Romans 1:16-17, Part III
Gospel Power--God at Work

Marrieds with a Ministry Sunday School Class
Two Rivers Baptist Church
Nashville, TN, USA

For Sunday, 10 February 2002


Gray: added comments from class


GOD AT WORK road sign

God works to bring people to Himself through the gospel. He is not waiting for sinners to come to Him. They cannot. They are dead in their trespasses and sins. Eph. 2:1 They cannot move a spiritual muscle; they are oblivious to spiritual reality; the Kingdom of God is invisible to them. John 3:3 [What about Jesus' call in Matt. 11:28, "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden...take my yoke upon you"? Please see my page of commentary on Matthew 11.]

When the gospel is spoken to an unbeliever, God may choose to call them, to deliver His life-giving power to them through it, giving them ears to hear and eyes to see, reviving their dead spirit. The gospel is the power!

If you are a believer, He is not waiting for you to devote your life more fully to Him. If you belong to Him, He is at work in your life. Still, He works through the gospel. The deeper your understanding of, and trust in Him through, the gospel, the more you will find that you love Him, and the more you will be transformed into the image of His Son.

Since it's God who does the saving work, it makes no sense to claim that we chose to let God save us. Would it not be odd if a person who was rescued at sea, when telling others of the experience, focused on his own choice in letting the rescuer rescue him? [Someone stymied me by asking, "What if there were lots of people drowning, and the rescuer could have saved them all but chose to save only some?" Later, after careful thought, I recognized that the analogy requires further modification to remain valid with respect to redemptive history. Please see my brief explanation.]

What is not the power:

  • Sermons on improving your self image
  • Books by experts in psychology or family life
  • Marriage conferences
  • Praise-&-worship experiences
  • Political demonstrations, boycotts, rallies
  • The message, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life"

Some of those things may be good, may be helpful, under the right circumstances. But they are not the gospel, and so they are not the power of God unto eternal salvation. We must be wary of the temptation to substitute them for the gospel.

The gospel message has become gradually weaker in evangelicalism as a whole over the past five generations or so. Often, the focus is now on man rather than on God and His Son.

Gospel defined: I Cor. 15:1-4

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  • Jesus died by crucifixion
  • Jesus was buried
  • Jesus rose again the third day
  • Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection were in accordance with Scriptural principle and Scripture prophecy
  • Jesus was seen alive in his glorified physical body by numerous witnesses, including all of his key disciples whom he then ordained to be apostles, and including groups of hundreds of people at once

"According to the Scriptures" means Old Testament, of course, since that's all there was of the Bible at that time. The Gospel is not exclusively a New Testament message, but a whole Bible message. A few generations ago, it was common to hear the Old Testament cited during the preaching of the gospel. That fell out of favor with the acceptance of--and for many, reliance on--Charles Finney's "new methods."

[Someone asked whether I believe gospel invitations and altar calls are improper.] Not necessarily. The Church prospered for hundreds of years without them, and has done neither better nor worse with them. The power is not the method, it's the gospel of God.

That doesn't mean that the gospel message is a magic formula, that the power is in the words themselves. The power is in the movement of the Holy Spirit. The gospel is the means God ordained for calling the lost sheep to the fold. Romans 10:17, I Cor. 1:21

Failure to distinguish evangelical methods from the gospel itself has led to the accusation that those who oppose Finney's methods are anti-evangelical. Is it not rather those whose gospel is weaker than that of Christ and the apostles who are anti-evangelical?

Trust God. Hold unshakably to His Word. Deliver the gospel exactly as it was delivered to us by His chosen faithful, and let Him do His work.

Study the gospel for your own edification. It is the means by which God's grace will transform your life.

Recommended reading:

David J. Finnamore
Orlando, FL