Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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by George C. Clark
“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God.”
There are, unfortunately, multitudes whose understanding is that the Bible is the gospel of Christ. This, according to Paul’s words in our text, obviously is not true. The gospel, said Paul, is the power of God. The Bible is a tool given by God to lead people to the gospel. Paul wrote to Timothy, “From childhood, you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise concerning salvation” (2Tim. 3:15). This same apostle goes on to say, “All scripture is inspired by God, and useful for doctrine, for verification, for improvement, for instruction in righteousness.” Paul says also that “whatever was written before was written for our learning, so that through patience and the comfort of the scriptures, we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Every true believer has found the preceding statements of Paul to be nothing less than absolute truth.
Paul insisted that the gospel of Christ is in power, not in word (1Cor. 4:20). To the apostles, where there was no miracle-working power, there was no gospel. We see a large number of people today who, like the Pharisees of old, love the scriptures but hate the gospel itself, the power of God. Such religious people do not understand that their attitude toward the power of God, not their attitude toward the Bible, reveals their real spiritual condition.
Both the scriptures and the gospel lead us to salvation; yet, they are not the self-same thing. Jesus used the scriptures and preached the gospel. But the gospel is the power of God, and the scriptures are the inspired writings that tell about this power.
To be sure, the gospel, or the power of God, would be inconceivable to any of us who had not first heard about it through the scriptures, directly or indirectly; still, the scriptures themselves are not the gospel; they merely tell about it. In speaking about the Gentiles’ first hearing the gospel, Peter said, “God made choice among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles were to hear the word of the gospel, and believe” (Acts 15:7). The gospel came, in this case, from Peter’s mouth; and if we read in Acts 10 of the event itself, we find that at no time did Peter quote a single scripture when those Gentiles heard the word. Peter was moved to speak by the power of the Spirit. Yes, my brother, the gospel is preached, as Peter himself said, “with the holy Spirit sent down from heaven”, not with a book. Paul agreed, saying, “Our gospel did not come to you in word only but also in power” (1Thess. 1:5).
Now, what did that devoted servant of our Lord mean by the word power? Not a few have said that the word power used here by Paul referred to his chain of convincing thoughts, which his great mind was able to produce, or his oratorical excellence. But we need only to hear Paul’s own words to prove this wrong. Paul said, “Now, when I came to you, brothers, I did not come with lofty speech or wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. . . . And my message and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, so that your faith might not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1Cor. 2:1, 4—5).
It is amazing how many people have put their faith in the wisdom of men and their heretical theologies rather than in the power of God. Most Christian churches entirely omit the power of God, the real gospel, using instead the “word only” system. “These are they,” Jude reminds us, “who separate themselves, sensual, not having the Spirit” (Jude 19).
Turn with me now to see what is meant by the term “the power of God”, since that is what the true gospel of Christ is. In Matthew 10:1, we read: “When he [Jesus] had called for his twelve disciples, he gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every sickness.” This is, indeed, what Paul meant when he said he came not with excellency of speech, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power. Certainly, we all know that Paul preached the same gospel that Jesus did. If not, Jesus would never have said: “He who believes in me, the works that I do, he will also do; and he will do greater works than these because I am going to my Father” (Jn. 14:12).
The apostle Paul must be credited with coining the phrase, “full gospel”. We gather this by reading his statement in Romans 15:19, in which he declares, “I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” Now, if Paul fully preached the gospel, then, without doubt, he must have preached the full gospel. This same great man of God, as we shall now see, clearly expressed himself, as to what he thought of one’s not preaching the full gospel. Here are his words, and they are quite appropriate to those today who are in “word only” telling about Christ and his miraculous deeds, and the mighty acts of the apostles. Listen once more, my Reader, to this fiery evangelist, as he asserts, “I will not presume to speak of any of those things that Christ has not wrought through me” (Rom. 15:18).
Here, Paul is saying, in effect, that “The hard-working farmer ought to be first to partake of the fruit” (2Tim. 2:6). In other words, one must receive something before he can give it. One can only bear witness to Christ to the extent that he knows his power.
This same apostle gives us a timely warning in his letter to the Galatians by saying, “There are certain men who are troubling you, determined to alter the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:7). One has only to look about today to see such perversion, as well as the multitudes that are being misled by it. I wholeheartedly agree with Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians when he maintained that “Even if our gospel [the full gospel] is veiled, it is veiled among those who are lost, among whom the god of this world has blinded their unbelieving minds so that they cannot behold the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God” (2Cor. 4:3—4).
Matthew (4:23) tells us that “Jesus traveled about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, AND declaring the good news of the kingdom, AND healing every disease and every sickness.” This, my Reader, is the gospel of Christ, the true, full gospel, the gospel that Paul had in mind in Romans 10:15 when he asked that profound question: “How shall they preach except they be sent?” Sent by whom? That is the question, my Reader. Turning now to the Scriptures, let us see if we can find the answer.
In Matthew 10:1, 5—8, we read: “When he [Jesus] had called for his twelve disciples, he gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every sickness. These twelve Jesus sent out, after he had charged them, saying, ‘Don’t go in the way of Gentiles, and don’t go into a Samaritan city; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick; cleanse the leapers; cast out demons. Freely you’ve received; freely give.’ ”
This same apostolic gospel is for us today. Needless to say, thousands upon thousands have established a “word only” ministry of their own, a ministry without the power and signs that Jesus said would follow all true believers. Surely, our Lord intended for the unrepealable gospel, which he preached, to be preached and practiced by all those who believe on him. He clearly expressed this sentiment when he said to his disciples after his resurrection, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel [the power of God] to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who doesn’t believe shall be damned. These signs shall accompany those who believe: In my name, they’ll cast out demons; they’ll speak with new tongues; they’ll take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it won’t hurt them; they’ll lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mk. 16:15—18).
“THIS GOSPEL of the kingdom,” Jesus declared in Matthew 24:14, “shall be preached in all the earth for a witness to all nations; and then, the end will come.” Jesus, our great living Intercessor, knew only too well that the scriptures, alone, will never bring conviction on the hearts of people. Nothing but the liberating power of God avails to that end.
My Reader, when the real gospel of Christ is preached, miracles happen. In other words, the power of God, when at work, produces miracles. Paul, in 1Corinthians 12:10, calls the preaching of the gospel, “The working of miracles.” In his letter to Titus, Paul mentioned a class of people who “profess to know God, but by works, they deny Him” (Titus 1:16). Oh, how many thousands there are today who are saying that they know the Lord; yet, they are denying the works and signs which Jesus said should follow those who believe on him! No sooner do we speak of the disciples of Christ than we are compelled to recall the powerful experience they received at Pentecost and thereafter taught to their followers. May God help us to do as well as they did in communicating to mankind the true, full gospel of Christ! Amen!