PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Gospel for Believers

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120701_gospel-for-believers.mp3

07/01 Power of God for Salvation (Rom.1:16; 1Cor.1:18)

Romans 1:16 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.

I am not ashamed of the gospel. That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. That he was buried. That he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. That he appeared. I am not ashamed of this good news, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

My first inclination is to think of this verse evangelistically; that the gospel is the power of God which saves unbelievers and makes them believers. That is true. And if you are here today and don’t yet have a forgiven, intimate, love relationship with the God of the universe, I pray that God’s power through the gospel would penetrate your heart today. But I’m assuming that most of you here today are believers in Jesus, so I want to talk specifically to you. Have you considered that the gospel is good news for those who are already believing in Jesus?

Consider who is addressed in the book of Romans.

Romans 1:7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you– 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 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.

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel and he is eager to preach the gospel to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints, those whose faith is being proclaimed in the world, those whose faith is capable of encouraging the apostle. Paul intends to benefit the saints, to impart some spiritual gift by preaching the gospel to believers. And then Paul writes out his most lengthy, systematic, carefully reasoned defense and explanation of the gospel to the believers there in Rome.

So I want to ask some questions this morning to help us as believers better understand and appreciate the gospel. The gospel of Christ crucified is indeed the only message by which the lost can enter into a relationship with their Creator, and we must be passionate and intentional about the work of missions and evangelism.

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

But the power of the gospel doesn’t end at conversion. The power of the gospel is at work in believers, and the power of the gospel will be effective for eternity.

Why Not Ashamed?

The first question I want to ask is why would Paul say that he is not ashamed of the gospel? This would imply that some might think he has reason to be ashamed of this message. Some may have been concerned that the reason he hadn’t yet preached in the capital city of Rome was because he didn’t think his message was good enough – he was embarrassed of the gospel. Paul emphatically states that he is eager to preach the gospel also in Rome. Another reason to be ashamed may have been Paul’s prison ministry – from the inside. What kind of a message would get a person repeatedly beaten, stoned, left for dead, and locked up? It must be a weak message if it offers so little protection for the messenger. Paul says no, it is the power of God for salvation. For another potential cause for shame, we turn to 1 Corinthians 1.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

This gives us further clarification on just what exactly the gospel message consisted of. Paul here calls it ‘the word of the cross’. The good news is good news about the cross. The death of Messiah on the cross for our sins is the content of the gospel message. So the shameful objection is this: this message is folly. It is foolishness. How can it be good news that the founder of your movement got himself crucified? Jesus throughout his earthly ministry pointed to the necessity of his crucifixion. He came with the intent to die. Not only that, but he required of his followers that they also take up their own crosses. This does not sound like an attractive message. How can a crucified King inviting his subjects to follow him in crucifixion be good news? Paul is undaunted; the cross is powerful! God chooses destroy the wisdom of the wise with this shameful message.

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

The apostle was not ashamed of this scandalous message, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

Who Are Being Saved

Notice how he says it in 1 Corinthians 1:18 – the word of the cross is the power of God to us who are being saved. That is a present passive participle. The present tense points to something that is going on right now. The passive voice means that it is something that is happening to us – we are not performing the action; we are being acted upon by another. We are being saved. Is Paul pointing to those who are this moment entering into a relationship with Christ? I don’t think so, because he doesn’t say ‘to those who are being saved’ but ‘to us who are being saved’. The apostle said at the moment of writing that he was currently in the process of being saved by the power of God in the message of the cross. Do you have a category in your theology for this? Can you say that you are right now being saved by the power of God at work in you through the good news?

We often focus on the once-for-all past completed aspect of salvation, and rightly so, for that is a precious truth, but if it is to the neglect of our ongoing present salvation, then it is to our own harm. We must have our feet firmly planted on the past tense final and unchangeable foundation of our salvation.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have placed our trust only and completely in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for our sins, and we have been finally and forever justified, or declared not guilty in the law-court of the most high God. Nothing can revoke that decision. The author of Hebrews points back to that past action and on to this present process.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We have been perfected for all time. Past tense. Completed. And now we are being sanctified. Present tense. Ongoing process. But we are not done being saved yet. Romans tells us:

Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (cf. Rom.8:17,30)

We who have past tense been justified and reconciled, will in the future be saved by Jesus. This points forward to the final culmination of our salvation. Our salvation is past, present, and future. We have been justified; we are being sanctified; we will one day be glorified. We, believers in Jesus, are today being saved by the power of God in the word of the cross.

The Message of Galatians

This is the message of Galatians. Paul says:

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–

So the message of the gospel is not something that Christians are saved by and then move on from in their Christian life. We as believers must never turn away from the gospel. The message of the cross must remain central to the Christian life, or we would be categorized as those who are deserting God. This is such a big deal that Paul publicly confronted Peter over an issue in his life that was contrary to the gospel.

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. …14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Peter’s conduct of separating himself from table fellowship with Gentile believers sent a message that was contrary to the good news that the wall of separation had been broken down by the cross, contrary to the good news that we are being saved by simple trust in Jesus alone and not works. Paul cries out in chapter 3:

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith–

The gospel was preached. Jesus was publicly portrayed as crucified. The past tense salvation was by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This was a work of the Holy Spirit in you. He urges that the present tense salvation, the daily Christian walk, our sanctification is also not a result of our own efforts. It is a work of the Holy Spirit that continues by hearing the gospel with faith. The gospel of Christ crucified for sinners is the power of God for our present process of salvation.

Summary of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15

Look at Paul’s concise summary of the gospel he preached in 1 Corinthians 15, and notice again the present value he sees in preaching the gospel to believers.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve…

The good news was preached. They received it. They believed it. They are standing in it. They are presently being saved by the gospel as they hold fast to it. It is of primary importance. The gospel message we as believers are to cling to is that the Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared. This is the good news that we as believers need to be reminded of. This is the message that we must stand in. The message by which we are being saved. The message of the cross, that Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24), this is the power of God for our present salvation.

How the Gospel Saves Believers

But how? How does the gospel save believers? In what way is the gospel the power of God for my sanctification? How do I put this into practice in my life today? Listen to what Paul says in Romans 12

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Transformation comes by the renewing your mind with gospel truth. The good news is contrary to our natural inclinations. Actions flow out of how we think and feel. So in order for our actions to be shaped in a God-glorifying way, we must have our minds renewed by constant meditation on gospel truths.

Here’s just a few examples: in order to think correctly about God and relate to him properly, I must know that the gospel is first of all good news about our awesome God. The ultimate goal and purpose of the gospel is the glory of God. If I understand the gospel, I will be moved to humble worship. In order to think correctly about myself, I must know that I was a rebel against God, unfit for his presence and incapable of any good work. God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love for me, rescued me at great personal cost to himself, paid the price I could never pay, and gives me the gift of eternal life. Now I am his prized possession, a trophy of his undeserved grace. In order to relate to others in a way that is in step with the gospel, I must know and believe that all people were created in the image of God, and that God so loved them that he gave his own Son to die for them. Because God treated me with grace and mercy when I did not deserve it, I must extend grace and mercy to those around me who do not deserve it. Since I have been freely forgiven, I must extend forgiveness to those who have wronged me.

The power for a transformed life is the power of the Holy Spirit who is at work in us when we meditation on the truth of the good news.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

We are transformed by beholding the glory of the Lord. The transforming glory of God is seen in ‘the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2Cor.4:4)

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,…

Paul closes his letter to the Romans this way:

Romans 16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, …

Brothers and Sisters, run to the cross, meditate on the cross, cling to the message of the cross, for the power of God to us who are being saved is the word of the cross, the good news of Christ crucified for sinners.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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July 1, 2012 - Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , ,

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