Paul wrote that the gospel is God’s power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Many people in modern religions deny this. It is obvious the Jew, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist reject the gospel altogether. However, it just as true that denominations do not believe the gospel is the power unto salvation. There may be exceptions, but they are very few.
Some believe the gospel is totally unnecessary to salvation. Their belief is that the Holy Spirit works directly on the heart of a sinner. In some mysterious way the Spirit is supposed to awaken a person to his or her sin and bring them to faith in the Lord. Each person has a different and unique experience that confirms the Spirit’s work. In other words, it is all subjective and based on feelings and emotions.
Others believe the gospel is only partly needed. They would agree that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, but deny that all the word is necessary (Rom. 10:17). The teaching usually goes something like this: “Believe on Jesus as the Christ and accept Him into your heart as your personal Savior and you will be saved.” For them, belief alone is sufficient for salvation, and once you are saved you are always saved. Some say no sin can be committed by the child of God; others that sin is wiped away as it is being committed. So, anything beyond the gospels is not needed. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the basis for believing Jesus is the Christ, the rest of the New Testament is fine, but not necessary for salvation.
The truth is, the gospel is God’s power unto salvation. The gospel is not just Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It includes all of the New Testament. Paul wanted to preach the “gospel” to the saints in Rome (Rom. 1:7, 15). Did he want to tell them about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus? No. He had other things to teach them; things he termed as the “gospel.”
Further, notice that men are saved when they obey “the faith” (Acts 6:7). “The faith” is the gospel and the gospel is the faith. There is one faith, one body of divine truth and it is found exclusively in the New Testament (Eph. 4:5; Gal. 1:8, 9).
The gospel saves a man initially as he hears, believes, and obeys. It also keeps him saved as he follows it. Paul said, “I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you” (1 Cor. 15:1, 2). He also said that we will be presented as holy, blameless, and above reproach “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard” (Col. 1:23).
Back to the need for the gospel, not direct divine action separate from the word.
If there ever was a case for salvation by direct divine action, it was the case of Saul of Tarsus. On his way to Damascus the Lord appeared to him (Acts 9). Saul believed and asked the Lord, “’Lord, what do You want me to do?’ Then the Lord said, ‘Arise, and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do’” (Acts 9:6). After spending three days as a penitent, prayerful man, Ananias came to see him (Acts 9:9, 11, 17). Paul later revealed that Ananias said, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). In other words, Saul was not saved by the experience on the road to Damascus. He was not saved directly by the Lord on that day, nor by the prayers he offered for three days. Rather, he had to hear the commands as given by Ananias. When he obeyed, he was saved.
There is power in the word. It is the power to save a soul, and if we are going to be saved we need to spend time in the word. If we are going to help save others, we must know the word.