be said than can be covered in the time allotted the sub-section of a sermon. A summary of the truth must suffice.
The Bible says that every saved one must be born of the Spirit. But it also says that those who receive Christ by believing on His name, are also born again. How shall we reconcile these sayings? By comparing Scripture with Scripture. The Bible tells us that the sin of the world is unbelief; “they believe not on Me.” It tells us that the Holy Spirit’s business in the world is to convict of sin, that is, of the sin of unbelief. Thus when a person believes, he loses his unbelief; but he can only lose his unbelief through the work of the Holy Spirit.
We are told again, that the Spirit who thus convicts of sin, baptizes the resultant believer into the body of Christ and causes him to drink of, drink into, or be nourished by the Spirit of God. This somewhat difficult phrase finds its simple explanation in the words of Paul to the Corinthian believers, where they are told that their bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost who is in them. All of which is a summary of the biblical truth that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer.
The other side of this truth is that every Spirit-indwelt believer may be Spirit-filled! The very Word of God is: “Be filled with the Spirit!” A brief review of accomplishing this follows:
We read in Ephesians, chapter four, that we should not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. And the immediate context, that is, the statements that precede and follow these words, is a list of things that a Christian should not do, and should do, would he not grieve the Holy Spirit who is in him.
Again, we read in the Acts that a certain man, Annanias, and his wife Sapphira, having land, sold it and brought part. Detecting this, Peter, one of those very men who spoke by inspiration of God, told this unfortunate pair that they had lied to the Holy Ghost.
Finally, we read in Thessalonians that we should not quench the Holy Spirit. The word ought to be translated, “hinder,” since that is what it means. When God has a definite work for one believer, and another believer comes between that person and his work, the second believer quenches, that is, hinders the work of the Spirit in the first believer.
To sum up, every believer is Spirit indwelt, and may be Spirit infilled. If he grieve not, deceive not, hinder not the Spirit who is in Him, he may rest assured that God will fill him for any work of His to be done. And this Spirit-filled person is the second instrument that God uses to do His work in His way. Here again it is obvious that the work is done, not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.
Before passing from the instruments to evidence let us see a great truth of the Word. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. This does not mean that anyone can effectively use the Word of God, even though it itself is Spirit-given. God has promised to bless that Word in the hands, from the lips, of a Spirit-filled preacher and teacher. It is the sword of the Spirit!
The Evidence That God Furnishes
If these be the appointed instruments whereby God is doing His work in His way, the Bible must furnish evidence to that effect. This evidence of God does furnish in the work of Peter, of Philip, of Paul. This is a complete evidence, since the truth was to be presented in Jerusalem and Judea, Peter’s part; in Samaria, Philip’s part; and to the uttermost parts of the Earth, Paul’s part.
The Ministry of Peter
We know that on the day of Pentecost, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. See him now, as filled with the Spirit, he rises to speak. Now hear him. What is it that he voices? Why, now it is Joel, and now it is David. David now in this Psalm; now in that. In the case of the Beautiful Gate sermon, it is the same. First he quotes Moses, then he quotes Samuel, then he refers to all the prophets.
What is this but a Spirit-filled man presenting the Spirit-given Word? What is this but the doing of God’s work not by might, nor by power, but by God’s Spirit, saith the Lord! And what was the result?
We are told that under these ministries of Peter, five thousand souls were turned to the Lord Jesus! This is the evidence, furnished by God that the Spirit given Word ministered by a Spirit-filled person will be honored by Him.
The Ministry of Philip
Now see Philip, the deacon, turned preacher! See him as a deacon, and you see him as a man selected for his task because he was filled with the Holy Ghost. See him as a preacher, and you see him a servant caught away by the Holy Ghost. See Philip, the Spirit-filled man.
Hear Philip preaching at Samaria! Here there is no quotation from Joel, none from David, from Moses, from Samuel. Philip preached Christ unto them! But having heard Peter, and about to hear Paul, we can hear Philip preaching the Incarnate Word only through the written Word.
What is the result? Not five thousand, but all Samaria, is moved at Philip’s ministry; so much so that two other workers, Peter and John, are sent from Jerusalem to take care of the converts. Here, then is another work of God done in God’s way. A Spirit-filled man, preaching what we believe to be the Spirit given Word, is abundantly blessed with a harvest of souls in a work that was done not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord!
The Ministry of Paul
See the apostle to the Gentiles, separated unto his work by the Holy Spirit. See him led by the Holy Spirit now, not to preach in Asia, neither to preach nor set foot in Bithynia. See him, a man filled with the Holy Spirit of God, for every needed power.
Now hear him. He is preaching in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, and what he presents is a summary of the Word of God, in its relation to the Christ of God. By name or incident he mentions Abraham, Moses, the Judges, Samuel, Saul, David, and remarks that of the latter’s seed, God, according to promise, raised up Jesus.
Everywhere, with a single exception, this Spirit-filled man presents the Spirit-given Word. That exception proves the rule, since on Mars Hill, where he met intellect for the third time, God gives the evidence that His work, done in His way, is blessed with spiritual results. Paul’s ministry stirred more than five thousand; it stirred more than a city; it stirred a world!
This then is the evidence that God blesses the work of His instruments. A Spirit-filled man, heralding the Spirit-given Word, whether he be witnessing at Judea, Samaria, or in the uttermost part of the Earth, is honored of God. For such work is done not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.
The Opportunity that God Presents
We have seen the instruments. We have seen the evidence. Now let us look at the opportunity. For you are either a Peter, or a Philip, or a Paul. Tell me you have been saved from the depths, and I point you to Peter. Tell me you are an ordinary fellow, and I point you to Philip. Tell me you are a person of splendid attainments, and I point you to Paul.
You May Be One of the Instruments
And since your case coincides with either Peter’s case, or Philip’s case, or Paul’s case, here is your opportunity—you may be one of the instruments. As surely as you believe in Jesus Christ, you have God’s Holy Spirit indwelling you. As surely as you grieve Him not, deceive Him not, hinder Him not, you may have God’s Holy Spirit infilling you. Your opportunity, then, is to be a Spirit-filled instrument in the work of God.
You Have the Spirit-Given Word
The same Word of God preached by Peter, by Philip, by Paul, is in your hands. It is given by inspiration of God, written as the writers were carried along by the Holy Ghost. It will still teach, still reprove, still correct, still instruct in righteousness. Spirit-filled, with it in your hands, you are armed with the sword of the Spirit. This is your opportunity; you have both instruments at hand—your Spirit-filled self and the Spirit-given Word.
You May Experience the Evidence
Even in The Moody Church, people need to be refreshed by being reminded that the Holy Spirit lives in every believer; that He is the Author of the Bible. The influence of a church like The Moody Church could be multiplied as many times over as there were revealed to God, men and women in it, who, knowing that the Spirit is in them, cried out to God to fill them; believers who sought God to be delivered from grieving, deceiving and hindering the Spirit of God in them and in others.
A Spirit-given Book and a Spirit-filled person are God’s instruments. What have you done to grieve the Spirit of God? Between what servant of God and his work have you come? In what way have you deceived Him?
I trust He will bless my message, in that you will pour out your hearts and say: If I have grieved Thee, Spirit, deceived Thee, quenched Thee, may the Lord forgive. Fill me, Spirit of God, and give me courage to go forth, in this filling, with Thy Word, to do, even in The Moody Church, a work that shall be done not by might, nor by power, but by Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts!