Review of: Commissioned with Power, by Ernest Musekiwa
Commissioned with Power: Understanding the Nature and Purpose of our God-Given Authority in Evangelism
Dr. Ernest Musekiwa
Christian Missions Theological College & Seminary, 2013
Pastor, teacher, author of numerous books and sincere man of God on a mission, Dr. Ernest Musekiwa in Commissioned with Power issues a clear and compelling call for ordinary believers to rise up in faith and obey the Great Commission of Christ in the power of the Spirit.
Our Commission, argues Musekiwa, actually has its roots way back in the historical-spiritual narrative of Genesis. There at the beginning a very basic truth was painfully, repeatedly revealed: "the inadequacy of man without God." Unfortunately, by heeding the tempting voice of Satan humanity lost its freedom and security in Christ. And humanity remains lost, for the same scenario in Eden has been replaying, over and over, for all of human history.
The Old Testament, Genesis included, points to a Savior. Thus when the time was right God sent forth his Son to bear the sins of the world (Gal. 4:4; 1 Tim. 1:15). As the book of Hebrews outlines in detail, Jesus displaced the old system of blood sacrifice, confession and ritual cleansing by sacrificing himself once (one time) and for all (for everyone). But because Christ's salvation can only be had by faith, and faith can only be had by hearing the gospel, believers have been commissioned to spread the gospel.
Though technically referring to a brief passage at the close of Matthew, the Great Commission can be seen in all four Gospels. Whether the instruction is to "go and make disciples" (Matthew), to "go and preach the gospel" (Mark), to preach "repentance and remission of sins to all nations" (Luke), or to be sent "even as the Father has sent me" (John), the essential mandate is the same. Jesus came preaching, teaching and healing; and he calls us to the same ministry. We not only preach but practice the Commission.
With this historical-theological foundation laid, the book proceeds to a defense of miracles and critique of cessationism, the belief that miracles ceased with the passing of the apostles of Christ. Here Dr. Musekiwa speaks from experience, having witnessed healings and deliverance from evil spirits firsthand, often through his own fledgling ministry as a child in Zimbabwe, Africa. He recounts incidents involving not only miracles of healing but the power of witchcraft and curses. When instructed as a young disciple on the Commission and various calls to evangelism in the New Testament, he recalls, he was therefore ready to preach in the power of the Holy Spirit.
From here Musekiwa begins a defense of miracles taking place to the present day based upon New Testament exegesis. His argument begins with an appeal to Jesus answering his Jewish critics by asserting that he and the Father were actively working (John 5:17-30). Whereas the scribes and Pharisees believed that miracles were for certain times but not others (e.g. the Sabbath), Jesus maintained the right and authority to work miracles at his own discretion. Musekiwa addresses among other texts the most popular proof-text for cessationists, 1 Cor 13:10, where Paul argues that "when that which is perfect has come, that which is in part will be done away." In arguing that "that which is perfect" is a reference to the completed New Testament canon, cessationists effectively create a "book-religion Christianity." The problem here is that we are not called to worship the book, but its divine Author. The book itself urges us repeatedly to place our faith in Christ, and Christ himself reminded listeners that the Scriptures "testify of Me" (John 5:39). Jesus is himself the Living Word.
Next is an examination of miracles in the immediate context of the Commission. The reader is reminded in case after case (Mark 16 for example) that wherever Jesus sends his disciples to preach he promises, explicitly or implicitly, the power to heal and cast out demons. True evangelistic ministry therefore requires confrontation with the powers of darkness. This is a "hard saying" for intellectually-inclined scholars and apologists (like me), who tend to lean far too heavily on rational arguments to promote conversion. It's also a hard saying because when stepping out to preach with power we risk loss of our reputations, and worse, failure in the effort. But there's an equal risk on the flip side: when we leave God's power out of the mix we are "left to run our churches without Him."
As Musekiwa reminds us, God is faithful to act when we are faithful to proclaim his truth. Moreover, we are the temple of God, and God's Spirit dwells within us (e.g. 1 Cor. 3:16-17). His Spirit, of course, is the One who actually heals and expels demons. Again and again Jesus promises to do what we ask in prayer because his Spirit abides in us. And as the one and only Head of the church Jesus has the authority to do what he says he will do. The church was born by the spiritual power of the Spirit and the church must live on in that same spiritual power, just as in the book of Acts, if she is to fulfill her Commission. The book goes on to address related issues like spiritual gifts and maintaining fellowship with those holding different convictions on these matters. The final chapter reviews the biblical basis for associating the Great Commission with continuing "signs and wonders" in scholarly detail.
The positives for Commissioned with Power are legion. While reading I found my own faith quickened, and at the same time my unbelief exposed and challenged. More than anything I was left hungry, strongly desirous to go out and minister the gospel to the lost. That alone makes this book easily worth the price listed. Musekiwa writes with the conviction of a man who practices what he preaches, and with the wisdom of a genuine, well-read scholar. He declares truth boldly while not afraid to carefully answer the questions and objections of often sincere but confused critics. In short, his writing inspires action (obedience!). But, like most works, it could stand improvement. I ran across typos and grammatical errors here and there, and some points were hammered perhaps more than necessary. All things considered, however, this is a fine read and highly valuable in practical, spiritual terms. I would rate it 4-1/2 stars (five less 1/2 for the minor technical issues), but given only a choice between four and five stars I go with five.