You Can Provide Clean Water to Persecuted Christians

I. Not Ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:1–17)


I. Not Ashamed of the Gospel (1:1–17)

1:1-2 The book of Romans is the clearest and most beautiful explanation of the gospel ever written. So it is no surprise that Paul begins, in the first verse, by talking about it. The word gospel means “good news” and is a translation of the Greek word euangelion. Throughout Romans it refers to the entirety of salvation: justification (salvation past), sanctification (salvation present), and glorification (salvation future).

This gospel—this good news—however, does not belong to Paul. Paul is a servant of Christ Jesus (1:1), whose gospel it truly is. In fact, this message long preceded Paul, for it had been promised beforehand through [God’s] prophets in the Holy Scriptures (1:2). The Old Testament gave signs of what the Messiah—the Christ—would be like, what he would bring, and what he would accomplish.

1:3-4 This Messiah was a descendant of David (1:3), which was no surprise to the Jews of Paul’s day. But what shocked them was the revelation that the Messiah was also the powerful Son of God (1:4). The Jews had expected a coming Messiah who would reign on David’s throne; they had not anticipated him to also be divine. Yet Paul could not deny that Jesus was both God and man, since by the resurrection of the dead (1:4) God the Father had established the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. The resurrection served as a demonstration and validation of Jesus’s divinity.

1:5-6 Paul was called by God to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the Gentiles (1:5). In other words, he was not to focus on taking the gospel to his fellow Jews (though he began there), but to the Gentiles.

1:7 Everything prior to this verse is, technically, a lengthy introduction to who Paul is. Beginning here, Paul greets the Roman Christians in his characteristic way: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The grace of God our Father leads to peace with Jesus Christ. We can’t have one without the other.

1:8 Paul gives thanks to God through Jesus Christ for the Roman church because the news of [their] faith [was] being reported in all the world. These, then, were not secret agent Christians; these people went public with their allegiance to God’s kingdom agenda. They were open in their testimony, just as all churches and believers should be. The result of that public confession was obvious: the gospel spread.

1:9-11 Paul deeply desired to go to Rome, so much so that he was always asking in [his] prayers for God to allow it (1:10). Why was Paul so insistent on seeing the Roman believers? He wanted to impart to [them] some spiritual gift to strengthen them (1:11). He wanted to have a spiritual impact on them and bring them spiritual benefit so that their ministry would be even stronger and their growth even deeper.

1:12-13 Paul’s brief words here model a healthy relationship between minister and church. He wants them to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith (1:12). Ideally, we encourage the one who ministers to us while he ministers to and encourages us. The Christian life is one of giving in every direction, always seeking to encourage and enrich others.

1:14-15 All of Paul’s ministry, his life, his every action, point toward one thing—the gospel. So Paul says, I am obligated to preach that gospel (1:14). He doesn’t have a choice. The cost of not sharing the gospel is too high. If you see your neighbor’s house on fire, do you shrug and say, “Glad that’s not my home”? No! You feel an obligation to act, because something valuable is at stake, and doing nothing is too costly.

Paul feels that kind of obligation to everyone. He is eager to preach the gospel (1:15) to people of every race, creed, culture, education level, and economic status—to Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and the foolish (1:14). Paul has one mission concerning all of them: get the gospel to them, because the price tag of not embracing it is so high and the gift to us is too great to miss.

1:16 Paul knows how to keep first things first: I am not ashamed of the gospel. That should convict us. Though we say we believe the gospel, in truth many of us are ashamed of it. Why? Because we don’t really believe what Paul believed, that the gospel is the power of God for salvation. This salvation is not merely for deliverance from hell but also for the deliverance of believers from the temporal wrath of God against sin (1:18). If we’re ashamed to share the gospel, it’s because we do not understand the power embedded in it. But how can you be ashamed of something with so much firepower? If you believe that the gospel has power not only to save sinners but also to give victory to saints, you won’t be ashamed of it.

1:17 Another reason Paul had confidence in the gospel was that in it the righteousness of God is revealed. The word righteousness means “to be right.” Not “better than others,” or “good enough,” but right, as in, right with God. Our problem is that we mentally dumb down God, reducing him to our level so that our sin doesn’t seem so bad. The gospel, though, makes God’s righteousness the standard. So it doesn’t matter how nice of a sinner you are, you are still a sinner.

The gospel, however, doesn’t just reveal the standard. It also gives us a provision: The righteous will live by faith. If we appeal to our relative goodness, we’ll always fall short. But if we appeal to God by faith, then the gospel has already saved us. Think of it this way. If I can’t afford a house, but a generous oil baron puts up his bankroll for me, does it matter that I have eighty-five dollars in my bank account? No! My finances are irrelevant. He bought the house for me. I am dependent on his resources, and he can afford it. That’s what the gospel is like: God has resources available for every believer who lives by faith. The act of faith in the finished work of Christ justifies us, and it is the lifestyle of faith that sanctifies and transforms us.