The Power of the Gospel
- For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient - in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:18-19; emphasis ours throughout)
- For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (I Corinthians 1:18)
- And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (I Corinthians 2:4-5)
- But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. (I Corinthians 4:19-20)
- For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. (I Thessalonians 1:5)
Moreover, in writing to the established congregation in Rome, Paul directly identifies the gospel as "the power of God to salvation":
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)
Notice, though, the qualifier that Paul attaches: "for everyone who believes." Simply hearing the basic announcement of the coming Kingdom of God on earth will not accomplish anything. Merely reading God's instruction manual for mankind - the Bible - serves no purpose if it is not believed.
What is the proof of belief? It is far more than just mental agreement, but rather agreement along with carrying out requirements that show whom one trusts. Those who believe will provide evidence that God is continuing to work in them. They will change, that is, repent. Good works will be the evidence (James 2:20, 22, 26). A person who truly believes the gospel will be motivated to change his or her life to fit the purpose God is working out, and to be in alignment with His government.
As Romans 1:16 says, the gospel is so powerful that it has the authority and the means to bring us to salvation. Through the gospel, God exercises His power to save men. It is a potent means by which God teaches, motivates, and creates salvation in a believer. This power is available, however, only to those who exercise trust in those words. The "good news" is composed of words - words that carry in them the power to move our lives toward salvation if we believe them enough to unleash their power by putting them in practice. Words are spirit (John 6:63), and they impel us in the direction of their meaning if we choose to submit to them. The gospel is not a passive force, latently waiting to use its power, but it is constantly working toward the fulfillment of God's purpose. As soon as we hear or read it, it begins to work - if we believe.
What, then, is contained in the gospel? Verse 17 makes it clear: God, in the gospel, reveals His righteousness. What is righteousness? It is an Old English term that means "right-wise-ness" - essentially, "doing what is right." Psalm 119:172 gives its definition, "For all Your commands [all of God's instructions] are righteousness." Righteousness is God's way of life - the way He lives and the way He desires His creation to live. Verse 17 could be paraphrased, "For in the gospel, God's way of life is revealed." Put simply, the gospel message includes everything we need to know to live God's way of life - to live as God does.
The gospel is God's means for bringing us to salvation - not merely for forgiving our sins. It is not only the announcement of the Kingdom of God, but also the process by which we can enter God's Kingdom. But this does not happen all at once - it is a lifelong educational process. The gospel is God's system of impressing upon us where we are headed and how we should live so we will reach His goal. His message of "good news" has tremendous power to motivate us and propel us in right direction - if we truly believe.
Next: Preaching the Gospel and Making Disciples (12/12)