The Sunday service was in full swing, and 1,000 worshipers were singing their praises to God. Then a young man from the choir quietly walked to the pulpit microphone and said, “The Lord has shown me that there is someone here today who needs to get saved.”
I groaned within, because I thought to myself, “That’s no revelation. There are 1,000 people here this morning. Of course there are some who need to get saved.” But the young man at the microphone wasn’t finished yet. He went on, “...and you know who you are, because before coming to church today you drank two beers!” A thoroughly startled man sitting in a pew near the front of the church raised his hand in acknowledgement. He willingly went to a side room with some of the church elders and received Jesus Christ as his Savior.
What was this? What happened here? It was a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit called “the word of knowledge” (1 Corinthians 12:8, KJV). It was a revelation by God to the young man from the choir of information he did not know by his natural senses. And the man who had drained the two beers before going to church was shockingly impressed by the power of God displayed in this very personal revelation. It was this “demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4) that convinced him of God’s reality and His love for him. That made it easy for the “two-beer” man to accept God’s gracious offer of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Pastors, church leaders, and all believers, what should be our “takeaway” from this illustration? Just this — people need to hear the Word of God, and they also need to see the demonstrated power of God.
•• 1 Thessalonians 1:5 ...our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit...”
• In order to come to know the Lord, people must hear the Word of God, especially the Gospel contained in the Bible. But the Word alone has never been the entire solution. God has also determined to convince people of His Word’s reality by a demonstration of Holy Spirit power — such as what I call the “two-beer word of knowledge”.
•• Mark 16:20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
• The early Church understood the Lord’s plan. They went forth and preached His Gospel. And they believed to see the confirmation of that Gospel with supernatural signs.
• “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today...” (Hebrews 13:8). As we obey the Lord and go forth and tell the world about Him, He will still today pour out manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power in confirmation of the preached Word.
• Can people be saved simply by hearing the Gospel without supernatural signs? Certainly. But God’s clearly revealed pattern in Scripture shows a much greater evangelistic effectiveness when God’s Word is confirmed with the supernatural signs.
Consider these few examples of this from the early Church’s ministry in the Book of Acts.
•• 120 Christians were baptized in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and among those who saw and heard them, 3,000 people were saved and baptized in water (Acts 2:1-4, 41). The manifestation of speaking in other tongues astounded the hearers (vs. 12) ... the apostle Peter preached the Gospel to them (vss. 14ff) ... and 3,000 responded in faith.
•• A man crippled from birth was supernaturally healed at the temple gate. He began walking, jumping, and praising God, and the apostle Peter preached to the astonished crowd about Jesus Christ (Acts 3:1-12ff). The result? Thousands more saved (Acts 4:4).
•• Philip, the deacon-turned-evangelist, preached Christ in Samaria. And along with that was the casting out of demons and the healing of many paralytics and cripples. As a result of this biblical presentation of God’s Word with power, many were saved and baptized (Acts 8:5-8ff).
•• A cripple was healed in Jesus’ name, and two whole towns“turned to the Lord” (Acts 932-35).
•• Peter raised a woman from the dead, and as a result “many people [in that city]believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:40-42).
•• The Corinthian church was exhorted by the apostle Paul to expect, as a result of the manifested gift of prophecy, that the visitor to the service might be so amazed by the prophetic revelation that he would “fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you.’ " (I Corinthians 14:24-25).
Many more examples could be drawn from both the Scriptures and the experiences of the early Church and the Church today. Let me close with these final thoughts:
•• The “two-beer” word of knowledge mentioned earlier so amazed the visitor to our church service that he was immediately willing to receive Jesus as Savior.
•• Nothing has changed! It has always been God’s intention that His Gospel would come “not ... in word only, but also in power” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
So let's obey the biblical command to “eagerly desire spiritual gifts” (1 Corin. 14:1). And as we do so, and as these spiritual gifts are manifested, we will see the fulfillment of the apostle Paul’s marvelous example of Gospel ministry — “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 Corin. 2:4-5).