An Introduction to Romans
“Paul, A servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God….”
There are certain things that we need to know to interpret any letter. We need to know who is writing the letter. We need to know the context in which they are writing. We need to know who they are writing to. And we need to know the purpose for which they are writing. And in the introduction of the book of Romans all of these questions, and much more, are answered.
This first verse answers the question of who is writing this letter. The book begins with a name, Paul. Paul was not always known as such. There was a time which he was known by the name Saul of Tarsus. The name given represents the radical change that occurred in his life through the revelation of Christ Jesus. Saul of Tarsus was a man of great means according to the Scripture. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews. He was also born a free Roman citizen which was a much sought after status in the days of the Roman Empire. He was a Pharisee, the most strictest and revered religious sect of Israel. He therefore was a man of great authority. And he was able to boast of a great level of personal righteousness. He said that according to the righteousness which was in the law, he was perfect. We could sum it up by saying that Saul of Tarsus had everything.
But that is only part of the story. He was, unbeknownst to himself, the chief of sinners (as we all should feel that we are). He through ignorance moved against the followers of Christ. He was a blasphemer of God in that he persecuted the church of God. It was even said that because of his hatred for the name of Jesus Christ that he compelled others to blaspheme. It was by his own authority, under Jewish rule, that Stephen was stoned. He held the coats of those who stoned him to death. He received letters from the high priests to go to areas beyond and kill and imprison those who confessed the name of Christ. By Saul’s own confession then he was a blasphemer, a murderer, and a wicked sinner. So this man who had everything was truly nothing; more than a candidate for hell.
Something happened to Saul of Tarsus which merited a change in name. Or rather we may say that someone happened to him. On the road to Damascus, we all know the story, he encountered the risen Christ. He heard the noise and he saw the intense light of Christ’ coming. He said that He saw this as one born out of due time for this no doubt will be the glory of Christ that will be seen at His second coming. It is also that which all of Israel will see when they look on Him whom they pierced at which point they will all be saved. Saul of Tarsus realized that day that all his righteousness was filthy rags compared to pure light of Christ. From that point he who had everything saw that it was not enough. He counted his own righteousness as dung that he may win Christ. He declared that he did not want to be found in his righteousness but in the righteousness of Christ. He was born again that day when he called Jesus Christ ‘Lord.’
We saw in conversion of Jacob and change of name. He was no longer Jacob the supplanter but Israel the prince. We saw in our study of Matthew how Levi which represented a name under the law become know as Matthew the blessed apostle. Here we see a similar change of name which represents the same change of character through the new birth. Saul was a name of rebellion as it was for Israel’s first king. Paul was a name of obedience to which we hang the term apostle. And Paul could do nothing better than to go from place to place telling peasants and kings about how he met Christ. Time and time again in the Acts and epistles Paul shared the story of his conversion with others. He showed us the power of testimony. And that is all wrapped up in the first word of this mighty epistle.
After his name Paul shared his own thoughts about himself. Paul who was Saul the rebel, the proud and haughty man, now simply calls himself Paul a servant. Paul is a humbled name that means small. I wonder, if we were asked to share with others something about ourselves, what would we say? Would we read off our resume? Would we spend time spouting off all of our accomplishments? Or could we simply call ourselves servants of Jesus Christ. The mind of Paul was after Christ from the moment he called Jesus ‘Lord’ at his conversion. I believe in Lordship salvation. I believe that Christ becomes Lord over those to whom He saves. Salvation is a change that changes men from being against Christ to being after Christ. Paul will share later in the sixth chapter that we were the slaves of sin when we were lost but we are now the slaves of righteousness, that is, we are slaves to Christ. Each of us are slaves to someone. Just tell me what you do and I will tell you who your master is. Paul said that he was a bond slave of Christ. He was willing to do His work, bare His shame, and work for His glory. We are all somebody’s fool. In this age where proud men claim to be the captain of their own fate this may sound odd. The Psalmist said that he would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than to dwell in pleasure in the tents of the wicked. What about you? Is the pleasure of Christ your highest joy? Or would you rather follow some pet sin which you call pleasure? Are you a servant of Christ? In other words, have you really met Christ? Paul said this because he was saved.
Paul also called himself a servant of Christ because there is no greater vocation. The greatest among the church will be those who serve others. Those were the words of Christ Himself. Paul had a servant’s heart with Jesus as his master. We live in a selfish and self interested age. Church even has become a very selfish place. Hence the new church fad is the seeker friendly church. People come to church for what they can get out of it. People only help people if it ultimately helps them. Paul saw himself as a servant of Christ to others. His reward was not what he could get out of it. And as we read the way Paul labored over this letter and pleaded for the benefit of others we see that servants heart. Church, and life as a whole, is not about what we can get out of it. It is all about what we can add to it for the glory of Christ.
Paul then says something else about himself, he was called to be an apostle. We note that the words “to be” are italicized in our King James Version. He was “called an apostle.” He did not seek the authority of himself but was given it by the same one to whom he said that he served. This is the basis of the authority to which he wrote. He wrote as a chosen witness of the resurrected Christ. The eleven apostles saw the risen Christ and wrote with authority as eye witness. We speak of apostolic authority. That is found right here in the pages of this book. There is no such thing as apostolic authority today unless they are talking about the Bible which was written by those very eye witnesses. An Apostle then is a chosen witness of Christ that God used and inspired to write and preserve the witness of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. All of the New Testament was written by apostolic authority, and Paul has written almost one third of that. The Catholics are among many that like to claim apostolic authority, or apostolic succession, which allows them to add to the word of God (which is expressly forbidden) by the development of traditions. They even have verse to back this idea up: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (I Thess. 2:15). But, they fail to realize that those traditions which we have received are the very traditions and doctrines which are written by the apostles. What does not agree with this apostolic authority (the New Testament) is no authority at all. Paul was an apostle. Christ names apostles (Luke 6:13). It is His grace and authority which made men witnesses for Him. Christ named twelve and lost one, Judas. The eleven that were left sought for one to take the office of Judas. But Jesus Christ Himself found the twelfth apostle. The New Jerusalem will have twelve foundations of precious stones and with the name of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. I believe Paul’s name will be there.
Last of all, Paul describes himself as being “separated unto the gospel of God.” What the gospel is and what it does is the theme for the rest of the book. It is the in its most basic form the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But, the gospel, as we shall see, takes in all the implications of that good news. Paul saw himself as wholly set apart for the gospel. We spend a lot of time today talking about what we are separated from. We talk about how we do not do this and that. This is a negative separation and it can lead to Phariseeism if we do not get the full essence of what separation and sanctification are. It is not about what we are separated from but what we are separated to. The husband on his wedding day is being separated from all other women physically and emotionally, that is negative separation. But the husband is separating to his wife, cleaving unto her and becoming one with her. This is positive separation. God has set apart those who are saved for himself (Ps. 4). This is the essence of living the Christian life. We are separated unto God. We are separated unto His work. No doubt Paul was especially separated to preach the word to the Gentiles. But, God has a special purpose for us in the work of the gospel as well. We must see ourselves in this same light; not reducing the Christian life to a list of things we do not do, but seeing the Christian life as things that we do for the sake of the gospel.
The next thing that is shared in this text is the context in which Paul writes: “(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ….” And the context which moved Paul to write was the ultimate reality. Paul was not concerned about the political climate of the day, though that seems to be what we are always concerned with. His context had nothing to do with economics or anything else. He was writing from the context of what God had done. And this is the ultimate reality. Five specific acts of God formed the context which moved Paul to write this letter.
First, Paul wrote from the context of a promised fulfilled. The parentheses in the second verse refer back to the gospel of God. The volume of the book was written of Christ. From the very first promise of the seed in the third chapter of Genesis to the very last promise of Sun of Righteousness in the last chapter of Malachi, all the expectation of the Old Testament prophets were proclaiming the promise of God that there would be a Savior that would come. The promise involved the actual details of the gospel as well. They promised the Christ would die for the sins of men. This was declared by type in the law by the lamb slain on the Passover, the scapegoat and the sacrificial goat of the Day of Atonement, and all other sacrifices in the Levitical system. In fact it was declared in type from the very beginning. Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. It was declared not only in type but in open declaration. The most open declaration was found in the book of Isaiah when he prophesied this: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:5, 6). It openly declared that He would be raised from the dead. “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Ps. 16:10). So, the volume of the book was written of Him. The Old Testament in type and in full declaration was a promissory note from God of a coming Savior. But it goes much deeper than that. The Old Testament told the exact details of the Savior. It told what tribe He would be from. It told what family He would be born in. It told the town of His birth. It told the exact day when He would ride triumphantly into Jerusalem (Dan. 9). It told the exact amount of money that He would be sold for. It foretold the exact manner of His death. It even told us what words His enemies would use to mock Him while He was on the cross. And these only scratch the surface of what was fulfilled when Christ came. God spoke in times past by His prophets. The words of those prophets are contained in what Paul calls the Holy Scriptures (By the way Peter tells us the Paul’s writing are Scripture as well). They were holy because they came from God. Paul is writing under the context of God openly keeping His promise to men. The promise was fulfilled and the Savior had come. God is not slack concerning His promises.
Secondly, Paul wrote from the context of a Son being sent. The entire message of God’s gospel concerns one person, Jesus Christ. He is fully identified in this third verse. He is Jesus the man of Nazareth. He is the Christ, the anointed King and Messiah. He is our Lord and Master. He is the offspring of David. And most importantly, He is God’s own Son. He is the eternal Son who possessed the glory of God from the beginning (John 17). He did not become God’s Son at His incarnation. He did not become God’s Son, as some ignorantly believe the fourth verse of our text to teach, when He rose from the grave. He was begotten in eternity. Before the earth was He was brought forth. God is immutable and never became a Father. God the Father is eternally the Father and God the Son is eternally the Son. So it God’s Son of which the gospels speaks. He is the one that created the universe and the one that upholds it. He came down to be clothed in flesh. That is a condescension that we cannot comprehend. He according to Paul in the eighth chapter of Romans tells us that this condescension involved taking on the likeness of sinful flesh. He did not take upon Himself the nature of man in perfection. He took on the nature of man as fallen. He did not take on the nature of angels, even though that would be a great humiliation, but He took on Himself the seed of Abraham, and in this case, the seed of David. God had said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah” (Ps. 89:3, 4). Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Lord, the son of David and the Son of God has now set down at the right hand of God with the promise that He will reign forever and ever. The Son has been sent, praise God!
Thirdly, Paul is writing under the context of a power that was declared. We notice again that the words “to be” are in italics in the King James Version. In essence them Paul said “Jesus of Nazareth was declared the Son of God.” The word declare means to make known or state clearly, to announce officially, to state emphatically, to manifest, reveal, and to show something to be true. Christ was declared to be the Son of God by an official event, the resurrection from the dead. This event left the question of who Jesus Christ was beyond dispute. That is why the greatest apologetic we have is the fact that 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ rose from the grave. There is no greater evidence to the truth of the Christian faith than the empty grave. He is openly showed beyond all doubt, or as Luke stated in the first chapter of Acts, by many infallible proofs, to be the Son of God with power. We will speak more specifically of the power of God unto salvation when we get to the end of this introduction. But within the context of this verse He is the Son of God with power to save us from death in that He rose from the dead. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14, 15). We are free from sin, we are free from the curse of the law, and we are free from the wages of sin because one more powerful than death has come! Think about the power which death has shown us to swallow up life. Now think of the power that lies in Christ to overcome it. And Christ did this “according to the spirit of holiness.” What does this mean? It means that the holiness, the sinless perfection of Christ, the spirit of righteousness which was in Him would not allow death to hold Him. He was the Lamb of God without spot. He was indeed made sin for us, in that He stood in our stead as the sinner and died our death, the just for the unjust, but, He Himself knew no sin (II Cor. 5:21, Heb. 4:13-15). Peter stated this: “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:22-24). Death may forever hold the one who died in sin but it could not hold Jesus Christ the righteous. Justice will not allow it. He is the Son of God with power.
Fourthly, Paul writes under the context of a gift received. It is by Christ that we have received the gift of grace. He is the fountain head of all grace. We have received by Him forgiveness, redemption, remission, righteousness, justification, sanctification, and all that we need. So we have received all grace through Him. But we also have received all authority from Him. The apostles received their authority from Christ. And, as we saw earlier, this authority rests in the Scriptures. The authority that we have in the Bible we have received from the finished work of Christ. We are not left without a Word from God, but we now have a more sure word of prophecy based upon the finished work. But let us not come to believe that these things were given to us in vain. They were given to us “for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name….” The faith of Christ demands something of us. Faith is not just something we believe or trust; it is to be something that we act upon. We are meant to be obedient to our faith. It demands that we show Christ to the nations. It demands that we be missionaries to the world. It demands that we act for the glory of the name of Christ for there is no other name given under heaven whereby men must be saved. This is the context which drives Paul.
Finally, Paul writes from the context of a common ground found among those who are saved. Each and every man that is saved is called of Christ. The old Calvinist would call this the effectual calling. We are called of Christ to enter into grace. We are also called of Christ to go into all nations for the glory of Christ. This common ground binds all saints together. We are the called of God. And “…whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). There is equality among the saints.
Paul then tells us who the letter is written to: “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 6). Specifically, Paul wrote to saints in Rome. In this letter there is no mention of the persecution of the Roman Christians under Nero or the destruction of Jerusalem so this letter was written before A.D. 60. This therefore is an early letter and represents the faith of the first generation of Christianity. This is not the result of hundreds of years of myth making but is a full representation of the beliefs of the first Christians. This is also powerful evidence for the truth of Christianity. Within thirty years of resurrection there was a significant Christian presence in the Roman world. This was true even though if Christ had not risen from the grave detractors could have proven it. There are then two great proofs here for the truth of Christianity. The first generation Christians were fully convinced of the truth of Christ that they developed in great numbers and spread throughout the Roman Empire. And within that first generation of Christianity there is not one single known voice disproving the faith of Christianity. But the fact that this is written to the Roman church 2,000 years ago does not mean that it has no bearing on us today. This is not a dead letter but the living word of God and it is addressed to those who are beloved or greatly loved of God. This is you and me who have a share in Christ. This is written to all who are called to be saints. That is you and me. A saint is not a special group of people who have been selected by the church to be called saints. A saint is one who is sanctified by God. That is what we were called to be. We were set apart by God for salvation. We are being set apart by God for service. And we will be sanctified by God for all eternity to be with Him forever. All who are saved are called to be saints. And at the end of this benediction Paul states his prayer for those who receive this letter: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” Paul’s intent is to add more of God’s grace to us by the increasing of our knowledge of Christ. As Peter said, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Paul also desired to increase our peace by our learning. The more we learn doctrinal and practical truth and the more we put it to use the more peace we will have. And Paul realized that the fountain of grace and peace is from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. Grace and peace come from God alone and belong only to those who can call Jesus their Lord and their Savior.
That brings us to the most important point of the introduction which is purpose for writing the letter. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” There are three specific reasons that Paul gives for writing this letter: he writes it out of love for Christians, he writes it out of a desire to win the lost, and he writes it out of a desire to preach the gospel.
Paul begins with the human element and he begins with those to whom he is directly addressing. And he spends much time expressing this great love that he has towards those who belong to Christ in Rome. The first thing that Paul did was express his thankfulness for them. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” Everywhere that Paul had gone in his missionary journeys he had heard reports concerning the faithfulness of the Christians in Rome. He had heard of their faith (that they witnessed a good confession concerning Christ) and of their faithfulness (that it stood despite the wickedness of the city). And Paul turned and placed the thanks for this at the feet of God. Whenever we see people confessing Christ and whenever we see them standing for Christ we must recognize this is a great work of God and give God the thanks for it. And we must give God thanks for doing this work “through Jesus Christ.” It is only through the Son that men have faith. The point we see here is that we should be thankful for what we see God doing in other people. This is the same pattern which Christ gave when he saw men being revealed things by God. “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Matt. 11:25).
Not only was Paul thankful for his fellow Christians but he was also praying for them. “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers….” Paul called God to his witness over this fact. Paul was not a nominal Christian. He said that he served with his spirit in the gospel of God’s Son. Paul knew something about true worship. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). True Christianity is a spiritual matter and not wholly a physical matter. We have reduced the Christian life today to a few physical things that we do. We show up to church once a week, we give tithes, we go out and knock on doors for a couple of hours, we read our Bible once a day (I hope), we have a few minutes in prayer in the morning and evening, and then we stand up and say that we are true worshippers of God. Paul shows a glimpse of true worship. He worshiped with His spirit in the gospel. True worship and true communion with God is done with the spirit. It is done with an open line of communication with God, always. And when Paul was in the presence of God other Christians were on his heart and he made request for them. This spirit needs to again be among us today. I do not believe we pray for one another the way we should. I believe if we saw more prayer among the church that we would see less of us struggling with sin. What we lack today is a genuine love for one another which translates in our worship to prayers ascending for one another’s benefit. True worship is spiritual and it is not self-centered but rather Christ and others centered.
Paul also had a longing to see these that were in Christ. He was “making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.” He was praying that God would give him safe traveling mercies. Our going and coming is dependent on the will of God. And we should always see this as such. “Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:13-15). But, He was praying that he might be with those who love Christ. Now, let us be honest, is it our desire to be among the people of God. Everyone that has the love of God in them ought also to love the brethren. Would you rather be in the bar room or the church house? Would you rather be with those who love sin or those who love Jesus? Paul longed to be with the people of God. I do not understand how some people come into church and act as if they don’t want to be here. I do not understand the people who show up five minutes late and are out of the door as soon as the last prayer is said. Paul longed to be with God’s people. And the closer I get to God the more I see church as a slice of heaven on earth.
Further, Paul had a desire to help the people of God. “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established….” Church is not about what you can get out of it. Church is meant to be about others. We desire to be with other Christians, not only that we may be encouraged to live for Christ and to be witnesses, but, that we may encourage others to do so. It is about exhorting one another and building one another up in the faith. Paul wanted to impart something to the church at Rome. He wanted to use what the Lord had given him and impart that to others. The light is meant to be put on the candlestick and not under a bushel. It is meant to give light to the whole house. The end goal of Paul is that the people in the church at Rome would be established in the gospel of Christ. His desire is that they would not be wavering. It is our desire to create a firm foundation for believers. So Paul desires to add something to them, knowledge of the Word of God, knowledge of gospel, experience of the truth, etc. What about us? Is it our longing to see and help fellow believers?
And Paul wrote out of a desire to have Christian fellowship with them. “That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” Paul was not lording over them. Paul had a genuine desire for fellowship. Paul knew one simple truth; to serve the brethren would add comfort to himself. Notice the terms of fellowship in this verse, “together with you,” “mutual faith,” and “you and me.” Paul’s reward would be the comfort of Christian brotherhood. Paul’s faithfulness would be rewarded by the faithfulness of those whom he served. We as Christians, by virtue of our life in Christ, have a symbiotic relationship with other Christians.
But, Paul did not just write out love for the saved but also he writes out of a desire to win the lost. He did not hide his intention to do so. “Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.” He wanted them to know that his desire to come, a desire that was yet being hindered by circumstances, was to have fruit among them in the same way that he was winning souls among the Gentiles. He had had a promise from God that he would preach the gospel in Rome and it was his desire to do so. God has given us a field to reap in. It should be our desire to bring the fruit in. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:6). Paul was not satisfied with that which he had already accomplished among the Gentiles. Paul wanted fruit in Rome as well. So many Christians become complacent with what they have done. They used to win souls. They used to bring souls into the church. They used to work in the fields. And, I am glad for such Christians for sadly some are only content to warm pews. But, it is not good to lack a desire and will to go on and bear more fruit. “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37, 38). I am not trying to brow beat anyone here. I look with weeping among those among us when I see how little fruit that I have brought in. We should desire more fruit.
The reason why Paul is desiring to preach at Rome is also explained. “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” Paul was a debtor. He owed men the truth. And we owe mankind nothing less today. Paul was not concerned with false divisions of mankind. He knew only that those men were sinners. He knew only that they were loved of God because of Christ. He knew only that he had the truth without which they would perish. Those who have strength to help are obligated by God to help. How could we look at mankind in need and not feel indebted to help. Love your neighbor is the command of God. We can walk around in indifference to ones lying on Jericho Road. We need to get past our prejudices and preach the gospel. We owe it to men to tell them how they may flee from the wrath to come. We have been set up as watchmen. “When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand” (Eze. 33:8). We have one debt to society and that is to preach. And we should hold nothing back. Paul said that “as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel.” Did you get that part. We should give the gospel with as much is in us. Why do we spend time shadow boxing with the truth. Why do we jog when there is a race to win. There is one life that is soon past and only that which we do for Christ will last.
That brings us to the great summary of Paul’s purpose and consequently the theme of the book. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” To Paul the gospel was not a source of shame. That is not true for most today. People today do not blush at nakedness and debauchery but they blush when the gospel becomes the topic of conversation. We are told today that we ought to be ashamed of what is written in the Word of God. So, we do not speak. We do not want to be laughed at or ridiculed for believing in the death and resurrection of Christ. We do not want to be labeled a bigot for saying that Christ can save men from their sins. We do not want to be thought of as prudish. Paul was confronted with the same sense of shame but said he was not ashamed. He said that it was “the power of God unto salvation.” Note the definite article “the.” There is no other power that can save. The church is not God’s power unto salvation. Works are not God’s power unto salvation. The gospel does not share the power of salvation with anything else either. It is the gospel of Christ alone that can save. And as we go through this book we will find that it is the gospel that saves men in every way. The gospel saves men from the penalty of sin through justification. The gospel saves men from the power of sin through sanctification. The gospel is that which will save men from the very presence of sin in glorification. The gospel of Christ is central to life and godliness. Some men have only a form of godliness because they have denied the power of godliness which is the gospel. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is all men need to be saved. This causes all shame to flee away. The gospel is not only the power of God (God’s dynamite if you will) but it is that only which can save all men. The gospel will work everywhere that it is tried. There is no sin to dark, nor is there any sinner to wicked. There is no culture that it cannot heal, nor is there any life that it cannot change. It was able to save the Jew first in order of time and promise. It is able to save the Greek. Christ is sufficient for all. To the Jew He is the power of God. To the Greek He is the wisdom of God. Christ is all in all.
Paul not only tells us that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation but it is also where the righteousness of God is revealed. This is especially important to the doctrine of sin that Paul is going to tackle first in the proceeding verses. “For therein [that is, in the gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed….” The hatred and wrath of God is revealed at the cross. The fact that man, as a sinner, must suffer wrath is displayed plainly in the gospel. But that is not the point that Paul is trying to make. The point is that the righteousness which saves men is revealed in the gospel. It takes perfect righteousness for a man to be saved. That is what is offered through Christ in the gospel. This verse is best summed up in the following quote. John Gill said that the righteousness of God in this text is “that righteousness which he wrought out by obeying the precepts, and bearing the penalty of the law in the room of his people, and by which they are justified in the sight of God: and this is called ‘the righteousness of God,’ in opposition to the righteousness of men: and because it justifies men in the sight of God; and because of the concern which Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit, have in it…. This righteousness is not known by the light of nature, nor by the law of Moses; it was hid under the shadows of the ceremonial law, and is brought to light only by the Gospel; it is hid from every natural man, even from the most wise and prudent, and from God’s elect themselves before conversion, and is only made known to believers, to whom it is revealed….” It is the gospel that reveals the justice of God and His mercy. The righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel for it answers the hardest riddle ever put before men: How can God be just and the justifier of men? The answer is the gospel.
This righteousness of God is only revealed in one way, by faith. It is revealed “from faith to faith.” It is from the preaching of faith to the receiving of faith that men are saved. Matthew Henry said it best when he said this: “Faith is all in all, both in the beginning and progress of Christian life. It is not from faith to works, as if faith put us into a justified state, and then works kept us in it; but it is all along from faith to faith; it is faith pressing forward, and gaining the victory over unbelief.” Did not Christ say that salvation belongs to him that believeth (note the “eth” at the end of the word that tells us of a continuance in belief)? And this then sums it up “The just shall live by faith.” This was an Old Testament text that is quoted here in the New Testament three times (Hab. 2:4, Gal. 3:11, Heb. 10:38). Those who are justified by God are the just. They live, not physically but spiritually (that is to say they are given eternal life), only by faith. Paul is then giving us the formula for all men through the gospel, whether they be Jew or Greek. There is only one way to be saved and that is to trust the one who died and rose again. The just shall live by faith.