Chapter 1:8-17 (ESV) - First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Question to consider: What is the gospel, and why would Paul desire to preach it to Christians in the Roman church?
One of the frustrating things about language is that it tends to change over time depending on the culture. A group of people can use the same words and yet mean very different things. People will rail against the Bible as an antiquated book that uses ancient ideas and dead languages, but these are some of its greatest blessings because dead languages can’t be altered and ancient ideas can be compared and contrasted with modern ones to gain wisdom. It may take some work to get a true understanding of an idea, but I’ve always found that wrestling with God’s word proves to be more of a blessing than a burden.
One such word that seems to mean different things to different people is gospel (Greek euangeliō). Literally, it means “good news”, but Paul referred to some very specific good news when he used the term because he added the article “the” — not just some good news but the good news. Some people would say the gospel is, “Jesus died to give my life meaning and purpose” or “When you accept Jesus, He will help you to live your best life now.” You may very well find meaning and purpose in being a servant of Christ, and you may even experience blessings in this life (though I’ve often found being a Christian marks me as an enemy of this world), but at best these could be considered ancillary benefits.
Some people would say that the gospel is “believing in Jesus so I can go to heaven.” While this gets us closer to the mark, I guess it then hinges on what they mean by believing and heaven. If belief is treated like the kid who saves Christmas because he believes in the magic of Santa, or if heaven is treated like our very own dream vacation, this misses the mark.
The gospel is that Christ exchanged His righteousness for our sin, nailing it to a Roman cross, to reconcile us to God. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what your ancestry is. Paul said he wasn’t ashamed of it because he knew it was the only way we could stand before God in righteousness. He was not too proud to say that his standing before God depended entirely upon the work of Christ, and that his own attempts at being good were silly and worthless.
This exchange is done through faith— not merely belief in the existence of Jesus— but faith that His good works are good enough so that we may be counted among “the righteous”. This good news is not something that merely gets preached to unbelievers. Paul was eager to preach it in the church at Rome because even as Christians we need the continued assurance that we have been set free from the bondage of sin and reconciled to God.
Dear heavenly Father, thank You for removing our guilt and counting us among the righteous. Help the good news of that statement sink deep into our hearts so that we may walk in newness of life. Amen.