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What’s the Difference Between a Christian Witness and a Christian Advocate?

05 Oct

Lloyd-Jones’ book on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit has been one of the most stimulating reads on that subject that I have read in some time. The following excerpt warns us that there is a distinct difference between Christian labors in the strength of the flesh, through human wisdom and genuine Spirit filled Christian labor. It is so easy to substitute our own wisdom for an enabling that alone can make our labors valuable to God. Truly, without Him we can do nothing. We must humbly recognize that our fleshly labors are useless in the great spiritual battles of our personal growth and service. Read this excerpter, take it to heart, and by God’s grace be a witness of God’s intimate work in your Christian experience rather than a sterile advocate of God’s absolute truth.

“…the filling with the Spirit happens for the sake of service; it gives us power and authority for service…Let me emphasize this. This filling is an absolute necessity for true service. Even our Lord Himself did not enter upon His ministry until the Holy Spirit had descended upon Him. He even told the disciples, whom He had been training for three years, who had been with Him in the inner circle, who had seen His miracles and heard all His words, who had seen Him dead and buried and risen again, even these exceptional men with their exceptional opportunities, He told to stay where they were, not to start upon their ministry, not to attempt to witness to Him, until they had received the power which the Holy Spirit would give them.

This is something, therefore, which is vital to our witness. It was the whole secret of the ministry of the apostle Paul. He did not preach with enticing words of human wisdom, but preached, he said, ‘in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (1 Cor. 2:4). He was filled with the Spirit for his task. Is this not something which causes us all to pause? Whatever the form of our ministry, it is only of value while we are filled with the power of the Spirit. So we should realize the necessity of seeking this filling of the Spirit and of power before we attempt any task, whatever it may be.

Let me put it like this: there is all the difference in the world between being a witness and being an advocate. Men and women can be advocates of these things without the Holy Spirit. I mean that they can have an understanding of the doctrine; they can receive the truth, and can present it, argue for it and defend it. Yes, they are acting as advocates. But primarily, as Christians, we are called upon to be witnesses, to be witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as the Savior of the world, as our own Savior, as the Savior of all who put their faith and trust in Him. And it is only the Holy Spirit who can enable us to do that. You can address people and act as advocates for the truth but you will not convince anybody. If, however, you are filled with the Spirit, and are witnessing to the truth which is true in your life, by the power of the Spirit that is made efficacious. So this filling is essential to all our Christian service.

But also it is equally clear that the infilling of the Spirit is essential to true Christian quality in our life. That is why we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. It is a command to every single Christian: ‘Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit’ (Eph. 5:18). We are exhorted to be filled with the Spirit. And this is commanded in order that our graces may grow, in order that the fruit of the Spirit may develop in us and may be evident to all. It is as we are filled with this life that the fruit and the graces of this life will be manifest. Indeed, the filling of the Spirit is essential to a true act of worship.”[1]


[1] Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1997). God the Holy Spirit (241–242). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossways Books.

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