It Is the Keeping Power of the Gospel!
The Glory of the New Covenant
By Michael P. Blakely
". . . Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (I Pet. 1:5).
We who are Christ's know that we serve the only true God, and that ours is the only true religion, the popularity and apparent success of other religions notwithstanding. Yet, Christianity seems to be the least successful of the major religions of the world, as measured by man's standards of growth. We can't seem to reach enough new people to add to our number, and of the few who are added, too many remain spiritual infants, are persistent in living ungodly, or just drop out altogether.
The wisdom of men has been employed to remedy the situation in the form of legions of growth programs, recruiting formulae, and the like, all the while neglecting the greatest remedy of all. The very gospel that has been cast aside by wise men has been ordained to be the wisdom and power of God to salvation.
Instruction Not the Answer.
"And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD" (Jer. 31:34; Heb. 8:11).
The power of the gospel that has been hidden from wise men is in its proclamation, not in instruction. The qualities of the new creatures in Christ are those of new affections, renewed minds, an affinity for God, and hatred for sin and worldliness. These are the things which cannot be produced by instruction. More people should be alarmed that there is such a lack of devoted people in the churches at a time when there is unprecedented teachings, methods, and formulae for devotion!
We cannot cause people to love God by telling them that they ought to love God. We cannot cause people to get excited about going to heaven by teaching them how to be excited about going to heaven. Worshippers cannot be taught nor coerced into worship. The changing, transforming power of the gospel that causes men to be true worshippers, anxiously anticipating their beloved Lord's soon return, comes from preaching it--proclaiming it--and believing it!
God has ordained the preaching of the gospel to remedy the contrariness of the carnal nature. The power of the gospel is that which can bring about a complete change in men pronounced dead by the law--which law, coincidentally, was a body of instructions. (One would think that that example would be sufficient to prove the fruitlessness of instructions on how to please God).
The change that the gospel effects in the believer is not only a change in relationship to God--that is, a removal of the stains of sin and the terrible wrath and judgment of God, and the appropriation of His love and grace--but it also effects a change in the man himself. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature" (II Cor. 5:17). To further expound the point, the transformation that takes place in the believer is not merely an improvement of the old man. The entire corrupt, old man is rejected and God creates a new man in Christ.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian brethren that, "the love of Christ constraineth us" (II Cor. 5:14). The context of that passage is telling us that Paul gave himself in undying devotion to God and the work of spreading the gospel because of Christ's love for him, and his love for Christ. That was apparently a powerfully motivating factor, as anyone who knows even a little about the life of the Apostle Paul can see.
It is the love of God and Christ that draws us to the Father, and that initiates the heart's reaction of gratitude and contrition. The knowledge and belief of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ will produce that devotion that is so lacking today. The preaching of Christ's sufferings and great sacrifice will cause the hard heart to become tender toward God.
How can we envision His sufferings for our sins and not be compelled to draw closer? How can we survey that great glory that He left behind in order to save us and not listen to His words? We carefully examine his great love for us as He prayed in agony in the garden, and as He freely laid down His life on the cross, and we know we must embrace this Savior.
In the Scriptures many responded with the simple question, "What must I do to be saved?" as if to say, "How can I honor Him? I do not want to be guilty of rejecting this great salvation. What does my loving, merciful, and gracious God require of His unworthy servant? I will do it because I see that I can trust Him. I see that He bore all of the punishment that I deserved and I will come to Him in faith, trusting that goodness and mercy which I now so plainly see."
The gospel necessitates a humble response from the believer. It will produce that sense of great obligation and undying gratitude in the heart when it is preached. But this is merely the beginning point of our transformation. The Christian life is one marked by continual spiritual growth and godly change.
Devotion alone is not enough to satisfy the whole man and to keep him on the straight and narrow way. There must be some long-term expectations, some other-worldly power to keep the carnal nature at bay, and to satisfy the hungry soul. That power which continues our transformation is provided also in the new covenant.
The Glorious Incentives.
One of the hallmarks of the new covenant which distinguishes it from the old is that it provides glorious incentives to man. Anyone who has studied the nature of man at all can attest to the changing power that incentive can have on one's living. The incentive of the new covenant is glory for those who are partakers in it!
"For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him" (Isa. 64:4; I Cor. 2:9). Just what the intricate details of that glory are we cannot possibly precisely conceive, but the Scriptures do give us insight into what the glorious final product will be, which end the divine transformation has now begun in us.
That end is to be glorified with the very One who gave Himself for us: "but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (I Jn. 3:2). That great truth has yet to dawn upon the average churchman of our day, and yet the Holy Spirit gives the promise living, transforming, power in the lives of believers. To those who are looking for the transforming power of the gospel the word of truth rings clear, "we shall be like Him!"
We are Changed by Believing.
The bane of neglecting to preach the gospel is faithless, powerless, stagnant--if not dead--people. O that more men would believe that He has made us "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ: if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:17,18)!
We do not transform ourselves into something that is pleasing to God by obedience, rather, God begins the transformation in us when we believe the gospel, and continues that transformation by our continued faith. It is our faith which appropriates His blessings, not our compliance with code. Our Creator well knows that if we will only believe what He has done for us in Jesus Christ, and His wonderful promises, that will be sufficient to cause a change in us.
"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not us" (II Cor. 4:7,8). That "knowledge" in "the face of Jesus Christ" is the knowledge of what we are becoming--the change that our transformation is affecting. If one wants to know how God has made us new, we bid them look at Christ!
One, with God and Christ.
This is what Jesus earnestly prayed for, "And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them." "And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are One" (Jn. 17:10,22). To become like our Savior! That is the glory of the new covenant!
Whatever can be said about Jesus Christ can be said about all of God's sons and daughters by faith. He is God's Son, and we have been made God's many sons. The glorious situation of redeemed man under the new covenant is just this, that God "hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6). By faith, we are being "changed into the same image" of His glorious Son, to the end that we will also be triumphant, reigning, blessed sons, as He is (II Cor. 3:18).
Christ is thus described as the "forerunner" (Heb. 6:20), the "firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29), and the "firstborn from the dead" (Col. 1:18). "First" signifying that there will be many others who will follow in His glorious footsteps. By God's grace and our faith, we are those "many sons!"
God help us to grasp the great salvation in Jesus Christ! The transforming, sanctifying, power of the gospel is in preaching it, and believing it. The sacred conclusion then, is that by faith, "every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (I Jn. 3:3).