Restoring Power to the Gospel

grunge vintage texture backgroundIt’s time Christians restore power to the Gospel. The Bible says that the message of the Gospel itself is power. The multitudes were astonished with Jesus’ doctrine, not because His sermons was neatly outlined, not because He spoke with eloquence, not because of His brilliance but because His word was with power (Luke 4:32). Likewise, the Apostle Paul said, “My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4,5).

In order to restore power to the Gospel, we must acknowledge what the Gospel is NOT. The Gospel is not biblical truth, in a general sense. The mere preaching of truth, even biblical truth, apart from the Gospel will never save a soul from hell and the wrath of God. I once met a street-preacher who had all the verses on hell and the wrath of God memorized and that is what he preached for the lengthy time I listened. Nobody was saved. Many people were angry and the preacher thought he was being persecuted for righteousness. Was he preaching biblical truth? Yes. Was it the Gospel? No. This man was preaching the bad news, not the good news.

We are saved by the Gospel and the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The only saving truth is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the powerful message that must be preached in purity and simplicity; it doesn’t need any wisdom of words or craftiness of speech. It doesn’t need any enticing cultural relevance or sensitivity to the hearers.

The simple proclaimed Gospel stands all on its own. The Word of God itself comes “in power” enabling the hearer to believe and be saved: “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). God has chosen the act of preaching the Gospel as a means to salvation. God destroys the wisdom of the wise by changing lives through the power of the Gospel (1 Corinthains 1:17-24). Offensive it may seem and foolish it may be, but “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

Adulterers, prostitutes, fornicators, those who are in bondage to pornography and lust find themselves with new and holy desires and in love with Jesus. Rapists, pedophiles, homosexuals, murderers, and psychopaths hear the Gospel and find themselves in a right and sound mind sitting at the feet of Jesus. Thieves and liars repent by making restitution and speaking truth for the glory of Jesus. Alcoholics dry up and drug addicts are set free without any therapy or rehab. The depressed find a peace that passes understanding without a ever consulting a psychologist. Therefore, the Apostle Paul had this one ambition: “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Therefore, Paul went from house to house and preached publicly to everybody, “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

This is the message which in and of itself has power which enables the hearer to believe and be saved. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (I Peter 1:23) “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Hebrews 4:2)

Some preach a gospel that is truly incomplete while others proclaim a gospel that is completely untrue. Today, churches abound with prosperity gospels, social gospels, healing gospels, signs-and-wonders gospels, seeker-sensitive gospels, culturally relevant gospels, hyper-grace gospels, easy believism gospels, and other false gospels. Any gospel other than the Gospel is another Gospel which is powerless to save. The majority of Bible teachers and preachers are proclaiming truth but it’s incomplete by the act of omission. Some preach only faith. Others preach only forgiveness. These and others are having “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5) as many hearers of these “gospels” have never been saved from sin. Believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins alone will not save anyone, if they do not repent.

What is this power of God unto salvation which Paul speaks about? (Romans 1:16) What is the true Gospel? Paul says the following: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Many have used the above reference as a definition of the Gospel. But the context of 1 Corinthians 15 is that many in Corinth had denied the Resurrection. Paul was reminding them of the Gospel he preached concerning the Resurrection of Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 is an essential part of the Gospel, but the Gospel is also so much more than that information. For instance, the entire Gospel of Mark is the Gospel: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” (Mark 1:1). Thus, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 is not intended to be a definition of the Gospel as many have argued because, generally speaking, the entire story of Jesus is the Gospel. Notice however that this is the Gospel “by which we are saved.” But what does this mean? Many professing Christians say they have been “saved” but don’t have the slightest idea from what they have been saved. Saved from hell? Saved from death? These are fringe benefits. From what have you been saved?

Let’s return to the Gospel of Mark for a moment. What kind of power is spoken of in Mark’s Gospel? Jesus healed the paralytic in order to demonstrate that “the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10). Therefore, part of the power of the Gospel is the forgiveness of sins. But is this the only power that the Gospel offers? Today the Gospel has been reduced to the bumper sticker that says, “Christians Aren’t Perfect, They’re Just Forgiven.” Just forgiven? Truly we have forgiveness of sins in Christ (Romans 4:7,8; Ephesians 1:7). But the majority of preachers are minimizing the Gospel to just forgiveness. Not that forgiveness isn’t good news; it’s extraordinary news. But there’s much more powerful news that is left unspoken in the pulpits today. Once again, believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins alone will not save anyone, if they do not repent.

From what have we been saved? From hell? From the wrath of God? Matthew begins his gospel saying: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). It is not just the penalty of sin that God has dealt with but the problem of sin. Jesus will save us from our sins, not just from the effects of our sins like guilt, depression, anxiety, and shame but from the source of all these things. He will save us from the very sins themselves! Thus we are saved from wrath and hell.

Jesus came to save us from our sins, not just from hell and condemnation but from the very sins that make us deserving of the wrath of God. Jesus will save us from our sins, not merely forgive us in our sins. Christ saves FROM sin, not IN sin. Christ keeps you from sin, but your sin will keep you from Christ. It should be our desire not to be saved just to make it to heaven, but to be saved from sin here and now.

Sin is abnormal in the Christian life. There is no excuse for sin when the Bible says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Thus if we “through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:13). By the Spirit, we do mortify the deeds of the flesh. God will not do it for you. You mortify the deeds of the flesh, but it’s by His power. While we cannot stop sinning on our own, it is nonetheless our responsibility to utilize the God-given power available to us in Christ by faith. We are co-workers with God’s grace to walk in the newness of life. “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him” (1 John 3:6).

Likewise, in Luke’s gospel, Jesus shares the good news saying: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18). Thus, the Gospel is not merely forgiveness, not merely a sentence of “not guilty.” Many Christians spend their lives behind the prison bars of sin even though they’re not guilty anymore. They find Christianity to be a miserable existence, but at least they get to go to heaven when they die, so they think. But the door is unlocked and the shackles have been broken. God never intended for us to be in a prison cell under the thumb of sin. The gate is open and sin has no more power over you. Jesus has set the captives free!

Notice Jesus’ powerful words recorded in John’s gospel: If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed (John 8:36). But Sunday after Sunday and week after week, pastors across the country and around the globe are preaching the forgiveness of sins to their congregations telling them year after year that they don’t have to feel guilt or shame any longer because they’re forgiven, when day after day their lives are just as vile as they ever were. They are not free indeed as Jesus promised. They are slaves to sin and death. “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16) The Pharisees thought that they were not in bondage. Perhaps you have been brought up in the church and have been kept from sexual immorality and from substance abuse, and yet you are still enslaved to sin and held captive within the confines of a dead, mechanical, and powerless religion. It only takes one prison cell to be held captive and enslaved. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:35,36). How are we set free? Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31,32).

Peter preached the Gospel and said, “You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” (Acts 3:25-26). Peter referenced the promise God gave to Abraham in Genesis 22:18; 26:4; 28:14. According to Paul, it was the Gospel which was preached to Abraham: “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.'” (Galatians 3:8). How were the nations to be blessed in Abraham? By God sending Jesus and turning them away from sin.

So far, we have seen that by God’s grace, the Word and Spirit are the keys to a victorious Christian life. But this type of “forgiveness-only” preaching communicates and incomplete Gospel which acts as a spiritual novocaine; the result is a numbness to sin. What used to be a firm blow from the conscience eventually becomes a slap or even a pinch. Screams from deep down within eventually become whispers, until the heart becomes calloused and deafened to the saving power and truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sin in their lives is not dealt with and the results are captivity and bondage. There is no power and the will becomes emboldened to sin because Christians aren’t perfect, they’re just forgiven.

The Apostle Paul understood this saving power through faith in the Gospel. “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). He says: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Grace is not merely unmerited favor from God. It is POWER! Many understand the word grace to be a reference to “freely given” or “unmerited.” But we may just as easily impose the word “power” into the text. Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under power. If you’re a Christian, you have victory over sin. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Grace is power and it is much more powerful and greater than the power of sin. This is not the greasy grace of lasciviousness that is being preached in so many places. Biblical grace is the power of God. So many are preaching forgiveness, but not preaching the power of God unto salvation.

How about you? Are you under the power of sin or the power of God? If you are under the power of sin, then you are not under grace and you are not being saved. The Gospel is that Jesus has delivered us from the bondage of sin, to walk in the newness of life in the power of the Word and the Holy Ghost by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Nominal Christians want to justify their sin by saying, “I’m under grace.” If you are still in bondage to sin, you are not under grace. You’re either dead TO sin or dead IN sin.

Many sing about God and talk about God but they’re dead. They’re powerless to anger, anxiety, addiction, bitterness, covetousness, depression, doubt, envy, hatred, hypocrisy, jealousy, lust, lying, pride, resentment, rebellion, selfishness, self-pity, strife, sexual sin, unforgiveness, vanity. They are dead and powerless because Christ is not in them.

John the Baptist said: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). God hasn’t saved you to keep you the same but to sanctify and regenerate you. Just as a car cannot function as a car until you put gas in it, and a lamp cannot function as a lamp until you put oil in it, so a man cannot function as a man until you put Jesus Christ in him. God did not redeem you just so you can make it to heaven one day, but He redeemed you to put Jesus Christ is you.

Jesus died for so much more than just forgiveness or just a ticket to heaven. Oh, the riches and goodness that are in Christ Jesus! You no longer have to ask yourself, “Is this all there is to Christianity?” when “His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3,4).

“Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:27,28). This is the ultimate hope of glory: Christ in us. Paul said, “I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). We shouldn’t ask people if they’re saved anymore; we should ask them, “Does Christ live in you?”

Don’t reduce the Gospel to just forgiveness. Just to a ticket to heaven. Just faith without repentance. Christ did not die on the cross just to get you out of earth into heaven, but to get God out of heaven into you. Not merely to make bad men good but to make dead men live! The reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a person’s life is a transformation, revolution, reality and life in the Son of God, that we would be partakers of the divine nature, that Christ would be formed in us. Through Him, we can rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, in every thing give thanks, and count it all joy when we fall into various temptations and trials of faith (1 Thessalonians 5:16; James 1:2). True Christianity therefore is the life and power of Christ in the souls of the men and women that make up the church, His body. It is the sinless life that Christ lived then, lived now by Him through you!

SEE ALSO:

The True Grace of God

Faith & Works – Harmonizing Paul & James

The Role of Obedience in Salvation