In the book of Acts we find what I consider one of the most incredible fulfilled promises in all of Scripture. Now, before you point out that this is supposed to be based on the book of Romans give me a little rope to work with (I just might hang myself) and see if you get the connection. Jesus tells His disciples that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. We know this promise was indeed fulfilled because in Acts 2 we see the Spirit coming upon them and by His work many come to believe in Jesus Christ.
You might be wondering why I think that this is such a wonderful promise. I believe this because if the power comes from what I can do then I am up the proverbial creek without the remotest chance of ever finding a paddle. POWER comes from the Holy Spirit! From God Himself!!! Do you get what this means? It means it is not up to you to convince anyone to be saved; it is His job! Yours is to simply be a witness.
The pressure is off. It is not up to you or me. All we need to do is be willing to be the conduit for God’s power. Recently I had the opportunity to examine some electrical circuitry that was struck by lightning. The circuit had what was needed to conduct electricity. What it could not handle was the overload caused by the lightning. It was unprepared for the volume of power that it would have coursing through it. The result? Char-broiled circuitry. Cajun cables. A black useless hunk of junk. The raw power of lightning is amazing. The power of the Holy Spirit is infinitely more so. Just think of it, we have power at our disposal that no human invention can either duplicate or measure. Lest you think this power is just up for grabs for anything we desire to do, there is a catch. This power is available to those who would be witnesses for Christ and the Gospel.
Enter the book of Romans! Have you ever wondered why the apostle Paul was so “successful” in his ministry? I have. I have mentally given Paul credit for boldness, oratory, drive, discipline, and a number of other good character qualities. As a self-proclaimed student of Pauline literature I have come to a conclusion that while all of the above may be true they are not the source or even contributing factors to Paul’s “success.” What was the source? The GOSPEL!!
Wait a minute, the power is the Holy Spirit and then the GOSPEL is the POWER? Let me see if I can make sense of this. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, of God Himself if you will, is proof of the power of the Gospel. Paul declares that one of the key components of the Gospel is that Christ “was declared to be the Son of God with POWER, by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness,” (Romans 1:4). Power to bring life to the dead. Have you experienced it? I have. I was dead in my trespasses and sins and God brought me into newness of life. That is POWER!
Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit came we would have the power to be witnesses, and that we would be witnesses to the whole world. The power has a purpose. Just as we have a responsibility to use the power available to obey the command to be a witness. So I guess you see why I have been preoccupied with the Gospel. The implications of the Gospel are pretty clear. The way I see it we have two possible scenarios. 1. Believers are being witnesses to the power of Christ to change lives and save from sin. 2. The people professing to be believers are liars, which is evidenced by their lack of evangelism. There is a third possibility but I hate to consider it. The possibility exists that the church has fallen to such an extreme that the power of the Holy Spirit is hampered by the sinful lives of its constituents. We have forgotten the power of the Gospel. In so many ways this is more tragic than the second option above. I believe the truth lies somewhere in the mix of the three.
The only option we have is to cling to the power that is in the Gospel. Without it we have nothing. No purpose, no power, no hope. What good is a faith without, hope, power and purpose? None. This is why the Gospel is critical. It is not just the irreducible minimum in the “formula” for Christianity. It is the whole and sum of Christianity. If someone claims to know the Gospel and lacks the Power inherent in it, either he knows nothing of the Gospel of Christ, or he is in sin up to his armpits. So how can you tell? The true believer, will struggle. Not as a futile resistance against a bond, but as a butterfly struggles to leave the cocoon. It is a struggle of life. The unbeliever will be all talk and no show. The believer in sin will be angry, proud, bitter, easily irritated by spiritual things.
So what is the purpose of this line of thought? It is for self-examination. Are you in Christ? A new and powerful creature? Does your life just ooze of the Gospel? If not, then take another look. What is it that hinders the power of God in you? If your life is about you, then there is a problem. Paul said I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the POWER of God for salvation to everyone who believes, (Romans 1:16). If you are not sharing it, why not? If you are not ashamed, then maybe you have never experienced it. The Gospel is our constant reality check. It is our hope and our power. No wonder Paul couldn’t keep it in! How about you?
(For the record I would also say with Paul “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12 In other words this has been on my mind because I see it as something that I need to work on.)