The main thing we need to see in chapter eighteen of Acts is Paul’s way of preaching. According to 18:5, “when both Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul was wholly occupied in the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.” Acts 18:11 tells us that Paul settled in Corinth “a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” In Corinth Paul first went to the synagogue to testify to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. When they resisted and blasphemed, “he shook out his garments and said to them, Your blood be upon your head; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (v. 6). Paul then remained in Corinth teaching the word of God.
Acts 18:5 indicates that when Paul was in the synagogue, He came directly to the matter of testifying that Jesus is the Christ. However, in our preaching of the gospel to unbelievers, we may think that they will not listen to us if we speak to them concerning the Lord immediately and directly. According to our concept, we may need some kind of opener for our gospel preaching, some way to open the listeners and gain their attention. I do not say that we should never use an opener in preaching the gospel. But we must always remember what our job is. Our job is not to do anything other than to present Christ to sinners and especially to minister Christ to them. Some may say that it is very difficult to present Christ in a direct way to unbelievers. I agree that this is difficult. Therefore we need to learn how to have the power and impact necessary for this.
If we would have power and impact in our gospel preaching, we need to pray. There is no need for us to pray until we speak in tongues in order to have the power. We may have genuine power through prayer without speaking in tongues. Furthermore, I have known a number of tongue-speakers who were not at all powerful in preaching the gospel.
At this point, let me relate to you a conversation I had many years ago with a Christian friend in Chefoo, my hometown. This friend was the leader of a certain Pentecostal group. I had known this brother for years, and the meeting hall for this Pentecostal group was very close to the church meeting hall. One day this brother came to me with the intention of convincing me to take the Pentecostal way. Because we were friends, I encouraged him to speak openly and frankly. I said to him, “Brother, you have come to see me for the purpose of convincing me to practice the Pentecostal things.” When he told me that this was his intention, I indicated to him that I was happy to talk to him concerning this.
I asked this brother why he was so enthusiastic about the Pentecostal things. He said that the reason for his enthusiasm was his belief that through speaking in tongues we may have power. Then I said, “Brother, let us pay attention to the facts. I am not in favor of the Pentecostal things, but you are strongly for them and have been practicing them for years. I would ask you to compare the number in your congregation with the number in ours. You claim to be powerful because you speak in tongues, but you still only have about fifty meeting with you. We do not practice tongue-speaking, but we have hundreds meeting with us, hundreds who have been brought to the Lord through our gospel preaching. Where, then, is your power? You speak in tongues, but you do not have power. We do not speak in tongues, but we have genuine power. Do you know where this power comes from? This power comes from prayer.”
I went on to testify to this brother regarding our practice of preaching the gospel at the time of the Chinese new year. Instead of celebrating the Chinese new year, the saints in the church in Chefoo made preparations to preach the gospel to their relatives, neighbors, and friends. The last night of the year, which was a time of feasting according to Chinese custom, was for us a time of fasting and prayer. Then the next day, the first day of the year, we came together with our relatives, friends, and neighbors for the preaching of the gospel. That gospel preaching was carried on with much prayer. As I was preaching in the meeting hall, many saints were in different rooms praying until the message was over. The power we experienced in our gospel preaching came from such prayer. I told my friend in Chefoo that we trust in prayer, not in tongue-speaking.
In my talk with this brother, I went on to give him two further reasons for our power. I told him that our power is not only through prayer but also in the Word. We do not preach any strange or peculiar things. On the contrary, our preaching is according to the word in the Bible. This word is the truth, and the truth is prevailing. There is power in every word of God.
We preach only the Word, not Chinese ethics or philosophy. Furthermore, instead of using many stories in our speaking, we mainly preach Christ according to the revelation in the Scriptures. Because God’s word is powerful, we have power in our gospel preaching.
I also told this brother that our power is in the Spirit and not in tongue-speaking. We believe that we have the Spirit within us and also upon us. Because we have the Spirit within us and upon us, we have power. Our power, therefore, is in prayer, the Word, and the Spirit.
At this juncture I would like to give you a testimony of what happened one day as I was speaking in Chefoo. I had the sense at a certain point that I was in a certain kind of atmosphere that had come upon me. Then I began to realize that my speaking was altogether out from the genuine power of God.
Whether or not the power in gospel preaching can be sensed by us is not important. What is vital is that in our gospel preaching we have genuine power.
Along with the elders of the church in Chefoo, I had a definite experience of the Lord’s power during a revival that was taking place in the church in 1942. Many of the saints requested the laying on of hands. We laid hands on them one by one and also prayed for each one. In approximately an hour we prayed for more than two hundred saints. The prayer that was uttered during that time was actually one long prayer that continually bubbled forth. What is significant was that the prayer for each saint exactly fit the situation of that saint. Suddenly the prayer ceased, and we did not lay hands on anyone else. All the attendants at that meeting realized that what had taken place was truly a move of the Spirit and that we could not repeat it. I give this as a further illustration of the fact that our trust for power is in prayer, the Word, and the Spirit.
As we seek to have power and impact in our gospel preaching, we should not follow any strange or peculiar way. Let us take the way of prayer, the way of the Word, and the way of the Spirit.
We believe that today the Lord is the processed Spirit who dwells in us and also upon us. It does not matter whether this Spirit is sensed by us. We believe that while we are serving Him and speaking for Him, especially as we are speaking Him forth, He is with us. We have the Lord’s presence within us as the anointing. Through prayer, the Word, and the Spirit, we can have true power and impact.
I practiced tongue-speaking for a year and a half. The more I spoke in tongues, the less power I had. Eventually, I discontinued that practice and came back to the regular way of prayer. Although I did not have much time to kneel down and pray, all day long I had a praying spirit. From experience I can testify that prayer brings in power.
Furthermore, throughout the years my ministry has always been with the Word. During the years I have been preaching and teaching in this country, I have cared only for the Word. The Word is inexhaustible, and the Word is power.
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