The Power of the Gospel

Billy Sunday preaches – Unknown author – published about 1910

Lew Wallace, a Union general in the Civil War, happened to be seated near Col. Robert Ingersoll while on a train. In the course of their trip, the conversation turned to the subject of Christ’s divinity.  Ingersoll was an infidel, but Wallace had an open mind regarding the person and divinity of Christ. After the encounter with Ingersoll, he decided to do his own research, examining all sides of the question, and the six-year-long search led General Wallace to write the classic novel Ben-Hur.  Wallace concluded, at the end of his search, that Jesus of Nazareth was not only the Christ—He was his Christ, Redeemer and Savior. (Recounted in The House of Harper, a history of the Harper and Brothers publishers.) That story demonstrates what Paul affirmed in Romans 1:16: The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth….”

When Ellen and I visited Japan with veteran missionary Ron White in 2009, we had the privilege of joining in worship with several Japanese churches that Ron and his wife, Odessa, had been instrumental in helping plant during his 40 years of labor in Japan. He and co-workers also founded a Bible Institute for the training of young men and women for ministry.  It was truly an incredible experience to visit these local assemblies with their own national leadership and pastors, thriving churches all. Ron and a team of two or three other young first-term missionaries were able, by the grace of God, to plant four national churches in Japan during their first four-year term there, all the while learning the language and the culture—a daunting task to be sure. 

One of those churches, Japan’s largest Baptist church, is located in Osaka. I had the privilege of speaking to their mid-week prayer meeting assembly.  The pastor had become a believer years earlier, after passing by one of the missionary churches Ron was ministering in. As he walked by, the believers inside were singing “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought, since Jesus came into my heart.” The words captivated the young businessman, who had initially paused only because of the English language he heard wafting from inside the building. Interested in learning English to enhance his business dealings, he paused and listened. The Holy Spirit did the rest, as in his heart he thought: “There has never been that kind of a change in my life.” He was drawn by God’s Spirit to learn more about this change. Eventually he accepted Christ as Savior, was trained to pastor, and in time became pastor of this great New Testament Baptist Church in Osaka, Japan. Truly a marvelous testimony to the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, of which Paul the Apostle spoke in Romans 1:16, writing “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth….”

George Muller, known for his monumental labors of love in England for orphans, told of how he became a believer.  As a young, wild “swearing and beer drinking” university student—a ring-leader of the rowdies—his life was impacted by a handful of young Christians who were “brave, manly fellows” and met weekly for a prayer meeting. Muller related how, toward the end of his university studies, he became restless and dissatisfied with the direction his life had taken.  He traveled to Switzerland, where he thought a change of scenery would put his soul at ease, but that did not happen. He returned to his studies at Halle, but his burden grew heavier. Muller testifies that he then remembered the eight Christians on campus and their weekly prayer meeting, so he sought them out. Finding them, he related that “One and another told me of Christ. They prayed with me, and I prayed for myself.” The seeking sinner found Christ, believed on Him, and gave his life to the Savior as “a great love for Christ filled my soul.” Muller concludes his testimony by affirming: “That was more than fifty years ago. I loved Jesus then, but I loved Him more the year after that, and more the year after that, and more every year since.” Once again, it was the gospel of Jesus Christ that was the power of God unto salvation for a young man who had drunk deep of the cup of pleasure and come up unsatisfied. He found the water of life in Christ. Year after year, he experienced a deepening love for—and devotion to—the Person who gave him a drink of everlasting life from the cup of Salvation, which fully and forever satisfied Muller’s once thirsty soul. 

One Sunday afternoon a group of Chicago ballplayers, leaving a saloon, heard a gospel-singing group on a street corner, playing on their instruments some of the great, old hymns. One of those ballplayers, having been born in a log cabin in Iowa, remembered his godly mother’s singing those very songs as she did her daily chores.  Tears came to his eyes as the young gospel group sang sweetly, and the player announced to his drinking buddies, “Boys, I’m through!  I’m going to turn to Jesus Christ. We’ve come to a parting of the ways!”

Of course, some of his companions mocked him, and some responded with silence while one of the ballplaying buddies encouraged him. Billy turned into the Pacific Garden Mission. Then and there, he accepted the claims of Christ and turned from his sin to his Savior. His own words: “I called upon God’s mercy. I staggered out of my sins into the outstretched arms of the Savior. I became instantly a new creature in Him! The next morning at practice, my manager, Mike Kelly, greeted me and said, ‘Billy, I read in the paper what occurred yesterday. Religion isn’t my long suit, but I won’t knock you and I’ll knock the daylights out of anyone who does.’”  Billy Sunday left baseball to hit homeruns for Jesus Christ all across America as one of our nation’s great evangelists in the late 19th century and early 20th century.  It has been said that, after he held a meeting in a city, the saloons had to close for lack of business.  Thousands attended his great, protracted city campaigns. Multiplied thousands were saved and added to churches.  All because “the gospel of Christ…is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

I have collected the above testimonies of the gospel’s power from various sources over the course of my 50 years pastoring. Most are commonly found either in books or publications.  I did not note the specific source of each testimony, but each could be verified without much difficulty. I share them in hopes that all who read them will be encouraged to spread the good news that Jesus Christ came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10).  Share the gospel.  It is and always will be the “power of God unto salvation.” (Romans 1:16)

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I (Paul, the Apostle) am chief.” (I Tim. 1:15)

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