By Joseph Ametepe
The purpose of this article is to help us explore and learn from the early Christians’ faithful life and fruitful presentation of the Gospel. Apostle Paul is one of those early Christians whose exemplary life and effective presentation of the Good News made a great impact in his generation. The greatest testimony about the impact Paul’s presentation of the Gospel made on the people of his generation is captured in these words, “These men who have turned the world upside down have also come here” (Acts 17:6).
• After Paul was dramatically transformed; his passion in life became the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Acts 9:20, we are told after his radical transformation that,“immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, He is the Son of God.” With this new found passion and purpose in life, Paul continued to preach and promote the Person of Jesus Christ. Luke tells us in Acts 9:22 that, “Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”
• At Thessalonica, Paul reasoned or dialogued with the Jews and God-fearing Greeks for three Sabbaths, “explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ’” (Acts 17:3). Later in life, Paul wrote to the churches at Corinth and Colossae about his passion and purpose in proclaiming, preaching and promoting the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
• To the Corinthians he wrote, “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
To the Colossians he wrote, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom’ so that we may present every man complete in Christ”(Colossians 1:28).
• It is from this man’s life that I would like us to learn the truths of the Gospel as he was led to state them clearly in the epistle to the Romans 1:1-17.
It is my prayer that God will use this study to draw us closer to Him and make us more effective in sharing the Gospel in our day.
The Definition of the Gospel
• What then is the Gospel? In its simplest form, the Good News or the Gospel is the saving message of life and redemption in Jesus Christ. It is therefore always centered on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who He is, and what He has done for the salvation of sinners in every nation. The Gospel is the joyous proclamation of God's redemptive activity in Christ Jesus on behalf of sinners enslaved by sin. In brief, it is a saving message about the one and only true Savior of sinners, spoken or shared by the Spirit of God.
• In other words, the Gospel is the presentation of the life of the Person of Jesus to show His saving significance for all people and to call them to faith in Him.
• It is the saving work of God in His Son, Jesus Christ, and a call to faith in Him. Faith is more than intellectual agreement to a theoretical truth. Faith is trust placed in a living person, Jesus Christ.
The Definition of Salvation
• The term salvation is familiar to most of us. Yet its true meaning is not familiar to us. It is therefore necessary to give a clear definition of salvation at this point. In its simplest form, salvation is deliverance from the punishment, penalty, power, pollution and finally from the presence of sin.
• It is an eternal gift, bestowed on those who personally place their complete trust in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and in His sacrificial death on the cross for their sins. This wholehearted personal trust results in entering into a saving relationship with God and complete forgiveness of one’s sins against a holy, loving and righteous God who is from everlasting to everlasting.
• To state it in another way, salvation is simply an application of Christ’s victorious work over sin to the life of the individual. It pertains to the most crucial need of the human person – the need to be freed from sin, which separates us from a loving, gracious, holy and just God.
• In the Old Testament, the term “salvation” sometimes refers to deliverance from danger (see Jeremiah 15:20), deliverance of the weak from an oppressor (see Psalm 35:9-10), the healing of sickness (seeIsaiah 38:20), and deliverance from blood guiltiness and its consequences (see Psalm 51:14). It may also refer to national deliverance from military threat (see Exodus 13:14) or release from captivity (see Psalm 14:7). But salvation finds its deepest meaning in the spiritual realm of life. It is this deepest meaning of salvation that I have defined above and about which I am concerned in this article. The absolute necessity of salvation, that is, deliverance from the penalty and power of sin is indeed one of the clearest teachings of the Bible. The need for salvation is a universal need. Everyone desperately needs it, but unfortunately, not everyone desires it or seeks it.
The Truths of the Gospel as Presented in Romans 1:1-17
A. The Source of the Gospel (vv. 1-2)
• An important question to ask is, “What is the source of the Gospel?” In other words, where does it come from? What is the origin of the Good News?
• The opening verses of Romans 1 give us a clear, concise and conclusive answer to the question of the source of the Gospel.
• Writing in the Spirit to the believers at Rome around AD 57, Paul confidently answered the question about the source of the Good News.
• “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,” (vv. 1-2).
• A lot is revealed in these opening verses particularly about the source of the gospel.
• First of all, the expression ‘the gospel of God,’ [Greek - euangeloin Theou] is called ‘genitive of possession’ in the Greek syntax. This use of “the genitive defines, describes, and limits by denoting ownership. A test for the genitive of possession is whether the expression “belonging to” can be substituted for the preposition “of” with which the genitive is usually translated” - Brooks and Winbery, A Syntax of New Testament Greek.
• Therefore the expression, ‘the gospel of God’ can be also translated as ‘the gospel belonging to God.’ This clearly indicates the source of the Gospel. It is of God. It is from God. It belongs to God. It originates with God.
• Paul later called the “Gospel of God” as “the Gospel of His Son” (see Romans 1:9). In other words, the Gospel belonging to God is also the Gospel belonging to His Son, Jesus Christ. This, therefore, clearly implies that Christ is God.
• Furthermore, Paul in the Spirit, made this clearer by stating, “which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures” (v. 2).
• “The gospel He promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (New International Version).
• Here, Paul reveals to us that God Himself promised the Gospel beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. In other words, the Gospel is not something that came about recently by man’s reasoning and scheming.
• It is not completely new and unrelated to the Old Testament prophets and Scriptures. God Himself promised it. God Himself planned it. God Himself purposed it. God Himself provided it to us. God Himself placed it into our hands.
• It is therefore crystal clear that the source of the Gospel is God Himself. God and God alone, is the source of the Good News. The Everlasting God, the True and Living God, Invisible, Immortal, Incomprehensible, the Only Wise God and Sovereign Lord of all, who is holy, loving, glorious, great, mighty, righteous and powerful is the source of the Good News.
• We have a message from the Righteous and Holy God Himself. Therefore the Gospel is right and holy. It has no impurities in it. It is therefore a message you and I can take in, can trust in with all our hearts, and totally rely on to lead us in the right and holy path in life.
• We have a message from the True and Living God Himself. Since the Gospel is of God and from God and belongs to such a God, it is true, trustworthy and life-giving.
• Are you desiring the Good News? Are you embracing it?
• Are you allowing it to change your life, your heart, your thinking, and your whole being?
• Are you passionate about knowing its life transforming truths?
• Are you seeking it as one seeks for a precious treasure?
• Oh that we would each consider these implications about the source of the Gospel and allow them to impact our lives in such a time as this!
• Writing to the Galatians in the Spirit, Paul stated clearly that God Himself is the source of the Gospel. He wrote, “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ”(Galatians 1:11-12 – New International Version).
• Paul proved his assertion in four ways in the rest of the chapter. First, he could not have received the Gospel from men before his conversion. Why? He was pursuing Judaism, not Jesus Christ and His Gospel (1:13-14). In other words, he was running in the wrong direction, and was therefore far from knowing the truth of the Good News. Second, he could not have received the Gospel from men at his conversion. Why? His conversion was purely the work of God (1:15). Third, he could not have received the Gospel from men nor be taught by men immediately after his conversion. Why? Immediately after his conversion, he did not consult with flesh and blood, nor did he go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before him; but he went away to Arabia and returned once more to Damascus (1:16-17). Fourth, Paul proved that he could not have received the Gospel from men after a considerable time had elapsed from the time he was converted. Why? It was three years after his return from Arabia to Damascus that he finally went up to Jerusalem not to be taught but to get acquainted with Peter. He stayed with Peter fifteen days. While spending time with Peter, Paul saw none of the other apostles – only James, the Lord’s brother (1:18-19).
• Paul thus proved beyond doubt that the Gospel was not something that man made up. He didn’t make it up. It came directly from God Himself.
• Apostle Peter, speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit at Caesarea, also confidently declared that the Good News is from God. “The word which He [God] sent to the people of Israel” (Acts 10:36).
• Definitely, without doubt, the source of the Gospel is God Himself. Let’s therefore stand on this truth and so honor our God by our holding on to it and by being motivated by it to action in such a time as this.
B. The Subject of the Gospel (vv. 3-5a)
• Having carefully examined the source of the Gospel, let’s now consider another important question about the Gospel. What is the subject of the Gospel? In other words, who or what is the Good News all about? The answer to these crucial questions is clearly stated in the Holy Scriptures. The Gospel is all about Jesus Christ, the Son of Man and the Son of God. It is about Christ crucified. It is about Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death for sins. It is about Christ’s burial to put away our sins. It is about Jesus Christ’s rising again from the dead for our justification, that is, being brought into a right relationship with God. It is about Jesus’ ascension into heaven where He came from, because the Father fully accepted and approved of His once for all sacrifice for sin. It is about Jesus Christ’s exaltation to the right hand of God. It is about Christ’s coming again to judge the living and the dead.
• The subject of the Gospel, I say to you is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Take Jesus Christ and these truths about Him away and you have no Gospel at all.
• And so, Paul in the Spirit, wasted no time in introducing the subject of the Gospel to the believers in Rome. His introduction of the subject of the Gospel is stated in these words, “concerning His Son, [that is Jesus Christ], who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of Godwith power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness,Jesus Christ our Lord” (vv. 3-4).
• Notice the expression “concerning His Son.” The Greek word translated“concerning” is the preposition peri. Its use in this context also means, with regard to, with reference to, in relation to, with respect to. The New International Version of the Bible rightly captures this meaning in its translation, “regarding His Son.”
• From this passage, God Himself is making it clear to us that the subject of the Gospel is Jesus from two perspectives. First, He was the human seed of David (1:3; cf. Acts 13:23). Second, as the divine Son of God (1:4). As such, He is the Ultimate King according to God’s promise to David recorded in 2 Samuel 7- eternal, divine and exalted at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:1; Acts 2:33-35).
• The Lord Jesus is marked out as the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is God’s declaration of His unique Sonship in power. That power was the Spirit of holiness, the Person of the Holy Spirit Himself. He marked Jesus Christ out at His baptism and throughout His preaching and miracle-working ministry. Our Lord’s mighty miracles, performed in the power of the Holy Spirit, bore witness to the fact that He is the Son of God.
• When Paul says that Jesus is the Son of God, he means that He is a Son like no one else is. God has many sons. All believers are His sons (Galatians 4:5-7). But Jesus Christ is God’s Son in a unique sense. When our Lord spoke of God as His Father, the Jews clearly and rightly understood Him to be claiming equality with God (see John 5:18).
• I tell you friends, Jesus and Jesus alone is the subject matter of the Gospel. You cannot preach the Gospel in its purity and simplicity without exalting the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
• The subject of the Gospel is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
• I have learned a great deal from Paul. He knew that Jesus was the subject of the Gospel. Therefore, he never deviated from the subject matter of the Gospel. He preached Christ crucified. He preached a resurrected Redeemer. He preached an exalted Emmanuel. He preached Jesus. Period!
• All roads in Paul’s preaching led to Him who is the Way and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6) - the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
• He wrote to the believers at Colossae; “We proclaim Him [that is Jesus Christ]”(Colossians 1:28). This has become my ministry life verse. God has used it to generate in my heart a commitment to preaching, proclaiming, presenting, promoting and publishing the name of Jesus Christ in the nations. This is because Jesus Christ is the subject of the Gospel.
• To the believers at Corinth Paul wrote, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Again he wrote,“For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
• Please listen! Paul could only say this because he clearly understood that the Gospel is all about Jesus Christ, who He is and what He has done for the salvation of wayward, wicked, wretched, woeful sinners, worms like us.
• My conviction is that preachers and pastors and teachers who preach and promote themselves are only full of their pride and ego. Not only that, they do not understand what the Good News is all about.
• Now, since the subject of the Gospel is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, it follows that each and every one of us who believes in Him should strive in the strength of the Spirit to know Him better.
• Knowing Christ better was the life passion of Paul. To the Philippians he wrote; “I want to know Christ and the power of [His] resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in [His] sufferings, becoming like [Him] in [His] death” (Philippians 3:10 - NIV).
• His constant prayer for the believers at Ephesus was for them to know Christ better. “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know [Him] better” (Ephesians 1:17 - NIV).
• The Gospel is all about a living person, not a list of programs. Therefore we must seek to know this person, Jesus Christ, more intimately. The better we know Him personally, intimately, the more effective we will be in our witness of Him.
• As a believer, are you seeking to know the Person of Jesus Christ better?
• Or are you merely focused on knowing the four spiritual laws or some other gospel formula to present to people?
• The lives of the early Christians clearly teach us that they were focused on knowing Christ better and so were effective in their witness of Him. This is the pattern God wants you and I to follow today.
C. The Success of the Gospel (vv. 5b-7)
• So far, we have learned two very important truths about the Gospel. The first of these is that the source of the Gospel is God Himself. Second, the subject of the Gospel is the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now the next important truth I want us to carefully examine for ourselves concerns the success of the Gospel among people to whom it is preached.
• So I ask, “How is the success of the Gospel measured or determined?” Is it measured by mega church buildings? Is it measured by movements and miraculous happenings? Is it determined by the programs of the church? Is it determined by the popularity or prominence of a preacher or pastor? Is it determined by numbers? Is it measured by how many TV and Radio stations a church or ministry has?
• How is the success of the Good News measured? Has God given us a measuring standard to guide us in determining the success of His Good News among people?
• I tell you friends, He has! And do you know what? It is none of the ways we have developed to measure the success of the Gospel.
• In verse 5, we are given God’s standard for measuring the success of the Good News. It is “to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake.” Literally, this reads, “for obedience of faith among all the nations on behalf of the name of Him.”
• Paul says the purpose for which they had received grace and apostleship was “to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith”(NIV).
• The obedience that comes from faith is what God revealed to us as the success of the Gospel. When the Good News has successfully done its life changing work in believers, the result is believers who are walking wholeheartedly in obedience to God’s Word, to God’s Truth. This is the real measurement of success in the ministry of the Gospel. God is not interested in the mere counting of heads. “We have 1200 people in our service last Sunday.” God wants believers who are committed to obeying Him, who are submitting to His Word, His Will and Way, rather than a full sanctuary of people who warm their pews on Sunday mornings with no intention of obeying what they hear.
• Please listen! God is not going to measure success of the Gospel by numbers, or by the size of our church buildings, or by the number of our programs. Folks, the success of the Gospel is not about church buildings, it is about committed believers who are walking in obedience to Jesus Christ. God’s desire for all who are believers and beloved of God is that they walk in obedience to Him and so demonstrate the success of the Gospel among the nations.
• God measures success in the ministry of the Gospel by this one thing - obedience of faith among all God’s people in a church or ministry. Let us never forget this. Satan will all the more be glad to see us adopt our own ego- building standards to measure the success of the Gospel. Because he knows in the end they are not going to count. He would therefore be successful in deceiving us and directing our focus on what doesn’t count in God’s eyes.
• Often times, I ‘ve heard some ministry or church leaders say, “We must have a Christian presence in the society.” By this they mean, “Let’s build more church buildings in strategic places in the society and show the world that the Good News is making an impact.” Friends, this has nothing to do with God’s way of determining the success of the Gospel. Take for example the Muslims. They have bought magnificent church buildings and converted them into mosques. They also continue to build new mosques. But does this mean they are successful in God’s sight? Are they bringing about the obedience of faith that is centered on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ? Not that I know of.
• Please listen me again! Your personal life of obedience is what God considers as the success story of the Gospel. Are you an obedient believer? Or are you an obstinate believer?
• The Lord Jesus Himself revealed that the success of the Good News is about obedience to His teaching. And so in the Great Commission recorded in Matthew 28:19-20, He commanded, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching to observe [or obey] all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
• Obedience to all our Lord Jesus commanded is the bottom line of the success of the Gospel.
• As a pastor, preacher, elder, deacon, teacher, how have you been measuring the success of the Gospel in your ministry?
• Is it by the number of messages you have preached?
• Is it by the numbers on the attendant sheet?
• Is it by the amount pledged for the new building project your local church or fellowship is embarking on?
• Let us not be deceived! Rather, let us be discerning.
• The success of the Gospel is bringing about the obedience of faith among all believers in our fellowships, churches and ministries. We cannot change this standard of measurement, which God Himself had established and preserved for us in His Word to guide us in determining our fruitfulness in the ministry of the Gospel.
D. The Satisfaction in the ministry of the Gospel (vv. 8-12)
• The source of the Gospel is God Himself. The subject of the Gospel is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The success of the Gospel is measured by the obedience of faith among God’s people. But is there any satisfaction in the ministry of sharing the Good News? If there is, what is it? The answer to these questions brings me to another important truth of the Gospel, that is, the satisfaction in the ministry of the Gospel. This is the next truth revealed in the passage we are studying. The satisfaction in the ministry of the Gospel is clearly stated in verses 8-12.
• Although the faith of the believers in Rome was being reported all over the world, yet Paul longed to see them. Someone may ask, “Paul, Mr. Preacher, aren’t you satisfied with that? Aren’t you content with the fact that the Gospel is indeed at work in the Roman Christians? Aren’t you pleased with the fact that the testimony of the Roman believers is spreading far and wide to the glory of God? Why do you still desire to risk your life to go to Rome?
• Even though Paul thanked God through Jesus Christ for all the believers in Rome because their faith was being reported all over the world, he constantly remembered them in his prayers at all times, praying specifically that “if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you” (v. 10).
• Why was Paul making a specific request that by God’s will the way may be opened for him to come to the believers at Rome? His purpose is clearly stated for us in verses 11-12. Literally, verse 11 reads, “I long to see you, in order that,[Greek- hina] I may share some spiritual gift with you in order that [Greek- eis to]you may be strengthened.”
• Paul went on to further explain what this purpose was in verse 12. “That is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Paul’s purpose in longing to see the believers was that they “may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
• Paul, the great apostle of faith himself was not satisfied with where his faith was. He wanted to be encouraged by the faith of the Roman believers, whose faith was reported all over the world. Not only that, his aim was that he might impart some spiritual gift to them to make them stronger in faith. Therefore, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith was the only thing that would satisfy the apostle of great faith. This was Paul’s motivation in desiring by the will of God to visit Rome.
• So then, the satisfaction in the ministry of the Gospel is the mutual encouragement of each other’s faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that is so alive that it is reported throughout the whole world. This was the kind of faith the Roman believers and Paul had.
• Please notice very carefully that all throughout this passage, Paul’s focus was on the strengthening and building up of his faith as well as the faith of the Roman believers. He spoke of “the obedience of faith among all the nations” (v. 5) as the success of the Gospel. He gave thanks to God the Father through Jesus Christ because their “faith is being announced in all the world” (v. 8). He stated clearly to them that his goal in desiring to come to them was that, “you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (v. 12). Furthermore, in verse 17, Paul convincingly stated that it is only in the Gospel that “ the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” So it is clear that Paul’s deep concern for the Christians at Rome was letting them know about the importance of faith in the Christian life.
• Faith, that is, personal trust in Jesus Christ, absolute reliance on Christ’s work for salvation, total dependence on the merit of Jesus Christ, growing confidence in the Person of God Himself was the focus of Paul. He didn’t thank God for the feelingof the Roman believers or for their fame or fascination with the miraculous or pursuing the latest fads in Rome.
• But I am afraid, today; these are the things that occupy the minds of so- called popular preachers and their followers. Fame, feelings, fads, and fascination with the miraculous consume the thoughts of these ministers and those they are ministering to. They are not satisfied until their feelings are stroked and served. They are not satisfied until they become famous or recognized as someone important and much needed. They are not satisfied until their fascination with the miraculous is fed with sensationalism. They are not satisfied until they become full participants in the latest fads in town.
• But these, my friends, have nothing to do with the true satisfaction in the ministry of the Gospel. God’s word clearly shows here that the satisfaction of the Gospel is the mutual encouragement of each other’s faith, a faith that is so alive, that it is proclaimed throughout the whole world. The proclamation of our faith is all about what Jesus Christ did for us and how we have come to trust, believe and fully take Him at His word, thus giving Him the glory due His name in all the world.
• Paul knew that ministry is not a one way thing. Both the minister and those being ministered to are encouraged by each other’s faith. And so he expressed his longing to visit Rome to share his life with these believers whose faith in God, fully revealed in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, was so vibrant and victorious to the point that it was being reported all over the world. These believers possessed the kind of faith that overcomes the world – “This is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (1 John 5:4). No wonder their faith was reported all over the world.
• But the question to us today is “How vibrant is our faith in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ?” How victorious is our faith in Christ? How wide spread is our living trust in the living Jesus? Is our faith so shallow that it cannot even be reported all over our immediate family?
• I’m afraid so. Why? Because many of us who call ourselves believers in Jesus Christ, our faith is so shallow and shaky that it has very little impact in our families, let alone in our neighborhoods, communities, cities, counties and countries, and the whole world. This is not only sad, but also shameful. The reason being, we don’t seek for the mutual encouragement and strengthening of each other’s faith as our satisfaction. We have become preoccupied with stroking our feelings, following the latest fads, and consumed by the fascination with the miraculous. We are strong on our feelings, but weak in our faith.
• The Christian life cannot be lived satisfactorily alone. We need mutual encouragement of each other’s faith in Christ. We need to hear what God is doing in the lives of others to be spurred on and strengthened in our faith.
• Paul was never satisfied with where he was in life spiritually. He never considered himself as having reached perfection. He made this clear to the believers at Philippi.“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 3:12-14).
• Certainly, we see this pressing toward the goal in Paul’s longing to go to Rome for the express purpose of mutual encouragement of each other’s faith. This is the true satisfaction in the ministry of the Gospel.
• Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul said in the Spirit, “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
• Here again, we see that Paul’s main concern was about the faith of the Thessalonian believers toward God. This is because the satisfaction in the ministry of the Gospel is not about fads, feelings, fame, and fascination with the miraculous. It is about mutual encouragement of each other’s faith toward the Person of God Himself– the living and true God – going forth and spreading in every place in honor of Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
• Where are the people who have this kind of faith, a faith that is proclaimed throughout the whole world?
• Oh may I by the grace of God be found among the faithful few whose living faith in the living God and Savior Jesus Christ is broadcast throughout the world to the praise and glory of God my Lord!
• Has a brother or a sister in the Lord been refreshed, renewed and satisfied of late because of your action to encourage his or her faith toward God?
• Remember, you will also be renewed and refreshed and satisfied and strengthened in your faith in doing so.
E. The Superiority of the Gospel (vv. 13-14)
• We have seen that the source of the Gospel is God Himself. We have also learned that the subject of the Gospel is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Also, we noted that the success of the Gospel is determined by the obedience of faith among God’s people. Next, we have discovered that the satisfaction in the ministry of the Gospel is mutual encouragement of each other’s faith toward God, a faith that is so alive that it is reported all over the world.
• Now, would you please carefully note, the next truth presented about the Gospel in verses 13-14. This truth has to do with the superiority of the Gospel.
• There is no doubt that intention of the Holy Spirit is to exalt the Gospel of God in the Letter to the Romans. In verse 13, Paul told the believers in Rome that he often purposed or planned to come to them, but have been prevented from doing so until now. His purpose for planning so often to go to Rome was stated in the rest of verse 13, “in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles” (NIV). Paul did not intend to go to Rome only for the purpose of the mutual encouragement of his faith and that of the Roman Christians. He had another purpose in mind. That is, to obtain some fruit among them as he had among other Gentiles.
• Because the Gospel message is superior to all other messages for all times, Paul often planned in the Spirit to carry its message to the rest of the Gentiles, even to those in Rome.
• Because the Gospel is superior to all other religious teachings, Paul said he was“under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (v. 14). Literally, this verse reads, “Both to Greeks and to foreigners, both to wise men and to foolish I am a debtor [Greek opheiletes].”
• Paul felt he was a debtor to do one thing, that is, to preach the Gospel to those who were in Rome. He had preached in much of the Gentile world but not in Rome. One would have thought that Paul would be satisfied with what God enabled him to achieve in the ministry of the Gospel amidst great trials and tribulations. Yet, having a sense of great obligation and eagerness of spirit, Paul wanted to preach the Gospel of God also in the imperial capital city of Rome. Here in the city of cities, Paul not only felt divine compulsion but also a deep sense of eagerness and willingness to preach the Good News. He didn’t care about how great and glorious, how powerful and prominent the city of Rome was. He knew one thing. Rome desperately needed the Gospel. In Paul’s heart and mind, Rome, the city of cities so desperately needed the message of messages, that is, the Good News, the Gospel of God. The great and glorious city of Rome needed the greatest and most glorious news of all – the Gospel of God.
• Because the Gospel is the supreme message which all must hear, Paul reminded the believers at Rome of how constantly he remembered them in his prayers at all times that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened to come to them with the Gospel (vv. 9-10 New International Version).
• Paul was very confident in the Gospel. He was so confident in the supremacy of the Gospel that he felt a fresh divine compulsion. Notice he said, “I am under obligation” (v. 14a) not “I was under obligation.” To him the Gospel is superior to all other teachings, messages, news, philosophies that were being declared in this imperial capital city of the Roman world.
Therefore, he personally desired to carry it to Rome, which he did even in Caesar’s palace. For he later wrote to the believers at Philippi, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the praetorian guard and to everyone else” (Philippians 1:12-13).
• Where are the preachers today who have such confidence in the Gospel of God as the supreme message of all times which God wants those He created to hear and respond to?
• Where are the preachers today who have such eagerness to declare the message of the Gospel because they are convinced in their hearts that it is above all messages, news, philosophies and teachings of men?
• Where are God’s people today who believe in the supremacy of the Good News?
• Where are the believers today who refuse to be satisfied until they present, until they preach, until they publish the message of messages – the Glorious Gospel of God even in the most highly educated, refined and sophisticated circles?
• As a believer in Jesus Christ, do you walk with the conviction of heart that you have been entrusted with the greatest messages people need to hear?
• I strongly believe that if God did the work He did in Paul’s life, we would also come to grasp the fact that the Gospel is superior to all religious teachings of our day, whatever they may be.
• Oh may our God grant us such confidence in His Gospel, such conviction in His Good News as the supreme message of all times, and such divine compulsion to declare it, preach it, proclaim it, and present it in our “Rome” of today!
F. The Sufficiency of the Gospel (v. 15)
• The Gospel is about a Savior who is all-sufficient, needing nothing at all, but meeting all our needs. Therefore, the Gospel alone is sufficient for our redemption. Why? Because it points us to the Redeemer Jesus Christ. It alone is sufficient for our release from the stranglehold of Satan and sin. It alone is sufficient for ourrescue from this present evil age. Why? Because it contains a message centered on the Person of Jesus Christ who overcame evil and the evil one, and so is more than able to rescue us from evil and the evil one. It alone is sufficient for ourregeneration. Why? Because in it, the Person of the Holy Spirit who does the work of regeneration is made known to us. It alone announces to us God’s deep longing to reconcile sinners to Himself. It alone speaks of the removal of our sins from us, even as far as the east is from the west. It alone tells us of God’s desire of having a personal intimate relationship with us. It alone plainly discloses to us that in the past God overlooked the times of ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. Indeed, the Gospel alone reveals to us our most crucial and deepest need in life – our need for a Savior, who is Jesus Christ.
• Because of its sufficiency Paul expresses his eagerness, his longing, his earnest desire to preach it even in the imperial capital city of Rome. And so he says in verse 15, “So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”
• The Greek word translated “eager” is prothymos. It also means ready, willing, eager of the spirit, and prompt in something. Paul was full of eagerness. He was so willing and so ready to take the Gospel to Rome.
• Paul knew that anyone who has Christ has the answer to the world’s deepest need. Paul knew that the person who has Jesus must tell people about the One who has the cure for the disease of sin. Such a person can point people to the way to escape the eternal horrors of hell and the guarantee to the everlasting happiness with the eternal God. This puts you and I who have Christ in us under solemn obligation to share the Good News with people of all cultures and people of all degrees of learning.
• I am certain that if believers are convinced that the Gospel is truly and really sufficient to meet man’s deepest need, and that Jesus Christ is the only answer for the world today, as the believers of old believed He was, we will also be eager and ready to preach and share the Good News which exalts the sufficiency of Jesus Christ.
• Are you as a believer truly convinced that God has given us the greatest message to declare to the world?
• As a believer, do you realize that God has entrusted you with the most needed message all must hear and respond to?
• May I suggest to you that if you lack the abiding conviction in your heart that God has entrusted you with the greatest message, the most needed message of all time, then ask Him to generate this conviction into your heart. I assure you, God will respond speedily to you. I want this conviction to keep increasing in my heart in such a time as this. I want to be among those who wholeheartedly believe that the Good news is fully sufficient to speak to the deepest needs of people. And so be ever eager, be ever ready to share it with others who have not heard its life-changing message.
G. The Sureness of the Gospel (v. 16a)
• Since the Gospel is the supreme message of all times and sufficient to meet the deepest needs of the people God created in His image, it follows that God’s people have a message that is sure and steadfast indeed. There is nothing at all shameful about this supreme and sufficient message. And so the next truth revealed about the Gospel in the Romans passage we are studying is the sureness of the Gospel.
• Notice what Paul was led to say in the first part of verse 16. He said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (v. 16a). Paul was not ashamed to take God’s Good News to sophisticated Rome. He was eager, ready to preach it with all the power God gave him.
• We are mostly ashamed of the things we are not sure of in life. We are ashamed of people who let us down. We are ashamed of speaking about things that have no appeal to people or about things most people consider irrelevant. We are ashamed of empty promises. But the Person on whom the Gospel is centered never lets people down. He said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37). The Gospel may not be appealing. But make no mistake. It is relevant. It speaks to our most crucial and deepest need. And so it must be shared with all zeal and urgency. The promises made in the Gospel are not empty promises. Rather, they are promises that are sure and steadfast, eternal and enduring. In other words, the Gospel message proves to be a sure message. Therefore, each and every believer must be convinced about the sureness of the Gospel. And as a result, be moved to speak and share it without fear of shame and failure.
• All throughout Paul’s life, he was sure of the Gospel. He was not ashamed of it. He reminded Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). Having done so, Paul went on to urge him,‘Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8).
• Again, having confidently stated that he was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher of the gospel (2 Timothy 1:11), Paul made a solemn confession, saying, “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
• Paul was sure of the Gospel even in his sufferings. He refused to be shameful about his sufferings for the sake of the Gospel. Not shyness but steadfastness ruled Paul’s heart in the ministry of the Gospel of God, even when it led to suffering. Paul believed not only in Christ his Lord, but also in the Gospel. He was not plagued with feelings of bashfulness. Instead of caving in to the pressures he faced, Paul was convinced, certain and confident that Jesus is able to guard what he has entrusted to Him.
• Even to his last moments on earth, Paul held to the sureness of the Gospel. He knew that the Gospel would not fail. He entertained no doubts about the ability of the Gospel.
• The Lord Jesus Himself warned His disciples of the consequences of being ashamed of Him and of His Gospel in Mark 8:38. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
• Indeed, we will have ourselves to blame if we do not hold to the sureness of the Gospel as Paul and others did in their generation! If believers are to make an impact in our world with the Gospel, then we must be sure of it, not ashamed of it.
• David, the sweet Psalmist and prophet and King of Israel knew of the sureness of God’s word. This is how he was led by the Holy Spirit to testify of the sureness of God’s truth. “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). The law of the LORD and the testimony of the LORD are synonyms for the word of God. God’s word is sure. God’s Gospel is sure. My prayer is that understanding the sureness of Gospel will make wise the simple.
H. The Saving Strength of the Gospel (v. 16b)
• The source of the Gospel is God Himself. The subject of the Gospel is the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The success of the Gospel is measured in terms of the obedience of God’s people to God’s word. The satisfaction of the Gospel as we have learned is the mutual encouragement of each other’s faith, a faith that is vibrant in Christ. Because of the superiority of the Gospel to all other teachings and philosophies, Paul would not rest until he preached it in Rome, the great city of the Roman Empire. Also because of the sufficiency of the Gospel to meet the most crucial need of man, Paul expressed a passionate longing to preach it in Rome. The Gospel of God, as far as Paul was concerned, was desperately needed in Rome. Because of the sureness of the supreme and sufficient Gospel, Paul was not ashamed to preach it. All these truths about the Gospel are wonderful and precious. But what is the Gospel able to accomplish in our lives? What is it sent to do for you and for me? The answer to these questions brings us to one of the powerful and practical truths of the Gospel. That is, the saving strength of the Gospel.
• Notice the Bible says, “for it [that is, the gospel] is the power of God for salvation” (v. 16b). Literally, this expression reads, “for power of God it is to salvation.”
• Here is what the Gospel is sent to do for you and for me. It is the power of the Almighty God for or to salvation. Here is God’s provision for our most crucial need. The primary human problem is separation from God due to our sins. I don’t care who you are, you are and I am infested with sin. We are all infested with the disease of sin. Sin has broken the relationship between God and us. What is needed is to restore the broken relationship between people and God. This is what salvation is all about.
• Deliverance from the punishment, penalty, pollution, power and finally the presence of sin is the saving strength of the Gospel. We deserve to be punished. We deserve to be left in this sin-polluted world. We deserve to be left under the suffocating and life-draining power of sin. We deserve to live for all eternity under penalty of sin, which is separation from a loving, holy and righteous God. We deserve to be shut up under the cruel domination and mastery of Satan. But God has not treated us as we really deserve to be treated. In His love and grace, He offers generously the good that we do not deserve from Him. That good, is the offer of salvation.
• God’s desire to offer us salvation reveals His loving heart. In John 3:16-17 we read these comforting words, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
• The Gospel alone tells us about the true and living God who wants to save and is able to save because He loves.
• The words of the hymn “The love of God” by F. M. Lehman vividly portray the enduring and measureless love of God with which He pursues.
• The first stanza says, “The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell; It goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell; the guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win; His erring child He reconciled, and pardoned from his sin.”
• The third stanza reads, “Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies a parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade, to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretch from sky to sky.”
• The chorus reads, “O Love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forever more endure the saints’ and angels’ song.”
• What a beautiful description of the love of God! God’s offer of salvation to sinners like you and me truly reveals His loving heart.
I. The Scope of the Gospel (v. 16c)
• God has clearly revealed to us that the saving strength of the Gospel is the salvation it provides for sinners. But the question is, how far reaching is the saving power of the Gospel? How far is its influence and impact on people? What is the extent of its saving influence among the peoples of the earth? To whom does this saving strength of the Gospel benefit? Is it only for a special class of people? Is it only for the Jewish people? Is it available for the Gentiles, that is, non-Jewish people? The answer to these questions teaches us another essential and ever-comforting truth about the Gospel, that is, the scope of the Gospel.
• God intends for the saving power of His Gospel to touch and reach those near and far off. God’s saving grace reaches the ends of the earth to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. The Gospel message is a universal message, intended to benefit everyone in every corner of the world who believes.
• Notice the Bible says, “to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (v. 16c). Literally, this expression reads, “to everyone believing both to Jew firstly and to Greek.”
• The scope of the Gospel is clearly defined for us in the words, “everyone who believes.” The loving God who created us all is interested in every one of us. He wants the best for everyone in every nation, in every tribe, in every culture, in every people group. His heart is a big heart. His heart longs for a saving, personal, living, intimate relationship with every one of us who believes in His Son, Jesus Christ for salvation.
• The saving power of the Gospel is extended to everyone who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. This power is extended equally to Jews and Gentiles.
• In the earliest preaching of the Gospel, God saw to it that His messengers followed this order, that is, the Jew first and also the Greek. The Lord Jesus Himself established this order and followed it in His ministry here on earth. When a Canaanite woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon cried out to Him to have mercy on her because her daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession, His reply to her was, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). When He called and commissioned the twelve apostles, His direct command to them was, “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 10:6 – NIV). The Lord gave this order to His apostles before going to the cross.
After His resurrection, He instructed them again, saying, “repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Just before His ascension, our Lord reminded His disciples of this established order. He said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
• When the apostles begun their ministry after our Lord’s ascension they ministered first among the Jews. Peter told the Jews in Jerusalem, “For you first, God raised up His Servant, and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:26). God had to teach Peter a life-changing lesson before he was willing to take the Gospel to the Gentiles at Caesarea (see Acts 10). When Paul began his ministry, he began first among the Jews of Damascus (see Acts 9:20-22).
• On their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas told the Jews at Pisidian Antioch who were opposing them that they were first chosen to hear the Gospel. They said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). Paul’s custom throughout his ministry in Asia and Europe was to first go the Jews. Luke summarizes Paul’s custom of going first to the Jews in Acts 17:1-2, saying, “They came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures.”
• God’s plan was that salvation should be first offered to the Jews. But He didn’t limit the offer of salvation to the Jews. He graciously extended that offer to the Gentiles as well. This is because Jews and Gentiles alike are in need of salvation. God loves the whole world and offers salvation to the whole world. In every nation, in every culture, in every tribe, in every people group, whoever believes in Jesus Christ His Unique Son will be saved. Indeed, the scope of the Gospel is defined by the expression, “everyone who believes or whoever believes.”
• The all important truth of the scope of the Gospel, that is, everyone who believes, is a repeated theme in Scripture. God doesn’t want anybody to miss out on this precious truth of the Gospel, so He emphasized it by repeating it all throughout the rest of Scripture (see John 3:16, 18, 40; 5:24; 11:25-26; Acts 13:39).
• The commissions the Lord Jesus specifically gave His disciples in Matthew 28 and Mark 16 all speak to the fact that the scope of the Gospel is for everyone who believes in every nation and culture. "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:18-19). "And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation'" (Mark 16:15). Notice the expressions "all nations," "all the world," and "all creation." They teach us that the saving power of the Gospel is to extend to the ends of the earth, to everyone who believes. Understanding that the scope of the Gospel is for everyone in every nation and culture motivated the apostles of old to preach the Gospel everywhere. The Bible says, "And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed" (Mark 16:20). The church or fellowship that understands that the scope of the Gospel is for everyone in every culture will be energized for missions.
• Because the scope of the Gospel is “for everyone who believes” in every nation and in every tribe, inRevelation 5:9, when all is said and done, we are given a powerful picture of the far reaching extent of the saving power of the Gospel. We read, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book, and to break its seals; for You were slain, and did purchase for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”
• God has done everything to freely provide salvation for us. But the question is “how do we receive this free gift of salvation?” How is this salvation experienced? Through the Holy Spirit, Paul made it clear that the only means by which salvation is obtained is by faith. Salvation is obtained by faith alone. Believing is the means of obtaining salvation. Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ receives it. Faith, personal trust, wholehearted dependence, and total reliance on the Person and work of Jesus Christ is the means by which we enter into God’s salvation.
• Please listen! Zealous commitment to good works cannot save us. Observing religious rituals and rules plays no part at all in receiving salvation. Salvation is not found in our valiant efforts for God. It is found only in trusting wholeheartedly what Jesus Christ has done for us in His death on the cross for our sins and in His resurrection from the dead to open the way for us to enter into a right relationship with God. All God requires of us is that we each call out to Him in trust and ask Him to save us from our sins. God is willing to forgive and accept all who express their trust in Jesus alone and rely on Him alone for salvation. The rest of Scripture strongly affirms that faith alone is the one means by which sinners can obtain salvation (see John 1:12; 3:16; Acts 11:17; 13:39; 15:9,11; 16:31; 19:2; Romans 10:9-10;Ephesians 2:8-9).
• Although God has clearly spelt out to us in His Word how to obtain His salvation, yet man has throughout the ages defined and followed his own way for obtaining “salvation.” The chief means man has trusted in to gain acceptance with God are his goodness and his good works. This belief is reinforced by the culture in which we live. We pay for everything. We work for everything. So accepting the free gift of salvation doesn’t make sense to us.
• On April 1, 2004, God gave me the privilege of leading a young man by name, Victor, to Him. I had just finished working out in the local recreation center. He had also finished his work out and was going home. We entered into a brief conversation, which soon shifted to spiritual matters. Interestingly, we parked our cars close to each other in the parking lot. We stood under one of the floodlights in the parking lot and talked. To cut the long story short, Victor told me that because he is good and does good things, he thinks God will accept him into heaven. His statement gave me a glorious opportunity. I quickly pounced on it. Carefully and clearly, I explained to him the truths of the Gospel. Lovingly yet seriously, I told him that the only good work God accepted for our salvation is that of Jesus Christ His Son who died on the cross for our sins. All God requires of us is to admit that we are sinners and that we cannot pay for our sins by doing good works. God’s standard is so high for paying for the sins we have done against Him. But He is willing to accept us on the basis of our trust in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our sins.
• God opened Victor's heart to accept these truths. I set two choices before him. He can depend on his goodness and his good works to try to win God’s acceptance and salvation, which is a dead end street or he can choose to trust in the goodness and good work of Jesus Christ for his salvation. Under the floodlights, he bowed his heart and head with me and prayed to put his trust in Jesus Christ. As he prayed after me, he was choking. I had no doubt, the angels in heaven were rejoicing because one sinner had truly repented. I praised God for what He has begun to do in Victor’s life. I reminded him that God has begun a work of changing him into the likeness of Jesus Christ. He would not be the same person. God would put a desire in his heart to love Him and love His word. Thanks be to God! Truly, the Gospel of God is power of God for salvation!
J. The Secret of the Gospel (v. 17)
• So far we have learned that the source of the Gospel is God Himself. The subject of the Gospel is the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The success of the Gospel is measured in terms of the obedience of God’s people to God’s word. The satisfaction in the ministry of the Gospel as we have learned is the mutual encouragement of each other’s faith, a faith that is vibrant in Christ. Because of the superiority of the Gospel to all other teachings and philosophies, Paul would not rest until he preached it in Rome, the great city of the Roman Empire. Also because of the sufficiency of the Gospel to meet the most crucial need of man, Paul expressed his passionate longing to preach it in Rome. Because of the sureness of the supreme and sufficient Gospel, Paul was not ashamed to preach it in the sophisticated city of Rome. We also learned of the saving strength of the Gospel, that is, it tells us how God by His power saves sinners. This, we noted, was one of the most powerful and practical truths of the Gospel. The scope of the Gospel we learned is the most comforting truth about the Gospel. In every nation, in every tribe and tongue, everyone who believes in the Person and work of Jesus Christ is welcomed into God’s family.
But now we ask, what is revealed in the Gospel? What has God made known in the Gospel to set our troubled hearts at rest and at peace forever? The answer to these questions brings us to the next truth about the Gospel as stated in the Romans passage. It is the secret of the Gospel. The secret of the Gospel is that the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel. Oh how wonderful this truth. There is no other place where God’s righteousness is made known to people, except in the Gospel. As a former civil engineer who had studied science and mathematics at higher levels, I have never heard of the righteousness of God being revealed in science and mathematics.
• The righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel of God.
• Notice the Bible says, “For in it [that is, the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith” (v. 17).
• It is in the Gospel that we are told that God’s righteousness demands that our sins be punished. It is in the Gospel that it is clearly disclosed to us that the penalty for our sins is eternal death. But it is also in the Gospel that we hear of God’s love, through which He provided what His righteousness demanded. God sent His Beloved and Begotten Son to die as a Substitute for wayward, wicked, wretched sinners like you and me, worms such as us, paying the penalty for our sins in full. God satisfied His wrath, His holy anger and hatred of the sins we committed against Him in the sacrifice and death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Now because His righteous claims have been fully satisfied, completely appeased, God can righteously save everyone who believes. All those who avail themselves of the saving and sacrificial work of Christ can be saved and set free from their sins and so brought into a right relationship with a holy and righteous God. This is the secret of the Gospel. This secret of the Gospel sets the hearts of sinners free. This secret of the Gospel comforts those who turn from their sins and put their confidence in Jesus Christ alone.
• Please notice that this is the first time the word “righteousness” (Greek-dikaiosune) occurs in the Letter to the Romans. The word is used in several different ways in the New Testament. Instead of discussing all the several different ways it is used, I would like us to focus on three uses.
• First, it is used to describe that characteristic of God by which He always does what is right, just, proper, and consistent with all His attributes. When we say that God is righteous, we mean that there is no wrong, dishonesty, or unfairness in Him. Secondly, the righteousness of God can refer to His method of justifying ungodly sinners. He can do this and still be righteous because Jesus as the Sinless Substitute has satisfied all the claims of divine justice. Finally, the righteousness of God refers to the perfect standing which God provides for those who believe on His Son (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). Those who are not in themselves righteous are treated as if they were righteous because God sees them in all the perfection of Christ. Righteousness is imputed to their account (William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary).
• Having stated these three uses of the term “righteousness,” here is an important question to consider. Which of these three meanings of the term is intended in verse 17?
• While it could be any of the three, personally I think that the righteousness of God in this context seems to refer specifically to God’s way of justifying sinners by faith alone. This is the burden of Romans 2-4. In the Spirit, Paul wrote in Romans 3:28,“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.” Later in Romans 4:2-3, Paul clearly and convincingly stated, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
• Folks, this is the secret of the Gospel, the righteousness of God that is received and experienced by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This is a secret but it is no longer a secret. It has been revealed, manifested, made known and disclosed to all who would hear it and embrace it. God does not want us to perform works of our own in order to obtain His righteousness. Doing good works to obtain the righteousness of God leads to a dead end street. It is an impossible task.
• May I say to us, God’s righteousness cannot be earned by anyone of us no matter how determined and pious we are. It is not made available to those who seek to earn it or deserve it. God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith and it is received on the principle of faith alone. To stress the point that the righteousness of God in this context seems to refer to especially God’s way of justifying ungodly sinners by faith, Paul is led to say, “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, but the righteous man shall live by faith.”
• The expression “from faith to faith” simply means by faith from start to finish or by faith from first to last. Please listen! God says, the secret of the Gospel is that His righteousness is revealed by faith from start to finish, not by works from start to finish.
• Have you embraced this truth into your heart?
• Have you found relief and comfort in these words?
• Have you allowed this truth of the Gospel to shape your thinking and your way of living?
• Or are you still trying to obtain the righteousness of God on the basis of works?
• Are you still toiling under the burden of works in order to enter into a right standing with God?
• If you are one of these people, accept this truth- the righteousness of God is revealed by faith from start to finish. To experience the reality of God’s righteousness in your life, commence by faith, continue by faith and complete by faith in Christ alone. It is as simple as that. God has made it so simple so each and every one of us can grasp it and go for it with all our heart.
• The righteousness of God has its beginning in the power of God to declare a believer righteous on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ. And it continues and ends on the basis of faith alone in Christ alone. How freeing this truth is to my heart!
• I was brought up in Catholicism where I was taught to perform endless rituals as the means of gaining God’s approval and acceptance. I labored determinedly and diligently as a young boy to attain "the righteousness of God." I remembered very well being knocked hard so often on my head by the Catholic priest during my confessions to him. On top of the hard knocks on my head, I dutifully performed the pennants assigned to me, believing that this would for sure bring me into right standing with God. However, the pains I suffered from the priest’s hard knocks and my performances did not bring any assurance to my heart that all is well with my soul. How refreshing it is for me now to know that the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel by faith from first to last. I no longer toil under the heavy burdens of works in order to enter into right standing with God. This is the secret of the Gospel.
K. The Spirit through Whom the Gospel Is Proclaimed (v. 4)
• It is not enough to know the facts of the Gospel. Knowing the facts of the Gospel without knowing and relying on the power of the Person of the Holy Spirit is to labor in vain. Paul knew of the important role played by the Person of the Holy Spirit in the proclamation of the Gospel. Not only that, he knew of the powerful role played by the Holy Spirit in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
• And so he directed the attention of the believers in Rome to the Person of the Holy Spirit in the opening verses of the epistle to the Romans. He said, “who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 4).
• Literally, this verse reads, “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by a resurrection of dead persons, Jesus Christ the Lord of us.”
• Please notice carefully the connection between power and the Person of the Holy Spirit. God’s power is released through the Person of the Holy Spirit, who is described here as “the Spirit of holiness.” The Person of the Holy Spirit was at work in designating Jesus a descendant of David as the Son of God with power as a result of the resurrection from the dead. This same Spirit is at work in the proclamation of the Gospel. In fact, Paul’s ministry found its potency in the power of the Holy Spirit. For our ministries to be effective, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
• In Acts 10:38, Peter spoke of our Lord Jesus in these words, “God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Again, we see the connection between power and the Person of the Holy Spirit.
• Earlier, in Acts 1:8, the Lord Jesus Himself established the connection between divine power, supernatural power and the divine Person of the Holy Spirit. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
• The disciples to whom our Lord first gave this promise knew the facts of the Gospel. But knowing the facts of the Gospel didn’t make them effective witnesses of Jesus Christ. They needed the power of the Holy Spirit to become fruitful witnesses of Jesus. This pattern has not changed. We must not be content with knowing the facts of the Gospel, we must seek to know and rely on the Person of the Holy Spirit in our presentation of the Good News to those God brings our way. Then and only then can God use us to make an impact on our generation.
• The power for salvation, Christian victory and ministry is based on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God that He has generously and abundantly made available to us His supernatural power in the Person of the Holy Spirit. By relying, depending and surrendering to the Holy Spirit we too can be greatly used of God to advance the cause of His Good News in our day. Let us therefore resolve to seek and rely on the Holy Spirit to do God’s work in and through us for His glory.
• We have noted several essential truths about the Gospel. First, we learned that the source of the Gospel is God Himself. He purposed it. He promised it beforehand through His prophets. And He placed it into our hands. The Gospel is of God. It is from God. And it belongs to God.
• Second, the subject of the Gospel is the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel is all about Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, and the Son of God. He is central to the Gospel.
• Third, the success of the Gospel is clearly defined for as the obedience of God’s people to God’s word.
• Fourth, the satisfaction in the ministry of the Gospel is stated for us as being the mutual encouragement of each other’s faith, a faith that is so vibrant that it is reported all over the world.
• The fifth truth about the Gospel is the superiority of the Gospel. The Gospel is the supreme message of all times which God wants those He created to hear and respond to. It is superior to all other teachings of men.
• The sixth truth presented in the Roman passage is the sufficiency of the Gospel. The Gospel reveals a Savior who is all-sufficient, needing nothing at all, but is willing and able to meet our deepest needs. As such Paul was so eager to preach it in Rome.
• Seventh, we learned of the sureness of the Gospel. God has given us a message that is sure and steadfast. That being the case, Paul was not ashamed to preach it.
• Perhaps the most powerful and practical truth we learned in our study is the saving strength of the Gospel. It has strength, divine power to save sinners. This is the eighth truth presented to us about the Gospel of God in Romans 1. How precious this truth is!
• The ninth truth revealed to us in this passage has to do with the scope of the Gospel which is captured in the expression "everyone who believes." In other words, the Gospel message is a universal message, intended to benefit everyone who expresses genuine, personal wholehearted trust in Jesus Christ in every corner of the world. Everyone in every nation and tribe and language who believes in the Son of God, Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sins will experience salvation, that is deliverance from the punishment, penalty, power and finally the presence of sin. Everyone who expresses complete trust in the Person and work of Jesus Christ is welcomed into God's family.
• The tenth truth presented in our study is the secret of the Gospel. This is all about how God chose to reveal His righteousness in the Gospel by faith from start to finish. Simply put, God brings us into right standing with Him by faith alone from start to finish. This is perhaps the most heart refreshing truth about the Gospel. We are to cease toiling under the heavy burden of our own works to earn God's approval and acceptance. By faith alone, from first to last, God is pleased to credit to our account His righteousness.
• Finally, we learned that it is not enough to know the facts of the Gospel, we must know and rely on the Spirit of God in saturating ourselves with them and sharing them to those God brings our way.
• My prayer for you as a believer in Jesus Christ is that God will deepen your relationship with Him and equip you through these simple yet significant truths about the Gospel to become more effective in your witness of Jesus Christ in such a time as this.
• And if you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, my prayer for you is that God will open your heart to accept the truth that you are a sinner in need of salvation. Because God loves you, His desire is for you to be saved from your sins. God knows very well that you cannot save yourself from His wrath and judgment because of your sins against Him. But He has provided a way for you to be saved and be changed to become a new creation, all that He wants you to become. Jesus Christ is the way. Jesus took your place in receiving God's full wrath against your sins. Put your trust in Jesus today. He died for your sins. He shed His precious blood on the cross for the complete forgiveness of your sins. Believe in Jesus and you will be saved from your sins. Your life will be changed. God will give you a desire to love Him and love His Word, the Bible and His people. He will also give you a desire to tell others about what He has done for you so they too may hear of His love and grace for them and have the opportunity to respond to Him.
• Please let us know of God's work in your life.