Over lattes, a friend and I found ourselves chatting about our beliefs. Her jaw dropped when I told her I believe the Bible is God’s authoritative truth and revelation to us. She could hardly believe I didn’t rely on any other religious writings/teachings. But at the time, I struggled to give her a reasonable explanation why I thought this. I’ve since found the following verses in Romans helpful. These two verses clearly state why the gospel is so important while stating a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith:
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” – Vs. 16-17
What is the Gospel Power?
God’s effective power, through His Holy Spirit, initiates and leads one to salvation. His inspired words contained in the Bible give us enough information to know Him—His character, purposes, love, and expectations—and also teach us how to have a personal relationship with Him. When we read and heed God’s words, God grows our faith, which is a gift from Him. He also transforms us into His likeness.
Shepherd’s Notes suggest that the salvation Paul describes is more than forgiveness of sins. It includes the big picture of being delivered from the results of our sin:
- Justification – Being set right with God; deliverance from the penalty of sin
- Sanctification – Growth in holiness; deliverance from the power of sin
- Glorification – Ultimate transformation into the likeness of Christ; deliverance from the presence of sin
Three Power Points of the Gospel
Paul wasn’t ashamed of the gospel’s Good News because he experienced God’s saving grace and life changing power in a BIG way. He also knew God’s salvation was available to everyone.
Shepherd’s Notes also observes the following gospel points in Romans 1:
- It’s the fulfillment of God’s promises (v. 2)
- It centers in the person of Jesus Christ (v. 3-4)
- It is the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (v. 16)
When we discipline ourselves to study the Bible and pray, God will lovingly meet us right where we are. God will help us through trials and grow us in Him. He longs to bless us with life both now and forever.
How is your Bible reading going?
“Get it? Got it? Good!” If the apostle Paul were alive today he might use this blunt lingo with his emphatic questions to the Jewish congregation. For sure, he wasn’t afraid to use repetition as a tool to drill into his reader’s comprehension. This theme wasn’t easy to understand and accept by God’s chosen Jews.
Paul’s “Courtroom Scene”
This passage models a courtroom scene. Shepherd’s Notes identifies the nuts and bolts in the following caption.
Paul hammers his point: The Jews who were under the Law were neither better off nor disadvantaged. Both Jew and Gentile stand equally guilty before God.
Paul weaves several Old Testament passages together in verses 10-17 to create a seamless support for verse 18, his weightiest rebuke: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Knowledge abounds in our information age, but wisdom is rare. Proverbs 1:7 (NLT) says, “Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” To fear the Lord is to revere, respect, and honor Him. This plumb line of acknowledging and trusting God should gauge our attitudes, principles, and actions.
In respect to God’s Law, its purpose is to guide our conduct. God never intended for the Law to save us through our best efforts and/or goodness. It’s easy to get caught up in a performance mode. I know, I’ve been there. How about you? Are you trying to earn or gain God’s acceptance?
When I’m biking I occasionally see deer grazing on the surrounding hills. I love watching them bound uphill, gracefully jumping over brush. If only I could painlessly leap over problems like that, I think to myself. But that rarely—if never—happens, unless God removes the obstacle(s). It’s not that God doesn’t grant strength, He does when asked. But rough terrain is par for the course during our earthly journey.
In fact, the Bible doesn’t promise believers that problems and trials will dissolve once we place our trust in Christ. Rather, God challenges us to embrace suffering as a source of joy (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7). Why? The results from Christian suffering bring spiritual maturity. This is another benefit of justification (God’s act of declaring us “not guilty” for our sins), along with a new relationship with God, access to God, and peace with God.
A New Understanding in Suffering
In this passage Paul—who was no stranger to suffering—outlines a linked-chain process of Christian suffering:
- “Suffering produces perseverance” (vs. 3): Suffering translated is pressure, distress from outward circumstances.
- “Perseverance produces character” (vs. 4): Character translated describes the quality of being approved. “Endurance brings proof that we have stood the test” (vs. 4, NEB).
- “Character produces hope” (vs. 4): Paul tells us that this hope “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (vs. 5).
My NIV Study Bible says it well: “In the future we will become, but until then we must overcome. This means we will experience difficulties that will help us grow. We rejoice in suffering not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life’s difficulties and Satan’s attacks to grow our character.”
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” -Romans 11:25
Paul then boldly declares: “. . . . all Israel will be saved,” (vs. 26). This surprising statement should be studied within the big picture of Paul’s previous statements about the nation Israel.
What is the basis of Paul’s claim?
Shepherd’s Notes suggests the following:
- Although interpreters differ widely in their understanding of this difficult passage, the most probable interpretation of the phrase “all Israel” is that it indicates a great turning of Israel to Christ, without specifying the conversion of every individual Jew, just as the “full number of Gentiles” does not mean that every Gentile will be saved.
- Israel’s salvation will be like all other people—responding in faith to the forgiveness made possible by Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection.
- Paul describes this as a “mystery”, which had been previously kept secret, but now revealed. This mystery contained the revelation of God’s will made known to all (1 Cor. 2:1,7; 4:1), which included Gentiles (Rom. 16:25-26; Col. 1:26-27; Eph. 3:3-6).
- The mystery of the New Testament is described as an open secret: “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
God—who is always at work in people’s lives—is gracious. He is extremely patient and longs for all to turn to Him for forgiveness and eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). He desires that everyone share in the blessings of the gospel (Eph. 2:11-13), made possible through Jesus’ work (Col. 2:2, Eph. 1:9), and His indwelling Holy Spirit (Col. 1:26-27).