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No Running from Romans 1
Romans 1:16-17 has been the catalyst for a radical transformation in my understanding of what God desires in us as his people. Paul writes these words after a brief introduction:
16 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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
These two clauses have done more to ruin my tendency to sugarcoat what it means to be a pastor and a Christian than any other verses I can imagine.
The message and retelling of what Jesus did and what he secured for all who believe is so incomprehensible, the longer I think about it, the more my brain hurts and my heart yearns to see him. The Gospel is something that will never grow old, tired or weak. What happens is that our sensitivity to its message wains because we do not fully see its depth.
The Power of God For Salvation
This phrase, “the power of God for salvation,” can be difficult to understand on the surface. But, what stands out is that whatever it means there is an undeniable and unbreakable link between the Gospel and salvation. These two realities are so closely link by this text that if the Gospel is not proclaimed, then there is no salvation. And, if no salvation occurs, then the Gospel was not preached. The power, the dynamic active component necessary for salvation is the Gospel proclaimed. Why is this the case? I have no answer other than to say that is the way that God designed it.
If we take Peter’s declaration in Acts 4:12 that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” then we have to draw a straight logical line from the Gospel to Salvation. When the Gospel is clearly and intentionally presented, and the work of regeneration is done by the Holy Spirit, then salvation is the necessary byproduct. If this is not the necessary effect, then the power that Paul talks about is not present.
I think you can begin to see the problem. IF we, the modern church, are proclaiming the Gospel, then why are there not more people “getting saved” in our churches? We have one of at least two choices. Either, we are not preaching the Gospel. Or, the Gospel has no power? But, we know that the second of these options is not reasonable. Therefore, we are left with the first. There is something wrong in our Gospel presentation. The conviction that the Gospel should elicit has somehow been tamed, softened, dulled.
The Righteousness of God Is Revealed
Clause number two is just as potent as the first. This clause is interesting because it makes an unusual assertion. What makes this assertion unusual is that it ties God’s righteousness to the Gospel itself. Paul said that “in it” the “righteousness of God is revealed.” Wow! That means that every time the Gospel is accurately, faithfully and completely proclaimed God’s righteous acts toward sinners are on full display for all to see. If anything qualifies as a theological mouthful, this is it. The danger inherent in this claim is that the opposite is also true. When the Gospel is NOT accurately, faithfully and completely proclaimed God’s righteousness may be missed at best, and diminished beyond recognition at worst.
What I realized, as the weight of these verses landed on my heart, is that I do not want to be the reason that someone else does not hear the Gospel accurately. If you have not discovered that the Gospel can be unpopular at certain times among certain people, you will. It can be difficult to preach, teach, proclaim and tell the Gospel without shrinking back. However, I realized that I was unwilling to fail at being a faithful steward of God’s News to a fallen world. I do not want to be the one who would deny sinners the opportunity of encountering the righteous God and creator of the world. That is too high a cost for being liked by my peers.
My Hope For Gospel Basics
This book is my attempt at deciphering the fullness of the Gospel’s message. It is not an exhaustive treatment of the Gospel. I do not think that such an approach would be wise. I just wanted to remind myself and any who read it, of the Gospel’s beauty and simplicity.
It is not written with a lot of technical language, but there are important biblical concepts and theological ideas discussed. It should not take to long in reading. My hope and prayer for Gospel Basics is that it might serve as a reminder of what we have received in and because of Jesus.