The message of the gospel contains power. If salvation was only legal permission to go to heaven instead of hell, then no essential power would be needed. The power is to change us – to change us from within, to change our character.
“The gospel … is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).
The word for salvation (sozo or soteria) includes defense and deliverance. The power makes us whole; heals us; brings moral purity and the fruit of love.
The power of God can be likened to a kind of spiritual electricity. Electricity has a positive and a negative pole. For the electricity to work, there must be a perfect balance between the positive and negative charge. All the power comes from God through Yeshua (Jesus).
The positive charge is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8).
This power or anointing heals the sick (Acts 10:38), drives out demons (Mark 16:19) and gives boldness to preach (Isaiah 61:1; Acts 4:29). Through this power we can move mountains (Mark 11:23), prophesy (I Corinthians 14:31), bring the kingdom of God into the world (Luke 11:20), and even be glorified (Matthew 17:2, Acts 6:15).
The negative charge is the cross. Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we experience the resurrection life of Yeshua; through the cross, we experience the atoning death and sacrificial love of Yeshua.
“To us who are being saved, the message of the cross is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
The cross deals with the very root of sin in the human race going all the way back to the tree of knowledge (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Deuteronomy 21:22). By the cross our old selfish nature is put to death (Galatians 2:20). The cross changes every curse to blessing (Galatians 3:13); it nullifies lust within us (Galatians 5:24) and the evil influence of society around us (Galatians 6:14).
The cross is a two way street. On the one hand, Yeshua did everything for us. We did nothing. We just receive by faith. It is total grace without any righteous deeds on our part. He takes all of our bad and gives us all of His good in exchange.
Yet at the same time, He calls us to take up our own cross as well. He took up His cross for us. We take up our cross to demonstrate it to others. He showed us sacrificial love; we are to show others sacrificial love on His behalf. The cross means a daily lifestyle of self-denial.
“Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and come follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
We tend toward self-indulgence much more easily than self-denial. Yet denying ourselves and taking up our cross is part of our life of faith. On the cross Yeshua obeyed unto death, even unto pain and humiliation (Philippians 2:8). And through the cross, He calls us to follow His same example (Philippians 2:5). We are to obey unto death as well.
We need to have both the power of the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit. One without the other is imbalanced. The cross without the Spirit would cause lifeless, self-deprecating, religious toil and servitude. The Spirit without the cross would cause superficial, self-centered seeking of supernatural experiences. With both, the power of God produces real results and real change (II Timothy 3:5).