For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. –– Romans 1:16
There are several ways in which we could answer the question, “What is the power of God?” We could discuss the attribute of God’s power, by which God created the heavens and the earth; we could talk about the power of God in His providence and His working of all things together according to His will; we could mention power as it relates to God’s impeccable ability to answer our prayers; or, we could refer to God’s power as it is salvifically revealed in the Person and work of Christ.
In the age of democracy, social strategies have become the object of interest in the Church more than should be the case. Western Evangelicals, in large part, see themselves as social servants. The significance of Christ has been relocated from God’s glory in the redemption a covenant people to the ways in which God, through Christ, provided many tangible and temporal solutions to earthly troubles in His New Testament miracle-work. The power of God, it is popularly thought, is no longer ultimately demonstrated in the saving work of Christ, but in the temporal relief the Church can provide for those who struggle within any given community.
The instrument of communal change is no longer the Word preached but the temporal social and economic pressures the Church manages to relieve. Philanthropy is now the world-changer, not the Gospel. To be fair, those who believe such things would still claim the Gospel is the driving force, but it is the “legs of the Gospel” which supposedly accomplish this work. Interestingly, a connection may exist between the idea of works being the mechanism of social and political change and the Roman Catholic notion of meritorious grace. Rather than the Word, by God’s grace, being the means by which God changes the world, it’s the good works of the Church that affect God’s kingdom intention on earth. But this is altogether alien to what we find in Scripture.
Romans 1:16 says the Gospel is the power of God, not the implications of the Gospel or the perceived consequences of the Gospel. It is the Gospel which God uses to change hearts, and thereby the world. The work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinners––by means of the Gospel preached––is the only solution to problems streaming from human depravity. This is how the world changes if it changes at all. Any other solution is temporal. This is not to say we shouldn’t perform good works as God’s people. I preached a sermon on James 2:14-19 to this very point, if anyone is interested. My point here is that meaningful change only occurs when the Spirit works in the souls of men by means of the Word preached to them.
Therefore, in all churches, in all ministries, may the proclamation of Christ as He is offered to sinners in the Scriptures remain central.