‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek’ (Romans 1:16).
The word for ‘power’ in this verse in the Greek is dunamis, which is variously translated ‘strength’, ‘power’ or ‘authority’. You can easily recognise that it is from this word that we get the English word ‘dynamite’, which is an explosive formula used for various purposes.
Paul said that he was not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s ‘dynamite’ for salvation. I am very happy to say that, after preaching the gospel since I was a teenager, I have seen the powerful, effective, literally ‘explosive’ effect of the gospel of Christ upon the lives of people of both sexes, and all ages and social positions.
Here are two questions about this explosive message. First, what is this gospel? While there are many places in the Bible where the gospel is explained, there is one place where it is explicitly defined and that is in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
The apostle tells us here that the gospel is the historical fact that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again. We do not need to add to this fact, and we certainly should not detract from it.
The gospel is about God’s Son, Jesus the Christ. ‘Jesus’ is our Lord’s personal name and means Yahweh, saviour. ‘Christ’ is his official title as the redeemer of men. The kings, prophets and priests of the Old Testament were ‘anointed’ to their office and Christ, which means ‘anointed one’, was set aside by God to save sinners.
Paul’s definition says that Christ died for our sins. This means that he died as a substitute. His death was ‘vicarious’, meaning that it was in the room and stead of others. But his burial is a part of the gospel, because he was really dead. It was not a swoon he experienced on the cross, but his soul left his body. And, of course, he arose on the third day.
The second question is, why is this gospel so powerful? Note that Paul says that the gospel is the power of God ‘to salvation’. Salvation means deliverance, and so we see that God’s message saves people. That is why it is powerful.
The gospel of Christ delivers people from guilt and shame. The gospel is the only message in the world that can do that.
We all have driven down the highway and seen huge mountains moved to build a highway. And how did these mountains move? Did an army of men go up to the mountain with knives and forks and try to cut through the timber and rocks to make way for the road?
No. They stuck sticks of dynamite under it and blew it apart. And people from miles around heard the mighty explosion and then came and saw the devastation the dynamite caused.
So the truth of God — the gospel, preached and taught in the power of the Holy Spirit — blows up the pride of man and levels the ground, so that hope and assurance can drive through.
The ‘good news’ about Jesus’ shed blood and righteousness changes everything. It brings forgiveness, cleansing and joy. It turns the wicked man into a saint, and yes, blasts the self-righteousness of the proud man and makes him bow the knee to Christ.
If the gospel is so powerful, then let us not neglect it or substitute something else in its place. Paul was not ashamed of it. We should not be either.
John F. Thornbury
The author has served for many years as a pastor in Baptist churches in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.