Romans: Not ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17)

In verse 15 of Romans, we see how Paul had an eagerness to preach the Gospel. He had an overwhelming burden and a sense of obligation to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. Paul had no shame when it came to proclaiming the Gospel. Why was Paul so bold? Why should we have that same boldness and confidence concerning the Gospel? The answer is found in these key verses in the book of Romans: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” [1]In these verses, we find a basic summary of the Gospel.

The source of the Gospel: it came from God. Paul said that He was ‘not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.’ God is author of the Gospel. It is His plan which began even before creation. God initiated the plan of salvation. The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Weirsbe says, “Any message that was handed down from Caesar would immediately get the attention of the Romans. But the message of the Gospel is from and about the very Son of God! In his opening sentence, Paul called this message “the Gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). How could Paul be ashamed of such a message, when it came from God and centered in His Son, Jesus Christ?”[2] The same question should be asked of ourselves. How can we be ashamed of the Gospel since it came to us from God. The Gospel is not a manmade thing. It is not something that we created. There is no program, there is not formula; it is simply all of God. He envisioned it, He wrote it, He initiated it, and He has offered it to all. Without the Gospel, there would be no hope. Without the great love of God, there would be no salvation. We should be very thankful for what God has given to us. God did not have to give us the Gospel. He did not have to provide a way of salvation for us. None of us deserve it. He gave us salvation because He loves us. It is a free gift, given to us by God. The knowledge of such truth should propel us to a life of greater worship and greater service.

The nature of the Gospel is power. Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the ‘power of God…’ The Gospel is a very powerful thing. Anything that comes from God is powerful, for God is all-powerful. “Why be ashamed of power? Power is the one thing that Rome boasted of the most. Greece might have its philosophy, but Rome had its power. The fear of Rome hovered over the empire like a cloud. Were they not the conquerors? Were not the Roman legions stationed all over the known world? But with all of her military power, Rome was still a weak nation. The philosopher Seneca called the city of Rome “a cesspool of iniquity”; and the writer Juvenal called it a “filthy sewer into which the dregs of the empire flood.”No wonder Paul was not ashamed: he was taking to sinful Rome the one message that had the power to change men’s lives! He had seen the Gospel work in other wicked cities such as Corinth and Ephesus; and he was confident that it would work in Rome. It had transformed his own life, and he knew it could transform the lives of others.” [3] The word ‘power’ comes from the Greek word ‘dynamis’ which is where we get the word ‘dynamite’. This ‘power’ is a transforming power. It has the ability to change a life completely. This is why Paul said in Second Corinthians: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”[4] When the Gospel takes root in one’s life, it literally changes their whole world. Their entire perspective on life is changed. The way the live is changed. As we will see later in verse 17, those whose lives are transformed by the Gospel will live a life of faith. Paul was not ashamed of this Gospel because he witnessed first-hand what it could do. He also experienced its transforming power in his own life. Paul was formally a persecutor of Christians, yet now, he is a missionary to the Gentiles! Many a life has been changed by the Gospel!

The purpose of the Gospel is salvation. The Gospel is the ‘power of God to salvation.’ The reason the Gospel is so powerful is because of what it brings. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states: “He identified it as the infinite resources (dynamis, “spiritual ability”) of God applied toward the goal of salvation in the life of everyone who believes.” [5] The ultimate goal of the Gospel is to bring salvation to all who would believe in it. We will learn latter on in Romans of man’s great need for salvation. We are lost in our sin with no hope. We cannot save ourselves. The only way is through the message and power of the Gospel. “That word “salvation” carried tremendous meaning in Paul’s day. Its basic meaning is “deliverance,” and it was applied to personal and national deliverance. The emperor was looked on as a savior, as was the physician who healed you of illness. The Gospel delivers sinners from the penalty and power of sin. “Salvation” is a major theme in this letter; salvation is the great need of the human race (see Rom. 10:1, 9–10). If men and women are to be saved, it must be through faith in Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the Gospel.”[6]

The scope of the Gospel is for all. Paul said that the Gospel is the ‘power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.’ The phrase ‘for everyone’ is the Greek word ‘pas’. This word is very simple. It means: ‘all’. Some of its adjectives include: any, total, any kind of, the universe, and all flesh. The point here is that there is not a single soul to whom the Gospel does not reach. It is available for all and to all. Christ did not die for a select group of people, He died for all.

The actual reception is only to those who believe. Though the Gospel is available and offered to all people, not everyone enjoys its benefits. The Gospel only becomes real to those who believe. The transforming power of the Gospel is given only to those who believe. God does not ask mankind to ‘behave’ in order to be saved, but to ‘believe’. How do we believe? We believe through faith. The act of believing through faith is an act of the human will made possible by the sovereign gift of God. In other words, in the scope God’s divine sovereignty, God created us with a free will. He gave us the ability to choose. He does not force salvation or condemnation on anyone. Salvation and condemnation come as a result of or response to our own personal choice. Only you can believe through faith. Though God gives every single human being the ability to believe, He will not believe for you. It is an act of the human will. I can preach the Gospel millions of times, but until you believe in it, you cannot be saved. I, nor the ministries of the church can save anyone. Our responsibility is to share with people the good news of the Gospel; it is up to those we share it with to make the choice to believe in it. Have you made that choice? Has there been a time in your life in which you believed in Jesus for salvation?

The proclamation of the Gospel is to the Jew first and also to the Greek. The procedure of proclaiming the Gospel as to the Jew first and then to the Greek is a Divine procedure. All throughout the book of Acts, we see Paul following this procedure even though He was called as a missionary to the Gentiles. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “Because the Jews were God’s Chosen People (11:1), the custodians of God’s revelation (3:2), and the people through whom Christ came (9:5), they have a preference of privilege expressed historically in a chronological priority. As the Lord Jesus stated it, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). In Paul’s ministry he sought out the Jews first in every new city (Acts 13:5, 14; 14:1; 17:2, 10, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8). Three times he responded to their rejection of his message by turning to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46; 18:6; 28:25–28; cf. comments on Eph. 1:12). Today evangelism of the world must include the Jews, but the priority of the Jews has been fulfilled.”[7] The point here, however, is that the Gospel must be proclaimed to everyone. Paul mentions this obligation to proclaim the Gospel in verse 14. As believers, we have a responsibility to bring as people as possible to faith in Christ before He returns.

The imputation of the Gospel is the righteousness revealed. Paul says, “For in it the righteousness of God is reveled from faith to faith.” One of the key words in the book of Revelation is ‘justification.’ To be justified is to be ‘declared righteous.’ When one comes to faith in Christ, he or she is declared righteous. This does not mean that we are righteous or that we become righteous in that moment. This righteousness that is imputed upon us is the righteousness that comes from God. He takes away our guilt and He replaces it with His righteousness. Therefore, when God sees us, He sees the righteousness of Jesus. This righteousness is imputed to us in response to our faith in Christ. “In response to faith this righteousness is imputed by God in justification and imparted progressively in regeneration and sanctification, culminating in glorification when standing and state become identical.”[8] As this righteousness is imputed upon us, we are ‘becoming’ righteous as we grow and walk with Him. One day, we will be completely made righteous, not just declared righteous, as we will be free from the presence of sin when we are with Him.

The result of the Gospel that that the righteous will continually live by faith. Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 when he says, ‘the just shall live by faith.’ The ‘just’ are those who have been ‘justified’. Those who are ‘justified’ are those who, through faith, believed in the Gospel and accepted God’s gift of grace made possible in the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Those ‘justified’ are declared righteous. It is these righteous ones or just ones that will live by faith. The evidence of true salvation is the faith life, lived by those who have believed. Faith in Christ is not a one-time thing. It is a continual thing. If you are truly saved, you will live a life of faith. Living a life of faith means that you completely trust in Jesus. You depend upon Him and you continue in Him. A true believer will never completely turn away from Christ. A true believer will continue in the faith. What about you? Are you living by faith? Do you trust in Jesus with every area of your life? Are you continuing in what you believe? Are you growing in your walk with Christ?

The Gospel is the most beautiful and glorious thing imaginable. There are no words to describe what the Gospel means and the implications it has on those who believe. It is a marvelous thing that must not be ignored. We should study it, examine it, love it, believe in it, and share it.

[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (Ro 1:16–17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Ro 1:16). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Ro 1:16). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4] The New King James Version. (1982). (2 Co 5:17–18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Eds.)The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 441). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[6] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Ro 1:16). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[7] Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Eds.)The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 441). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[8] Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Eds.)The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 441). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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