Gospel Power

by Pastor Kevin Sadler

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“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost…” (1 Thes. 1:5).

On Paul’s second apostolic journey, Paul, Silas, and Timothy had communicated the truth of the gospel of the grace of God to the Thessalonians. However, Paul recognized that it wasn’t their eloquence that had brought people to faith in Christ. The gospel had come to the Thessalonian church in word, but “not… in word only.”

“John Stott shares the following story from 1958 when he was leading a university outreach in Sydney, Australia. The day before the final meeting, Stott received word that his father had passed away. In addition to his grief, Stott was also starting to lose his voice. Here’s how Stott describes the final day of the outreach:

“‘It was already late afternoon within a few hours of the final meeting of the mission, so I didn’t feel I could back away at that time…. When time came for me to give my address… I had to get within half an inch of the microphone, and I croaked the gospel like a raven. I couldn’t exert my personality. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t use any inflections in my voice. I croaked the gospel in monotone.

“‘…I’ve been back to Australia about ten times since 1958, and on every occasion somebody has come up to me and said, “Do you remember that final meeting in the university in the great hall?” “I jolly well do,” I reply. “Well,” they say, “I was converted that night.”’

“Stott concludes, ‘The Holy Spirit takes our human words, spoken in great weakness and frailty, and he carries them home with power to the mind, the heart, the conscience, and the will of the hearers….’”1

The truth of the gospel has power. It is by grace that the Holy Spirit uses our words and our proclamation of the gospel to save souls. He does so, even when the words are spoken in weakness, when we stumble over the words, when we don’t answer questions well, and even when we’re sure that we blew it.

The conversion of souls does not depend on slick salesmanship techniques, powerful rhetoric, or convincing logic on our part. The power is in the truth of the gospel and the Holy Spirit. We are simply called to make the gospel known, and the Holy Spirit works through our faithfulness to share His truth. Even if it feels like we’ve failed when we share the gospel, we actually never do. According to God’s way of looking at it, we “always… triumph in Christ” (2 Cor. 2:14) when we make known the knowledge of the Savior and the good news of His finished work.

1. “John Stott Discovers God’s Power in His Weakness,” Preaching Today, accessed April 30, 2021, https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2011/march/7030711.html.

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