Hope and the Power of the Gospel

“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).

The power of the gospel is an absolutely incredible power.  And who does it belong to?  “Everyone who believes.”  There is only one requirement to receive and enjoy and experience the power of the gospel; believe in the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

According to this verse, the power of the gospel is for our salvation.  Now we often think of “salvation” as that initial rescue when we placed our faith in Jesus.  But starting from day one of our belief in Jesus, the power of the gospel is also an ongoing power, a lifelong power that “saves” us in all kinds of ways.

As an administrator for the Freedom in Christ Movement Facebook group, I read stories almost every day of folks set free by the power of the gospel.  The gospel of grace sets people free from shame, from condemnation, from addictions, from fear and worry, from pride, from the performance trap, from rule-keeping for God’s approval, from feelings of inferiority, from selfish ambition, and many other chains.  These stories of lives set free are so encouraging to hear.  They truly testify to the power of the gospel for salvation.

But traveling alongside these beautiful testimonies are folks who believe in Jesus but still feel trapped by one or more of these snares.  Our experience of God’s freedom is not always instant or automatic.  Sometimes it takes time.  Sometimes we need to mature and grow in grace.  Sometimes the pain or trauma of our past puts us in a tailspin.  The power of the gospel does not always work in ways we would like to see happen.  Sometimes the circumstances of life outside of our control bring us setbacks, pain, and disappointment that we can’t seem to repair.

These setbacks do not nullify the promise of the power of the gospel.  But there are times when we find ourselves waiting for the fulfillment of the promise.  And it is in those times that the promise of hope is so important.  Remember our verse from last time, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).  God is the God of hope.  Never give up on yourself or others in your circle still caught by a besetting sin or struggle.  Keep believing!

The power of the gospel and the power of hope work together to strengthen our faith.  And these powers are yours.  They belong to you; already given by the matchless grace of God to “everyone who believes.”

We Have the Spirit and the Power

On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came with power and indwelt the first century followers of Jesus.  And the Holy Spirit has been living in every believer in Jesus ever since.  You received the Spirit of Christ the minute you believed the gospel message of Jesus.  This is the clear teaching of Scripture.

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.  But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.  Since Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.  But since 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 8:9-11).

Look how many times “Christ is in you” or “Spirit dwells in you” appear in this short passage.  It is at least four times.  The Holy Spirit of God came to dwell in you the moment you believed.  Or said the other way around in this passage, you can’t belong to the family of Jesus and not have the Spirit inside.

Here are some other verses that point to our indwelling by the Spirit.

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge(II Corinthians 1:21-22).

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13).

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (I Corinthians 6:19).  You are a temple.  A temple is the place God dwells.  In this case, your body is the place where God dwells united with you by His Spirit living in you.

The Spirit in you is the Spirit of Jesus.  It is God’s Spirit.  It is Jesus’ Spirit.  The Spirit is how the promise of “Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27) works itself out in our daily living.  God, Jesus, Holy Spirit are interchangeable when it comes to who is in you.  We have all the facets of God’s indwelling that He has chosen to give us.  And we have the power that comes with Him.

A personal application of this power for me goes back to our topic of fear.  In the last three years, our personal lives have gone through an increasing number of “scares”.  But God’s power though His indwelling Spirit has been the calm in the storm.  His Spirit has been the power to overcome and the power to take the next step.  The next step often felt impossible and I could feel the “immobilized with fear” coming on.  But I have learned in these challenging situations that the power of God is the fuel to overcome my fears.

I love this promise of hope in the midst of our fear or whatever else is troubling us.  “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).  The power of the Holy Spirit in us fills us with hope.

The Power over Fear

One of the most interesting demonstrations of God’s power coming with the Holy Spirit is the lack of fear in the disciples after the day of Pentecost.  Think with me about this before and after comparison.  How many times did Jesus say to His disciples in the gospels, “Do not be afraid”?  Fear was a real challenge for the twelve.

Storms, waves, Jesus appearing as a ghost on the water, and simply astonishment at some of the things Jesus did lead to fear for the disciples.  But more specific to this post is the fear that Peter and the others felt at Jesus’s arrest and execution.

On the night before Jesus was arrested, Peter denied Him three times out of fear.  “Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, ‘You too were with Jesus the Galilean.’  But he denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’  When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’  And again he denied it with an oath, ‘I do not know the man.’  A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.’  Then he began to curse and swear, ‘I do not know the man!’  And immediately a rooster crowed” (Matthew 26:69-74).  You can hear the fear in Peter’s replies.

Following Jesus’ execution, there was a continuing fear of the authorities that kept the disciples in hiding.  “So when it was evening on that day [the day of Jesus’ resurrection], the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’ “ (John 20:19).  The disciples were hiding in fear of the Jewish authorities.

Now compare this fear in the disciples before the coming of the Holy Spirit to what happened after the day of Pentecost.  Peter and the others, filled with the Spirit, showed an incredible boldness in their interaction with the authorities.  Look at this back and forth with the Jewish leaders following the arrest of Peter and John in Acts chapter 4.  This interaction is in regard to the healing of the lame man in Acts chapter 3.

“When they [the Jewish leaders] had placed them [Peter and John] in the center, they began to inquire, ‘By what power, or in what name, have you done this?’  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by this name this man stands here before you in good health.  He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone.  And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved’ ” (Acts 4:7-12).

The confrontation ended with this well-known response from Peter and John, “And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard’ “ (Acts 4:18-20).

Commentators often ascribe the new found boldness of the disciples to encountering the resurrected Jesus.  But I think there is more to it and I think the coming of the Spirit is the key.  The writer of the book of Acts made a point to preface Peter’s bold answer in Acts 4:8 to him being “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  The indwelling Holy Spirit drives out fear.

It’s great to read these stories about the disciples but what about us?  Are we included in this outpouring of the Spirit?  We will talk about it next time.

A New Power

On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were filled with a brand new power by way of a brand new Spirit; the Holy Spirit who had come to dwell in them.  Peter followed the dramatic arrival of the Spirit with a powerful sermon in Acts chapter 2 that God used to immediately add three thousand people to His family.

This manifestation of God’s incredible power continues throughout the book of Acts.  The next chapter, following Peter’s sermon, starts with this story, “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.  And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple.  When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms.  But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, ‘Look at us!’  And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.  But Peter said, ‘I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene–walk!’  And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened.  With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:1-8).

Wow, this power of healing sounds familiar and mirrors so many of Jesus’ miracles.  Why?  Because it is the power of Jesus that Peter and John carried.  As the people looked on in awe, Peter explained where the power came from.

“While he [the man who was healed] was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement.  But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, ‘Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?’ … ‘On the basis of faith in Jesus’ name, the name of Jesus has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all’ “ (Acts 3:11-12,16).

This is the same power we saw throughout Jesus’ ministry on earth.  Luke summarized it this way, “And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all” (Luke 6:19).

Luke followed this with a specific story of Jesus’ miracle working power.  “And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.  And Jesus said, ‘Who is the one who touched Me?’  And while they were all denying it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.’  But Jesus said, ‘Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.’  When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed.  And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace’ “ (Luke 8:43-48).  Jesus’ power and her faith made her well.

Now come back to Acts chapter 3.  As a result of the miraculous filling of the Holy Spirit, the power of God is on display in the lives and work of His disciples.  There are many more outpourings of God’s power through the disciples in the book of Acts.  We will talk about one of those next time; an often overlooked but dramatic turn in the apostles’ ministry.

The Power of God

It is easy for us to equate the character of God with incredible power.  From the beginning of the New Testament – “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” (Matthew 6:13) – to the end of the book – “After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God’ “ (Revelation 19:1) – the power of God is proclaimed.  God equals power.

But what if I told you that this power is not reserved for God alone?  What if I told you that some aspect of the power of God resides in you?  “Whoa,” you might say, “We may have some power, but not THAT power.  No, we are way below that.”  Are we?

The word “power” appears over 100 times in the New Testament.  And as you can probably guess from where I am going with this, many of these occurrences refer to God’s power in us.  If you have believed the gospel message of Jesus Christ, God’s power lives in you and supplies the overcoming and abundant power we need to live the Christian life.

Before we look at how that power works in our lives, let’s consider the timeline and person of how that power came to us.  After Jesus’ resurrection, He delivered this charge to His disciples, “And He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high’ “ (Luke 24:46-49).

Look at the last sentence.  Jesus is saying, “Don’t even start on this mission until you have received power from on high.”  Hmm.  What is this power the disciples are to be waiting for?

The next power reference is in Acts 1:8 where the promise of a coming power becomes clearer.  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  Ah, the Holy Spirit, the Helper that Jesus promised would come to live in us; He will be the source of this power.  Said another way, the Holy Spirit living in us will be the power of God acting through us.

So what is next in the timeline?  THE POWER ARRIVED !!! THE POWER CAME !!!  “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).  The promise is fulfilled.  The promised power of God has come by way of His Spirit filling His people.

So how did the disciples put this outpouring of power into action?  We will look at that next time.