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June 19, 2016
How Much Power is in Mark 16:15-16?
It is amazing how much power God packs into so few words. In the short text of Mark 16:15-16, Jesus gives an outline of the whole of Christian life and duty. Too many people fail to follow this simple outline of Christian duty because they have never taken the time to observe the full power involved in the command. Inevitably, excuses such as, “I just don’t know how to do what I am supposed to do” or “I don’t know what to say” crop up. Excuses fade away when exposed to the might in these words of Jesus.
The Power of Going
His command begins with the simple word, “Go.” There is not much power in two letters, right? Wrong—these two letters are most potent. “Go” indicates that there is an active part to be played by each person. No one can “go” by sitting still—nothing can be accomplished.
Many people have the mistaken idea that they really don’t or can’t “go” anywhere. However, nearly everyone “goes” everyday. People “go” to school, to work, to the store, out to eat, to get a haircut; even those who are in poor health may “go” via phone or computer almost everyday. The “whole world” is ours to reach, if near or far. Whenever and wherever one goes, however long or short the journey, be prepared really to “go” and bring glory to the name of God.
There is another implication from the command, “go”—“going” is not an accident. It implies a reasoned decision, dedication, and desire. If we truly understand the power of Jesus’ command, we will desire, decide, and dedicate ourselves to “go.” Jesus knew what He meant when He said “Go”—He practiced it: “When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
The Power of Preaching
“Preaching” packs quite a punch. Very powerful. So powerful, God chose to use it to save people. “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1Corinthians 1:21). Most of the time, we think of preaching as a public proclamation and only a public proclamation. This gives people the excuses, “Well, I’m no preacher” or “I’m not supposed to preach.” All would be well served to remember that preaching is also defined “to earnestly advocate a belief or course of action” (New Oxford American Dictionary). This can be public or private. Scripture certainly speaks of men standing and proclaiming publicly (e.g., Acts 2), but it also speaks of couples “earnestly advocating a belief” in partnership as fellow workers. “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3). Scripture speaks, too, of Godly women who reach others by “earnestly advocating” through their attitude and life. “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior” (1Peter 3:1-2).
Another, often overlooked, aspect of preaching is the sending of preachers. Sending preachers does not relieve us of the responsibility of advocating personally, but works as a continuation of that responsibility. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!’” (Romans 10:12-15).
The Power of the Gospel
The gospel is the message being preached, so the power it has is evident. In fact, Paul begins his letter to the Romans with that very declaration: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes …” (Romans 1:16). It is powerful enough that it is for salvation!
What is the power of this gospel—what is this message? It is the message of the cross. Notice Paul’s letter to the Corinthians again: “We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1Corinthians 1:23:24). In this same letter, Paul sums up the gospel. “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (1Corinthians 15:1-5). This message, when presented to willing ears, brings a powerful response. “‘Jesus … you nailed to a cross … But God raised Him up again … to which we are all witnesses … God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified …’ when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart” (Acts 2:22-37). That is power! This message “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The Power of Believing
Belief, too, is powerful. If we do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we will die in our sins. Jesus spoke, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). John also tells us that with believing, we can have life: “these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 8:31). God’s word also states that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). The trouble with many folks is that they sell belief short. That is, they cut it off before it fully matures. They fail to acknowledge or accept that the Biblical definition of belief or faith is not just to “think” something. Noah understood it well. “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7). I am 100% certain that Noah did not just “think” the ark into existence for the salvation of his family. He, like all of the others mentioned in that same chapter, understood the true power of belief. James was clear, when by inspiration he said, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24).
The Power of Baptism
Too many people want to do to Mark 16:15-16 just what they want to do to the power of belief—they cut it short—they don’t want to talk about the power of baptism. They skip right to the end of the verse which explains how to be lost and condemned without finishing up the part about how to be saved. If the power of belief is properly understood, then it is impossible to separate it from the power of baptism. Just as belief leads to salvation, so does obedience. Using the comparison with Noah, the ark, and the flood, Peter explains the power of baptism: “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1Peter 3:21). The power of what baptism does was explained to Paul by Ananias: “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).
Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t sell short the power of Jesus’ command, either.
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.