Many reading this column might be familiar with the one-hit wonder by the German Eurodance group, “Snap: I’ve Got the Power.” This is something that everyone reading the column can …
Many reading this column might be familiar with the one-hit wonder by the German Eurodance group, “Snap: I’ve Got the Power.” This is something that everyone reading the column can sing: “I’ve got the power.”
Some of you may be flattered (falsely), while others may be wondering what on earth I am talking about. Let me explain: You have power; it’s just a matter of what kind of power. You have either one of two powers.
The first one is the power of sin. This is when you are enslaved to sin, stuck in its mighty grasp. You can’t seem to shake a certain sin or even several sins. Sin often seems to have the upper hand. If you were asked the question, where does sin’s power come from, what answer would you give?
Paul actually gives the answer in 1 Corinthians 15:56: “... the power of sin is the law.” Does this strike you as odd? You’d think he would have said, “the power of sin is lust” or “the power of sin is the devil.” But the power of sin being God’s holy law?
Well, Paul reiterates this point in another one of his letters. In Romans 7:8, Paul says that when he was confronted with the commandment, “Do not covet,” it produced in him all sorts of coveting. The law is like pouring gasoline on the flame of sin. Far from putting out the fire, the law greatly inflames it.
But how can something that is holy, right and good be the power for such evil? Well, there are a couple of main reasons.
First, it challenges our arrogance and pride. In our pride, we want to be in charge, we want to be the sole authority and don’t want to be told what to do. The law is like someone who comes up and says, “you can’t do that!” and it prompts the response in us, “Oh yeah, well watch me!”
Second, the law exposes our guilt and shame. It undresses us and shows us how ugly we are. It reveals to us our sin and misery. This does not cause us to draw near to God in love and adoration of him (the first and greatest commandment). Rather, it causes us to run and hide from him and make our own covering of self-righteousness like Adam and Eve in the garden.
There is, however, another power — one that the law points us to. This other power is the power of God. We can have God’s power, which is infinite, unmatched, unlimited and almighty. It sounds too good to be true, but it is true.
Well, then, where do we find this power? Paul tells us in Romans 1:16, “the gospel … is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” The power of God is found in the gospel. What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news of great joy that God became a man and that he lived a life of perfect obedience to the law in order to give us that righteousness as a free gift.
He went to the cross and bore the penalty of sin — the wrath of almighty God! But he rose again on the third day, thus demonstrating that he had conquered death and paid for believer’s sins in full. He is now seated at the right hand of God where he always lives to make intercession for his people and from where he shall come again.
This good news is the power of God for salvation — that is, deliverance from sin’s penalty, power, and eventually its presence. And we tap into that power by simply believing this news. As Paul said in Romans 1:16, it is to those who believe. J. Gresham Machen put it well when he said, “The lives of men are changed by a piece of news.”
While we must obey God’s law, it is not the law itself that gives us the power to obey, but rather the gospel. The former is the power of sin; the latter is the power of God.
(Brian Onstead is a pastor at Trinity Bible Church in Powell.)