Power and Water – A Dangerous Combination
Pastor Vernon Giesbrecht
No doubt you’ve heard it quoted in sermons, or you’ve been challenged by it in a Bible study, or it’s come up in your personal Bible reading. It’s the verse in the beginning chapter of Apostle Paul’s momentous letter to the Romans. In it, he states his foundational motivation and conviction that underlies the theologically rich teaching that follows.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)
Was he tempted to be ashamed of the gospel? Where it is faithfully preached, opposition, ridicule, and contempt are often the responses. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he notes that “…the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing…” And, later, “…I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom…” However, he ends both passages respectively with these words of confidence: “…but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” “…but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” No, he was not ashamed of the good news of Jesus Christ because he had witnessed its power in his own life and in the stories of countless lives of others.
In the Romans passage, dunamis is the Greek word for power here and, as one would suspect, is the word from which we derive our word for “dynamite”. Paul had seen God’s power repeatedly break through (like dynamite) walls of ignorance, addictions, self-delusion, legalism, debauchery, and idol worship. God’s power had rescued enslaved people from eternal separation from God, bringing them into the freedom of a new relationship with their Creator through faith in Christ. It was these stories of transformation that fueled his “unashamedness”. Perhaps the following story will do the same for you. It comes out of Africa where the gospel is taking root, however in the challenging soil of aids, Ebola, and now the Corona pandemic, corruption, and severe tribal, religious and political resistance.
Torrents of Blessing
“There was but one mosque 12 years ago,” says Rashad. “Last week we counted 17.” But with prayer and persistence, Rashad and his fellow Christians were able to interest enough people in this African town to start a Bible study. Eventually seven of the town’s soldiers completed the study and – in keeping with the mission agency’s method of Scripture placement – they earned their own Bible. These soldiers also gave their hearts to Jesus and wanted to be baptized.
But there was no water! A severe drought had dried up all the natural beds of water in the land. No rivers, lakes, streams, or even puddles could be found for many miles. And the skies had been cloudless for months. There was no place to be baptized. They considered buying a barrel of water; but some of the soldiers were too large to fit in the barrel. That idea was rejected. But the new Christians were determined. They decided to create their own baptismal. They dug a wide, deep hole in the sandy ground and arranged to pay for the morning delivery – a truckload of precious, expensive water to fill the hole.
But God had another plan.
That night, without warning, the skies opened up and dropped a torrent of rain onto the land. By morning the hand-dug hole was overflowing with fresh rainwater! The seven soldiers were baptized into their new life in Christ – thanks to God’s gift of water! Their church leader’s response bears repeating, “Praise God for this wonder and for the response to faith that is being seen at the ends of the earth!”
The power of the Gospel: God dramatically changed the lives of seven hardened soldiers. They remained determined and unashamed to openly declare their conversion in a, no doubt, hostile community environment. God, the Creator-Savior, unleashed the forces of nature to honor their faith and courage. Power and water can be a “dangerous” combination! Could God do the same here? Yes, He could. If God transformed the apostle Paul’s life, and you’ve experienced new life in Christ, by grace alone and through faith alone, you can have the confidence to share this good news. It has its own dynamic power source. God is looking for some believers who are unashamed in the power of the gospel.