A time of warm weather, holiday barbecues, long-awaited vacations, and group activities (and in-person too!). As restrictions subside, we step back into the lives of friends, neighbors, and family, and we remember how fortunate we are to have these relationships.
But we are also reminded of our calling as Christians to proclaim the good news of Christ Jesus to others (Matthew 28:18-20). Whether long-time friends or one-time Uber drivers, we are surrounded by a host of people, and many are likely not followers of Christ.
Now that life is becoming normal again, how exciting to see all of these Gospel opportunities return!
Yet, if we are honest, our excitement is often mingled with hesitation. We can still feel nervous about sharing the Good News. What if they reject me or laugh at me? What if I cannot answer all their questions or say the wrong thing? Fear of being rejected, looking foolish, or failing to know enough can often keep us from evangelizing or cause us to do it in tone of apology rather than victory.
Is this you? I’ll give you second to raise your hand and feel bad about yourself.
But don’t feel bad for long. You are in good company! The Apostle Peter denied Jesus (Mark 14:66-72) and even the Apostle Paul asked for prayers of boldness (Ephesians 6:19-20). When we see this, it only makes sense that we can feel a little uneasy about the task. But it also brings hope. After all, boldness did not come naturally to them, and look what Christ did through them!
In 1 Corinthians, Paul is writing to a church in a society remarkably similar to ours. Corinth was a major trade city in the Roman empire. It had a thriving economy, and with affluence came avarice. With luxury came licentiousness. It was a carnal, pagan society that had no place for Jesus. Being a Greek city, its intellectual and philosophical heritage included the likes of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato. It prized lofty thinking and clever speech, and eloquent oration gained sway over crowds.
The economic, social, and philosophical aspects of Corinth are similar to developed countries in our modern world. The distraction of success, the pursuit of alternate worldviews, and the emphasis on humanistic thought rival if not surpass our own. How then did the Gospel take root in such a society? In 1 Corinthians 1-3, Paul reminds the Corinthian believers what it was that brought them to the faith, and he contrasts the power of the Gospel with the supposed power of various things prized by the Corinthians.
Over the next few posts, we will look here to see the power of Paul’s evangelism in Corinth, and in doing so we can remind ourselves how we must approach this task in our day and age. As we do this, we will see:
- The Power of the Gospel (1:18)
- The Perception of the Gospel (1:19-25)
- The People of the Gospel (1:26-31)
- The Preaching of the Gospel (2:1-5)
The Power of the Gospel
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”1 Corinthians 1:18
The Gospel (the word of the cross) is the power of God to save (Romans 1:16). It is not anything we add to it, nor is it the presentation of it as long as we present it accurately. Rather, the Gospel itself contains the power. What does this mean?
Paul says that they preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23), and this contains the most basic elements of the Gospel message: the person and work of Christ. These two elements contain the power to save. They are what we must preached.
The Person of Christ
First, to preach the Gospel with power, we must preach the person of Christ. Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 1:9-11; John 20:30-31) who has existed with God for eternity past (John 1:1-4,14). He was born of a virgin under the law and was made like us so that He might redeem us (Galatians 4:4-5). In His incarnation, He took on the human form but did not lose His nature as God (Philippians 2:5-8). Jesus was the image of God and revealed and explained Him (John 1:18, Colossians 1:15-19).
The incarnation of Jesus is unlike anything in any other religion or ideology. God, the Creator of the Universe, took on the form of His creation and lived among them in order to save them. He was more than just a good person. More than just a good teacher. More than just a good example. He is the Son of God.
The Work of Christ
Second, to preach the Gospel with power, we must preach the work of Christ. Jesus came to solve our two greatest problems: our lack of righteousness and our sinfulness. Christ’s work includes the entirety of His life that culminated with His statement on the cross “It is finished!” (John 19:30) and was consummated by His resurrection.
He solved our lack of righteousness by fulfilling the law fully. Jesus says we are to be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48). This means completely fulfilling the whole law our whole lives. Truth be told, we have not fulfilled the whole law at any time. Yet, Jesus fulfilled this requirement of righteousness in His life (Romans 8:3-4), and God bestows Christ’s righteousness on us through faith in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9).
Next, Jesus solved our sin problem by taking our sin upon Himself at death (2 Corinthians 5:21, Isaiah 53:6). Sin brings a punishment of death (Romans 6:23), and God punished Jesus for our sin (Isaiah 53:5,10). Christ was the payment for our sins and turned away the wrath of God from us (Romans 3:24-25). Jesus then rose from the dead in victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, 54-57).
The Gospel is the power of God to salvation because Jesus Christ accomplished all that was necessary for God to forgive us and reconcile us to Himself. What needed to be done has been done by Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to God not because God made it that way on a whim. It is the only way that we are able to stand justified before God. Jesus Christ is the only one who has fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law. Therefore, He is the only one that could bestow His righteousness on us. Furthermore, He is the only one who could take our punishment for sin, He Himself not being guilty. The Gospel is the person and work of Jesus Christ: the power of God to save.
The Response to Christ
But how are we saved by its power? Is it bestowed on everyone? The Gospel is true whether one believes it or not. But to partake in His saving work, we must repent of our sin, trust in Christ and His work, and submit to Him as Lord (Romans 10:9-10). The Spirit convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgement (John 16:8-11). When we see our sin, we do not try and pay for it ourselves, but we repent of it and are forgiven (1 John 1:9). When we see our need for righteousness, we do not try and earn it, but we receive it through faith in Christ’s finished work (Romans 3:21-22). We do not fear the coming judgement, for Christ has taken away our sin and bestowed His righteousness upon us. This is Good News indeed!
Encouragement and Exhortation
As we consider the power of the Gospel, we are reminded of three things.
First, if you have not done so, you must repent and believe. Christ has accomplished all that is necessary, and God calls us to respond. To partake of the power of the Gospel and be free from sin’s power and punishment, you must turn from your sin and turn to Christ. For those outside of Christ, the judgement is indeed a fearful thing! But you need not pay for your sins. Christ has done it! You need not (and cannot) earn your righteousness. Christ has done it! Is God revealing this truth to you today Do not resist. Do not delay. Repent and trust in Christ!
Second, we must remember and rejoice. As believers, dwelling on the Gospel reminds us of the glorious person and work of Christ. We are secure in Him, and we stand accepted by God because of Him. Do not let your thoughts ever stray far from this glorious truth! Meditate on it. Give thanks for it. Rejoice in it.
Third, we must stand firm and proclaim. The Gospel is the power of God to salvation; we ourselves cannot save anyone. Yet, we participate in God’s saving work by proclaiming the Gospel. As we do, the Spirit works through the Word of God to open their eyes, bring them to life, and bring them to Christ (1 Peter 1:23-25). We will be tempted to water it down or change it in the face of opposition, but we must not do this and trust in the power of the Gospel to save (Rom. 1:16). To change the Gospel- either by adding to it or taking away from it- is to remove its power. The word of the cross is the power of God to those who are being saved. Proclaim it with love and care. Proclaim it with passion and conviction. Proclaim it with clarity and purity. And proclaim it with frequency and urgency!
Mike Engelsgjerd recently separated from the U.S. Army after 15 years of service. Towards the end of his service, Mike began to feel God’s call to full time Christian ministry. In following this call, He is pursuing an M.Div. at TMS with the goal of becoming a Chaplain in the U.S. Military and a Pastor.