Pentecost (4) — The history of the Church demonstrates God’s intervening messianic power

Michael Richmond Duru
10 min readJun 3, 2022

What we see in the history of the Church and in the lives of distinguished individual Christians, is in more ways than one, the demonstration of God’s prevailing power — the victory of a superior power in the world.

Starting from that day when the Holy Spirit arrived, on the feast of pentecost in Jerusalem, the history of the Church itself can be seen as a long narrative of God’s power putting aside the things of old and doing something new among men. The prophet Isaiah spoke thus: “Behold, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The beasts of the field will honour me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I provide water in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people. The people I formed for myself will declare my praise.” (Is 43:19–21) Indeed, through the Church, God did a new thing in the world.

- from weakness to strength, from fear to courage — the Holy Spirit factor in the Church

The mystery of how Peter was changed from a denier to a rock; the mystery of how the Church was formed from the fragilities of fearful apostles to the stature of a high rock; the mystery of how the Church was transformed from nothing into a universal institution; the mystery of how the Church conquered and took over Rome; the mystery of how the Church moved from the cenacle of the upper room to a universal religion and the fundamental element of western civilization; all without the physical presence of Jesus; are nothing else than a testimony of God’s power prevailing over the world. This power is what we have called the Holy Spirit factor and the ‘power’ element in the Church. It was ‘power’ that made the Church in the first place. The secret of this power is the activation of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit, this ‘power’ cannot be taken out of the everyday life of the Church without a ‘lacuna’.

The Church, or teacher, professes this truth and has taught us that this power, the Holy Spirit, is always present and active in the Church and in the faithful — of course, according to how much we conform with the life of grace and according to how much freedom we grant him to act within us (since he never imposes anything on us). But today, there are those who act in a manner that suggest that this Spirit no longer has any actively perceptible role in the Church or in the lives of the faithful. Such tendency, attempt to shut out the Spirit and the power that made the Church.

All the apostles, but John, fled during the crucifixion. (cf. Jn 19:25) Even after the crucifixion, they remained in hiding, in fear. “It was the first day of the week, and that very evening, while the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you!” He said to them.” (Jn 20:19) Until the coming of the Spirit who clothed them with power, the apostles remained in fear, in hiding, behind locked doors. “Eight days later, His disciples were once again inside with the doors locked, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (Jn 20:26) Jesus could see that they needed ‘power’; and he did give them the Spirit of power. After their encounter with the Spirit of power, they were changed. But this change came from empowerment with ‘power’.

As the crowds gathered to see what had happened to the Eleven after the descent of the Holy Spirit, for the first time, “Peter stood up with the Eleven, lifted up his voice, and addressed the crowd: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen carefully to my words. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It is only the third hour of the day! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my menservants and maidservants I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. (Acts 2:14–18)

For the first time, Peter preached and it was a long and fruitful sermon. “With many other words he testified, and he urged them, “Be saved from this corrupt generation.” Those who embraced his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to the believers that day.” (Acts 2:40–41) No one changes without an encounter with the ‘power’ that changes. Nothing changes in our Christian labours if there is no ‘power’ behind them.

- after the clothing with power

Now clothed with power, the followers of Jesus, not only left their hiding rooms, they went everywhere in the then known world proclaiming the Gospel and teaching people to follow the ‘new’ way. Beginning from the ministry of the Lord Jesus himself, it was the demonstration of power, which comes to confirm the word of God, that made the Christian faith unique and aided the conversion of souls and the building up of the Church. “Jesus performed this, the first of his signs, at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.” (Jn 2:11) In many ways and places, the Gospels show us that the impartation of power has a role to play in the proclamation of the Gospel and in our everyday relationship with God.

While the goal of the Christian life is not the ‘show’ of power; while the aspiration of the believer ought not be the search for power, the element of ‘power’ obviously has a place of relevance in the Church and in the Christian life. Whenever it is crucial, for the advancement of the Faith, for our good, for the good of others, for the edification of the faithful or for the advancement of the faith, God intervenes with the manifestation of his power. This happens in many ways and by different gifts. We see this truth lived out in the ministry of Jesus, in the works of the apostles, in the early Fathers of the Church and in the lives of the Saints to this day.

Let’s now see how the same factor features in the evangelization works of the apostles. Already, referring collectively to both the apostles and disciples of Jesus, confirms to that, the followers of Jesus “went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked through them, confirming His word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mk 16:20)

- the apostles testified both to the word and to the power of God

The impartation of God’s ‘messianic’ power, following the proclamation of the Gospel by the followers of Jesus, which began before the crucifixion of Jesus, continued and even increased, after his ascension into heaven. Following the ‘great persecution that broke out against the Church in Jerusalem’ (Acts 8:1), one of the apostles “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. The crowds gave their undivided attention to Philip’s message and to the signs they saw him perform. With loud shrieks, unclean spirits came out of many they had possessed, and many of the paralyzed and lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:5–8)

As can be seen in the encounter between Philip and the Samaritans, it is true that Apostle Philip preached and the Samaritans believed, but it was not the spoken word all alone that drew the entire city to the gospel of a fleeing refugee-apostle. There was also the element of messianic power, active and effective, perceptible and powerful, which confirmed the spoken word. Apostle Paul dedicated chapter two of his first letter to the Corinthians to the crucial element of power-behind-the-word. Speaking about his own experience of it, Paul wrote: “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God … My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1Cor 2:1–5) Both in Jesus and in his apostles, there was always the element of power-behind-the-word.

On this element of the demonstrable power of the gospel, again, St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “Brothers who are beloved by God, we know that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with great conviction — just as you know we lived among you for your sake.” 1Thes 1:4–5) In fact, St. Paul warns against preaching a gospel based solely on the words and wisdom of men, which, as he says, empties the cross of Christ, of its power. “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with words of wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1Cor 1:17)

- like Jesus, like the apostles

Soon after Jesus left the scene, the same things that were being said about Jesus, began to be said about the apostles. On one occasion, as Jesus would do in his days, the apostles healed so many infirmities that people came to them on their own accord and large numbers of men and women were brought to the Lord. Here is the story:

“The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people, and with one accord the believers gathered together in Solomon’s Colonnade. Although the people regarded them highly, no one else dared to join them. Yet more and more believers were brought to the Lord — large numbers of both men and women. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and all of them were healed.” Acts 5:12–16)

The foregoing testimony about the apostles sounds like the one about Jesus in Mark chapter 7: “Then Jesus left the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. Some people brought to him a man who was deaf and dumb, and begged Jesus to place his hand on him. So, Jesus took him aside, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed saying ‘Ephphatha’ ‘be opened’ At once the man’s ears opened and his tongue was released, and he began to speak plainly … The people were utterly astonished saying, “He has done all things well! He makes even the deaf hear and the mute speak!” (Mk 7:31–37). It is also similar to the one about Jesus in Matthew chapter 9: “As Jesus went on from there, (after healing the woman with the issue of blood and raising from death, the daughter of the Synagogue official) two blind men followed him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” After Jesus had entered the house, the blind men came to him. “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” he asked. “Yes, Lord,” they answered. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you.” And their eyes were opened … As they were leaving, a demon-possessed man who was mute was brought to Jesus. And when the demon had been driven out, the man began to speak. Amazed, the crowds said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!” (Mt 9:27–34)

We see this testimony of God’s power which accompanies the preaching of the gospel, not only in the account of the works of the apostles, but also in their written teachings. The letter to the Hebrews testifies thus: “This salvation was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him, and was affirmed by God through signs, wonders, various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” (Hb 2:4) Genuine signs, wonders and miracles — of different kinds and manners, different magnitudes, big or small, dramatic or simple — usually, are evidences from God confirming is word. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, on their part, usually, are evidences from the Holy Spirit confirming his presence and action in souls.

We too — today’s ordinary orthodox Christians — need to reappropriate this gift of God’s power, together with the priceless treasure of spiritual gifts, which the Holy Spirit freely gives to us. We do this, first by desire and then, by a life of abidance and communion with him; we do this by abiding in the life of grace, by which we have a foretaste of the life of glory in heaven; we do this, above all, by conscious adherence to life-in-the-Spirit. It is by friendship and fellowship, by devotion and communion, with the Spirit, that mortal man comes to possess within his bosom, the presence and the power of the person of the Holy Spirit.

This is crucial, since, like the apostles, it is only by the presence and power of this Spirit, that we can experience as well as impart God’s power in our everyday lives, for our own advantage and for those of believers and non-believers around us.

- the Saints in the history of the Church also demonstrated the same power of God

Let’s now, briefly though, turn to the saints, to see their own testimony of God’s gift of power, of the impartation of the power of God as well as of the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit, in their own journey with Jesus’ gospel and with the Holy Spirit. …

Michael Richmond Duru
3rd June 2022



Michael Richmond Duru

Michael Richmond Duru is an Igboman. From Amaulu, Mbieri clan. His Igboland is in the gulf of West Africa. A priest of the Archdiocese of Owerri. Lives in Rome.