The Power of God's Word
The story goes that the old baseball pitcher was told that he was about to receive some good news and some bad news. The good news was that yes, there was baseball in heaven. The bad news -–he was the starting pitcher for tomorrow's game. Actually, I can think of some other additions to this story – good news would include games not rained out, both sides will always win (?), Billy Martin won't be the manager, George Steinbrenner won't own anything. As for the bad news – going to heaven is NEVER bad news. The real bad news is that sinners won't go there.
Our God is a God of righteousness and holiness (cp. Isa. 6, Rev. 4, etc.). This means that those who are guilty of ungodliness and unrighteousness will be separated from God. They must be. They have to be. Sin separates from God – cp. Adam & Even in Gen. 1, Isa. 59:1-2; Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 3:23; Gal. 5:19f; 1 Cor. 6:9f). Like most everything else in life, we can't really appreciate the good news until we understand the bad news. Until we learn the real significance of sin and ungodliness in our eternal situation we can never really appreciate the gospel – the 'good news' from God. Until I grasp the fact that MY sins have separated me from God I will continue to excuse myself and go on committing those acts that a holy and just God must separate Himself from. Those 'little things' that don't bother my now seared conscience – they have caused God to declare that He won't share His life with me. Such is right – it is just and comes from the very holiness of God. It was those same sins that made it necessary for God to provide the great sacrifice of His son in order to allow me the forgiveness of my sins and the restoration of fellowship with Him. Of course He didn't HAVE to – He would have been just and righteous in condemning me. Oh the good news – He didn't! We can only begin to comprehend the LOVE of God when we begin to comprehend His absolute and complete hatred of that which He has declared to be sin. God was willing to save me – save me from WHAT? He saved me from His judicial wrath – His complete and unyielding wrath against ALL sin – against MY sin.
Herein lies the good news. Though I deserve to die and be eternally separated from God – He has provided for my salvation. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus I can have my sins washed away -–blotted out – forgiven (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 22:16, etc). Hence the apostles were to preach this good news to every creature – unto all nations. God not only provided the sacrifice – He provided the revelation concerning such sacrifice. Not only did He provide us a savior from our sins – He provided us with the knowledge of such. He did this in His word.
Hence we speak of the word of God as 'the power of God unto salvation' (Rom. 1:16). The preaching of such message is 'to us who are saved … the power of God' (1 Cor. 1:18). It 'pleased God by the foolishness of the message preached to save them that believe' (1 Cor. 1:21). By the design of God saving 'faith comes by hearing… and hearing from the Word of God' (Rom. 10:17). John said of his gospel that 'these things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ and believing might have life through his name' (John 20:30-31). Peter could say that we are 'born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever… the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you' (1 Pet. 1:23-25).
As we read of Luke's history of the beginning of the church we can see this in action. In Acts 2 Peter stood up with the other apostles and preached this 'bad news / good news' message. The bad news – 'you have killed the son of God'. The good news – the Father has raised him from the dead and now, believing that and repenting of your sins you can be baptized for the forgiveness of those sins. In Acts 8, Philip went down to Samaria and preached Christ. When they heard this message they believed and were baptized (i.e., were saved – cp. Mark 16:15-16). The gentiles of Cornelius' house 'heard words' whereby they could be saved – and were 'commanded to be baptized' seeing that God had granted unto them 'repentance unto life' (Acts 11:14; 10:48; and 11:18). Years later Peter could explain that "a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe" (Acts 15:7). It was the preaching of this same message by Paul in Antioch of Pisidia that caused the hearers to follow Paul (Acts 13:16-42). Entering the synagogue of Iconium, Paul again 'so spoke, that a great multitude, both of Jews and also of the Greeks, believed' (Acts 14:1). It is of such preaching that Jesus prayed not only for the apostles but also "for all who shall believe on me THROUGH their word" (John 17:20).
The good news is that Jesus can save us. The good news is that the preaching of this good news is the 'power of God unto salvation'. The bad news is that we must preach the bad news! It is godly sorrow that worketh repentance (2 Cor. 7:10) and without such repentance we will perish (Luke 13:3, etc.) The really bad news is that people don't want to hear this! They want to be comforted IN their sins. They want to hear of peace when there is no peace. There is no power in the gospel if we remove the part that tells us of our sins. The power to save includes the power to convict us of our guilt before God. Considering the universal practice of sin it is no wonder that the overriding message of God's messengers (both in the Old Testament and the New) was one of repentance! Noah, Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, John the baptist, Peter, Paul – even Jesus -- they all preached repentance. Surely to preach condemnation without hope is to pervert the message of the gospel. Many fail to realize however that to preach salvation and love without preaching the condemnation of sin is to gut the very message of its power. To preach about forgiveness without establishing guilt is to cut the very power of the message out.
The bad news is we have sinned and stand condemned by a holy and just God. The good news is that we now know it and of the forgiveness He offers through Jesus. Preach this good news to every creature – he that believeth and his baptized shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15-16).