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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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ENERGY—The Gr. ἐνέργεια (translation ‘working’) is used only of supernatural spiritual working, and only in the Epistles; in Eph. and Col. of God, in Philippians 3:21 of the exalted Christ, in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 of Satan. In Ephesians 1:19 we find in one sentence four terms expressive of power—ἐνέργεια, κράτος, ἰσχύς, and δύναμις. These Divine qualities were exercised in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ, and the Christian soldier is exhorted (Ephesians 6:10) to obtain a portion of them in equipment for his spiritual warfare. Of these terms the chief is δύναμις, ‘power,’ of which the application is manifold. On three occasions (Luke 5:17; Luke 6:19; Luke 8:46 or Mark 5:30) it is specially used of a healing power (Authorized Version ‘virtue’) that issued or was drawn from Jesus as from a storehouse of spiritual energy. See artt. Force, Power, and Virtue.

1. ‘Energy’ in the physical sense means power or capacity of work. It includes the active and the potential side, force of motion and energy of position: two interchanging factors of which the sum total is constant. In its moral application there is a similar duality. The man of energy is not only an active agent, but also one in whom Ave recognize a reserve of power. This energy of character is partly physical, partly mental. It is altogether different from the purely physical quality of strength or might (κράτος, ἰσχύς), the virtue of the warrior or athlete. A physical basis is necessary, yet dauntless energy may be found in a feeble frame. The quality is essentially moral. because it involves the constant exercise of a powerful will. The fundamental requirement is unhindered mental force. Two modern statesmen may be instanced. One wrote in his diary the cardinal principles of his life—benevolence, self-sacrifice, purity, energy. Another expounds and exhibits the ‘strenuous life.’ The duty of work and the heroism of energy constitute a large part of the teaching of Carlyle. Such lessons and lives are illustrations of the spirit of Christianity. On the other hand, indolence and idleness are natural to many men and even to many nations. The habit of inactivity is fostered by mental indifference or the lack of any propelling emotion such as religion or patriotism. The duty and honour of work are Christian conceptions. In 2 Thessalonians 3:8-11 we have an early indication of a long struggle, in the course of which sloth was enthroned as one of the seven mortal sins. (Cf. Paget, Spirit of Discipline, pp. 1–50).

2. The life of our Lord Himself furnishes the supreme type of Christian energy. Energy is measured by the amount of work it can accomplish within a given time. The ministry of Jesus was limited to a very brief period, but into that little space there was crowded a work that has no parallel in the history of the world. Energy is also measured by the vastness and continuance of its effects, and after nineteen centuries the quickening influence of Jesus is operating on the world with undiminished power. Jesus was never idle. For Him every hour had its appointed task (John 2:4), and every day was governed by a steady and strenuous purpose (John 9:4). He was sometimes weary in His toils (Matthew 8:24, John 4:6). yet was ever ready to ‘meet fresh calls upon His time and strength, His pity or His help. The reason was that the springs of His energy never ran dry. It is right to say that the secret of Christ’s energy lay in His Divinely unconquerable will, but it is none the less true that the strength of His spirit was fed by His love to man and His faith in God. His boundless love and compassion for human beings inspired Him to go about doing good. His perfect faith in God enabled Him to feel, as no other on earth has ever felt, that nothing was impossible (Matthew 17:20). But beneath all conscious faith and love there sprang up in the soul of Jesus a fountain of life and power through His abiding union with His Father. ‘My Father worketh hitherto,’ He once said, ‘and I work’ (John 5:17). ‘He went about doing good,’ St. Peter declared, ‘for God was with him (Acts 10:38).

3. The teaching of Jesus on this subject may be divided into two parts. (1) He enjoins many qualities that contribute to the life of strenuousness. Such are diligence (parables of Talents and Pounds, Matthew 25, Luke 19), readiness (Luke 12:35), use of opportunities (John 9:4), watchfulness (Mark 13:33), perseverance and importunity of prayer (Luke 11:5; Luke 18:1), constancy and continuance of service (Luke 12:42; Luke 17:10). Such precepts receive double force from the example of His life of unresting labour (John 5:17; John 9:4). In St. Paul the same lessons are illustrated and inculcated (1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 Corinthians 15:58).—(2) Faith is set forth as the supreme source of active energy. Faith receives healing; it can also bestow healing. Before its presence both bodily and mental diseases disappear. Sayings of Jesus to this effect are remembered as maxims and metaphors. ‘All things are possible to him that believeth’ (Mark 9:23; Mark 11:24). By faith mountains disappear and trees may be uprooted (Mark 11:23, Luke 17:6). Such savings passed into ordinary speech (1 Corinthians 13:2), and the life of achievement was regarded as illustrative of the power of faith (Hebrews 11). The fact that men of faith are the possessors of boundless energy is indeed writ large in the history of the world. But the living faith enjoined by Jesus and practised in the planting of Christianity procured an immediate possession of surprising power. Exorcists and magicians were abashed; and demonic possession, still a plague of the East, disappeared before the advancing standards of the new faith. This spiritual energy depended on immediate communication with God. The last words attributed to Christ are these: ‘Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you’ (Acts 1:8).

R. Scott.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Energy'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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