H. Leo Boles
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16).
Gospel literally means “God” and “spell.” Our English word originally meant to bring one under or into a spell. Believers in witchcraft thought that one was brought under the will of another. When one was brought under the will of another, that one was under a spell. Satan exercised influence over evil people; they were under Satan’s spell. God has His influence over people for good. When they were brought under God’s influence, they were under God’s spell; hence, “good spell” or “Gospel.” With the advent of Christ, people were brought more under the influence of God’s teaching, and Gospel has received great emphasis in the New Testament.
We do not find the word Gospel in the Old Testament. It is used more than one hundred times in the New Testament. It carries with it the idea of “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). It comes from the Greek euaggelion and means “good news” or “good message.” Gospel may include the entire plan of salvation; it may embrace the whole scheme of redemption. Sometimes it is applied to the first four books of the New Testament. In a more restricted sense, it includes the facts, commands, and promises of man’s redemption. The fundamental facts of the Gospel are the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor.15:1- 5). Its commands embrace faith in Christ as the Son of God, repentance of sins, and baptism unto the remission of sins. The promises primarily are the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. Upon belief of the facts and obedience to the commands of the Gospel, we are to enjoy the promises of the Gospel. No one has any right to claim the promises of the Gospel who does not believe the facts of the Gospel and obey the commands of it.
The Gospel is declared to be “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” The Gospel is a channel through which God’s power to save is exercised. Nothing can be done without power of some kind. God is omnipotent; He has all power; He is the source of all power. The power that others have is delegated to them. The power that Satan has is a tolerated power. Many beings misuse the delegated or tolerated power. God holds them responsible for the use that they make of the power permitted or granted to them. God has at least two kinds of means through which He uses His power. First, there are the natural means. There is power in the wind, sea waves, earthquakes, volcanoes, sunshine, rainfall, electricity, etc. These are some of the natural means through which God exercises His power over the material realm. We are not concerned at this point with these physical means through which God exercises power.
The second kind of means through which God exercises power is spiritual. God uses spiritual means through which to exercise His power. The Gospel is a power of God—that is, the Gospel is one of the means through which God exercises His power. While the Gospel is a means through which God exercises His power, it is the particular means through which He exercises His power in the redemption of man. Hence, the Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation.” The Gospel is God’s only power unto salvation of souls. It is not a question as to whether God could save one without the Gospel, neither is it a question of what God will do in the redemption of man. The Gospel is His only revealed agency or means through which He has promised to save man. The Gospel as God’s means or power for saving man is revealed through Christ. Christ has been made the personal agent through whom God redeems man; hence, Christ is the only Savior of man, and the Gospel His only means for saving man through Christ.
It is well to note what the Gospel does for man. When one has been saved by the Gospel, that one is a Christian. Redemption in Christ imposes upon us an interest in others. No one can be a Christian without caring for the salvation of others. The Gospel impels those who have been redeemed by it to pray for others. We cannot pray for others without being interested in them. One of the greatest privileges granted to man is that of prayer; one of the greatest human achievements is to do things through prayer. The Gospel causes us to rejoice in each other’s victories through faith and successes in the Christian life. When we have received the remission of sins through obedience to the Gospel; when we have been bought with the blood of Christ, we are brought under obligations to others. Paul had been redeemed by the power of God through the Gospel. He said: “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also” (Rom. 1:14-15). To accept the Gospel is to go into partnership with Christ in the salvation of others.
Obedience to the Gospel brings us into the service of God. We are servants of Christ and servants of each other. Service is the true standard of greatness; it is the badge of nobility as children of God. To be redeemed by the Gospel gives courage to one. The Gospel begets courage. He who preaches the Gospel in faith and love knows no fear; he is entrenched in “the power of God” and does not fear men nor demons. He has the promise that God will be with him and he has become a humble servant of God. He enjoys the promises of God that are vouchsafed to him in the Gospel. There is no substitute for the Gospel, as there is no substitute for the truth; no substitute for the church; no substitute for Christ; neither can there be any substitute for the Gospel of Christ. Brethren, let us preach the Gospel.