A fourth way in which the Holy Spirit shows His authority in the individual believer is in the defence of the truth. Now this is something which we are very concerned about these days, and rightly so. We are told in Jude 3 that we should ‘contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints’ (Rv). But how are we to do this? We tend to do it in terms of apologetics. Again I want to say that I am not denouncing or dismissing apologetics. I believe that apologetics has its rightful place, but I am certain that we are attaching far too much importance to it, and far too many of our books are defending the faith in this way. We are trying to reason, to show our knowledge and to make accommodations. But it does not seem to avail much. We do not seem to be making much of an impression on our opponents.
How, then, is the truth to be defended? In Acts vi you find Stephen in this self-same position. And this is what we read in verses 9 and so: ‘Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.’ Stephen’s secret was that he was full of wisdom and faith and power because he was full of the Holy Ghost. Because of that he could meet these disputers in such a way that they could not resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. That is the way to defend the faith and stand for the truth.
Let us consider some other examples of this same method. The apostle Paul had many adversaries in Corinth, and they were saying bitter things about him. They were trying to ridicule him. They said, ‘His presence is weak and his speech contemptible.’ (I am afraid that the apostle Paul would not be a popular modern evangelist. It seems that he was not much to look at. We are told that he was a short man, bald-headed with a hooked nose, and that he had a horrible inflammation of his eyes, an opthalmia, which made him utterly repulsive to look at.) That was the sort of thing they were saying about him. And the apostle writes to them as follows: ‘I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power’ (I Corinthians iv. 19,20). The thing that matters, he says, is not understanding or mere speaking; it is the authority, the power of the Holy Ghost.
The apostle says very much the same thing to that same Church in 2 Corinthians x. 3-5, where he puts it thus: ‘For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the puffing down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.’ That is his method. He is in the flesh, he walks in the flesh, but he does not war ‘after the flesh’. He has another authority, another power. It is the power and authority of the Holy Ghost that was in him. He is ready to meet the whole world, and he can bring down all authorities, strongholds and dominions.
Surely it is important for us to realize that here we have the only authority still. We can put up our own little authorities, and the world puts up its authorities. It is simply one authority against another. We spend our time in quoting ‘authorities’ and discovering this detail and that. We see sometimes in the newspaper that some person or other has now become a believer. And we may think that this will make a great impression on the public. But the essential situation remains unaffected. The only authority that will avail us in all these respects is the authority of the Holy Ghost.