By Jason Law, Christianity Malaysia
‘The power of the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The Gospel is not just some good news that when it is heard, it brings a good or nice feeling and that’s about it.’
Recently, in tNCC, bro Vincent Yap shared about this immense power of the Gospel. ‘When we think of salvation, we often think that “oh, it’s to save us from our sins” but there is actually more to it,’ he shared.
A powerful testament of this is found in the book of Acts. This book is most well-known as the Acts of the Apostles during the time just after Christ has ascended up to heaven, and of the birth of the Church. But it is really the story of the Gospel more than anything else. It is the chronicle of the power of Christ’s Gospel taking hold and growing exponentially.
In his message, bro Vincent took the passage in Acts 8 as a foundation. In the very start of the passage, key figures would converge. The first is Saul who before he became the great apostle Paul was a great persecutor of the Church. Yet in spite of the persecution, instead of running and hiding, the Early Church grew even more zealous in spreading the Gospel.
Acts 8:3-4 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.
Among those that went to preach the Gospel was Philip and great acts of miracles and deliverance took place in Samaria (Acts 8:5). In that city was also a sorcerer, Simon, who the people of the city presumed to be the power of God (Acts 8:10). Simon the Sorcerer took the power of God as something of a commodity, something that can be bought (Acts 8:18-24).
Later in the passage, Philip would meet another man of immense authority, the chief treasurer of the Queen of the Ethiopians, and every response that this man gave was of a different kind. He took the message of the Gospel with a heart of simple faith (Acts 8:26-40). The Holy Spirit actually put this here to contrast with what we have just read, both in terms of the two men and in terms of Philip himself, bro Vincent imparted.
The central crux of the whole passage of Acts 8 is the fact that it took place after the martyrdom of Stephen. ‘I believe that after Saul and the men had killed Stephen, they intended to bring fear and an end to the Gospel. They thought that by killing one of the greatest leaders of the Church, they could destroy the Church and the Gospel. That all that believed would cease. They would just go back home and do what they were doing before. Just like they thought when they crucified Jesus.’
This is what would most likely happen in the natural realm, yet in the face of persecution the apostles that were once content in Jerusalem started spreading the Gospel outside the city, to Samaria. So out of what was intended to deliver fear and an end to the Gospel brought in its stead its spread.
Likewise, when troubles come, sometimes we only see the challenges. ‘Do not have that mindset,’ bro Vincent imparted. ‘God can be working a better way for you. So today if you are facing something, have in mind that God is at work. In spite of such persecution, the Early Church grew.’
The main part of Acts 8 was describing what Philip was doing at the time of the starting of the persecution. Philip was one of the original 12 disciples, the sixth disciple (John 1:43). From the onset Philip was already good at sharing the Gospel. Even at that time, he had already brought a friend Nathanael, who also became a disciple of Jesus.
Yet Philip had flaws of his own. In a passage found in John 6:4-7 (the account of the feeding of the 5000) when Philip was asked by Jesus where to get bread to feed the people, we see him focusing on the lack rather than Jesus’ ever-sufficient supply.
In John 14:8-11, Philip was ignorant of the knowledge of God. After being a long time with Christ, Philip requested Christ to show him the Father, and Christ answered, those that have seen Him have seen the Father, so how could Philip ask Christ to show him the Father? Philip was not aware of who Jesus was at that time even after being so long with Him.
Contrast this with Philip now in Acts 8. He was a transformed man. He was no longer bound by focus on lack or ignorant of the knowledge of God. Now he’s being used by the Holy Spirit to bring the Good News of Salvation to two very different men, one with great power, and another with great authority.
Philip set free Simon the Sorcerer who was once possessed by the power of witchcraft and bitterness and a corrupted mindset. He also brought the man of great authority from Ethiopia to the knowledge of the Lord. Two very powerful men in their own right, both set free.
‘I believe the Holy Spirit gave us these two accounts to show us something,’ bro Vincent shared. Philip was a transformed man. He learned from his weaknesses of focusing on lack and of the ignorance of the Lord, and as a changed man he was employed by God to bring two men who had great influence into the Kingdom of God.
Because Simon was set free from the power of sorcery, those who were with Simon were also set free. And the Ethiopian man of authority would have gone back to Ethiopia knowing the Lord and the knowledge of the Lord would reach many in Ethiopia. ‘I believe that these two men of great influence would go on to bring many more others to the Lord.’
So we see the second power of the Gospel here. Not only does the Gospel spread in the face of persecution, it sets a person free. ‘We are saved by the great power of God and this power cannot remain in us. It must go out to our families and others around us.’
We also see the Gospel supported by signs and wonders. Signs and wonders are special miracles that “signify” something miraculous is going on. It is intended to make people “wonder” important things instead of remaining numb to them. There is a purpose to them and it is intended for the most part for non-believers, as a support to the Gospel message so that people may believe.
What are some of the purposes of signs and wonders? Foremost, it is to prove that Jesus was God (Acts 2:22). It is also to back up the word of God (Mark 16:20) and to show that God is with us Christians, now as He was with the disciples in Acts 2 and just as He had been with the Jews during the Exodus (Deuteronomy 6:22). As His believers, we need to discern what are signs and wonders from Him and its difference from what witchcraft is.
Signs and wonders from God must always support the Gospel but it is not the main thing. Therefore, as Christians, they must not be the main channel for us to strengthen our faith. Signs and wonders may not manifest in the physicality but as lives are transformed by the Gospel and minds renewed, signs and wonders are still taking place every day.
When we preach the Gospel, the focus is on the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. It is not about anyone’s greatness but about the person of Jesus. When the Gospel is preached it will come in time with the receiving of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17).
Paul, who had once been Saul who persecuted the Church, could declare in Romans 1:16 of the power of the Gospel unto salvation. This power of the Gospel is for all, whether Jew or Gentile. What is this power? It is the dounamis of God; the strength, might, ability and abundance of God. And what is this power about? It is about the sotayreeah of God; deliverance, health, being made whole, being restored. Bro Vincent imparted, ‘That’s what we have. God has put that into us. What else do we need?’