16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Fires are not uncommon to the forests of Yellowstone National Park. As the flames consume the tall, majestic trees common logic would tell us they must be extinguished. But the secret toYellowstone fire comes in the freedom to burn. Those who monitor them don’t damper the blazes. They let them burn with all their fury. Why? Because the fire brings new life to the forest.
As those fires rage on in Yellowstone, scientists have discovered an amazing phenomenon. The magic number is 25. Each tree bursts into flames and burns for an average of 25 seconds. Those 25 seconds just happen to be the perfect amount of time to heat the tree up to do two things: destroy the tree, and reveal the seeds for new life. Each tree bears pinecones with a hard outer shell that together house millions of tiny seeds. How are those seeds going to get out of the pinecone? God’s answer is through fire. 25 seconds is the right amount of time to melt the rosin on the cone and reveal the seeds, allowing them to fall to the ground and germinate. More than 25 seconds would be too much and the seeds would burn, less than 25 seconds and the rosin wouldn’t melt. So, you can literally walk through the scorched earth after the fire and and find millions of seeds scattering the ground, many of which already bursting forth with tiny green leaves under the suddenly clear blue sky. The forest floor has been reborn through the cleansing fire. The key is to freely let it burn.
Paul says in Romans 1:16 that the gospel is the power of God for salvation. That word “power” is the same word in Greek from which we derive our English word “dynamite”. The gospel is a message of the person and work of Christ that holds within in it the investment of God’s power for sinners. The gospel is a divine pack of dynamite set to explode and burn away the sin of unbelief in our hearts so that the righteousness of God may be revealed to us in a saving way.
If the gospel has within it dynamic power then it is comparable to the fires of Yellowstone National Park in at least one way. It is a consuming fire that rages through souls of people burning away the sin of unbelief at just the right temperature and revealing the seeds of righteousness at just the right time to all who believe. Just as the sky is invisible to the forest floor before the fire, until the gospel burns away the blindness in our hearts, we are unable to see the righteousness of God. In his mercy and great grace, God has seen fit to use the message of the gospel – that foolishness of preaching – to melt away the rosin of our hearts so that he may reveal to us his saving righteousness.
Just as the fire monitors in Yellowstone are not ashamed to stand by and watch it rage, Paul wasn’t ashamed of the gospel. He wasn’t ashamed precisely because he knew the power that God had invested in it. The gospel is a message, a proclamation, an announcement. It is made up of words that point to a person, namely, Jesus. God’s answer to the great problem of sin in the world is to destroy it through the fire of the preaching of his Son Jesus Christ. When the pure gospel is preached in the timing and temperature at which God has prepared in his divine furnace, thousands of hard pinecone hearts melt under the heat of the revelation of the righteousness of God for the salvation of their souls. The gospel is that powerful. It is that dynamic.
Paul understood himself to be a debtor to the cause of Christ (Rom 1:14). He realized that as long as he held the message of the gospel it compelled him to proclaim it to the world. Every Christian who has had the hardpinecone of their heart melted in the fiery furnace of God’s great mercy walks around with gospel dynamite. Is that dangerous? Perhaps. It certainly is glorious. So, who will light the fuse?