The apostle Paul tells us that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). This idea has captured my imagination for a couple of reason. First, there is a direct link between the Gospel and salvation. While this may appear obvious on the surface, I get the impression that many people no longer see this link. The Gospel, the good news of Jesus’ life and ministry, is essential to redemption. Without the Gospel there can be no salvation. The church has lost some of its urgency regarding this reality.
Second, Paul seemingly makes a connection between the Gospel and God’s power to save. While related to the first point, this second idea is distinct because we are talking about God’s ability to do something. In this case, save the lost. Paul does not make some kind of nuanced or veiled connection either. The grammatical structure points to the fact that in order for God’s power to save to be activated and exercised, the Gospel must be proclaimed. The Gospel is the vehicle God has designed and purposed to carry and deliver his power of salvation to a lost world.
There are several implications here worthy of our attention.
God’s ability to save is not in question. God desires to save those who are lost (1 Timothy 2:3-4). God has NO desire to see anyone die and suffer (2 Peter 3:9). Any argument against God’s character because of judgement is usually based on a human sentimentality rather than a clear theological understanding of who God is. God wants to save, and he can save those to whom he extends his grace.
God’s power to save is tied to the Gospel. The short of this implication is that if the Gospel is not proclaimed, salvation can not take place. The Gospel is required if any lost soul is to experience the new birth. There is a growing trend moving away from this idea, but this is a mistake with eternal consequences. People need more than sermons and books telling everything will be okay. The world is not okay. It is broken and nothing short of God’s grace will change it.
God is under no obligation to honor any message other than the Gospel. It may be difficult to understand, but God is not required to save anyone. There is not a person who has ever walked on the earth that deserved to God to heaven. Not a one. Every person who has ever lived and enjoyed God’s grace, did so because of God’s goodness and not of any inherent quality within the person.
I think a point of clarification is important here. I am not saying that every time the Gospel is proclaimed a salvation will a occur. That is not what the Bible teaches. What I AM saying is that if the Gospel is NOT proclaimed, it is guaranteed that no salvation will take place.
We must be very careful not to say things to people that may “sound nice” but are wrong and misguided regarding salvation. Good theology is one of the bedrocks of a solid process of spiritual formation. We must work harder to become better thinkers of who God is and how God operates in the world.