When you think of the power of God, what comes to mind? The unparalleled creation of the universe? An omnipotent God sitting on His throne doing whatever He pleases and with myriad angels at his beck and call? Any of the numerous miracles recorded in the Word of God? Well, the Word of God offers a unique emphasis on the power of God. As translated in our English Bible, the phrase “power of God” occurs fourteen times (once in the Old Testament, the remainder in the New Testament). Limiting ourselves to the New Testament and setting aside the reference in the eighth chapter of Acts, which speaks of Simon the magician’s being designated by many pagans as “the Great Power of God,” we are left with twelve citations of that phrase. Surprisingly, not one of the twelve alludes to any of the ideas mentioned earlier in this paragraph. But fully half of them (Rom. 1:16; I Cor. 1:18, 24; 2:5; II Tim. 1:8; I Pet. 1:5) refer to one idea directly or indirectly: the gospel.
Without question, creation displays the power of God. Clearly, the miracles are intended to demonstrate that power before mankind (which had not been present to view the creative acts of God). Doubtless, the scriptural depictions of the invisible God seated on His throne in heaven atop the universe and commanding the angelic hosts is intended to reveal the power of God. But when it comes to the usage of the specific phrase, the power of God, God has in mind predominantly the gospel. God would have us understand that in some sense, the greatest exercise of power lies not in creation, as great as that is, but in the redemption of sinful, rebellious men, transforming an unholy, unrighteous sinner into a holy, righteous saint, taking one worthy only of eternal hell and separation from God and making him fit for heaven and fellowship with God, delivering him from sin and death and giving him eternal life.
The most familiar text containing this phrase is probably the one found in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “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” (1:16). As John MacArthur so eloquently states: “Paul was imprisoned in Philippi, chased out of Thessalonica, smuggled out of Damascus and Berea, laughed at in Athens, considered a fool in Corinth, and declared a blasphemer and lawbreaker in Jerusalem. He was stoned and left for dead at Lystra. Some pagans of Paul’s day branded Christianity as atheism because it believed in only one God and as being cannibalistic because of a misunderstanding of the Lord’s Supper.”
Nevertheless, Paul remained unashamed of the gospel because “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” And we should not be ashamed either. No work of man, no church, no ordinance nor sacrament, no good intention nor valiant effort, and no conviction nor belief in anything and everything else has the remotest possibility of cleansing and delivering a man from sin and making him acceptable in God’s sight. How deluded men are to think that anything less than the gospel, the saving power of Christ crucified could redeem. As one has said:
Not to Thy cross, but to Thyself,
My living Savior, would I cling!
'Twas Thou, and not Thy cross, that bore
My soul's dark guilt, sin's deadly sting.
A Christless cross no refuge were for me;
A crossless Christ my Saviour could not be:
But, O CHRIST CRUCIFIED, I rest in thee!
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