10 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 NIV
Paul’s declaration puts the gospel in the centre of all the kingdom powers at our disposal to overcome the world. Everything we have in Jesus Christ is made available to us because of the gospel.
Two words in Paul’s statement above form the foundation of this good news that reverse everything that came on mankind because of Adam. These two concepts are righteousness and faith.
The gospel is about God’s righteousness. He did everything right to restore us to Himself. It’s also about our righteousness without which we have no access to Him.
“For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.” Romans 3:25-26 NLT
Since God did the right thing by punishing a righteous man on behalf of the unrighteous, He is able to forgive our sin, declare us “not guilty” and give us the righteousness that allows us to approach Him without fear or guilt.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22 NIV
Faith in what God has done through Jesus to reconcile us to Himself is the only way we can receive the gift of forgiveness and the righteousness He freely offers us. Faith receives what God supplies.
Anything we try to add to this free gift immediately cancels the gift and puts us under obligation to please God by our own righteousness. However, since God has already declared our rightoueness inadequate to satisfy His perfect standard, if we try to go it alone, the only alternative is to face His wrath and judgment.
“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” Isaiah 64:6 NLT
Can you understand, then, how powerful the gospel of Jesus’s death and resurrection is to change our lives and our destiny? Nothing else can do what faith in the blood of Jesus has done.
The problem arises when we try to add, subtract or change the gospel to make it more palatable to ourselves or other people. Satan will do everything he can to distort the gospel and rob it of its power. Anything that takes away from the cross and the death and resurrection of Jesus weakens the gospel and makes it ineffective to save people from their sin.
It makes sense, then, that Jesus entrusted His message to the men who would receive the power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Through the Spirit who would lead them into all truth, they would accurately interpret His death and resurrection and open the kingdom to those who believe.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Matthew 16:19, 21 NIV
The keys Jesus was to give them were the truths about His sacrifice that would set believers free from the bondage of wrong beliefs (loosed on earth) by binding on them the truths of the gospel (bound on earth).
Before we examine some of the issues that detract from the centrality of the cross, let’s look at the gospel message Paul preached.
“Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.
He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 NLT
What did Paul battle in his defenSe if the gospel?
- Another gospel
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” Gal. 1:8-9 NIV
In Paul’s day, some of the Jewish believers, especially the Jewish religious leaders, were trying to convince Gentile believers that, to be Christians, they had to become Jews first by being circumcised and obeying the Law, . Paul called this a substitute gospel.
The result, for Paul, was frightening.
“Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.” Galatians 5:2, 4 NLT
Jesus plus anything else cancels grace.
- Foolishness to the unbeliever
Outside of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel makes no sense to the unbeliever. It takes the power of God’s Spirit and the faith He gives, to receive the message about Jesus in its simplicity.
“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:21-24 NLT
- Unbelief keeps people in darkness
Unbelievers are held captive to the devil by the lies they believe. Only through the work of the Spirit can they recognise the truth of the gospel.
“If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God… For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, 6 NLT
- Clever preaching and eloquence that robs the cross of its power
The power of the gospel lies in the simplicity of truth, not in the eloquence of the preacher.
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 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.” 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 NIV
“When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 NLT
- Some preach out of impure motives
This is a relevant issue today. In Paul’s day, some preached the gospel to increase Paul’s suffering.
“It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me.” Philippians 1:15-17 NLT
Paul’s motive, on the other hand, was to bring people to know Christ through the power of the gospel.
“We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.” 2 Corinthians 4:2 NLT
- Some preach for personal profit
Money is a powerful motive for people in the ministry today. Preachers are some of the wealthiest people on earth. Their excuse is that money is their reward for what they do. They extort money from vulnerable believers through guilt by preaching the “faith” message.
They drive huge charity programmes with other people’s money while they live lavish lifestyles on the money that they get from people by promising great return on their “seed”.
Paul’s response is simple.
“You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.” 2 Corinthians 2:17 NLT
- Some use a variety of methods
All kinds of methods are used to create a ” seeker friendly” environment instead of trusting God’s way of reaching unbelievers.
“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.” 1 Cor. 1:21 NLT
How, then, will anyone ever come to salvation through faith in Jesus and the message about His death and resurrection? Why does God not need our help to get anyone saved?
“But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ (to bring Christ down to earth). And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again).”
In fact, it says, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.” And that message is the very message about faith that we preach:
If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.
As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”…
For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:6-11, 13 NLT
For the Apostle Paul, the power of the cross was the centrality of his message and his life.
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”Galatians 6:14 NIV
This is the simple message that looses us from every yoke that is based on lies and binds us to the yoke of Jesus which sets us free from sin and empowers us to live in His kingdom as true sons and daughters of God.
All Scripture quotations in this series
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.