If your pastor announced that he was going to begin a ten-week series of sermons on the gospel, how would you react? Would you say to yourself, ‘Under no circumstances can I afford to miss these sermons!’? Or is it possible that you would think something along these lines: ‘But I know the gospel! I come to church to be stretched—to get something a bit beyond the basics. Isn’t the gospel “Christianity 101”?’
Behind these (hypothetical) thoughts is an attitude that I suspect is common amongst many Christians: that the gospel is what gets you into the kingdom of God, but then you leave it behind and progress on to higher things. But that attitude couldn’t be more wrong. I like how one writer puts it: ‘The gospel is not the ABC of Christianity, but the A to Z.’ It is the fundamental message that brings people into the kingdom, but we never ever leave it behind. We need to keep preaching it to ourselves every day and keep responding to it in repentance and faith.
We find this idea—that the gospel is for Christians as well as non-Christians—throughout the New Testament. In Rom 1.15, for example, Paul is telling Christians in Rome what he hopes to do when he visits them: I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. Or, as he puts it in 1 Cor 15.1f: Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand and by which you are being saved… This is the pattern of most of Paul’s letters—first he explains gospel truths and then applies them. That’s his normal method of teaching believers.
Why is it so important for Christians to keep hearing the gospel? Paul tells us in Rom 1.16: …it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… Yes, it is the power of God to save those outside the kingdom who are perishing. But literally Paul says it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who keeps on believing. The present tense describes the ongoing activity of believing—not just at the moment of conversion, but throughout the whole Christian life, the gospel saves us.
Are you conscious of a cold, backslidden heart? Are you entangled by besetting sins? Are things not right in your home? In your marriage? Are you discouraged in your ministry? Have you lost your joy in the Lord? Are you battered by suffering and affliction? Are you painfully aware of weakness and sin and failure and inconsistency? Do you lament the poverty of your experience of Christ and your lack of love for the people you serve? What can change you? The gospel is the power of God for the complete salvation of all who keep on believing.
All we need to transform our minds, hearts, and wills is right here in this message. It’s striking that twice the Bible describes the gospel as the power of God. Nothing else in Scripture ever is, except Jesus Christ himself. The gospel is the ultimate working of the power of Almighty God.
Listen to how Milton Vincent puts it in his terrific little book A Gospel Primer: ‘God’s power is seen in erupting volcanoes, in the unimaginably hot boil of our massive sun, and in the lightning speed of a recently discovered star seen streaking per the heavens at 1.5 million mph. Yet in Scripture such wonders are never labelled “the power of God”. How powerful, then, must the gospel be that it would merit such a title! And how great is the salvation it could accomplish in my life, if I would only embrace it by faith and give it a central place in my thoughts each day!’
Are you so discouraged that you think your heart and personality and habits and ministry are fixed and impossible to change? Think again! To us who are being saved, the gospel is the power of God! We just need to experience that power through faith. We must hear the gospel and believe it every single day of our lives.