Yesterday morning, I was able to preach the second of two sermons on Romans 1:16—focused primarily upon the power of the gospel to save sinners. Although Paul could have phrased his joy in the gospel in a positive manner, he used a negative construction to point out that while the whole world views the gospel as utter foolishness—Paul views and understands it to be the power of God unto salvation.
When was the last time you paused to consider how weak we are in the flesh? The best human effort will fall far short of what God requires for salvation. There is nothing that we can bring to God that will impress him and cause him to take away our sin. On our very best day as a human being, we would earn eternal hell rather than the glory of heaven. Paul points to the gospel as our need and as God’s means to bring about the ends of salvation among the nations.
God will never be satisfied with human effort and the human will is incapable of desiring God in the natural state. Apart from God’s grace that comes through the power of the gospel—sinners would never repent and believe the gospel. Man cannot work his way to God, will his way to God, or worship his way to God. R.C. Sproul once said, “Perhaps the most difficult task for us to perform is to rely on God’s grace and God’s grace alone for our salvation.” John the apostle makes this abundantly clear in the early pages of his Gospel account as he writes, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
When Paul speaks about the “power” of God—he is not referencing the omnipotence or specific attribute of God. Rather, Paul is referencing the power of the gospel itself which God uses to bring dead sinners to life spiritually. That’s why Paul did not depend on his own power when preaching the gospel, but the power of the gospel and he made this quite clear as he wrote to the church at Corinth (see 1 Cor. 2:4-5). It was not the power of Paul’s words or his cleverly constructed cliches that brought about the conversion of people in various cities. It was the power of the gospel as God’s design to bring about the salvation of all of God’s elect for the eternal glory of God.
Charles Spurgeon understood this point as well. He would ascend his lofty pulpit repeating to himself each step of the way, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in tihe Holy Spirit.” In fact, Spurgeon went on to say:
If we had the Spirit sealing our ministry with power, it would signify very little about talent. Men might be poor and uneducated, their words might be broken and ungrammatical; but if the might of the Spirit attended them, the humblest evangelist would be more successful than the most learned divine, or the most eloquent of preachers.
Paul goes on to make a very powerful statement at the end of Romans 1:16 regarding the fact that God brings people to faith through the power of the gospel and it’s for both the Jew and the Greek. Everyone who believes—implying that there is no person who is more or less “saveable” when it comes to the power of the gospel. God can apply the gospel to any heart of stone and cause the person to be born again. We must have this bold confidence as we minister in our communities each week.
Furthermore, the gospel is not only good news for the Jews, but also for the non-Jew. The gospel is God’s means in the mission to save sinners from every tongue, tribe, people and nation. It’s critical that we see God’s plan to save people beyond the borders of our context and our city. The eternal plan of God is to bring sinners to faith in Christ and to bring about their worship of God that begins at the new birth and culminates in the heavenly worship as we will glorify God and bow to King Jesus among a sea of the redeemed from every imaginable culture, context, and people group on planet earth. John Piper has stated it accurately as he remarked, “The reason missions exists is because worship doesn’t.”