The Power of God in the Gospel
October 1, 2008 - When the late Billy Sunday preached, he would run across the stage, jumping on and off of a chair, tearing off his coat and collar and throwing them to the floor.
by Viktor Hamm
By contrast, Jonathan Edwards would read his sermons word-for-word in a monotonous tone, rarely lifting his head to look at the listeners. In both cases, the results were electrifying as the power of God moved in people’s hearts through the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
The power of God, which created the universe and parted the sea, has been changing lives since the beginning of time. Having seen a fraction of it displayed in his own life, Job exclaimed, “Who can understand” it? The Bible speaks of the "incomparably great power" (Ephesians 1:19) and the "all-surpassing" (2 Corinthians 4:7) power of God.
Power is the very essence of God; it is in His divine nature. God’s absolute power, coupled with His absolute authority, allows the Lord to do "whatever He pleases" (Psalm 115:3), with no limitations at all. Such unlimited power is a foreign concept to humans, since we, with all the willpower we can muster, can hardly break free from a single bad habit.
God has empowered His Gospel with the same supernatural power that He has within Himself.
The Gospel brings radical changes when people hear it and respond in repentance and faith (Mark 1:15). First, it changes a person’s heart, resulting in a new creation. We see this happening over and over in evangelistic settings throughout the world. A young man who fought in Chechnya, was considering an offer from mafia bosses to become a hired killer until he came to an evangelistic meeting and submitted his life to Christ.
The Gospel also changes a person’s conscience. A woman of 22 had had numerous abortions. Her guilt was unbearable. She attended a BGEA Festival along with her husband. As the invitation was given, her husband held her back, saying that if she went forward, he would leave her. She went forward anyway. "To be free from sin and guilt is more important to me than anything else in the world," she confessed.
The Gospel changes the social structures of society. The tireless work of Christians acting out the Gospel message brings relief to the afflicted living in the troubled areas of the world such as Sudan, the Middle East and Georgia.
The Gospel changes the natural, sinful tendencies of a person. Those changes are real, measurable and reproducible. A student committed her life to Christ at an evangelistic meeting. She later shared the joy of forgiveness with her boyfriend and noted the change, "Instead of doing what we normally did every night, we talked about God."
The Bible says, "So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11, NASB).
God exerts His power toward humanity in a number of ways. At times the Gospel is like a sledgehammer, breaking the hardened heart; at other times it is like a fire, melting the icy heart. God uses the Gospel to bring salvation to lost people, and He always does so in love.
Exactly how the power of God works is a great mystery. Many people have tried to explain it rationally and psychologically. But we need to humbly admit with Moses that "secret things belong to the Lord our God" (Deuteronomy 29:29).
It always amazes me that a simple presentation of the historical facts of Jesus, applied to the mind and heart of a sinner by the Holy Spirit, can transform that person. On the other hand, one can recite the achievements of great human leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Alexander Solzhenitsyn and nothing will change in the hearts of hearers.
God’s power is eternal (Romans 1:20); it has not diminished through the years. It is manifested today just as it was in ages past, through myriad proclaimers of the Gospel worldwide. And the power of the Gospel will be the same until the end of time.
The way to experience the power of the Gospel is though faith—actively believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. And the Bible teaches that anyone may experience this power personally. Though the ensuing changes are most likely to be radical, we need not fear the Gospel. When Jesus demonstrated His supernatural power, He encouraged people by saying, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 17:7, 28:10; John 6:20).
As Christians, we are comforted by the very fact that our Savior is all-powerful. We are humbled by the fact that the Gospel entrusted to us is of the same power as the absolute power of God. Those who bear the Name of Christ ought to make full use of the power of Christ’s Gospel in bringing the message of Christ to everyone.
If the power of the Gospel has not yet transformed your life, give God a chance to demonstrate the power of His love. The results will surprise even the greatest skeptics—full forgiveness, assurance of salvation and strength to live a new life.