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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17).
If one would carefully examine the majority of church papers, bulletins, and magazines that are being published today, you might come to the conclusion that many Baptist churches are out to produce one thing–numbers. Church services are judged a "success" if there is a large crowd and the value of an evangelistic campaign is determined by how many were tricked, persuaded, or threatened to make some kind of "decision."
In other words, numbers have been made the criterion of success and the church with greatest statistics in its favor is considered the most blessed and favored of God. What many churches are now doing is using the same standard of success the world uses: finance and figures. Let me give you an example.
The title for this article, "It Works," was taken from an ad placed in a religious periodical several months ago that advertised "programs and promotions from churches on the go!" There was a Baptist church in Akron, Ohio, that used a particular program/promotion to form a Sunday School campaign that resulted in 245 people saved and 82 baptized. The cost involved in the promotion came to a grand total of $542. (That comes out to be about $2.21 per soul saved.)
According to the advertisement, the ushers were dressed like game wardens, the Great Commission used for fishing/hunting license, each week the theme rotated between hunters and fishermen, and awards were given each week for visitors brought, souls won, and converts baptized.
The awards included such things as: fishing poles, reels, and lures, cast iron skillets, "Jim Bowie" knives, a bug zapper, bug repellent, hunters T-shirts, camping stoves, 2 lb. bag of beef jerky, and a rifle. To top it off, the award for the overall program was a Scofield Reference Bible that belonged to Jack Hyles!
It’s no wonder that with Baptist churches resorting to cheap, number producing, promotional schemes that God and His Word is no longer taken seriously. C. H. Spurgeon once said: "The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. Providing amusement for the people is no where spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church.
The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt that is sets men on fire." When we try to popularize the gospel with such worldly tactics, gimmicks, and gadgets, we not only pervert the gospel of Christ but I’m afraid we also make such "converts" twofold more a child of hell.
When Paul wrote his letter to Rome he declared he was ready, willing, and eager to preach the gospel at Rome. It was his plan and intention, not to come to Rome with some trick up his sleeve to try to disguise or commercialize the gospel message but simply to preach it in its purity and power.
We need preachers like Paul who will not try to peddle or promote the gospel, but just preach it in the power of the Holy Spirit and let God give the increase. To some this may seem a little bit too old fashioned, out of date, and narrow minded, but when it comes to biblical mission and evangelism, we best be sure we are doing God’s work in God’s way in God’s power for God’s glory.
Paul made it clear and plain he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. The gospel message had always been a thing of scorn and ridicule: "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness" (I Cor. 1:23). Everywhere Paul went from Antioch to Iconium, Lystra, Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, and even in Jerusalem, he was met with resistance and opposition because of his preaching of the gospel.
But Paul was not ashamed of the gospel; he gloried in the gospel, he counted it a high honor and privilege to be a preacher of the gospel, he had unbounded confidence in the gospel message. As one preacher put it: we need a revival of faith in the gospel message and the God who gave it to us.
Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God and nothing less. The word "power" in the Greek is where we get our English words like dynamic and dynamite. Rome was considered to be the center of military power in the ancient world but it was still a weak nation morally for it was also known to be a cesspool of filth and iniquity.
Men needed power unto salvation and only the gospel has that power. All false religions and human schemes have not failed today for a lack of effort but for a lack of power. The gospel is all-powerful, it is dynamic, it is dynamite, highly explosive. J. W. Porter once wrote: "It is not the old Gospel that has lost power, but the preacher who has lost faith in the power of the gospel. Far better lose your pulpit than your pulpit lose its power by you." May God give us preachers who will preach the gospel of Christ without fear or favor of man.
The salvation of the sinner is nothing short of a miracle. The gospel is the power of God available to helpless, hopeless sinners. It is God’s almighty saving power: "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (I Cor. 1:18). To the world, Christ and His saving gospel is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence; it is an offence to man’s pride and self-righteousness but the gospel is God’s power to save.
Many today try to change, rearrange, dress up the gospel message to make it more appealing, palatable to the fleshly appetites of men. But make no mistake about it, the gospel can stand alone on its own; it does not need to be propped up or helped in any way. Churches today have tried popcorn and cotton candy for the kids, pizza for the young people, beans and cornbread for the senior saints, and even films and movies for the entire church congregation but nothing can take the place of the gospel of Christ for it alone is the power of God unto salvation.
No wonder Paul was not ashamed: he was ready to take to sinful Rome the one message that had the power to change men’s lives. Keep in mind, the power does not reside in the preacher but in God and His blessed truth.
The gospel of Christ is a powerful gospel ("the power of god"), it is a purposeful gospel ("unto salvation"), and it is a personal gospel ("to every one that believeth"). May we stand with Paul and not be afraid or shamed to proclaim this glorious gospel which is able to save unto the uttermost. It works!