Glory To God.

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. – Romans 16:25-27 ESV

Paul wraps up his letter with a doxology – a statement of praise to God. This entire letter has been a treatise on the praiseworthiness of God for His power, grace, mercy, patience, power, sovereignty, love and the greatest expression of that love: the sacrifice of His Son as the payment for mankind’s sins. Paul wanted his readers to know that the very same God who made salvation possible and who, in His mercy, chose them to receive redemption, was fully capable of strengthening them and keeping them “according to his gospel.” Notice that Paul personalizes the gospel, calling it his own. In the early stages of his letter he referred to it as the gospel of God (Romans 1:1) and the gospel of His Son (Romans 1:9). In chapter 15 he called it the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:19). But here he makes it his own. It is the gospel of God because He is the one who made it possible. It is the gospel of Christ, the Son, because He is the one whose sinless sacrifice fulfilled the demands of the Father. But it was Paul’s gospel because he had been commissioned by Christ Himself to share the good news of salvation for the Gentiles. This is the mystery Paul refers to: “according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all the nations” (Romans 16:25-26 ESV). Paul referred to this mystery in his letter to the Colossian believers.

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. – Colossians 1:24-27 NLT

The gospel was at one time a mystery, hidden from the eyes of men. It was clearly revealed in the Old Testament, as Paul has so strongly proven, but the Old Testament saints were not able to see all the aspects concerning God’s plan of salvation for all the nations. Even the disciples of Jesus saw Him as a Messiah for the Jewish people. They had no concept of Gentiles being included in Christ’s Kingdom. They were shocked when they found Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well. They were more than likely confused by the conversation had with the Gentile woman concerning her sick daughter.

Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Gentilee woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed. – Matthew 16:21-28 NLT

When Jesus said to the woman, “It isn’t right to take food away from the children and throw it to the dogs,” He was simply expressing what the disciples were thinking. Jews would not mix with Gentiles. They were considered inferior. But Jesus came to change all that. His death would not be just for the Jews, but for all mankind, and Paul’s God-ordained commission was to make the mystery known to any and all who would listen, in order “to bring about the obedience of faith.”

The gospel, this incredible mystery, 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 ESV). The gospel was made possible by the love, mercy and grace of God. It was made possible by the gracious gift of His Son. It was made possible by His Son’s death, and confirmed by His resurrection, accomplished by the power of the Spirit of God. Everything about the gospel was God’s doing. Even Paul’s miraculous conversion and divine commissioning. So to Him alone belongs “glory forevemore through Jesus Christ” (Romans 16:27 ESV). The words of the great old hymn, To God Be The Glory, by Fanny Crosby, sum it up perfectly.

To God be the glory, great things He has done;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.


Instruments for Righteousness.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. – Romans 6:12-14 ESV

It seems quite obvious that Paul knew the power and reality of indwelling sin. He would not have told his readers “let now sin therefore reign in your mortal body” if the possibility for it to happen had not existed. In verse 16 he writes, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16 ESV). Each and every day, Christ-followers have the choice to give in to and be enslaved yet again by sin or to live in obedience to their God-given, Spirit-empowered new nature. The temptation to give in to sin is an ever-present reality. That’s why Paul warned his readers, “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desire” (Romans 6:12 NLT). There is a conscious choice to be made. We can present our bodies to sin as instruments for unrighteousness or to God as instruments for righteousness. We can allow our sin nature to dictate the behavior of our bodies and determine our actions, or we can, through the power of the Holy Spirit, use our bodies as instruments or tools for God’s will. These physical bodies in which we live are the means by which we can accomplish God’s work in this world. With these bodies we can love one another or we can lust after one another. We can use these bodies to accomplish God’s will or to selfishly fulfill our own. The natural inclination of our sinful nature is to produce some very damaging and destructive fruit. Paul describes the outcome of a life in which sin is allowed to reign. “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these” (Galatians 5:19-21 NLT). If you allow sin to reign in your physical body, you will end up obeying its passions and desires. That’s why Paul said, “I discipline my body and keep it under control” ( 1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV).

Paul wants us to know that, as believers in Jesus Christ, we have died to sin. It was as if we were crucified alongside Christ. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there” (Galatians 5:24 NLT). Those things are no longer to have control over us. And yet, our physical bodies are constantly tempting us to satisfy its passions and desires. We have to fight constant cravings and desires that are opposed to God’s will for us. Paul puts it this way: “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other” (Galatians 5:17 NLT). But Paul also gives us the key to resisting the urges of our flesh: “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (Galatians 5:16 NLT). We can choose to live under the control and influence of the Spirit or we can allow our sin nature, working through our physical bodies, to dictate our behavior. That is why Paul so strongly encourages us to “put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world” (Colossians 3:5 NLT). He warns us, “Run from sexual sin!” (1 Corinthians 6:18 NLT). He encourages us to “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NLT).

We belong to God. We have been purchased by the blood of His Son. And while these earthly bodies are temporary and will one day be replaced with new, redeemed bodies, we are obligated to use them for God’s service as long as we live on this earth. At one time, Paul had used his earthly body to persecute Christians, throwing them into prison and attempting to eliminate them altogether. But once he was redeemed from his old way of life by faith in Jesus Christ, he did everything in his power to make his body his slave and to use it for the glory of God and the good of His Kingdom. Rather than live as a captive to his body’s desires, he made his body his slave, using it to accomplish God’s will. His sin-prone flesh became an instrument for righteousness. And that is God’s call to us. He has not yet redeemed our bodies. But He wants to use them for our good and His glory. Paul describes our current condition in these terms: “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT). Sin’s dominion or control over us takes place primarily through our physical bodies. It is with our bodies that we fulfill our sinful passions. We use our tongues to lie and deceive. We use our eyes to lust and covet. We use our entire bodies to commit acts of immorality. We use our hands to steal. We use our feet to take us places that are against God’s will for us. We use our brains to think inappropriate thoughts and plan unrighteous acts. But because of Christ, we have the capacity to use these fallen bodies as instruments of righteousness. We can use our hands to serve others. We can use our eyes to see needs and meet them. We can use our bodies to accomplish God’s will. We can use our tongues to encourage. We can use our feet to take the gospel across the street and around the world.


Death Reigned.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned — for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. – Romans 5:12-14 ESV

As he continues to defend the doctrine of justification by faith, Paul uses an interesting comparison, contrasting the sin of Adam and the sacrificial death of Jesus. It was through Adam’s one act of unrighteousness that sin came into the world. While Eve was the first one to give in to the temptation of Satan and take the forbidden fruit, Adam was standing by her side and fully complicit and compliant. As the God-ordained head of his household, he was responsible to keep God’s commands and protect his family. It was to Adam that God had given the command regarding the tree. Eve had not yet been created. The book of Genesis records, “And the Lord commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV). In the very next verse God decides to make woman. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Genesis 2:18 ESV). So Adam was responsible for communication God’s command to Eve and ensuring that she adhered to it. But he failed. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her” (Genesis 3:6 ESV).

The result of Adam’s actions was death. Not immediate physical death, but spiritual death – separation from God. They became alienated and separated from God. They immediately experienced shame, attempting to cover their nakedness with leaves. They hid from God. And then they came under the punishment of God, as He brought on them curses related to their disobedience. God curse for Adam involved a life of labor accompanied by futility, ending in death. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19 ESV). Rather than enjoying the fruit of the trees provided by God in the garden, they were cast from the garden and left to provide for themselves through hard work and effort. And their lives would end in death. Which is why Paul writes, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin” (Romans 5:12 ESV). It was Adam’s sin (original sin) that brought death into the world. Paul is comparing the one act of Adam and its result with the one act of Jesus and its subsequent outcome. He contrasts Adam’s disobedience with Jesus’ obedience. The first brought death. The second brought life. Adam’s action brought separation from God. Jesus’ action brought reconciliation.

But Paul’s main point in these verses is that men had been dying (suffering the penalty for their sins) long before the law had been given to Moses – “for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law” (Romans 5:13 ESV). Mankind not only inherited death as a result of Adam’s disobedience, they inherited his sin nature. But their death was due to Adam’s sin, not their own. From God’s perspective, they sinned “in” Adam. The penalty for his sin was passed down to his descendants. So Paul states, “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam” (Romans 5:14 ESV). Long before the law was given, men were sinning. They may not have sinned in the same way that Adam had, but they still faced the same penalty: death. They still experienced spiritual separation from God. Why? Because Adam “was a type of the one who was to come” (Romans 5:14 ESV).

Long before God gave the law to Moses, men died. All men knew death was inevitable. They just didn’t know why they had to die. They were unclear as to what death was and what purpose it existed. It was to be feared. It was to be avoided at all costs. But when God gave the law, it revealed the righteousness that God demanded of mankind. It provided a non-negotiable list of God’s requirements for what was necessary to escape the penalty of death. Man’s sin nature made it impossible for him to keep God’s law. So before the law was given, man sinned, in ignorance. After the law, man sinned, knowing, like Adam, exactly what God had commanded, but disobeying it anyway. But Paul will continue to built on this comparison, illustrating that God provided a way out. “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins” (Romans 8:3 NLT). That is the gospel of God that Paul has been talking about. Adam’s disobedience brought death. Jesus’ obedience brought life. Death reigned, but God declared an end to sin’s control over us. Martin Luther summarizes Paul’s contrast quite succinctly.

Christ has become a Dispenser of righteousness to those who are of Him, though they have not earned any righteousness; for through the Cross He has secured (righteousness) for all men. The figure of Adam’s transgression is in us, for we die just as through we had sinned as he did. The figure of Christ is in us, for we live just as though we had fulfilled all righteousness as He did. – Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans

Justifed By Faith.

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. – Romans 3:27-31 ESV

When it comes to righteousness or right standing before God, does anyone have any grounds on which to boast? Is it possible for a Jew to claim righteousness because his adherence to the law? If it was, then Christ died in vain. If righteousness is available to men through their own effort, through the keeping of the law, then the Gentiles are hopeless, because God did not give them the law. But Paul asks, “is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also?” (Romans 3:29 ESV). Then he answers his own question. “Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one…” (Romans 3:30 ESV). There are not two plans of salvation – one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles. God did not set up two means of attaining righteousness – one through good works and the other through faith. God “will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Romans 3:30 ESV). In this last sentence, Paul uses two different prepositions: by and through. One is the Greek word ek and the other is dia, and they both mean essentially the same thing: “by means of.” Most likely, Paul used two different prepositions in talking about Jews and Gentiles to illustrate that God chose to deal with each in two distinctively different ways. To the Jews He gave the law. But it was to show them His holy expectations and their inability to live up to them. The Gentiles did not receive the law. They were essentially outsiders. In writing to the Gentile believers in Ephesus, Paul reminded them, “Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called ‘uncircumcised heathens’ by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope” (Ephesians 2:11-12 NLT). Then he gave them the good news: “But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13 NLT). They were near to God, made right with Him, through the blood of Christ and through faith. Both Jews and Gentiles are made right with God by and through faith. What looked like two different paths was essentially one and the same. The gospel of God, His plan for man’s salvation, was always going to go through Jesus. That is why Paul can so confidently and emphatically state, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28 ESV). He doesn’t say, “in conjunction with” or “alongside” works of the law. In other words, justification stands completely based on faith, and that faith must be placed in a single source: God’s offer of salvation made possible through the death of His own Son. In his letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul gives a synopsis of the gospel, the good news in which we are to place our faith: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared…(1 Corinthians 15:3-5 ESV). He came. He died. He was buried. He rose again. And Paul says, “so we preach and so you believed” (1 Corinthians 15:11 ESV).

It is belief in God’s gospel that brings about our justification. We are made right with God through faith in His redemptive plan, not our own futile efforts to live a righteous life. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). It is our belief in that reality that makes us right with God. In the very next chapter of Romans, Paul will state, “He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right [justified] with God” (Romans 4:25 NLT). That is what we must believe. It is in that truth we must place our faith. 

So does faith eliminate and invalidate the law? Not in the least. Paul claims that when we are justified by faith, we actually uphold the law. Paul uses the Greek word, histēmi and it means “to uphold or sustain the authority or force of anything” (Outline of Biblical Usage). Our ability to keep the law is made possible through our faith in the redemptive work of Christ. Our capacity to live righteously or rightly is given to us by God through our faith in Christ. Paul summarizes our new relationship with the law in chapter eight of Romans:

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:2-4 ESV

Through His gospel, God has made it possible for men to live in harmony with Him, having placed the desire to keep His commands in their hearts. No longer do we serve Him in the flesh or through our human effort. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8 ESV). But we live according to the Spirit. And “if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10 ESV).

No God. No righteousness.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. – Romans 1:28-32 ESV

This is the third time Paul uses the phrase, “God gave them up.” By this time, we should be able to see the seriousness of Paul’s point. If God releases men to live as they wish to live, separated from Him by rejecting His very existence or re-imagining their own version of Him, the outcome is less-than-ideal. Without God, the one true God, man is left to his own devices, and their foolish hearts become increasingly darkened. Despite their self-proclaimed wisdom, they become fools, incapable of discerning right from wrong, righteousness from unrighteousness. The prophet Isaiah wrote about these kinds of people in his day.

What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them with ropes made of lies, who drag wickedness behind them like a cart! (Isaiah 5:18 NLT).

What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever. (Isaiah 5:20-21 NLT).

When a man decides he has no need of God, he loses far more than his awareness of the Creator. The rejection or reinvention of God is a dangerous game to play. The NIV translates verse 28 this way: “since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God.” They basically said, “We don’t need God.” So God allowed them to experience life without Him. He “gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Without God in their lives, they lose the capacity to think wisely. As Isaiah said, they end up calling evil good and good evil. Their minds become twisted and their logic becomes skewed. And Paul states that they become “filled” with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, and malice. They become, literally, “filled to the brim.” Unrighteousness describes anything that is contrary to what God has deemed right or just. Evil has to do with man living out his godless purposes and desires in depraved ways. Covetousness is simply greed or the insatiable need for more. It is the opposite of contentment. Malice is a shameless desire to do harm to others. These characteristics fill those who reject God, and they end up manifesting themselves in a variety of ways. Paul provides us with a fairly sobering list: “envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossiping, slander, hate for God, insolence, haughtiness or pride, boasting, invention of evil, disobedience to parents, foolishness, faithlessness, heartlessness, and ruthlessness.”

And here’s the worst part. Not only do they do these things. They give their full consent and approval to anyone else who does them too. Even though they know “that those who practice such things deserve to die,” they do them anyway. They become driven by unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, and malice. It ends up filling them and overflowing out of them. It was Chrystostom who said, “the one who praises the sin of others if far worse than the one who sins himself” (Chrystostom, Homilies on Romans). Paul warned Timothy that a day was coming when people would not want to hear the truth anymore. They would look for teachers who would approve or their actions and tell them that their lifestyles were perfectly acceptable. “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV). The Greek word Paul used for myths is mythos and it refers to something that is invented, a fiction or falsehood. Without God, men will invent their own form of righteousness. They will determine their own ethical and moral standards. And then they will seek out those who will tell them their unrighteous actions are acceptable. That is the world in which we live today. Sadly, there are pastors all across the country who are more than willing to tickle the ears of their congregations, telling them what they want to hear, approving of their lifestyle choices and, as a result, denying the truth of God.

We live in a day when the cry for tolerance has drowned out God’s call for righteousness. We have become accepting and accommodating of all kinds of attitudes and actions that God has deemed unrighteous and unacceptable. It is not loving to allow someone to live according to a lie. It is not merciful to hide the truth from someone who is deceived. It was Jesus who said, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:21-32 NLT). The gospel of God is about the righteousness of God made available to men through the gift of His Son. Left to his own devices, man will never achieve or accomplish the degree of righteousness that God demands. Even those who claim to believe in God, the religious, will fail in their efforts to live up to God’s righteous standards. That is why Paul says that all men are without excuse. All stand before God as guilty. But the good news is that Jesus came to die for sinners. He came to pay the price for our guilt and to free us from condemnation. But for a man to be free, he must accept the truth of his own sin and the gift of God’s Son. He must understand the reality of his guilt and the just outcome of his sin: death. Then he must accept the free gift of God’s grace and believe that Jesus Christ has paid his debt and replaced his unrighteousness with righteousness. That is the good news. That is the gospel of God.

The Power of God.

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 ESV

Paul was eager to preach the gospel to the people in Rome. That is why he wanted to make the long, arduous journey there. He was grateful to God for those who had already become followers of Jesus and commended them for their faith. But he knew that there were many more who had not yet hear the good news regarding God’s gift of salvation through His Son. And Paul was anything but ashamed of that message. He proclaimed it anywhere and everywhere he could to anyone who would listen, whether they were Jews, Greeks or even barbarians. Because he knew that the gospel had the power to change lives. It was the one and only way for sinful men to be made right with a holy God. For Paul, the gospel – the message regarding God’s sending of His Son in the form of a man to live a sinless life and die a substitutionary death on the cross as payment for the sins of men – was powerful and life-changing. He knew from personal experience. He had been radically changed by his side-of-the-road encounter with the resurrected Christ. And that same power was available to any and all who would believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior. In other words, they had to give up trying to earn a right standing with God in their own strength or according to their own merit.

Paul wasn’t ashamed of the gospel because he knew it worked. He knew it was of God. In fact, it had been God’s plan from the very beginning. His sending of Jesus to earth was not some kind of plan B that He was forced to quickly come up with in response to man’s inability to keep the Law. He had planned all along to send a Savior, and it had to be His very own Son so that He could meet the stringent requirements of a sinless sacrifice. Peter tells us, “God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days” (1 Peter 1:20 NLT). Paul goes as far as to say, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (Ephesians 1:4 NLT). The gospel is not only the plan A of God, it is the very power of God that leads to man’s salvation. “For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith”, Paul states (Romans 1:17 ESV). Because of what Jesus did on the cross, man has access to a righteousness he could have never achieved on his own. The law could only reveal God’s holy standard, but it couldn’t help man achieve or live up to it. And Jesus told His followers, “But I warn you – unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:20 NLT). As shocking as this statement must have been to those who heard it, Jesus was simply telling them that the righteousness God required could never be man-made. It was going to have to be the result of the power of God as revealed in the gospel.

Man’s salvation is based solely on faith. It begins and ends on faith. It is our initial faith in Christ that leads to our growing faith in the power of the gospel to not only save us, but transform us into His image. The righteous, Paul says, live by faith. Our righteousness is based on faith. Later in this letter, Paul states, “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are” (Romans 3:22 NLT). He reiterates this same thought in his letter to the church in Corinth. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT). The gospel, the good news regarding salvation in Christ, reveals the righteousness of God – the very means by which sinful men and women can be justified or made right with God. It is through His Son’s death. And it is confirmed by God’s power that raised Him from the dead. It would not have been enough for the death of Jesus to forgive us our sins and leave us in a sinless state. Sinlessness is not the same as righteousness. Once our sins had been paid for and forgiven, we still needed to be declared righteous. But in order to do this, God had to impute or transfer to our account the righteousness of Christ. So our spiritual account went from having a negative balance to a zero balance, but then God added to our account the invaluable righteousness of Christ.

The reason so many of us find ourselves “ashamed” of the gospel is because it sounds so far-fetched, even to us. After all the idea of God sending His own Son to take on human flesh, live a sinless life and die as our sacrifice on a cross doesn’t exactly come across as logical or sensible. It can also come across as offensive to those with whom we share it. Telling someone that they are a sinner, completely unrighteous and incapable of pleasing God in any way can be a bit off-putting to say the least. But Paul was unashamed of the gospel because he knew it was the only way. It was the power of God made practical and personal, providing mankind with a fail-proof means by which they could be restored to a right relationship with God. The righteous, those who have been made right with God through Christ, were saved by faith and live their lives based on faith – in the power of God.

The Gospel of God.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 1:1-7 ESV

Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome from the city of Corinth during the winter of A.D. 56-57. It would be another three years before Paul actually set foot in Rome and, when he did, he would do so as a prisoner of the Roman government. It is not clear how the church in Rome got started. Paul obviously played no role in it, having never been there before. And there is no indication that any other apostle had ever made it to the Roman capital to share the gospel. But nevertheless, the gospel had arrived, perhaps as a result of some who had been eyewitnesses to the events that took place at the Feast of Pentecost. Regardless of how the church was started, it had gained a world-wide reputation and Paul acknowledged it. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world” (Romans 1:8 ESV). No doubt, Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome, under the influence of the Holy Spirit and with the desire to provide them with a solid understanding of the doctrine of the gospel of God. He knew the incredible influence this church would have because of its location within the capital of Rome, the most powerful nation in the world at the time.

Paul began his letter with an introduction of himself, even though the believers in Rome would have been well-acquainted with him. He referred to himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. He did not operate on his own initiative, but as a willing slave to the one who had saved him. He served as an apostle, having been called to that role by Jesus Himself. And he acknowledged that he had been set apart or appointed for a singular purpose: the gospel of God. The entire letter of Romans will elaborate on the remarkable significance of the gospel of God, the good news concerning His Son. Paul boldly and unapologetically claims both the deity and full humanity of Jesus, “who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God” (Romans 1:3-4 ESV). Paul emphatically declares that Jesus was resurrected from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was that one miraculous reality that had made salvation possible and the grace of God available to sinful mankind. The resurrection of Jesus is the central doctrine of the Christian faith. Without it, we have no hope, which is what led Paul to write, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17 ESV).

Paul never missed an opportunity to share the gospel, but he also took advantage of every chance he was given to strengthen the local church. He not only wanted to see people saved from sin, but he desired greatly to see them grow up in their salvation. In verse seven, Paul refers to his readers as saints, which means “set apart or holy ones”. In Paul’s mind they were positionally holy, but they were also to be practically holy in their behavior. They had been “called to belong to Jesus Christ” and so their actions and attitudes should reflect that calling. A big part of what Paul writes to them in this letter has to do with what practical holiness looks like. They are to live as if dead to sin and alive to God. They are to live by faith and not by works. They are to live according to the power of the Spirit of God and not the flesh. They are to recognize their position as heirs of God. They are to offer their bodies as living sacrifices to God and are not to be conformed to this world. The gospel of God does not stop with our salvation, but carries on throughout our lives as God continues His work of sanctification in our lives, “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Romans 1:5 ESV).

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are loved by God. The very fact that He sent His own Son to die in our place is the greatest expression of God’s love He could have shown us. But not only are we loved by God, we are called by Him to be saints – set apart ones. We are to live our lives in the power of His Holy Spirit and allow Him to continually transform us into the likeness of His Son. It is His miraculous transformation of us that gives proof of His Son’s salvation of us. Not only have we been saved, we are being changed. We are being conformed to the image of Christ. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29 ESV). The transformation of our lives by God is one of the greatest testimonies to the reality of the risen Christ and the power of the gospel of God.