POWER FROM ON HIGH: RICHARD WATSON
edited by Dr. Vic Reasoner

In The King's Gold Mine: Or, The Conversion and Sanctification of the Disciples, Bud Robinson puts all of his eggs in one basket. He declares that if Luke 24:49 describes a second work of grace everyone else is wrong. If it does not, the holiness preachers are in error.

You will find the text in Luke 24:49, 'And behold I send the promise of my Father upon you but tarry ye in the City of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.' Now, if the disciples had never been converted, and were still in their sins at the time the Lord made this promises, then the promise of the Father and the enduement of power is nothing more or less than the new birth, but if they had been converted and were at that time the children of God, and not in a backslidden state, then the promise of the Father and the enduement of power is a blessing or a work of grace received by faith by the disciples subsequent to regeneration.

Now if the disciples had not been converted before Pentecost, then we Second Blessing people are without a Scriptural warrant for our doctrine and we are preaching heresy and we are false teachers, and every church in the land ought to be branded as a set of heretics and fanatics and hobby riders, who ride a hobby without eyes or ears or legs, but listen to me, folks, just a minute. If the disciples had been converted before Pentecost and were not backslidden at Pentecost, then we Second Blessing people are Scriptural and orthodox, and the crowd that is preaching that the disciples were never converted until Pentecost are unscriptural and unorthodox, and are false teachers and the churches ought to be closed in their faces and every church in the land ought to be open to us.

Robinson assumes the disciples to be regenerated and that the fulfillment of this promise at Pentecost constitutes a second work of grace.

The holiness movement seems unwilling to admit that they use Wesley's name, but do not teach his doctrine. In this sermon by Richard Watson, no such equation is made of Pentecost and a second work of grace. It is ironic that Uncle Bud thought he was contending for Wesleyan doctrine and in so doing indicted the father of Wesleyan theology as a heretic. This is not the last time students of Wesley have been attacked as not being Wesleyan by men who have never read Wesley.

Here is an edited version of "Power from on High," sermon #66 in Watson's two-volume Sermons and Sketches of Sermons. That Watson believed in entire sanctification is evident from reading chapter 29 in his Theological Institutes, entitled "Further Benefits of Redemption." However, Watson correctly understands "sanctification" as being a broader term. It is "that work of God's grace by which we are renewed after the image of God, set apart for his service, and enabled to die unto sin and live unto righteousness" [Richard Watson, A Biblical and Theological Dictionary, p. 841].

While this sermon is condensed, nothing has been inserted or omitted which would change Watson's interpretation of Luke 24:49. We must conclude that what the early Methodists described as the new birth, the later holiness movement described as a second work. We must also conclude that Pentecostalism did not rise out of Methodist theology. If the holiness movement had not tampered with the truth, there would have been no Pentecostal movement.

Power from on High

Luke 24:49

These words are addressed by our Lord to the eleven and those that were with them. He was about to leave them, so he renews the promise and bids them wait in Jerusalem.

They did wait, as all must wait, for this heavenly gift. Just as they tossed this promise around in their minds while they waited for its fulfillment, so we may profitably direct our attention to its importance. May we be influenced to seek the same gift which, in His ordinary operations, is promised to us.

I propose to illustrate this description of the blessed Spirit by the extraordinary effects produced on the Apostles and by the ordinary influence exerted on all true Christians.

  1. The Extraordinary Operations of the Spirit.
    1. The gift of tongues. He who knows the difficulty of acquiring a foreign language will perceive what a miracle was this infusion of words into the memory and their ability to speak them fluently
    2. The illumination of the mind. The Apostles had heard Christ. They had reasoned among themselves. Through the mist of prejudice there had sometimes been a flash of light followed by obscurity. Now all was explained. The harmony of the law and the gospel, the mystery of faith, were opened to them and to all by them.
    3. The power with which they spoke. There was a rush of accompanying energy such as accompanied not even the words of Christ. Those who were not stubbornly blind were pricked in their heart. And those who resisted the truth hated the light and hated the men. But they would not have hated either had they not felt the light was light from heaven and the men were men of God.
    4. Miracles of healing. They did all the works of Christ and did them in greater quantity. They were men inferior to Christ the God-man, yet they performed the very works of divinity. The sick were healed. Virtue issued from Peter, as from His Master's garments. The dead were raised. Demons were ejected.
    5. Discernment of spirits. The hearts of men were opened and man was endued with an attribute of God; the ability to search the heart.
    6. Courage. Theirs was a courage which shrunk not in the hour of trial. It was not merely excitement, but a calm, deliberate surrender of themselves to shame, suffering, and death. There was not one apostate among them after the "power from on high" descended.

    While we see in all these circumstances a demonstration of the Apostles' mission, we also see what God can make man when he gives him the gift of His Spirit.

  2. The Ordinary Influences of the Spirit.
  3. The gift of the Spirit is still "power from on high." It is true that the gifts most mentioned were extraordinary. Their purpose was to make the glory of God visible to all. When attention was aroused and Christianity could appeal to these demonstrations as matters of historical fact, the work was left to be carried on by more secret and invisible influences. When the cloud of glory descended on the temple, "the priests could not stand to minister, because of the cloud." Yet God was not less the mighty God of Israel, when invisible. The Spirit is now in the Church, working all in all.

    We have been told that since the extraordinary gifts are not longer being dispensed, the direct influence of the Holy Spirit did not continue. Let me refute this.

    It confused the extraordinary with the ordinary gifts. One does not necessarily imply the other. All who received the Holy Spirit as teacher and comforter did not work miracles. Some who had gifts did not have renewing grace.

    If the Apostles needed the direct influence of the Holy Spirit to make them Christians, so do we. We are called to be all that the gospel requires. Now either we can attain this without the Spirit or we cannot. If we can, man can be saved without God. If we cannot attain it, the gospel is no longer "the power of God unto salvation."

    But these objections are dispelled by the words of Christ, "I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter that he may abide with you forever." Thank God, if we wait, we too shall be "endued with power from on high." Let us consider, then, how this power manifests itself.

    1. In awakening the soul of man. There are two states of mind with reference to eternal things. One is marked by unconcern and neglect. The sinner has no sense of danger, though on its very brink. He had no abhorrence of sin, though leprous with it. He has no sense of slavery, though actually bound. He has no shame and humiliation before God, though ungratefulness and rebellion shape his life.

      What if this sleep is broken? What if the ear listens at last to the reproving voice of alarm? What if the danger becomes visible? What if fears are aroused? What is the heart breaks under a sense of its ingratitude? What change at Pentecost was greater than this?

      Does man awaken himself? does he pierce his own conscience? Does he render himself miserable and wretched? It is impossible. It is the "power from on high" that produces this.

    2. By the Holy Spirit as the Comforter. Here, also, are two states of mind. One is full of fear and alarm. The other is full of faith and a joyful sense of reconciliation with God. Here is a change as great as the other. Here, too, is the "power from on high." If for these doubts I may receive assurance; if for this dread of God I may receive the Spirit of adoption, then let me wait until I am endowed with this heavenly gift - the Spirit who cries in every believing heart, "Abba, Father."
    3. By the Holy Spirit as Sanctifier. There is not a sin from which we may not cease. but this power is not of man. It is the "power from on high," destroying the love of sin, breaking its power, and filling the soul with the fear and love of God, that the dart of temptation falls blunted and broken. "Thanks be to God, who mgives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
    4. From the fruits of the Spirit. Look at the list of them; "Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." Now when these are called the fruits of the Spirit, the expression infers that they are not of man. The human heart is naturally as barren of these fruits as the desert is of corn and wine and oil. Even what seems to approach them is not the same. Natural good temper is not love to God. Cheerfulness is not joy in the Lord. Tranquility is not the peace of God.

But even where the contrast is as great as possible, love shall grow in the heart that was hating and malignant. Let it be gloomy and dark, here joy shall spring up. Let it be turbulent and restless, here peace shall establish her dominion. This is also a miracle. It is "power from on high."

Conclusion:

  1. There is a power promised to you more glorious than all the endowments of apostolic gifts.
  2. The baptism of secret fire is invisible to the eye, but it works powerfully and constantly. It softens the heart, kindles joy, diffuses purity, gives energy in duty, and lifts you up in devout thoughts to heaven. If you seek it, all this is yours.
  3. If you ask how you are to attain it, make the apostles your example. Believe your Lord, "I send the promise of my Father upon you." Wait for this,not idly, but in prayer and in public worship.
  4. Realize that "if any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His." Aspire, then, to this.
  5. Pray for the outpouring of the Spirit upon your friends, the whole Church, the whole world. Even that shall come.



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