Romans 1:16-17

ancient rome

Having declared his ambition to visit Rome and preach the Gospel Paul pauses to expound the essence of his message. Also in these verses Paul moves away from his personal greetings and into the substance of his letter. He sets before the people the theme of the epistle. Therefore Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones in his first volume on Romans, which he called “The Gospel of God” remarked that here “we really have a view of the entire Epistle.” James Montgomery Boice devoted an entire section of three chapters to these verses and he called the section “The Heart of Biblical Religion”. This is appropriate because the Gospel is the marrow and the core of the Scriptures as it defines the being and purpose of the Church.

1: The Attitude to the Gospel

Why did Paul testify that he was not ashamed?  Wherever the Gospel was proclaimed the opposition was intense. The Jews regarded Paul’s teaching as a threat to the law and to their traditions, Acts 21:27-28. The Gentiles saw the Gospel as an attack upon their idols and pagan practices, Acts 19:28. Everywhere the early missionaries travelled they were viewed by all as disturbers of the peace, Acts 17:6. Also all classes of people despised and derided the method of preaching, employed in advancing the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 1:18. Despite the natural temptations to be popular or to be silent Paul was determined to continue in this path and never be ashamed of Jesus.

2: The Action from the Gospel

The Apostle was convinced that despite the intense opposition of the world the Gospel was the most powerful message that man had ever encountered. He would persist in preaching because souls are saved through the proclamation of this word. Furthermore he was convinced that this Gospel had a universal appeal. It could change “every one that believeth” whether they be Jew or Greek. Therefore we are taught that we must evangelise and offer the Gospel freely to all men. The Jew is mentioned first because; a – they received the oracles of God initially, b – Christ was a Jew coming as their Messiah, c – The Gospel was first preached by Jewish Christians to Jewish people, d – God will restore his ancient people to himself before the Second Coming. By uniting the Jew and the Greek (or the Gentile) in this manner Paul is showing us that society can only be united and offered peace and hope through the Gospel.

3: The Attribute in the Gospel

The Gospel is defined by Paul as the revelation of God’s attribute of Righteousness. God reveals his righteousness in the Gospel because the world as an unrighteous wretched place needs this righteousness for salvation (Paul will now proceed to expound the depravity of an unrighteous world).

The Gospel and the revelation of God’s righteousness:

a    Christ, the Son of God, became a flawless man.

b    He took upon himself the guilt of a sinful world and absorbed the righteous anger of God for us.

c    Therefore we are righteous through the life He lived and the death he died for us.

4: The Acceptance through the Gospel

To be righteous in God’s sight through the merits of Christ is to be just. To be just is to be justified in the sight of God’s Righteous Law. A justified people are accepted by God and this acceptance is not earned but received through faith in Christ alone. Intriguingly Paul employs a phrase, “from faith to faith”. This may mean:

a The faith began in the Old Testament and it has progressed to the New Testament. He proceeds to quote Habbakuk 2:4.

b The Christian is accepted through faith alone and continues to live by faith. This faith is a growing living experience.

c When we trust Christ we place our faith in the faith. As the word faith can mean a system of doctrine and beliefs we can can place our trust in the truths contained in the Scriptures.

There is certainly truth and teaching in the various interpretations of this text. We must ever be reminded that faith alone lies of the heart of the Gospel. As Christians we must constantly learn to rely upon Christ alone through faith and not upon ourselves, our feelings and our concepts. Martin Luther called the doctrine of Justification by Faith which he learned from this text, “the master and prince, the lord, the ruler and the judge over all kinds of doctrines”. Luther argued regarding this truth, “It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the Church of God, and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour”. It is vital that we are solid in our belief in and conviction around this most Protestant and Evangelical of all truths.

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