Have you ever used a wrench as a hammer? You might get away with it. If a hammer isn’t available and you want to put a nail in the wall to hang up a picture it might seem to work (that is, until you make a dent in the wall because the nail isn’t quite lined up right). The truth is, however, that a wrench is not designed to hammer nails, and using it in that way is usually not a good idea. Using a hammer as a wrench is really a poor idea, by the way. Your pipes get all dented and bendy.
Using the right tool for the task is usually necessary to produce the desired results.
God has tools that He uses to do things in us. For example, He has a tool that He uses to make us holy. Imagine. He takes that tool and, by applying it to us, He changes us so that we become set-apart and suitable for His purposes. God also has a tool that He uses to make us blameless. When He applies that tool to us, every disobedient thing we have ever done, or will ever do, is erased from any record and no longer matters. God even has a tool that silences every accusation that might be made against us. Using that tool, He can make us so pure that, for the rest of eternity, no crime, act, or thought will ever be brought up as evidence against us.
It turns out that God uses only a single tool when He desires to make people holy, blameless, and accusation-free. This tool is so perfect for doing what God wants to do that it never fails in His hands.
That tool is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:22-23 tells us about that tool, and how God uses it.
…he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. – Colossians 1:22-23, ESV
What does this tell us about the tool of the gospel?
First, we learn what it is. The gospel is that “he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death.” Christ has now, already, brought us to God in reconciliation. He has repaired the broken relationship between us and God. He did this in a physical body, a body of flesh much like our own. By His death, He brought those who were dead to God back to life. The news that He has done that is the gospel tool that God wields as He chooses to perform His work.
Second, we learn what it does. That truth, and the work of Christ, was designed “in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” By the gospel and the work of Christ, we are brought before God. If that was all the gospel did, the prospect would be frightening; being ushered into the presence of God in all His holiness and perfection would be deadly for disobedient and sinful people. However, the gospel brings us to God not as sinners, but as those who have been made holy, blameless, and pure beyond any accusation. Our transportation to His presence is accompanied by our transformation to those who are worthy of entering into His presence. It is as if we were whisked into a limousine to be reunited with God, and during the journey we were bathed, dressed in new clothes, and cleaned up in every way that would make us presentable to Him.
Third, we learn how it works. The gospel will transport us to God and transform us in holiness “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.” The gospel does what God wishes it to do to us if we continue to believe it and put our hope in it alone. It continues to work in us as we continue to put all of our faith in it. As the gospel is constant and true, our faith is to be stable and steadfast. If we feel the desire to add embellishments to it, or depart from its simple power, then that should be a sign to us that we are no longer trusting in it, and thus are no longer being changed by it. If we place the weight of our trust on anything else, such as our own effort, the praiseworthy acts we might do, the knowledge we might accumulate, the goodness of other people we know, or anything else, we shift our faith away from the gospel, which is and must remain our only hope.
Fourth, we learn how God uses it. He uses the gospel as it is “proclaimed in all creation under heaven.” As the good news of reconciliation in Christ is proclaimed, far and wide without any exceptions or excuses, God is using it. As the word of the Lord is heard, God uses it to produce the results that God desires, as it is His tool in His hand. God uses faithful men to declare the message “of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Just as God wielded the tool of the gospel through the service of the Apostle Paul, so even now He applies the tool of the gospel everywhere. He does so through the words of all those who spread the gospel in their homes, in their neighborhoods, in their workplaces, and anywhere else in all creation where any of His saved creatures may be faithful to declare it.
God uses no other tool but the gospel of the work of Christ to present men and women to Himself as reconciled to Him. No plea, exhortation, or guilt-trip will truly bring people to God.
God uses no other tool but the gospel of the work of Christ to make men and women holy, blameless, and above reproach before Him. No rules, laws or bullying will make people truly holy.
The tool God uses is simple: it is the news that Christ has now reconciled sinners to God in his body of flesh by his death. We need no other doctrine, no other message. We need not be ashamed of the simplicity of it, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (see Romans 1:16-17).
We who know the truth are allowed by God to carry it to all places in creation. We are entrusted with God’s tool, the gospel. Let us pray to God that we may be faithful to proclaim it without shame.
Any other tool that we might seek to use is not the tool of God. It is not the right tool.