The Gospel That Came to Us with Power

“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit” (I Thessalonians 1:5).

I love words.  I think most writers do.  Words can illuminate, explain, and deliver our ideas, our thoughts, and our feelings.  Words can convey facts AND emotion.  Words have the power to heal and the power to harm.

But our gospel message is more than just words.  As we understand more and more of the words of God in Scripture, we can fall into the trap of thinking that knowledge equals maturity.  We can lord over others with our Bible knowledge.  But knowledge for knowledge’s sake completely leaves out the power supplied to us by the Spirit.

The apostle Paul gives us this warning, “Knowledge puffs us, but love builds up” or “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies” (I Corinthians 8:1).  Knowledge without love can send us headlong into a prideful destruction.

How do we measure “growing in Christ”?  How do we measure maturity.  I believe the greatest commandment in the new covenant is to love as Jesus loves (John 13:34, 15:12).  In our new life in Jesus, we see our maturity develop as we learn to love, learn to serve, learn to obey, and learn to worship.

And all of these efforts to love, serve, obey, and worship require the power of God brought to us by His Spirit.  We are not robots.  God is not asking us to just read the words and automatically do what they say without any thought, feeling, or effort.  We need the power of the Spirit.

Grace does not teach that God’s requirements are soft.  No, God is asking us to live in ways that are contrary to the world we grew up in; ways that are not natural to our flesh.  But in one of the most beautiful joys of the new covenant, GOD SUPPLIES WHAT GOD REQUIRES!

It is really quite supernatural if you think about it.  How is God asking you to love, to serve, to obey, and to worship?  Who is God asking you to love in this moment?  His words inform our love, our service, our obedience, and our worship.  But the power to do it?  It comes straight from the Holy Spirit.  Don’t rely on your knowledge to get everything right.  Rest and move in the power of the Spirit in you.  He has given you more than enough.  He has given you Himself.

In the Power of the Spirit

“And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district” (Luke 4:14).

Following Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, Luke describes His return to Galilee as being “in the power of the Spirit.”  Jesus’ ministry began and continued throughout His time on earth “in the power of the Spirit.”  Now why would Jesus, God in the flesh, need the power of the Spirit?

Jesus operated in the power of the Spirit.  As the triune God, the Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus.  The Spirit is the Spirit of the Father.  The Spirit that empowered Jesus in His time on earth is the power of His divinity.  Jesus ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Where else do we see the specific reference to the power of the Spirit in the New Testament?

Mary conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.  “The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Christ went around doing good by the power of the Spirit.  “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).

Paul preached in the power of the Spirit.  “In the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:19).

We abound in hope by the power of the Spirit.  “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).

And finally, we carry within us and are strengthened by the same same same same same power of the Holy Spirit.  “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).

The Power of an Indestructible Life

“Jesus, who has become a perpetual priest not on the basis of a physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:16).

The priests of the Old Testament were chosen to serve based on a specific physical requirement; they must be born of the tribe of Levi.  Their service as a priest was temporary since they eventually died.  You could say they were destructible.  Jesus was born of the tribe of Judah so He did not qualify to be a priest under the old covenant.  So how did Jesus become a priest to us?

Jesus became a priest, not by meeting a physical requirement, but by the “power of an indestructible life.”  As the Son of God, Jesus’ life is indestructible.  He lives forever.  He is a perpetual everlasting priest who intercedes for us.

“The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.  Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:23-25).

The contrast of Jesus as a permanent priest versus the temporary priests of the old covenant extends to the covenant they represent.  Not only is Jesus, on the basis of an indestructible life, a better priest; He is the mediator of a better covenant.

“So much more also, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22).  “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).

Jesus ushered in a better covenant.  Jesus initiated a better arrangement.  And in this new arrangement, the power of His indestructible life lives in us.  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Carry on in the power of His indestructible life in you!

Raised By His Power

“So also is the resurrection of the dead.  It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (I Corinthians 15:42-44).

Our bodies are “sown” (go into the ground) as perishable bodies.  They will be raised as imperishable.  Our bodies go into the ground in dishonor.  They will be raised as glorious.  Our bodies are buried in weakness.  They will be raised in power.  Our body dies as a natural body.  It is raised a spiritual body.  And all of this “raising” is by the power of God.

“Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power (I Corinthians 6:14).

The same power that raised Christ from the dead, is the power that will raise our bodies as well.  The timing of our resurrection is a matter of much debate in Christian circles.  That is not really the point of this post.  The point is that we will be raised by the power of God to forever dwell in the presence of the Lord.

When we lived in Salt Lake City, most of our neighbors belonged to the Mormon church.  We enjoyed many spiritual conversations with our Mormon friends.  I appreciated their interest in spiritual things.  One of their core beliefs was the idea of three heavens.  In heaven number one would be Mormons of good standing.  In heaven number two would be “good people” like Rhonda and I (we were always assured).  And in heaven number three were the bad people.

As we discussed our future state, I would share as politely and unsarcastically as I could the following.  It doesn’t matter if there are three heavens, one heaven, a hundred heavens; I know that I will be in the heaven with Jesus.  I will forever be with the Lord.  We have that promise.

The Mormon church teaches that many requirements need to be met to make it to heaven number one.  The Bible teaches that there is only one requirement to residing in heaven with Jesus.  Believe in Jesus.  “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).

By the power of God, we will be raised from the dead to always be with the Lord.

The Power and Coming of Jesus

“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Peter 1:16).

The apostles were not only eyewitnesses of the coming of Jesus Christ, they were eyewitnesses of His power.  His power confirmed His identity.  Anyone can claim to be the Son of God, but only the true Son arrives with the power of God upon Him.  Jesus said as much when He healed the paralytic who was lowered to Jesus through the roof (Mark 2:1-12).

Jesus proclaimed the man’s sins forgiven.  But, of course, no one could see that with their eyes.  So Jesus said, ” ‘Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”; or to say, “Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk”?  But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.’  And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this’ “ (Mark 2:9-12).

Jesus did not just come with words announcing His identity as the Messiah.  He came with God-sourced power to heal and to save.

The apostle John used the powerful miracles of Jesus as proof of His divinity throughout his gospel.  And concluded with this summary, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).

Another demonstration of Jesus’ power was at His transfiguration; witnessed by Peter, James, and John.  The account in Mark starts with, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power (Mark 9:1).  The next verse starts the story of the transfiguration six days later.  It would seem odd if this is the fulfillment of verse 1 regarding some not tasting death since it is only six days later.  This promise of Jesus may relate to the coming of the Holy Spirit with power at the day of Pentecost.  Either way, the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2-8) was filled with power; radiance, white light, God speaking.  And Peter was an eyewitness.

In fact, it is this event that Peter uses to illustrate the power and coming of Jesus that we referenced in our opening verse.  Here is more of the II Peter passage.  “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.  For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’ – and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain” (II Peter 1:16-18).

We believe Peter.  We believe that he was an eyewitness to divinity.  We believe that he was an eyewitness to the power and coming of Jesus.  We believe that nothing about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is a hoax.  We believe it happened just as it is recorded in the gospels.  Why?  Because this is the testimony of the eyewitnesses.  The disciples of Jesus were eyewitnesses of the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.