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The Power of the Gospel | Theology Matters

  • March 2015 Issue
Theology Matters

Many believers feel uncomfortable when sharing their faith because they lack confidence. Paul’s confidence was not in his ability as a communicator but rather in the gospel itself. He was unashamed 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” (Rom. 1:16). What is the nature of this power? Why did it give the Apostle so much confidence?

The power of the gospel is in its message. This is a promise that God will do for sinners what they cannot do for themselves. The gospel promises to make them righteous so that they can be in right relationship with God. This righteousness cannot be learned by observation or acquired through practice. It is a standing that cannot be earned by personal effort. It can only be received. This is because it is a righteousness that comes “from God.” Some think of righteousness as an acquired trait—a habit of life that is the result of our own attempt to be as good as God. But the righteousness of the gospel comes as a gift (Rom. 5:17).

Paul’s description in Romans 1:17 clearly emphasizes two important features of righteousness. First, God is the only one who can establish the standard of what is considered righteous. Second, God is the only source of righteousness. God sets the standard because He is Himself the measure. Biblically speaking, to be righteous means much more than simply being as good as the majority. It means more even than being better than the majority. To be righteous in the biblical sense is to be as good as God. Since only God is this good, the only hope we have of attaining such a status is if God shares His own righteousness with us (cf. Mark 10:18). God must give His righteousness to us as a gift. 

The gospel promises that God will acquit us of our guilt and regard us as righteous. This is not a matter of creative spiritual accounting. God does not “cook the books” and He doesn’t pretend we are better than we really are. The righteousness that is attributed to us through the gospel is real because it comes from Jesus Christ. When we accept the gospel message, we agree with God that Christ’s sacrifice is the only acceptable payment for our sin. We take credit for Christ’s righteousness as our own.

The gospel is also a message that has been invested with power. Only the gospel can turn the sinner’s heart to God. It is through the preaching of the gospel that we believe (Rom. 10:17). No wonder Paul was unashamed!

FOR FURTHER STUDY

To learn more, read The Transforming Power of the Gospel by Jerry Bridges (NavPress).

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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