THOUGHTS FROM ROMANS

THE POWER OF GOD

In Romans 1:16 & 17 Paul gives us a summary statement of the Gospel:

'I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."'

 In these words Paul explains why he is not ashamed of the gospel - It is the power of God.

The Greek word for 'power' is dunamis, from which we get the English word 'dynamite'. Explosive power. Awesome power. Incredible power. God's good news, God's good message, is God's power.

Paul is not here just using enthusiastic language to describe the gospel; rather, he is affirming the intrinsic and necessary character of the gospel. A weak or wishy-washy 'gospel' could not save us. Only a gospel in-built with the dynamic power of God has the ability to save sinful humans from the just judgment of God. Paul knows that we are utterly incapable of saving ourselves. Salvation is not within our own power; we simply do not have what it takes to save ourselves. It takes God's power, that is, the gospel, to save us. We do not and can not rescue ourselves from sin, death and judgment. Nor can we rescue ourselves from the darkness of our ignorance of God.

The Scripture affirms this human ignorance and inability:

'No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him' - Matthew 11:27.

'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him' - John 6:65.

'... when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly' - Romans 5:6.

'God ... made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions ' - Ephesians 2:4,5.

The Scripture also affirms the in-built power of the Word of God:

'You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free' - John 8:32.

'You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you' - John 15:3.

'...we preach Christ crucified ... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God' - 1Corinthians 1:23, 24.

'the holy Scriptures ... are able to make you wise for salvation' 2Timothy 3:15.

'... sustaining all things by his powerful word' - Hebrews 1:3.

'For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword ...' - Hebrews 4:12.

Into our ignorance and inability, the Gospel, the power of God, has come. That same power that raised Jesus Christ from death to life is the power of God that breaks through our ignorance and our inability and achieves our salvation. God's great power has been at work in those who believe. God raises us up, God seats us with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:15 - 2:6). God's power shields us (1Peter 1:3-5). God's  power has given us everything we need for our spiritual life (2Peter 1:3).

This dynamic power which is the gospel has a specific purpose, an end result into which it is directed and towards which all of its great energy is committed: salvation. Concerning this word 'salvation' we must throw aside our minimal perceptions, and be prepared to embrace a far more comprehensive understanding of its significance. Paul's letter to the Romans makes it clear that salvation is not merely an escape ticket from hell. Nor is it something that is purely initial, relevant only at the point of our conversion. Rather, the salvation wrought by the power of God is something that impacts the whole of our life, invading and changing our expectations and perceptions in multiple directions and dimensions, impacting our present relationship with God, with others, and with our own innermost being.

But Paul's summary of the gospel warns us that salvation is not universal, it does not automatically apply to everyone: it is for 'everyone who believes'. It is not until ater in his letter that Paul mentions the specific object or focus of saving faith:

'If you confess with your mouth "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved' - 10:9.

The faith that results from this powerful, saving work of God is never faith in faith. It is faith that is focused on Jesus Christ. The faith that acknowledges that the human Jesus is the eternal God.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2019