The Power of God
The Gospel is the power of God. Paul tells us this in Romans 1:16 & 17. It is the power unto salvation. The word “salvation” comes from the Greek word sozo which has a meaning far beyond the redemption of our souls. It means wholeness of life, health, and mind. It also includes the reality of God’s blessing and favor.
Paul says that he is not ashamed of this Gospel. He said this because the Gospel reveals a truth that would shake up the religious mindset of his day. He tells us what that truth is in verse 17, that those who believe the gospel, those who have faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work, would become righteous before God by that faith.
The entire letter to the Romans backs up this revelation. In it Paul continues to defend and explain how it would be possible for mankind to be righteous before God apart from works. Performance.
He speaks of it as a mystery. It is a mystery to the human soul. How could we become the very righteousness of God apart from some form of self- effort? We are conditioned to the concept of earning favor. We are trained from youth that good behavior equals blessing and bad behavior results in punishment.
For the religious leaders in Paul’s time the Gospel shattered their whole paradigm. They had built an entire system of value and worth based on performance. I think it is the same for many Christians today. We relate to one another, and to God, with the idea that we are better positioned for favor and honor by some standard of “holiness”. A standard, by the way, which is defined in many different ways depending on the church we belong to. The Gospel messes up some of our dearly held belief systems.
Yes I believe that I am responsible to keep my mind and body in check. Yes I believe that the Word of God tells us what is right and wrong. But to believe that our “good” behavior or actions can measure up to God’s standard of Holiness is religious thinking at best, blasphemy at worse. I have no doubt that our loving Father knows how crippled we become when we live a life of self-gratification. I believe that we need relationship with God. Our soul longs for it, our spirit cries out for relationship with God. And our lives work best when we line ourselves up with His purpose and will. I just disagree with how we get there.
The truth is that we do not get free of sin, nor do we earn favor from God by any effort of our own. We have this freedom and this favor by faith in the finished work of the Cross. We stand in His grace. Grace is not just an enabling power to overcome sin; nor is it just a momentary blessing to get us through a trial (though the scripture sometimes speaks of grace this way). The word “grace” in the New Testament is almost always used as a condition we live in. We stand in His grace (Romans 5:1 & 2). We have all His favor all the time.
The ability to overcome “sin” as an action, is not found in a Holy Spirit empowered effort of our will. The power to overcome “sin” is contained in a Holy Spirit revelation. That revelation is that we are, in Christ, the very righteousness of God by faith. God is not relating to us according to our “sin”. We are, in fact, as holy as we can become when we have faith in the power of God unto salvation. The Gospel.
How does this work? How can it be that we can be overcomers simply by faith?
The first thing we must realize is that, like grace, “sin” is a condition we can live in. The word “sin” is most frequently used as a noun, not a verb or action, in the letter to the Romans. It implies a condition we live in before our salvation, not after. When we focus on “sin” we are focusing on something that God is not focusing on. In fact when we focus on “sin” as it relates to “performance” we actually empower it (1st Corinthians 15:56 & Romans 3:20).
In chapters 9 and 10 of Hebrews the writer takes time to explain that our “consciousness of sin” is something that the gospel should eliminate. Hebrews 10:3 tells us that the “reminder of sin” found in the yearly sacrifices of the old covenant was a negative thing that the new covenant doesn’t have. We should, if fact, have no consciousness of “sin” having “once been cleansed” (10:2). If this “desired” result (freedom from “sin consciousness”) could have occurred from a sacrifice of animals then those sacrifices would have “ceased to be offered.”
“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until His enemies should be made a footstool for His feet. For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:12-14 RSV)
Could it be any clearer? Here is the mystery that the gospel speaks of so often. We really, truly stand before God perfect and without sin. It is from this position we can find the victory over the “actions” of sin that we all desire.
How does this work? I believe that the revelation of faith-righteousness brings us deeper into a revelation of His love. That place of security should (and eventually will) eliminate all the reasons most of us “sin” in the first place. Most Christians I know have a sincere desire to overcome their anger, selfishness and addictions. Many of these result from the frustrations, disappointments and other wounds from living on a dysfunctional planet. (I am not addressing people who are looking for a license to sin, the scripture gives me many reasons to doubt their sincerity of faith.)
If we can stop seeing sin in the lives of Christians as rebellion against Holy God (and be honest with ourselves that we really don’t see the “sin” in our lives in those terms) and begin to see the heart of God in His reason for eliminating “sin” as something that separates us from Him, then we will start down a road of recovery. Not only recovery from our own ‘sinful’ actions and attitudes, but recovery from judging others (In my opinion the worst ‘action of sin’ that most ‘holiness’ adherents excuse without shame).
I believe that the Gospel is the power of God unto sozo in every area of our lives. I especially believe that it is the power to overcome. Because the Gospel contains a revelation. That revelation is clearly stated in verse 17 of Romans chapter one. “For in it (the Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, he who is righteous by faith shall live.”
Real “life”, full of the hope and promise we see everywhere in scripture comes from a revelation of the incredible love that Jesus Christ demonstrated on the cross. By faith in that love, we “live” the life we truly long for. Jesus loves you. He really is in love with you. You were worth dying for. You were worth suffering for. You were worth His sacrifice that opened the door to a relationship with God the Father. One that positions you for all the fullness of blessing and favor that God always intended you to have.
This was the “joy that was set before Him”, and the joy He now lives before the Father. It is up to you now to believe!