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The Gospel Is the Power of God (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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February 14, 2024 3:00 am

The Gospel Is the Power of God (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 14, 2024 3:00 am

People hoping to attract followers on social media often share interesting articles or funny videos. But what compels Christians to share the Gospel with those who may shame them for their faith? Alistair Begg investigates the answer on Truth For Life.


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Music playing People will often share interesting articles or funny videos on social media hoping to attract followers. But what compels Christians to share the Gospel with those who want to shame them for their faith?

It's not popularity or revenue. We'll learn the answer today on Truth for Life as Alistair Begg begins a series titled, God's Power for Salvation. I invite you to turn to the Bible with me to Romans and to follow along as I read just two short passages, first from chapter 1 and then in chapter 3. Romans chapter 1, verses 16 and 17, and then in Romans 3 from verse 19.

Paul writes, 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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith. As it is written, the righteous shall live by faith.

Verse 19 of chapter 3, Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Amen. Well, this is the one Sunday when I can legitimately bring to the pulpit with me Martin Luther. He spends his life alongside me, and alongside a large version of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, but arguably Luther had a far greater impact than did Spurgeon.

But nevertheless, because some of you will be aware of the fact that today is throughout the world Reformation Sunday. And so it frames our study of the Bible, and it allows us to underscore the great, amazing impact that God brought to the world when he stirred up out of the darkness of the Middle Ages the light of the truth of the gospel. It was 1505 when Martin Luther was just twenty-one years of age that he became a monk. He wanted so desperately to please God, and he knew there was so much in his life that displeased God that he thought if he could become a monk, then perhaps that would take care of things. And yet, despite his religious activities, despite his engagement in these things, he continued to wrestle with a guilty conscience. He feared God, he feared death, he feared judgment, and he feared hell, as well he might.

And then one day the light came on. The light came on when he understood things that he had previously understood, in this sense that although he had been able to read the Bible and intellectually appreciate the truth that was conveyed, that truth had never actually laid hold of him in a life-changing way. It had been revealed to him in the Scriptures, but it had not become his own.

And in that respect, he is, if you like, a challenge and an encouragement to some of us who may find ourselves in a similar circumstance. The phrase that really troubled him was here in the seventeenth verse, the phrase the righteousness of God. Because in reading this, he decided that this was a righteousness that it behoved him as a man to produce. In other words, he struggled over it because he thought that it was a righteousness that he was himself to attain. And then the light came on, and he realized, no, it was actually a gift of God by grace through faith. And that changed everything. In fact, he said that that phraseology became for him, from that point on, a gateway to heaven. Now, that's a long time ago.

That's half a millennium ago. And we might even find ourselves, as you listen to this opening paragraph or so, saying, you know, from the vantage point where we live, in an increasingly secularized environment, increasingly irreligious, increasingly self-serving, we might find ourselves amazed at a picture of Luther, deeply troubled, understandably and horribly anxious, and anxious at the thought of standing before God. I don't think if we were to go out this morning and just go into the surrounding community, we would immediately find people who are standing, beating their chests, with the prospect of standing before God. By and large, we will say, Well, I have a standing. I have a standing in the community.

I have a standing here and there. I'm not sure I'm very concerned about that at all. And that would be one thing if it were true only in the environment into which the church goes. But increasingly, within the framework of recognized religion, many, many people have largely dispensed with theology—the theology of the Bible, the theology of the Reformation—and particularly because of the way it diagnoses the human condition.

How does it diagnose it? Well, it says that we are by nature sinful, that we are guilty, that we are lost, and that we are responsible. That we are, the Bible says, suffering from a pathological virus that leaves us in the depths and out of which we cannot come.

We are by nature the enemies of God. So that's essentially the theology of it. We'll say, Well, we don't really… We're not interested in that kind of theology, but we would like a Christianity that is far more to do with therapy. It's far more therapeutic, something that would ease our disappointments, that would soothe our sorrows, that would give us great prospect for self-improvement.

That way, we would be able to go out feeling so much better about ourselves and assured along these lines. Well, David Wells, in his book The Courage to Be Protestant, highlights this predicament when he writes as follows. Over a period of time, our society has slowly exited the moral world, and it now lives in a psychological world. The difference is that in one world there is right and wrong, and in the other there is not. In the other world we are either comfortable or not, psychologically healthy or not, dysfunctional or not, but we are never sinners. We are never sinners. Now, you can think that out for yourselves. In conversation tomorrow, you'll run into it almost immediately.

If you begin to talk about circumstances, about life, about the challenges with our children, about living our lives, and so on, we'll find that it is very easy, very quickly, to go to a therapeutic model. And yet, the Bible challenges that. Not that the therapeutic value of the gospel is to be gainsaid.

No, not for a moment. But you see, that is why we need our Bibles, because the Bible makes us wise for salvation. And this is what Paul is emphasizing here as he begins this great book, Writing to the Church in Rome, a place that he has not yet visited but is looking forward to. The gospel, he says, is the power of God. The gospel is the power of God. He says that he has been set apart for this gospel.

If your Bible is open, you will see that. He begins his whole letter in that way. Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God. By verse 15, he's now explaining that he is eager to preach this gospel, and he's aware of the fact that they, the recipients of the letter, need to hear about this and need to understand it. Perhaps it's important for us to recognize that he is not, in the first instance, proclaiming this in a kind of evangelistic way. This is not him gathering the people in Rome—outsiders, folks who are wandering willy-nilly through the world—and he's saying to them, I am not ashamed of the gospel, it is the power of God for salvation. No, he's actually writing to Christians. This letter is written to the Christians. He says, I want you to know that I am eager to preach the gospel and that I am not ashamed of this gospel.

Now, why is this? Well, it is because he recognizes that if the people are going to take the gospel to Rome, they'd better be clear about what the gospel is. If we're going to take the gospel to Cleveland, we need to be clear about what that gospel is. He recognizes that those to whom he writes need to be convinced of verse 18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. This is the great verdict on a world that turns its back on God. And it is in that context that the good news of the gospel is proclaimed. What this actually says in a nutshell is that men and women are not in need of a moral exemplar.

They're not in need of a life coach. We are in need of a Savior. In the penultimate book of the Bible, Jude, which is just a few verses, it speaks there towards the end of that letter about having mercy on those who doubt and saving others by snatching them out of the fire. Snatching them out of the fire. You see what a different picture that is from the idea that Christianity, it just exists if you want to have a relatively comfortable existence, if you want to feel good about yourself and do something nice for other people and so on? What has that got to do with snatching people out of the fire? What has that got to do with the fact that the wrath of God is revealed against all the ungodliness and wickedness of men?

Without that reality, then this gospel seems somewhat superficial, if not actually irrelevant. That's why the hymn writers have often helped us—I wonder how long it is—since we've sung Fanny Crosby's old hymn, Rescue the Perishing, Care for the Dying, Snatch Them in Pity, From Sin and the Grave. We pour the erring ones, lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus. He's mighty to save. Jesus saves. That's why he's called the Savior. Good news of great joy comes to the shepherds.

I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior. He is the Messiah. He is Christ.

He is the Lord. Now, Paul didn't believe that for a moment. He was opposed to Christ, opposed to the followers of Christ, until for him the lights went on as well. And that may well be you too. You may actually be here this morning, and you even have decided that the opening words that you've heard from my lips are abhorrent to you.

Well, I wouldn't be surprised. But Paul is commissioned to take this gospel. He is obligated, he says down in verse 14, both to Greeks and to barbarians. In what sense is he obligated? He's obligated in that he has been given this in order to give to them. And until he gives it to them, he has an obligation to do so. So, commissioned to take my name before the Gentiles—Acts chapter 9—obligated to the Greeks and to the barbarians, whether they are the intellectuals or whether they are like some of the rest of us, and at the same time, too, he is eager to preach the gospel.

Now, let's not forget that he is speaking to those who were living in a unique setup. Rome and all the power of imperial Rome was represented there. And now these believers who are in Rome receive this, and they would have occasion to say to one another, That is quite striking that Paul is as enthusiastic as he is, that he is eager to be able to bring this message to us here. And it comes across with just three times the same word in Greek, which is translated here, for. The word in Greek is gar. For I am not ashamed. For it is the power of God, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed. Now, if tradition is accurate, Paul had really very little going for him in terms of his physical stature.

I don't know how accurate this is, but it tends to appear all over the place. They said that he was a relatively nondescript little man. Some described him as being ugly. He had beetle brows. He had bandy legs. He had a bald head, a hooped nose, bad eyesight, possessed no obvious rhetorical gifts, but apart from that, he was something really special. What possible hope could such a character have, such an epitome of very, very ordinary skills and gifts?

What possible hope was there for him to be able to make it to Rome, the great center of imperial power, and to move amongst the wise and the influential of his day? What was it? Well, look at what he says. For I am not ashamed of the gospel. I'm not ashamed of the gospel. He was aware of the weakness, the poverty, of the message that he proclaimed. When he writes to the Corinthians, he says the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing. So in other words, it wasn't that he had this amazing message that everybody wanted to tune in on and understand.

No, he came to tell them about this Galilean carpenter who had lived this life and who had died this death and who had been raised and was ascended and was a returning king. And people said, Oh, forget it, please. Let's have something other than that.

Furthermore, it was a stumbling block to Jewish people and to the Gentile people that just regarded it as absolutely ridiculous. That's our message. You understand that? The message is a message that it would be understandable if we felt ashamed of it. You go back to work tomorrow, and you tell people that the only Savior in the entire world is Jesus of Nazareth, who said, He'll laugh you out of your lab. They'll throw you out. They say, Where did you come up with such bigoted nonsense?

Who have you been listening to, teaching you these superstitious myths and silly ideas? Well, Paul understood that. He understood it in the living of his life, in the proclaiming of his story, and he understood it as he passed it to the next generation. The key to the future of the church lay in this gospel, of which he is not ashamed, being passed carefully into the next generation.

And as he transitions it, if you like, to Timothy, what is it he says to him? So do not be ashamed. Don't be ashamed. Well, you don't have to tell somebody not to be ashamed unless their temptation is to be ashamed. When he says, I am not ashamed, some people say it's just like totes.

It means the antithesis of that, that he is really bold about it. No, I don't think we have to go there. I think we have to recognize that he was aware of the fact that when he came, he came in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and his proclamation was not in powerful and rhetorical, influential words and so on.

No! Don't be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but join in suffering for the gospel. Now, again, let's remember that these Roman Christians who were reading this letter were living with the pressures of a Roman culture, and particularly a culture that had the place for all gods—all kinds of gods, all stripes and sizes and styles—hence the pantheon in Rome. And the Roman culture was perfectly prepared to include Jesus in the mix. What it was unprepared to accept was that Jesus transcended all other substitute gods—that Jesus is the Lord and the King.

Now, you don't have to go very far to recognize that the same is true in our day, is it not? The people are perfectly happy if you get in conversation with them and say, Well, I'm into a kind of form of Hinduism, I've been into yoga for some time, and I like to make the um noise when I'm doing my thing, and when I go um, and you go hallelujah. I mean, you have your hallelujah, I have my um.

You say, Well, I'm sorry, but no, I know you do um, but Jesus is Lord. The cultural pressure faced in Rome is a cultural pressure faced in Cleveland. And that cultural pressure is really strong. The prevailing wind is blowing not at our backs as we affirm the basics of Christianity, but it is blowing, actually, in our faces. And the message seems weak.

It seems almost pathetic. And that's why when Paul writes of it in his letter to the Corinthians, he reminds his readers that the weakness of God, the apparent weakness of God, is stronger than men. This is why he says, I am not ashamed of the gospel. I am not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of God for salvation.

There's no reason to be ashamed of this, he says. This is the way that God accomplishes his purposes. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Today's message is titled, The Gospel is the Power of God.

We'll hear more tomorrow. Sharing the gospel is our mission at Truth for Life. It's our prayer that God will use this program to take the good news of salvation to the ends of the earth.

And we're excited to see how he is answering those prayers. You may be listening to today's program in your car or while you're exercising or as you work your way through your day. I want to let you know that you're joined by other listeners who are now listening through Faith Radio 92 in Keitwe, Zambia, which is in South Central Africa. They recently added Truth for Life to their broadcast schedule.

You're also joined by listeners in Ballarat, Australia, who now hear Truth for Life on Good News Radio 103.9. Please join with us and pray for these new listeners as we thank God for opening the doors to these opportunities for Truth for Life to bring God's word to an expanding global audience. And if you'd like to support our Bible teaching, which is being heard by people all around the world, we would be grateful for your donation today. You can give securely online at slash donate.

You can also donate by calling 888-588-7884. When you make a gift today, be sure to request a children's book that we have been recommending. It's about Helen Rosevear, the missionary to Africa.

Her story is captivating. It will stir the heart of your children, your grandchildren, the kids in your Sunday school class. It will encourage them to follow God's call on their lives. The book is our way of saying thanks for your support. Tomorrow, we'll learn why the gospel isn't just an inspiring story or a religious option. It's a rescue mission. I hope you can join us. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-14 07:48:05 / 2024-02-14 07:56:12 / 8

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