Notes on John Murray’s “Power of the Holy Spirit”

John Murray: “The Power of the Holy Spirit” (Collected Writings, Banner of Truth, pp 138-142)

Introduction notes:

  • Jesus inaugurates the ministry of the Holy Spirit (p 138) – And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)
    • Either reflects “higher degree” of power endowment…
    • …or anticipates Pentecost
    • Cannot be separated from Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
    • The main/overall focus of the Holy Spirit’s power in us is to enable us for the work of witnessing.
The Power of the Holy Spirit is…

I. …the source of faith

  • Main verse – 1 Cor. 2:4-5: [4] and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, [5] that your faith might not rest [μὴ ᾖ] in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
  • Murray writes (p139): “…faith is elicited and rests upon the power of God [v5]. But this power is surely specified in the preceding verse as ‘the demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ [v4] and [Paul] is thinking of that attendant influence of the Holy Spirit in virtue of which the Word of God was effectual at Corinth”.
  • The implication is that, in this age, saving faith depends of the power of the Holy Spirit. “…we must think of that power as that by which the Word of the gospel was registered in the hearts of believers as the truth of God.
  • Murray also quotes 1 Thes. 1:5a: …because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.
  • Murray ties this with 1 Thes. 2:13: And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work [ἐνεργεῖται] in you believers.
  • Point: Although these passages explicitly describe the power of the Holy Spirit in the proclamation of the gospel, they also imply (esp. 1 Thess. 2:13) that it also created faith/assurance in the hearers.

II. …the source of effectual proclamation


  • Communication without power is ‘deceitful’


  • Our dependence on the Holy Spirit’s power does not preclude preparation.
  • Power does not excuse laziness
  • There is power in proclamation and therefore in the preparation for that proclamation.
  • The Holy Spirit’s power seals and reveals the Word, therefore it is also involved in the proclamation and certification (response) of the Word: “The product of the Holy Spirit’s revelation, and the power by which it is certified as his product, always go together.” To ignore this is to make a mockery of our dependence on the Holy Spirit.

III. Source of encouragement (in witnessing)

  • As we witness the gospel to others, we are faced with discouragement from:
    • Unresponsiveness
    • Coldness (apathy)
    • Indifference
    • Unfaithfulness by those who profess faith
    • Lesson: We are helpless to confront human depravity in our own power
    • Comfort comes from knowing that…
      • The Holy Spirit abides in and with the Church
      • He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8)
      • He discloses the glories of the Redeemer to the world
      • That God is Sovereign in His redeeming work (John 3:8)
      • Advice: “Our dependence should be as unbounded as our dependence complete. Our desires and intercessions should be as extensive as the promises of God (Gen. 22:18; Ps. 2:8), and as extensive as the commission to disciple all the nations.” (p141)
      • Warning: “Defeatism and discouragement are the hall marks of unbelief and the counsel of the enemy.” (p141)


  1. What does Murray mean by “…the gospel was registered in the hearts of believers…” (p139)? Is saving faith instigated by the power of the Holy Spirit or only cultivated following the ‘initial response’?
  2. What is the work of illumination of the Holy Spirit? Does it violate human psychology and therefore responsibility?
  3. Why is “art destitute of the Spirit” ‘deceitful’? Why not ‘pointless’ or ‘ineffectual’?
  4. How can we become discouraged in our witnessing? What comfort does the power of the Spirit offer us?
  5. Is discouragement in gospel ministry always a “hall mark of unbelief”? How does 2 Cor. 1:8 fit with this? (cf. 2 Cor. 4:8)?
  6. Is the power of the Holy Spirit restricted to Christian witness-bearing? Are there other ways His power works in or with us?

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