When you think about God’s power on display in the Bible, what image comes to mind? You might visualize God’s creative power as he spoke the heavens and earth into existence. Some will picture Exodus and the mighty hand of God delivering his people by splitting the waters of the Red Sea. Others imagine the fire of God falling on Elijah’s water-soaked altar atop Mount Carmel. And still others think of the awe-inspiring miracles Jesus performed during his earthly ministry.
While these events are certainly great demonstrations of God’s glorious might, the grandest display of his power was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the resurrection, Christ defeated Satan and broke the chains of sin and death once and for all. For this reason, the message of the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” When we believe, God places saves us by his resurrection power and places that same power in us through the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). This truth inspired the Apostle Paul to pray for the Ephesian church that they would know “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength. He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens” (Eph 1:18–20). The power of Christ enables Christian living by emboldening our witness and empowering our obedience, faithfulness, and love.
So, the resurrection power of God is at work in us as Christians, and it also manifests itself in our preaching of the gospel. Few people have known this as much as Paul, who told the Corinthian church, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved” (1 Cor 1:18). He went on to add, “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power” (1 Cor 2:4–5).
Like Paul, as pastors, we pray for and preach with the aim of our congregations experiencing the power of the gospel in their lives both in their salvation as well as in their maturity as disciples of Jesus Christ. God deploys this life transformation through gospel-saturated preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit.
But if you’re like me, there are days when you feel spiritually weak, when your preaching and ministry are powerless. This typically happens when we disconnect from the Holy Spirit and attempt to do God’s work in our own power. Here, as well, we can learn from Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul shares a lesson he learned about his weakness and God’s power. His ministry was hindered by a “thorn in the flesh,” which he likens to a messenger of Satan. So he begged God to remove it three different times, possibly through extended occasions of prayer and fasting. But instead of God removing this weakness, he spoke to Paul and said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in your weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
The power of our preaching is not in our skills or abilities; it rests solely in the resurrection power of the gospel. As followers of Jesus, the Holy Spirit fills us with God’s power for life and ministry. May we preach in this same power for the salvation and sanctification of God’s people.
Keith Collier serves as pastor of First Baptist Church in Groesbeck, Texas. He earned a Ph.D. in Preaching and Church History from Southwestern Seminary.