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Bible verses about Dunamis
(From Forerunner Commentary)

In the New Testament, the Greek word translated "power" is dunamis, the source of the English words dynamic and dynamite, both of which are easily associated with "power." In addition, dunamis can also be translated "mighty works" and "wonderful works." The implication is not just the capacity for activity or accomplishment, but actual actions and achievements of such magnitude that they inspire a sense of wonder in others. Similarly, dunamis is also translated "miracles" a few times. These powerful accomplishments, typically beyond normal human capability, refer both to things that Jesus Christ did (Mark 5:30; Acts 10:38), as well as works performed by God through others, such as the apostles (Mark 9:39; Acts 6:8; 19:11; II Corinthians 12:12).

Dunamis does not have an inherent moral quality; it is neutral. On the one hand, the angel told Zacharias that John the Baptist would come "in the spirit and power [dunamis] of Elijah" (Luke 1:17), meaning the prophet's effectiveness and ability, which we would consider to be positive. On the other hand, the Samaritans all wrongly said that Simon Magus—Simon the Sorcerer—was "the great power [dunamis] of God" (Acts 8:9-10). Similarly, in Revelation 13:2, the end-time Beast receives dunamis from Satan, and the ten kings give their dunamis to the Beast (Revelation 17:13).

Thus, dunamis, this capacity for achieving, accomplishing, and controlling things, is morally neutral. It can be used for God's glory or in Satan's service. However, it is mostly used in a positive light, describing God's authority, ability, or outworking by means of the Holy Spirit (for example, Matthew 6:13; 24:30; Romans 1:20; 9:17; I Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 3:7; Hebrews 1:3; II Peter 1:3; etc).

In Acts 1:8, just before Christ ascends to heaven, He gives His disciples their final marching orders: "But you shall receive power [dunamis] when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. . . ." Jesus links the Holy Spirit with power—dunamis (see Luke 24:49). Similarly, Paul tells Timothy that Christians have not been given "a spirit of fear, but of power [dunamis] . . ." (II Timothy 1:7). When combined, these verses show that the Holy Spirit gives a person the effectiveness for God's will and God's work to be done through him.

Even when Christ performed miracles, the Father actually did the work (John 14:10). Jesus was His chosen vessel through whom the works were accomplished to do the Father's will. It is clear dunamis is more than just a capacity or ability; it is an actively used capacity or ability. It is not static. Once this power is set in motion, it continues to move, work, and accomplish.

Also in Acts 1:8, Christ tells the disciples that, with the Holy Spirit, they would receive the ability to be effective witnesses for Him. But more than receiving just the capacity for effective witnessing, the Holy Spirit—the power of God—would actively begin working in their lives, essentially without the disciples governing it! Christ said, "You shall receive power . . . and you shall be witnesses to Me."

God gives power to all mankind in the form of the spirit in man. The mind, the intellect, is the basis of man's power. To His regenerated children, though, He gives an extra, realized capacity to perform His will, just as He gives dunamis to the angelic host to carry out its responsibilities (II Thessalonians 1:7). He equips us with whatever we need to accomplish what He is working out.

If something needs to be done for God's design to be realized, we can be sure that God has delegated the power—the capacity, aptitude, authority, and active effectiveness—for it to be done. Sometimes this means working only through a person's natural ability. At other times, it means bestowing additional power for miracles to be performed. For instance, the power God gives to each of us to understand the Bible is on the level of the miraculous. No amount of natural aptitude or scholarship can bestow that ability. God provides the ability to understand.

David C. Grabbe


2 Timothy 1:6-7

The apostle is talking about a spirit that has been “given [to] us.” It is identified here as a “gift of God” that can be “stir[red] up.” It is bestowed through the laying on of hands, as we see throughout Scripture. Paul says that God's Spirit is not about human fear. Later in this letter, he reproaches Timothy for being ashamed of the gospel message and of Paul. The younger man seems to have been in some danger of letting down and needed to be admonished to be strong and to endure hardship. All of this is part of the fear to which Timothy was apparently inclined.

Paul contrasts the frame of mind—the spirit—that would curtail Timothy's effectiveness with the Spirit given by God. Paul calls the latter “a spirit . . . of power and of love and of a sound mind.” As in I Corinthians 2:12-16, God's Spirit is linked with mind. If we are yielding to His Spirit, then our minds will be sound; they will be disciplined and self-controlled. Our minds will be sensible, sober, balanced, and restrained, and we will have wisdom, discretion, and solid judgment. Through the guidance of God's Spirit, our minds will operate in a way different from, and often incomprehensible to, those in the world, because we are being impelled by the essence of God's own mind, which is the absolute epitome of sound-mindedness and the opposite of the course of this world.

The Spirit of God is also a spirit of love. We can combine this with Romans 5:5: “. . . the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Along with that, the first element of the fruit of God's Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22). Godly love is an action—doing the right thing toward God or another person, regardless of the personal cost involved. Its foundational definition is in the commandments of God. A fear of sacrifice—a fear of giving up what is valuable to us—comes from the spirit of the world, but God's Spirit enables us to love through doing what is right and trusting that God will work things out.

The remaining attribute listed here is power. It is the Greek word dunamis, which can also be translated as “ability,” “strength,” or “mighty works.Dunamis is the capacity for achieving or accomplishing. The Holy Spirit gives a person the capacity for God's will and work to be done through him. But this is not a personal power. Even the miracles with which Jesus Himself is associated were actually performed by the Father (John 5:19; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10). Thus, the power of the Holy Spirit is the outworking of God the Father, rather than something we can use for our own ends.

It is critical to understand that the power of God's Spirit is under the constraint of the love and sound-mindedness of God's Spirit. In other words, it is not simply power for the sake of power, nor is it for self-gratification or self-glorification. The evident power in the Acts 2 account of Pentecost has given rise to churches that seek after similar supernatural displays, yet those displays are entirely divorced from the love and sound-mindedness of God.

People can seek this power for the wrong reasons, and it can be misused. Simon Magus tried to buy the power of God to use for his own ends (Acts 8:9-24), and even the congregation at Corinth had to be admonished because they were not using their spiritual gifts for the benefit of the Body (I Corinthians 12). In the midst of his discussion of God's various gifts, which are simply the outworking of God's power, Paul spends a whole chapter explaining godly love (I Corinthians 13), implying that the Corinthians' approach to those gifts did not include enough love or sound judgment.

He spells out that anything they received—such as spiritual wisdom or the ability to heal or do other miracles, to prophesy, to discern spirits, to speak in tongues, or to fulfill the office of apostle, prophet, or teacher—whatever the spiritual ability, God's Spirit is the source of it all, so there is no ground for boasting. The use of the power of God has to be constrained by the love and sobriety befitting the Most High God, so that He is the focus, not the individual.

David C. Grabbe
What Is the Holy Spirit?


Revelation 3:7-8

Jesus Christ tells the Philadelphians that they have only a little strength, a little power (dunamis). They have a small, effective capability for wonderful works and mighty deeds, a limited ability to get things done. If they are dynamic, it is only on a small scale. This has some implications about the letter to Philadelphia that we may not have considered before.

There are at least four applications or audiences to the Letters to the Seven Churches: They are written to 1) seven literal, first-century churches in Asia Minor; 2) seven end-time churches; 3) seven historical church eras; and/or 4) individuals Christians. In each letter, Christ gives the admonition, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). The seven letters can represent attitudes or conditions as well as organizational units and periods. Looking through the lens of the fourth application gives the letter to Philadelphia meaning regardless of the era or corporate organization one may be part of.

Christ's statement that the Philadelphian has only a little strength is not necessarily a criticism. The overall tenor of the letter is extremely positive. However, He is giving a statement of fact: Philadelphians have only a small effective capability for miraculous work, a little physical or spiritual aptitude, a small measure of effectiveness. Dunamis is not entirely lacking, but it is present in only a small amount.

The Philadelphian, by this accounting, will probably not be the one healing people when his shadow passes by, or the one moving mountains. Nor will He be prophesying of future events or speaking in unfamiliar languages. He may not have great speaking ability or a dynamic personality. This is not to say that power and effectiveness are entirely lacking, just that the Philadelphian will probably not have the same dramatic outworking we observe in other biblical figures.

Why is this dunamis lacking? From the rest of the letter to Philadelphia, it does not appear that the lack of dunamis is because of a great failing or negligence in duties to God. On the contrary, the letter is a commendation because of faithfulness. Perhaps part of the reason, seen in one of Jesus' parables, is that not much natural ability is there for God to enhance. Perhaps also, mighty deeds are lacking because there is no need for such works to be done. Remember, if God has ordained that something be done, He will give the power for it to be accomplished. If He has not given that power, it is because it is His will that a thing not be accomplished.

The Parable of the Talents adds to the picture:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. (Matthew 25:14-15)

The word ability in verse 15 is also dunamis. These verses affirm that 1) talents are given by God, and 2) apparently the bestowing of talents depends somewhat on the effective capability the person already possesses. Along the same lines, it is interesting to note that Christ Himself was limited in the works—dunamis—He could perform because of the unbelief in some areas (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5-6)!

The two faithful servants double what is given to them. The amounts are not as important as the growth. Both give Christ a 100% increase on what He bestowed on them. The unfaithful servant produces nothing at all.

In this example, we can see the Philadelphian as the servant who receives only two talents rather than five. He does not have the same natural ability. However, even though he may have fewer responsibilities, or the scope of what he controls is much smaller, he is just as faithful as the servant who receives more. The Philadelphian may have only a little ability, but with that ability he is able to keep God's word and not deny His name (Revelation 3:8). His power enables him to keep God's command to persevere (verse 10).

We have been given a measure of dunamis. If we have God's Spirit, we have ability, talent, effectiveness, and strength in some measure, in some area. It does not matter how much is given, or in what area our strength resides, but that we remain faithful in what God has given to us and that we make use of the power we have to further God's purpose.

David C. Grabbe



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