“for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,”
“But perhaps no expression of what it is that makes us Christian brings out this idea so clearly as Paul’s statement that a Christian is a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is nothing less than that. He is not merely a member of a church, he is not merely a good man, he is not merely a man who has made a decision1”
The Apostle Paul was the preeminent voice of the gospel in the New Testament period. He contributed 13 books of the 27 books of the New Testament. And if one attributes the book of Hebrews to his pen, over half of the whole New Testament bears the mark of his pen. So when Paul speaks of “our gospel” he is making no other declaration than that which he defined it as in I Corinthians 15:3-4; “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” The Apostle Paul had not spent some 30 years of his life tooting his own horn across the Roman Empire, but was touting the message of events that had taken place on a lonely hill outside the northeast wall of the city of Jerusalem. Those events in the life of the carpenter’s son, Jesus Christ are the fabric of the gospel.
Now this gospel (which simply means; “good news”) was no mere sad story of a religious radical come to a pathetic and tragic end on Golgotha. It was the sovereign fulfillment of satisfaction for the just wrath of an Almighty and Holy God. The cross of Calvary was where the full and central focus of God’s consummate wrath against sin was appeased through the suffering that His Own Son suffered there. The empty tomb is the confirmation that that wrath has been satisfied and thereby the justice of God being fulfilled; God through the righteousness of His Son redeems those whom the Father has given to the Son. As the Lord Jesus said; “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” (John 6:39)
This same gospel has traveled across continents, across seas and oceans, down into deep canyons and the recesses of the jungles of the world. It has fallen on the ears of skeptics, deniers, disbelievers, kings and paupers; raced through the halls of castles and the corridors of caverns; embraced by children and octogenarians; loved and adored by thousands who gripped steadfastly to their own martyrdom. The story of the gospel is remembered by millions in churches all over the world every Easter in the message that Paul preached and turned the world upside down.
But this message of the gospel has had varied affects upon people throughout the history of the church. So, as has been cited above, they hated it, denied it and refused its message. Yet this has not stymied its progress. As the Apostle Paul notes to the saints at Thessalonica; “for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction;” so wherever the message of the gospel has been accompanied by the power and work of God’s Holy Spirit, there the effectual work of the gospel always produces a life altering perpetual conforming to the image of Jesus Christ. The gospel may be told as any other story in the Bible or as a historical event and have no effect on its audience if the Spirit of God does not empower it with the life-giving effectual change that is distinctive of true conversion. This is evidenced by the thousands who can tell you of the details of Easter and yet have no distinctive transforming love for Christ. So Martin Lloyd-Jones is right that the gospel that is effectual is a new creation.
The Rev. Ray Druckenmiller is the Pastor at Manning Community Church.