“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” – Romans 1:16
The gospel is power. Real life-changing power.
And yet, so often we “graduate” beyond the power of the gospel in want of new kinds of power, new wisdom, new ideas. We look for help (read: salvation) beyond the power of the gospel.
Paul warned the Corinthians against this dangerous temptation. He said that Christ sent him “to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (I Cor 1:17). Paul pictures the professional orators of the day who would stir up the crowd, entertain them and deceive them with the “wisdom” of the day. It was a first century hype machine. We still see that kind of smoke-and-mirrors spirituality using gimmicks, charisma and rhetoric to rile up crowds and stroke idols. Paul says that kind of fake wisdom is powerless and it would rob the cross of its power.
The wisdom of our age calls us to improve ourselves through self-help and inner reflection. You can help you. You can save yourself from all this. You have the power within you.
Everything is backwards! Paul says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Cor 1:18). The culture at large may find the simple gospel to be foolishness, but for those who are being saved, they’ve experienced it as the very power of God. This is why Paul decided “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor 2:2). Why turn to “wisdom” when the power is at the cross? True foolishness is moving beyond the power of the cross to the power of self-help and “wisdom.”
Because of the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the place of sinners, the power of God is at work in us through this gospel. Repentant sinners are forgiven of their eternal debt. Enslaved captives are set free from the power of sin and addiction. The walking dead are raised to new life. Strangers are welcomed into the household of God, adopted by God as his own children. We are given new purpose and mission in life, given a truly valuable and redemptive calling. Relationships are restored. Wounds are healed. Brokenness made whole. Marriages glorify God. Children becoming disciples. People set free from workaholism and laziness, hording and wasting, people pleasing and people abusing. And we look forward to the death of death forever, the complete eradication of sin, pain and evil and full and final restoration of creation back to the way God designed it to be.
The gospel is true power.