Each Sunday we post a short classic piece from famous Christians signally used by God down through the history of the church. Today we look to Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932).
The Church Without the Spirit
by Samuel Chadwick
The Church is the creation of the Holy Spirit. It is a community of believers who owe their religious life from first to last to the Spirit. Apart from Him there can be neither Christian nor Church. The Christian religion is not institutional but experimental. It is not an ordained class, neither is it in ordinances and sacraments. It is not a fellowship of common interest in culture, virtue, or service. Membership is by spiritual birth. The roll of membership is kept in heaven. Christ is the Door. He knows them that are His, and they know Him. The Church Roll and the Lamb’s Book of Life are not always identical. “No man can say Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit,” and confession of the lordship of Jesus Christ is the first condition of membership in His Church. The command to tarry in the city until there came enduement of power from on high proves that the one essential equipment of the Church is the gift of the Holy Ghost. Nothing else avails for the real work of the Church.
For much that is undertaken by the Church He is not necessary. The Holy Ghost is no more needed to run bazaars, social clubs, institutions, and picnics, than He is to run a circus. These may be necessary adjuncts of the modern Church, but it is not for power to run these things we need tarry. Religious services and organized institutions do not constitute a Christian Church, and these may flourish without the gift of Pentecostal fire.
The work of the Spirit in the Church is set forth in the promises of Jesus on the eve of His departure, and demonstrated in the Acts of the Apostles. The Gospels “tell of “all that Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day in which He was received up,” and the Acts of the Apostles tell of all that He continued to do and to teach after the day in which He was received up. The Holy Spirit is the active, administrative Agent of the glorified Son. He is the Paraclete, the Deputy, the acting Representative of the Ascended Christ. His mission is to glorify Christ by perpetuating His character, establishing His Kingdom, and accomplishing His redeeming purpose in the world. The Church is the Body of Christ, and the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. He fills the Body, directs its movements, controls its members, inspires its wisdom, supplies its strength. He guides into the truth, sanctifies its agents, and empowers for witnessing. The work of the Church is to “minister the Spirit,” to speak His message, and transmit His power. He calls and distributes, controls and guides, inspires and strengthens.
The Spirit has never abdicated His authority nor relegated His power. Neither Pope nor Parliament, neither Conference nor Council is supreme in the Church of Christ. The Church that is man-managed instead of God-governed is doomed to failure. A ministry that is College trained but not Spirit-filled works no miracles. The Church that multiplies committees and neglects prayer may be fussy, noisy, enterprising, but it labors in vain and spends its strength for naught. It is possible to excel in mechanics and fail in dynamic. There is a superabundance of machinery; what is wanting is power. To run an organization needs no God. Man can supply the energy, enterprise, and enthusiasm for things human. The real Work of a Church depends upon the power of the Spirit.
The Presence of the Spirit is vital and central to the work of the Church. Nothing else avails. Apart from Him wisdom becomes folly, and strength weakness. The Church is called to be a “spiritual house” and a holy priesthood. Only spiritual people can be its “living stones,” and only the Spirit-filled its priests. Scholarship is blind to spiritual truth till He reveals. Worship is idolatry till He inspires. Preaching is powerless if it be not a demonstration of His power. Prayer is vain unless He energizes. Human resources of learning and organization, wealth and enthusiasm, reform and philanthropy, are worse than useless if there be no Holy Ghost in them.
The Church always fails at the point of self-confidence. When the Church is run on the same lines as a circus, there may be crowds, but there is no Shekinah. That is why prayer is the test of faith and the secret of power. The Spirit of God travails in the prayer-life of the soul. Miracles are the direct work of His power, and without miracles the Church cannot live. The carnal can argue, but it is the Spirit that convicts. Education can civilize, but it is being born of the Spirit that saves. The energy of the flesh can run bazaars, organize amusements, and raise millions; but it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes a Temple of the Living God. The root-trouble of the present distress is that the Church has more faith in the world and the flesh than in the Holy Ghost, and things will get no better till we get back to His realized presence and power. The breath of the four winds would turn death into life and dry bones into mighty armies, but it only comes by prayer.
Excerpted from chapter 2 of “The Way To Pentecost”, a classic little book which, thankfully, has been recently reprinted by Christian Literature Crusade. It is also available for reading online for free – CLICK HERE.
Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932) was an English Methodist minister who was used by God to bring revival to several cities in which he pastored. In his latter years he took the post as Principal of Cliff College training young men for the ministry. One of his most famous “sons” in the faith was Leonard Ravenhill.