Much has been said in recent years about WMD’s, or “weapons of mass destruction.” Nations have engaged in arms races to see who could develop bigger and better WMD’s, until they are like two little boys standing waist deep in gasoline arguing over who has the most matches. Wars have been fought to keep other nations from developing WMD capabilities. Dictatorial and tyrannical third world nations, by virtue of their ability to slaughter tens of thousands of people with a single bomb, can now take their place at the table of world super powers.
While the world looks with keen interest at such places as Iran, Iraq and North Korea, and tries to assess the WMD capabilities of these nations, one of the largest organizations in the world has gone largely ignored, even though it has been in possession of a WMD far longer than any other world super power. That organization is the universal Christian assembly known as the “church,” and their WMD is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote in the epistle to the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
(Romans 1:16 ESV). What did he mean by “the power of God?” What is the power of the gospel? What does the power of the gospel accomplish?
The word that we translate “power” is the Greek word dunamis, meaning strength, ability or power, particularly an inherent power residing within a thing. It is where we get the word “dynamite.” In Romans, it refers to the miraculous, inherent power of the gospel to bring a person into a saving relationship with God. But why do I refer to the gospel as a WMD? Let’s take a look at some of the things that the gospel has the power to destroy.
- THE GOSPEL CAN DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE:
1 Corinthians 1:19 – For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
The Apostle Paul did not preach the gospel “with the wisdom of words” (1 Cor. 1:17), or with “the enticing words of man’s wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:4). Matthew Henry has this to add:
“He did not preach the gospel in this manner, lest the cross of Christ should be of no effect, lest the success should be ascribed to the force of art, and not of truth; not to the plain doctrine of a crucified Jesus, but to the powerful oratory of those who spread it, and hereby the honor of the cross be diminished or eclipsed.” – Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible
Paul understood that the power of the gospel message was not in worldly wisdom or fancy oratory, but was inherent in the message itself. He recognized that there was more power in the plain preaching of a crucified Jesus than in all of the worldly wisdom and philosophy of his day. It was the preaching of this simple gospel message, by simple men, that turned the whole world upside down (Acts 17:6).
- THE GOSPEL CAN DESTROY THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL:
1 John 3:8 – “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
Satan’s purpose is always the same: he seeks to exalt himself above God by opposing God and men, and his “works” are always performed with this in mind. What are some of the ways that Satan works to oppose God and men?
1. Satan opposes the gospel message and attempts to keep men from salvation in Jesus Christ:
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.” (Luke 8:11-12 ESV)
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 ESV)
2. Satan holds men and women slaves to sin and captives to his will:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV)
3. Satan seeks the destruction of believers:
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 ESV)
4. Satan tries to corrupt the gospel message and the word of God through false prophets and teachers:
“And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” (2 Corinthians 11:12-15 ESV)
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” (2 Peter 2:1 ESV)
- THE GOSPEL MEANS THE DESTRUCTION OF SATAN HIMSELF:
Hebrews 2:14 – “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.
1. Satan’s destruction foretold by Jesus:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” (Matthew 25:41 ESV)
2. Satan’s destruction foretold by the Apostle Paul:
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (Romans 16:20 ESV)
3. Satan’s destruction foretold by the Apostle John:
“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.’” (Revelation 12:7-11 ESV)
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.” (Revelation 20:1-3 ESV)
- THE GOSPEL BRINGS ABOUT THE DESTRUCTION OF DEATH AND THE POWER OF THE GRAVE:
“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57 ESV)
When a person responds in faith to the gospel message, they pass from a state of spiritual death to one of spiritual life (Romans 8:10). They are then sealed by the Holy Spirit as a promise of the redemption to come (Ephesians 4:30). Matthew Henry has this to say about the redemption that is promised:
“There is to be a day of redemption; the body is to be redeemed from the power of the grave at the resurrection-day, and then God’s people will be delivered from all the effects of sin, as well as from all sin and misery, which they are not till rescued out of the grave. – Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11 ESV)
“…and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10 ESV)
- THE GOSPEL IS POWER FOR DESTROYING OUR SINFUL DESIRES AND OUR SINFUL NATURE:
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV)
“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV)
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:5-10 ESV)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
- THE GOSPEL DESTROYS OUR HEARTS OF STONE THAT WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH GOD:
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV)
IN SUMMARY - This is not an exhaustive treatment on the power of the gospel, but it should, at least, begin to show the mighty way in which it works in the lives of believers to effect the changes that God wants to make in them to bring about their sanctification and their redemption and conform them to the image of Christ. I will close with these words from John Piper:
“We remind ourselves that the gospel alone brings forgiven sinners to final, everlasting joy. Nothing in the world can do this except the gospel of Jesus Christ. Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam – they do not have a Savior who can solve the problem of separation from a holy God through sin, and offer sinners hope by grace and not works. Only one message saves sinners and brings them safely into the presence of God – the gospel of Jesus Christ. It alone is the power of God unto salvation.” – Sermon by John Piper entitled, The Gospel Is the Power of God unto Salvation, June 21, 1998
(Soli Deo Gloria)