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Romans 1:16-17 – sold on the good news

The Bible Text

Romans 1:16-17
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans+1%3A16-17&version=NIVUK
Context
Paul introduced himself to the church at Rome as one who was called by God for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel (v1, 9) to the Gentiles (v5, 13) – ie, non-Jews. He described the gospel as pertaining to the person of Jesus Christ (v3) – the promised Messiah – and the power of God displayed in the resurrection (v4). The gospel is also about an obedience that comes from faith (v5) and of belonging to Jesus Christ (v6).
The faith of the Roman church is widely known (v8) and Paul longs to visit them so that they can both encourage one another by their faith (v12). Paul is committed (or tied/bound) to preaching the gospel to Greek and non-Greeks, ie to Greeks and beyond! (v14
Structure
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel
​because it is the power of God
​​​that brings salvation
​​​​​to everyone who believes:
​​​​​​​first the Jew,
​​​​​​​then to the Gentile [lit. Greek].

17 ​For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed
​​​​ – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,
​​just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’

NB the focus of these verses is the statement (I am not ashamed of the Gospel) and the comprehensive reason why: the gospel explains the righteousness of God. The text above is given a new line for each clause that expands on the previous. So, ‘the power of God’ ‘brings salvation’. This salvation is ‘to everyone who believes’. When he says everyone, he means ‘Jew’ and the rest of the world! (Greek culture was dominant throughout the middle east and Europe and Paul had stated in verse 14 that he wanted the gospel to go even beyond the known world!)

Notes on the Text
V16.
For’ tells us that Paul is giving this statement to explain why he is so passionate about visiting the Romans to share his faith (v12) and for preaching the gospel into all the world (v14-15). Why is he committing all his time and energy and life into this gospel? Verses 16-17 are his answer – and the rest of the book expand on the teaching here!
‘I am not ashamed’ – in the positive, this statement might read: I am proud or boastful of the gospel! I will shout it from the rooftops – like a one-eyed football supporter on grand final night. Paul is not shy or bashful to speak of this gospel. There is no place on the earth where he would choose to keep his mouth shut about it.
‘the gospel’ – what is the gospel? Paul describes that It brings salvation and that it is the power of God. Earlier, he described it’s content (see context above).
‘It is the power of God’ – it is the work, power, ability and strength of God. See 2 Tim 1:8; 1Co 1:18; Rom 1:4; 1Co 1:24; 1Cor 4:20; Phil 3:10; 2 Tim 3:5. The gospel is not merely a philosophy or hopeful thinking – it is God’s works done on the cross and his resurrection and his continued transformation of sinners from death to life that is being proclaimed!
‘brings salvation’ – notice that salvation has been brought to us and not bought! This is a tiny difference in language that makes an immense difference in practice. Paul will spend the first three chapters of Romans describing how sinful the human race is. There is no contribution that we do or can make to obtain or earn or barter for salvation. It is the grace of God. A gift. The message that describes the gospel delivers to the ears of believers the power of God to transform them from guilty to not guilty.
‘to everyone who believes’ – although it is a free gift, it is one that needs to be communicated and believed. God has not done a deal to cure sin behind closed doors, like grown-ups paying for school fees t the ignorance of their children. Salvation has been one on the human stage, at the cross, so that the good news could be described and the story retold and so people could choose to believe.
‘first the Jew and then the gentile’ – one school of thought teaches that all Jews will be saved and that salvation is a priority to them. It seems easiest, in the context of Paul’s own words, to think that God gave the Jews the first privilege of hearing the gospel through the OT scriptures and then through the personal testimony of The Lord Jesus Christ. Paul has made it his priority to take the god news to the Gentiles. He is not waiting around Jerusalem for all the Jews to respond.

V17
‘For’ – why is Paul not ashamed of the gospel? Because it reveals the righteousness of God.
‘righteousness of God’ – this describes the truth that all things done by God are right. He is the father of light and in him there is no darkness. He is holy. All his ways are just. Righteousness is almost synonymous with justified. God is justified when he speaks and acts. The question is, how can sinners who are guilty be set free without punishment? How can a just God allow that? The answer is the Gospel. The righteousness of God is the grace of God and the grace of God is the righteousness of God! When the gospel is understood, it is seen that God is justified and righteous.
This righteousness is for us and it is obtained by faith (eph 2:8-9). Faith is all about trust that is handed over to the Father. I am saved because I trust God and pursue a life of trusting him deeper and deeper. My salvation begins by surrendering my life to God and continues that way. Salvation is not the beginning of a life of trying to stay saved by works. The only works I do is the pursuit of continued trust in Him who saved me. That is why Paul ends with ‘the righteous shall live by faith’. The Christian life ought to be defined by faith. Not bible knowledge or outward appearances but by a trust in God.

Theme
The passion of and for the gospel appears as a strong theme here. The content of the gospel message must be gleaned from many parts of scripture to get a complete picture – indeed Paul does an outstanding job for us in all of Romans! – but this passage focuses on the reason for Paul devoting all his life, prayers and duties to proclaiming it.
The gospel as the power of God. That is, the good news is no mere philosophy or Sunday religion. It is God at work in the world! Many will look for signs and miracles and prosperity through religion but the gospel is a revealed knowledge of how God is truly and faithfully and consistently at work in the world. You want to see the power of a God? Look at all who have been transformed by the great news that salvation has come to sinners. Preach the gospel and watch what happens.
Application

  • know the gospel. Is it something that has grabbed your heart?
  • is your Christian faith something that you keep hidden?
  • the world needs to hear the good news and we are able to pray for gospel workers and support them or go ourselves.
  • mission work needn’t be far away. We have plenty of opportunies in our lives to take the gospel to others. What is your plan for doing that?

Prayer
Dear Father in heaven, we praise you for the passion you have displayed for this world. We thank you for the gift of salvation that we can receive by faith. Change us, we pray, to be people who are passionate about the gospel. May we not be ashamed to take the message that describes your power and share it in our world. Amen.

Questions
What does it mean to be a Christian?
Are you able to share your Christian story in around 2 minutes?
What does it mean to live by faith?