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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)
Over the next few days, I would like to focus our discussion on the gospel. A few days ago, I posted some videos by John Piper, Michael Horton, and Jefferson Bethke talking about this very important subject. I encourage you to revisit them if you haven’t already or if you simply don’t have enough time to read this blog. But I hope that you will take some time to consider with me Paul’s words recorded for us in Romans 1:16-17.
“Not Ashamed of the Gospel” - Paul begins verse 16 by making this bold statement that he is “not ashamed of the gospel.” O, how we need such courage and bravery today. It is a terrible blight in our day that there are not enough men whose backbones are strong enough to stand up for anything. There are not enough men who are bold enough to stand up for their convictions regardless of the cost! That’s tragic! Paul was a different kind of man. It is worth noting that he was writing these words from Rome where he had been imprisoned for the sake of the gospel before his death! Even though he knew that this bold statement would be considered outrageous by many in his day and that it would get him into further trouble, nothing could stop him from declaring his position on the gospel. He was unstoppable! He was the kind of person who would just make his opponents mad! They couldn’t silence him! For as long as he could breathe, he was determined to make this gospel known to the nations!
A Bold Statement: The gospel “is the power of God for salvation!” Here is the crux of the matter! The reason Paul was so bold and unstoppable with respect to the gospel was because he so believed that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation” for all men (Jews and Gentiles alike). Paul had been given this conviction by the Holy Spirit. He once was lost but now was found. Once, he was blind to the glories of the gospel and its liberating power through Jesus Christ. But now he could see because the Lord was pleased to remove the scales from his eyes (Acts 9:1-19). He personally experienced this very truth – that the gospel is indeed the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (emphasis added).
A Sincere Confession: Some background to Paul’s life as a Jew would be helpful here because for him as a Jew, this was not only a bold statement. It was also a sincere confession. As a Jew, he had been taught that his salvation rested in his personal obedience to the Torah and all its stipulations as set forth at Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19). He once considered himself “blameless” with respect to “righteousness under the law” (Philippians 3:6). Paul, with permission from the Jewish high priest, was determined to persecute Christians. Any good Jew, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ crucified for sinners, was a “stumbling block” (1 Corinthians 1:22). Anyone who endeavored to preach this gospel was not only weak but also a great enemy to the entire Jewish establishment. But when Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus, he was radically changed and by the grace of God, he wholeheartedly embraced the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for himself!
First, the focus of his life changed! From that point on, he learned to “glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). From a purely legalistic, moral and physical perspective, Paul had more than enough reasons to boast (glory) in the flesh. Yet, he considered all that “loss for the sake of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:7). In verse 8 of Philippians 3, Paul refers to this as “refuse” or “dung!” That’s how disgusted he was with his own righteousness according to the law? Why? Was it because the law is bad? Of course not! In Romans 7, Paul himself makes a very strong defense of the law. No! It was not because Paul thought that the law was bad. Rather, it was because Paul had discovered that his “righteousness according to the law” was like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) before God. He realized that all those “good things” (i.e. his Jewish descent and his adherence to the law), were not good enough to commend him before God for salvation (Philippians 3:1-14).
Secondly, the passion of His life changed! He was willing even to suffer for the sake of this gospel. He was changed from a persecutor to a preacher of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ had now become the singular passion of his life as he himself writes in Philippians 3:8-9, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (emphasis added). That was Paul’s confession as a changed Jew! Praise be to the Lord for that!
So when Paul writes in Romans 1:16-17, he knows exactly what he is talking about because he was personally a beneficiary of this wonderful gospel of God’s grace. He wants to tell us that God has put His saving power in His gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and not anywhere else! Thus, we may safely conclude that salvation does not, cannot and will not come to us (as sinful creatures) through any other way but through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ which tells us that nothing in us or about us can commend us before God for salvation. Even our very best deeds, are “like filthy rags” before God, yes “dung” – so ugly, worthless and disgusting! But thanks be to God that that’s not the end of the story!
“The Just Shall Live By Faith”- By trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are given a new (yes, a REAL) righteousness, a “righteousness from God!” Paul writes, “For in it (in the gospel), the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (parenthesis added) – Romans 1:17. In other words, this gospel announces to us that a new kind of righteousness which does not depend on us but on God Himself is being offered to sinners like you and me! This gospel announces to us release from bondage to the law. This gospel calls us to trust God for our salvation. This gospel offers us salvation by faith alone in Christ alone! This gospel is the world’s best news! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)! We need to hear and believe it as does every person on the face of the earth! As it is written, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). It’s only by trusting in Jesus Christ that one is saved from sin and from the eternal wrath of God. That’s why the gospel also called “Good News!” Praise the Lord through Jesus Christ!
In my next post, I plan to move our discussion on this important subject along. Lord willing, I shall attempt to answer the question, “What Constitutes Saving Faith?”
Rejoicing in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ! I pray that you are too! See you tomorrow, God willing!