Sunday was a different day for our church. We ended up having three morning services rather than our usual two. This happened because the power had gone off at the building Saturday night and it was still out when people arrived at 8:30 for our early assembly. After some quick rearranging (it was a great day for those who like spontaneity in the assembly), we met in the Family Center rather than our auditorium since there was more light in there. We had doors and windows open, but it was still kind of stuffy inside. I told the group that the elders wanted to speak personally with whoever it was who had been praying for us to return to being a first century church and get them to clarify their request.
Normally our early and late assemblies are identical so people can interchange between the two of them and we don’t end up being two different congregations meeting in one building. But Sunday we had three distinct assemblies. Our early assembly was our first century service. Our second assembly was our casual service, and our third assembly was our contemporary service (which in this case meant with electricity and microphones). All things considered, everything went okay, but I don’t care to do that again for a little while—I’m thinking twenty years or so.
I told all three groups that we might be tempted to think it was the day the church lost its power, but the church didn’t lose its power—we just lost our electricity. Our real power is Jesus and maybe it takes something like this to remind us of that. As Paul writes his letter to the church at Rome, he is chomping at the bit to visit them personally (15:23-29). How could he not be? Not only did he have a great personal interest in the people there (see chapter 16), but as a strategic church planter, he wanted to visit the center of civil power.
Rome was the throbbing heart of a massive empire. It gained its position of dominance through the exercise of brute strength and power. Rome didn’t negotiate or finesse its way to the top, it warred its way there. The prophet Daniel spoke of Rome being “strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others,” (2:40). Yet as Paul writes to the group of Christians there, he speaks not of Roman power, but of a greater power, in fact, the greatest power—the power of God.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile,” (Romans 1:16).
There is power and there is power. There is power that we see and experience each day; power we depend upon, enjoy, and some that we fear. Then there is the power behind all power. The church cannot afford to confuse the two. After speaking of Rome, Daniel said, “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever,” (Daniel 2:44).
On a Sunday morning two thousand years ago, some disheartened people visiting the tomb of a friend found out what true power was and in Whom it resides. Paul told the Christians at Rome that Jesus “was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead,” (1:4). The Roman emperors ruled for a while and then went to their graves; Jesus came back from the grave and began His rule. That’s real power. It’s good to be reminded that the tomb is still empty and what that means. We may lose our electricity, but we haven’t lost our power. What a great day it is when the church finds its power!