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This series offers an overview of the chief teachings of the Christian church.

A previous “Pillars of Faith” article noted that justification by grace through faith is the central teaching of the Bible. This key doctrine permeates Scripture and often connects with the other doctrines in Scripture. It especially connects with the doctrine covered in this article on the means of grace, for without the means of grace, our soul-saving justification by grace through faith would never have happened.

While it is true that the phrase means of grace does not specifically occur in the Bible, the concept conveyed in these words is clearly and repeatedly taught in Scripture. This article’s title is inspired by the verse in Romans where Paul asserts, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16). The Gospel is much more than the good news that Christ is our Savior from sin, death, and hell. It is also God’s power at work to save people eternally through faith in the Christ that it proclaims. On that basis we can even view the Gospel as essentially defining with one word what the means of grace is.

In the Gospel the power of God is actively effective to deliver what we need for salvation leading to eternal life. In the Gospel God brings us full and free forgiveness of sins, and Christ Himself as our righteousness with God. The Gospel continues to be God’s spiritual delivery system from heaven to earth, from His heart to ours.

In fact, as God’s prescribed way of dispensing His grace to us, the Gospel does more than deliver what we need to be saved. It also reveals what we would otherwise ignore and despise. It causes us to know and believe the good news as life-saving truth. As the hymn states so well, “it works the faith, which firmly clings to all the treasures which it brings.” (TLH 297:4) The US Postal Service cannot cause me to read, understand, and rightly use all the mail that it brings to my box. God’s means of grace, on the other hand, are fully loaded with God’s power to ensure that every believer receives by faith what only the Gospel can deliver to hearts and minds.

Scripture makes clear that the Gospel’s power is the Holy Spirit. What Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers applies to all believers: “Our Gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5) From James we hear that God “of His own will brought us forth by the word of truth.” (James 1:18) Notice how the activity of God comes across in this verse. He decided on His own to “bring us forth” from unbelief to faith, using the Gospel “word of truth” to do it. This agrees with Peter’s description of believers as “born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” (1 Peter 1:23)

The apostolic teaching above (called regeneration or conversion) is the subject of a future article on the miracle of saving faith as God’s act of creating and preserving it through the means of grace. Future articles will also address the specific form that God’s Gospel-based delivery system takes in the two sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We thank God that in either form of Word and sacrament, His power to save us by grace through faith is continually effective, as promised, and as revealed in the Bible’s very essential doctrine on the means of grace.

Steven Sippert is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.