In Romans 1:16, Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
My aim here is twofold; first, to answer the question, why should we consider the Gospel as God’s power unto salvation, and second, to discuss what are the trends today that undermine, distort, and obscure this glorious and powerful gospel.
I believe that many are ashamed of the Gospel not because they don’t know how to share it but because they don’t see that there’s an inherent power in it. We device strategies and methodologies to cover-up this shame. Not that I am against strategies and methods. I believe that God is the God of order. However, we tend to rely more on how well we deliver the message, proficiency in using the methods, rather than relying on the power of the Holy Spirit in and through the gospel.
I agree with what RC Sproul said in his book, the Prayer of the Lord: “I think the greatest weakness in the church today is that almost no one believes that God invests His power in the Bible. Everyone is looking for power in a program, in a methodology, in a technique, in anything and everything but that in which God has placed it—His Word.He alone has the power to change lives for eternity, and that power is focused on the Scriptures.”
1. God ordains the Gospel
2. It is a victorious Gospel
3. God is the Gospel
At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Matthew 26:55-56
But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ John 15:25
But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. . . . 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” John 19:34-36
So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” John 19:24
I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ John 13:18
Notice that the words “might be fulfilled, will be fulfilled, and to fulfill”, are in the subjunctive mood. Subjunctive mood is used to express a wish, emotion, a possibility, judgment, an opinion, or a necessity. By just reading from the text, you will immediately know that every event in the gospel account, happened by divine necessity. It must happen because the scripture told us so.
For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. Acts 4:27
This verse shows that God himself ordained every details of the event that occurred surrounding the cross. That Christ must suffer and die at the hands of sinners through sinful acts. Pontius Pilate, Herod, Judas, the Pharisees, gentiles and the people of Israel were but pawns at the hands of the Chess Master.
God ordained it even before sin entered into the world. In fact, there is a sense that the fall must happen in order that there are people to be saved.
Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began. 2 Timothy 1:9
Therefore the gospel have power unto salvation: for it shows the sovereign power of God in ordaining it.
Distortions that undermines God’s ordination of the Gospel events
1. A pagan concept of free-will(libertarianism)
In a country that exalts freedom, we have this notion that in order for a person to be held accountable for his actions, he/she must have “free will”. One must be autonomous, and able with equal power to choose between good and evil and be the ultimate decisive factor of his/her actions.
Those are just presuppositions forced into the scriptures and was never taught in the Bible. I do believe that human accountability is scriptural. What I don’t believe to be scriptural is the notion that man must be the ultimate-decisive factor of his action in order to be held responsible or accountable.
2. Open Theism
I consider it as a much more consistent view on freewill (libertarian sense), but still un-biblical. Open theism asserts that since man have freewill(libertarian sense), then God cannot be omniscient or even omnipotent. They argue that God cannot know the unknown because decisions are not yet made.They believe that God is a learning God.
The Gospel is victorious because of Christ’s objective accomplishment at the cross
Christ literally bore our sins.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21
He paid the price of our redemption.
You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19
Christ Active and Passive obedience to the Father.
1.(Passive)He endured God’s wrath and condemnation in our place
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh. Romans 8:3
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” Galatians 3:13
2.(Active)He completed a life of perfect obedience.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8
What all of these tells us is that Christ actually saves. Not just potentially but decisively and objectively.
The following verses will give us hints for whom did Christ died:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25
That is why we call it “Victorious Gospel”. When God wills to save someone, it would be a mission accomplished.
Distortions that undermines Christ victory in accomplishing the work of redemption at the cross.
1. Universalism: Christ saved everyone on the cross. Since God is love, eventually everyone will be in heaven.
2. The view that since Christ died for all the sins of all people except one; the sin of unbelief.
3. The view that Christ accomplished a potential salvation for all but accomplished actual salvation for none.
The Gospel is victorious because Christ’s accomplishment secures its application for his people.
25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”1 Corinthians 11:25
24And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.Mark 14:24
28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:28
What is this New Covenant being referred to by our Lord Jesus Christ?
31“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.Jeremiah 31:31-33
I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:25-27
All of these was bought by the blood of Christ. Both salvation and the means to get it, is secured by Christ work alone.
You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. 1 Peter 1:23
The words “have been born again” is in passive voice. It means it is done by God alone through His word. We don’t will it!
8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Notice the words “and that not of yourselves”, the antecedent of “that” is “faith”. It means that faith is God’s doing, not our doing. It is a gift. Faith is a necessary effect of regeneration, not the other way around.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. 1 John 5:10
Note that “believes” is not in the imperative,indicative or even in subjunctive. It is in participial form. It means that those who believe(active) that Jesus is the Christ is the same person who has been born(passive) of God. Those who does A has been B.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. John 3:36
Again “believes” is not in the imperative or indicative. It is in participial form. It means that those who believe is the same person who has eternal life. Those A has B.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. Ephesians 1:7
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1
We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20
You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. 2 Corinthians 3:18
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:30
From regeneration until adoption, it happened simultaneously. But the logical cause of faith is regeneration(born from above).
Distortions that undermines Christ work in securing for us the Gospel’s application.
To discuss Arminianism here is too lengthy. I’ll give you Arminianism in a nutshell: Arminianism is the belief that Christ died and potentially atone for all sinners who are sick but is able to believe Christ work of salvation, must choose for themselves to believe, in order that they become born again, and on the basis of that, God elects them according to His foreknowledge of who would believe and then lose their salvation if they fall away.
In other words this gospel is no gospel.. The sad thing is,this is the modern Evangelicalism or some forms of it.
Arminianism is what we can call “Semi-Pelagianism”. Pelagianism is the belief that man is not dead or sick. Man is alive and well. He is able to believe and live a life of righteousness apart from the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit. They say that the Spirit can help but is not necessary. For the Arminians, man is just sick and the Spirit is needed, but the decision to be well depends on man’s willing.
This no Gospel at all. If man is well then he does not need the Gospel.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. 1 Peter 3:18
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. John 17:24
The irony of the Gospel is this; the righteousness of God that supposedly would throw us in hell is the same righteousness that bring us to God and be saved. God is the end, not a means to an end.
Distortions that undermines that God Himself is the Gospel
If you believe everything I say about God, Christ, and His work, and not have God as your supremely valuable treasure, you don’t know the gospel! When we use God as a stepping stone for an end then we’re no different from those who preach “other things” plus the Gospel.
Since God ordains with sovereignty, and Christ is victorious in accomplishing the work of redemption and that God Himself is the gospel, then we must not be ashamed of the Gospel. We must preach it indiscriminately to all peoples.
As what the Bible taught us:
..as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. Acts 13:48
With Paul we say:
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. 1 Corinthians 2:4