Here is the dividing line that separates Christianity from all occultism and from every kind of oriental cult ancient or modern. These all are built around the same ideas, varying only in minor details, each with its own peculiar set of phrases and apparently vying with each other in vagueness and obscurity. They each advise, "Get in tune with the Infinite," or "Wake the giant within you," or "Tune in to your hidden potentialities," or "Learn to think creatively." All this may have some fleeting value as a psychological shot in the arm, but its results are not permanent because at its best it builds its hopes upon the fallen nature of man and knows no invasion from above. And whatever may be said in its favor, it most certainly is not Christianity.
Christianity takes for granted the absence of any self-help and offers a power that is nothing less than the power of God. This power is to come upon powerless men as a gentle but resistless invasion from another world bringing a moral potency infinitely beyond anything that might be stirred up from within. This power is sufficient; no additional help is needed, no auxiliary source of spiritual energy, for it is the Holy Spirit of God come where the weakness lay to supply power and grace to meet the moral need
Our Lord before His ascension said to His disciples, "Tarry in the city of Jerusalem until we be endued with power from on high." That word "until" is a time-word; it indicates a point in relation to which everything is either before or after. So the experience of those disciples could be stated like this: Up to that point they had not received the power; at that point they did receive the power; after that point they had received the power. Such is the plain historic fact. Power came upon the Church, such power as had never been released into human nature before (with the lone exception of that mighty anointing that came upon Christ at the waters of Jordan). That power, still active in the Church, has enabled it to exist for nearly 20 centuries, even though for all of that time it has remained a highly unpopular minority group among the nations of mankind and has always been surrounded by enemies who would gladly have ended its existence if they could have done so.
"Ye shall receive power." By those words our Lord raised the expectation of His disciples and taught them to look forward to the coming of a supernatural potency into their natures from a source outside of themselves. It was to be something previously unknown to them, but suddenly to come upon them from another world. It was to be nothing less than God himself entering into them with the purpose of ultimately reproducing His own likeness within them.
The Bible and Christian theology teach that God is an indivisible Unity, being what He is in undivided oneness, from Whom nothing can be taken and to Whom nothing can be added. Mercy, for instance, immutability, eternity, these are but names that we have given to something that God has declared to be true of Himself. All the "of God" expressions in the Bible must be understood to mean not what God has but what God is in His undivided and indivisible Unity. Even the word "nature" when applied to God should be understood as an accommodation to our human way of looking at things and not as an accurate description of anything true of the mysterious Godhead. God has said, "I am that I am," and we can only repeat in reverence, "O God, Thou art."
Some good Christians have misread Acts 1:8 and have assumed that Christ told his disciples that they were to receive the Holy Spirit and power, the power to come after the coming of the Spirit. A superficial reading of the King James text might conceivably lead to that conclusion, but the truth is that Christ taught not the coming of the Holy Spirit and power, but the coming of the Holy Spirit as power; the power and the Spirit are the same.
Our mother tongue is a beautiful and facile instrument, but it can also be a tricky and misleading one, and for this reason it must be used with care if we would avoid giving and receiving wrong impressions by its means. Especially is this true when we are speaking of God, for God being wholly unlike anything or anybody in His universe our very thoughts of Him as well as our words are in constant danger of going astray. One example is found in the words, "The power of God." The danger is that we think of "power" as something belonging to God as muscular energy belongs to a man, as something that He has and that might be separated from Him and still have existence in itself. We must remember that the "attributes" of God are not component parts of the blessed Godhead nor elements out of which He is composed. A god who could be composed would not be God at all but the work of something or someone greater than he, great enough to compose him. We would then have a synthetic God made out of the pieces we call attributes, and the true God would be another Being altogether, One indeed who is above all thought and all conceiving.
The old Jewish believers of pre-Christian times who gave us the (to modern Protestants little-known) books, the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiastes, believed that it is impossible for an impure heart to know divine truth. "For into a malicious soul wisdom will not enter; nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin. For the holy spirit of discipline will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts that are without understanding, and will not abide when unrighteousness cometh in."
These books, along with our familiar Book of Proverbs, teach that true spiritual knowledge is the result of a visitation of heavenly wisdom, a kind of baptism of the Spirit of Truth that comes to God-fearing men. This wisdom is always associated with righteousness and humility and is never found apart from godliness and true holiness of life.
Conservative Christians in this day are stumbling over this truth. We need to reexamine the whole thing. We need to learn that truth consists not in correct doctrine, but in correct doctrine plus the inward enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. We must declare again the mystery of wisdom from above. A re-preachment of this vital truth could result in a fresh breath from God upon a stale and suffocating orthodoxy.