More than Words
It is good to have everyone here this morning, and we would especially like to welcome our visitors. If you are visiting with us, know that we are grateful for your presence and the opportunity to get to know you better.
In the book of Genesis, we learn how Jacob worked seven years for Rachel, and then ended up with Leah and another seven years of work to complete his obligation to Laban. Well, we have a brother who has been working very hard for seven years – not for a wife, because he already has a wonderful supportive wife and a daughter. This brother has been working toward his PhD. This past Friday, Alex Williams successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, and now has his PhD in chemical engineering. Alex also has 17 publications in which he was either the author or the co-author, and he also has two patents as a result of his work. ¿ We congratulate Dr. Alex Williams, and his wife Becky and daughter Megen for this significant accomplishment, and we thank God for bringing this sweet family to us and strengthening them for these past seven years. Would you please stand?
The Bible is filled, from cover to cover, with examples of God’s power. In the Old Testament, God worked powerfully through his prophets and priests to bless and strengthen His people. In the New Testament, God’s miraculous power was manifested in the apostles, and it served to strengthen, establish, and identify the church as the body of the Christ, the Son of God. Though we understand that those special miraculous gifts ended at the death of the apostles, we need to remember that we still serve an awesome and powerful God.
Paul was apparently being challenged by some people in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul states that he was hoping to visit the church at Corinth, and he would investigate these arrogant people to see what kind of power they had. And then Paul made an important statement in verse 20. He wrote:
¿ “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.”
Brothers and sisters, my prayer this morning, and the purpose of this lesson, is to remind all of us that the kingdom of God is not just so much talk. It is not just a bunch of cleverly spoken words, or well coordinated stories. The kingdom of God is filled with power, and our God is still a powerful God.
What does the New Testament have to say about power? Is there power for us as Christians today? If there is power for us, what does it do? How does it work in our lives? Let’s start by looking at who and what is powerful. Please turn to 1 Corinthians 1:22. Here Paul states: ¿
1 Corinthians 1:22-23
22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Here we see that not only is God powerful, but Paul says that Christ is both the power of God and the wisdom of God. God is powerful, and Jesus has God’s power as well. The Greek word that is used here is dunamis, which means a natural or inherent power. ¿ This word dunamis is the origin of our word dynamite – we are not talking about a small amount of power, but rather an incredible amount of power.
Now please turn to Romans 15:13. ¿ Here, Paul tells the Christians in Rome:
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul tells these Christians that the Holy Spirit is powerful, and that it is by that power that their hope would overflow. ¿ Who is powerful? God is powerful, Paul describes Jesus Christ as the power of God, and the Holy Spirit has power.
What else does the New Testament say about power? The message of Jesus, the good news of His death, burial, and resurrection – the gospel itself – also has power. In fact, Paul explains the saving power of God in Romans 1:16: ¿
16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Paul told the Corinthian church the same thing in 1 Corinthians 1:18: ¿
1 Corinthians 1:18
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Later, in 2 Corinthians, Paul expands on this thought about the gospel, making it clear that the power of the gospel is not found in powerful men, but in a powerful God. In 2 Corinthians 4:3, Paul says: ¿
2 Corinthians 4:3-7
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” a made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
Paul tells the Corinthians that this all-surpassing power, the dynamite of the gospel, is from God, and does not originate in the clay jars of humankind. For those of us who are Christians, it is the power of God through the good news of Jesus Christ, the gospel, which has saved us. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul said that he was weak, but that the Lord told him that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The power is the Lord’s, and is best seen when we recognize our own weaknesses.
Is God’s power still at work in Christians today? Let’s see what Paul wrote to the Christians at Ephesus by turning to Ephesians 1:18-21: ¿
18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
Paul actually prays that the eyes of these Christians’ hearts would be able to see God’s incomparably great power. And he says that power is for us who believe – all Christians. Paul also says that power is “like the working of his mighty strength.” This phrase uses three other interesting Greek words that are worth noting. ¿ The first is energeia, translated as “working” which refers to the superhuman power of God. The next words, translated as “mighty strength”, “strength of his might”, or “mighty power” are from the Greek words kratos and ischus, which together refer to the endowed and manifested power of God. So, Paul is telling these Ephesian Christians, that this power, this Godly dynamite that is working in them, is like the superhuman, endowed, and manifest power of God. That power which reached down to the grave, resurrected our Lord Jesus, and seated Him at God’s right hand, is the same power at work in your life and mine. Paul stated in plainly in Ephesians 3:20, just a couple of chapters from where we were in Ephesians 1: ¿
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
In concluding his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds them to remain strong in this endowed power of God. In Ephesians 6:10, Paul writes: ¿
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
¿ So we have seen that God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit our powerful, that the power of God is brought into our lives through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that this power is at work in New Testament Christians, and that we are to recognize that power. But how does God’s power work in the lives of Christians today? Let’s take a look at a few more passages, and the lesson will be yours. First, let’s continue with our reading in Ephesians 6:10: ¿
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Paul tells the Ephesians that they need God’s power, because Christians have powerful spiritual enemies. We need God’s power, His armor, to stand against these powerful enemies. How do we put on this armor – what is it? Let’s keep reading… ¿
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Paul uses this illustration of armor to tell Christians then, and now, that we have to do some things to take advantage of God’s power in our lives. We have to be truthful, righteous, ready with the peaceful good news of Jesus, faithful, in a saved relationship with God, constant readers of God’s word, active in prayer, and alert.
We really have to take this idea of the armor of God to heart. ¿ Would any of our soldiers in Iraq go into a combat situation without their helmet and their bullet-proof vest? Of course not! In fact, we know that the military has requested even more armor to protect our soldiers there. Are we going to be able to stand against temptations, disappointments, frustrations, hurt feelings, and apathy if we don’t read God’s word and pray for one another? Of course not.
Now please turn with me to Colossians 1:10-12. Paul tells the Christians at Colossae how God’s power will bless them: ¿
10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you b to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
God’s power will give us great endurance and patience, and will help us to joyfully give thanks to God. Paul expanded on this discussion of the blessings of God’s power when he wrote the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 1:11: ¿
2 Thessalonians 1:11
11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.
Does your faith move you to activities and efforts that benefit the kingdom of God? God’s power will bless those efforts. Are your purposes focused strengthening the kingdom of God? His power, His dynamite, is right there to help and bless those plans and purposes. 2 Peter goes on to state the complete thought, in 2 Peter 1:3: ¿
2 Peter 1:3
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
¿ God’s power give us strength to withstand the attacks of Satan, it gives us endurance, patience, and joy, it strengthens us in our acts of faith and helps us fulfill our good purposes for the kingdom of God, and it gives us everything we need for life and godly living.
It is important that we understand the importance of God’s power in our lives as Christians. Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7: ¿
2 Timothy 1:7
7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
Paul went on to tell Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 to watch out for those that deny God’s power: ¿
2 Timothy 3:1-5
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
¿ What good is dynamite to a road crew that is trying to build a road, if they never light the fuse? If rubble needs to be cleared for a new complex of buildings, how will that happen if no one ever activates the detonator for the dynamite? How can God’s power work within us, if we do not recognize that power and make the effort to use that power in our lives?
Brothers and sisters, let’s make sure that we don’t live powerless, timid lives as Christians. That power of God, that spiritual dynamite, is available to us. It is a peaceful, transforming, protecting power that will not only change our lives, but it will change the lives of those around us. Where are you today? Is God’s power working in you? Have you obeyed the gospel of Jesus, that gospel that brings power into our life? Or, are you a brother or sister who has let your armor slip and have been wounded by the enemy? Let us pray for you and help you to once again stand strong in God’s mighty power. If there is any way that we can help you this morning, please come as we stand and sing.
a Gen. 1:3
b Some manuscripts us