The Gospel of Jesus Christ – Romans 1:16-17
Pastor Mark Hardy November 27, 2011
On December 5, 1986 Walter Wyatt, Jr. flew his Beechcraft airplane from Nassau to Miami. A trip that usuallytook him onlysixty-five minutes, this time took him much longer. Since his navigation system was stolenby thieves sometime earlier, he flew with only a compass and a hand-held radio. But while in flight his compass malfunctioned and he ended uplost and going in the wrongdirection. He immediately used his hand-held radio to put out a mayday call, which brought a Coast Guard Falcon search plane to lead him to an emergency landing strip justsix miles away.
However,since he had gone so far in the wrong direction, Walter’s planesuddenly ran out of gas around8 pm and he had to crash land it into the ocean. He survived the crash, and managed to quickly get out of the planebefore it sank. With blood dripping from his head into the water, hefloated on his back in his life vest. Suddenly Walterfelt a hard bump against his body. A shark had found him. After kickingthe intruderon its next pass, Walterwondered if he would survive the night. For the next ten hoursas he floated in the ocean no other sharks bothered him. But at dawnhe saw another dorsal fin heading for him and again a shark brushed against him. Then two more sharks were coming toward him. Each timethey got close he kicked them and they veered away, but he was nearing exhaustion.
Suddenly he heard the sound of a distant airplane. When it was within a half mile, he took off his orange life vest and started to wave it. The pilot saw him and radioedto the ship Cape York, which was only twelve minutes away. He told the captain there were sharks around Walter and he had better hurry. When the ship finally arrived, exhausted and hurting Walterslowly climbed the ladder out of the water and onto the ship, where he fell to his knees and kissed the deck.
Now nothing less than outside interventionfrom otherscould have rescuedWalter Wyatt from sure physical death. In a similar way,nothing less than outside interventionfrom Godcan rescue us from sure eternal death. We’llsee this in the passage we will be looking at this morning.Turn with me in your Bible to the book of Romans.
As we continue on in our study of Romans 1, Paul has just told the Roman believers about his call into the gospel ministry,revealed his caring heart about them, and expressed his eagerness to preach the gospel to them in vv. 1-15. As we now come to vv. 16-17,hetransitions into the themeof his letter—the gospel of Jesus Christ. In these two verses Paul summarizesthe gospel, which is the mostlife-saving and life-transforming truththat Godhasever given to mankind. And hewill proceed to unfold and explainit further throughout the remainder of theletter.
In Romans 1:16-17 we see fourreasons why you as a believer should never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Thefirst reasonis because:
I. It Originated from God aboutChrist
A.Look at v. 16where Paul proclaims: ForI am not ashamed of the gospel… (Stop there)
1. Now the word “For” (gar)occurs three times in vv. 16-17. Thefirst “For” here in v. 16links this verse with v. 15 and explains why Paul was soeager to preach the gospel in Rome.
2. It is because Paul was “…not ashamed of the gospel.” We have already seenthat the “gospel” (evaggelion) is the Good News of salvation.
3. In v. 1 it is called the “gospel of God” because itoriginatedfrom God the Father not man.Andin v. 2we saw thatthesubstanceof the gospel is “concerning His Son.”
4. This is why in v. 9 it is called “the gospel of His Son.”Therefore, the gospel originated from God about Christ.
5. It isnot some man-made philosophy or system of works righteousness whereby man tries to earn eternal life in heaven.It is the true gospel from God Himself concerning what He did for man in the death, burial, and resurrection of the God-Man, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:3-4), “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).
6. Since Paul knew what the gospeltruly was, he didn’t let anyone or anything stop him from boldly proclaiming it wherever he went (Gal. 6:14). Although he hadplenty of reasons to be ashamed of the gospel, he never was.
7. For preaching the gospel Paul was stoned and supposed to be dead in Lystra,imprisoned in Philippi, chased out of Thessalonica, smuggled out of Damascus and Berea, laughed at in Athens, considered a fool in Corinth, and declared a blasphemer and lawbreaker in Jerusalem.
8. The gospel of Jesus Christ is offensive, intimidating, and repulsive to the natural, unsaved person and to the ungodly spiritual system of the world. But in spite of all the opposition, contempt, ridicule, and persecution it brought against him, not once was Paul“ashamed of the gospel.”
9. The word “ashamed” (epaischunomai) means to feelfear or embarrassment.And since the gospelis aboutJesus, to be ashamed of itis really to be ashamed of Him, which Paul never was.
B. It was only because of God’sgracein his lifeand Holy Spiritboldness (Acts 1:8) that enabled Paul to “not be ashamed,” but other believers have not appropriated these divine resources and have sinned in this way.
1. When Jesus wasarrested in the garden, not only did all of His disciples flee, but also later Peterwould deny the Lordthree times. Paulwarned Timothy to avoid this sin.
2. In 2 Timothy 1:8we read, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” (Verse 12) “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”
3. How often are we ashamed of the gospelin that when we have the opportunity to speak upfor Jesus Christwe don’t? There are some in Christ’s church today who even water down and compromise the gospel because it is too offensive to unbelievers.
4. Concerning these people, the British commentatorGeoffrey Wilson accurately states, “The unpopularity of a crucified Christ has prompted many to present a message which is more palatable to the unbeliever, but the removal of the offense of the cross always renders the message ineffective. An inoffensivegospel is also an inoperative gospel. Thus Christianity is wounded most in the house of its friends.” (Mac pg. 51)
5. Therefore, whenever you are tempted to be ashamed of the gospel, remember what the Good News truly is—it originated from God about Christ, the only Savior of the world.
6. The second reasonwhy you should never be ashamed of the gospel is because:
II.It is God’sPower forSalvation
A. Look again at v. 16: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation…(Stop there)
1. Thissecond “for” (gar)explains further why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, because “it is the powerof Godfor salvation.”Notice how much power is behind the gospel?
2. Nothing less than all of the“power of God” Himself.The Greek term translated “power” (dunamis) is the word from which we get our English word dynamite.
3. Therefore, when the gospel is preached it is not simply words being uttered; it isthe omnipotent, all-powerful God at work behind it. This is why Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
4. Now why is God’s power in the gospel so necessary? Becauseno matter how hard people try tochange their sinful natures and gain eternal life through good deeds, as sinners we all are hopeless and helpless andutterly powerless to do this.
5. Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to do evil?”No way!
6. Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (6:23) “For the wages of sin is death…”
7. This is not only physical death, but also spiritual and eternal death. Nothing less than outside intervention from God can rescue us from sure eternal death.
8. But praise Godwhat we could never do, God did for us through the atoning death of Jesus Christ.
B. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because he knew that“…it is the power of God for salvation.”
1. The greatest expression of God’s power is found in His power to save sinners. The word “salvation” (soterian) here refers todeliverance or rescue.
2. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ has the almightypower of Godto not only deliversinnersfrom sin, from Satan, from judgment, and frometernal death, but also give them eternal life.
3. Only the gospel has God’s power to take out the heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh and bring about a new puritywith Christ’s righteousness; a new identityas a child of God; new desires to know, love, and obey God; and the new power of the indwelling Spirit of God to carry these out.
4. Although the world thinks the gospel is foolishness and laughsat us, we as believers who have experienced God’s salvation know better.First Corinthians 1:18 states, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (2:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:5)
5. The true, biblical gospel of Jesus Christ is the only message of salvation. Apart from it there is no good news for the world.
6. Jesus said in John 14:6, “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” And Acts 4:12 states, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
7. Warren Wiersbe said it well, “No wonder Paul was not ashamed: He was taking to sinful Rome the one message that had the power to change people’s lives! He had seen the gospel work in other wicked cities, such as Corinth and Ephesus, and he was confident that it would work in Rome. It had transformed his own life, and he knew it could transform the lives of others.”
8. Beloved, if God’s power in the gospel has trulysaved and transformed your own life, then you too should never be ashamed to share it with others who also need its life-saving and life-transforming power in theirs.
9. The third reason why you should never be ashamed of the gospel is because:
III. It will saveEveryone whoBelieves
A. Paul goes on to say about the gospel inv. 16 that“…it is the power of God forsalvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
1. God’s saving power in the gospel is effectual“to everyone whobelieves.” The word “believes” (pisteuonti) here in v. 16means faith, and carries the basic idea of being persuaded of and confident in, so you trust inand rely upon.
2. Thepresent tenseof the word in the Greek indicates acontinuousbelieving. Douglas Moocorrectly observes, “‘Believing,’ then, while a genuinely human activity, possesses no ‘merit’ or worth for which God is somehow bound to reward us; for salvation is, from first to last, God’s work.”
3. Salvation has absolutely nothing to do with our good deeds, such as: going to church, being baptized, partaking in Communion, keeping the Ten Commandments, living by the Golden Rule, or helping others. (Tit. 3:5)
4. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved throughfaith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
5. Salvation, therefore, is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Now true saving faith is far more than mere intellectual assent to belief that there is a God.
6. James 2:19 makes this clear, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”
7. Even the demons believe in Godand also in the deity of Jesus Christ (Matt. 8:29). But it is obvious that they are not saved!
8. So what is true saving faith? It is giving up depending on anything you have or can do to earn God’s approval and trustingonly in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross on your behalf.
9. Jesus declared in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (Rom. 10:9-10, 13; 1 Cor. 1:21; 1 Jn. 5:12-13)
10. Paul and Silastold the Philippian jailor in Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…”
11. And John 1:12states, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” To “believe in His name” is equivalent to having “received” Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord.
B. Paul then clarifies at the end of v. 16that the scope of salvation is universal, regardless ofpeoples nationality orcultural background, “…everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
1. When Paul says thatthe gospel came “to the Jew first” he means that the Jews were given the first opportunity to receive their Messiah. From the days of Abraham, the father of the Jews, they have been divinely distinguished from the rest of the world by manyprivileges.
2. They are God’s Chosen People;who were entrusted with the oracles of God; they are the rightful heirs to the Promised Land; and the people through whom the Messiah, Jesus Christ, came; andthey were to tell the world about God’s plan of salvation.
3. In the Abrahamic Covenant God said in Genesis 12:3, “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18; Isa. 60:1-3; Mal. 1:11; Gal. 3:8)
4. During His earthly ministry, Jesus came to His own, but they did not receive Him (Jn. 1:11; 4:22; Rom. 15:8).When He first sent out His disciples, Jesus told them in Matthew 10:6 to only “…go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (15:24)
5. Then after His death and resurrection, and before His ascension into heaven, Jesus said in Luke 24:47, “…that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem,”which is the center of Judaism (Acts 1:8; 3:24-26; 13:46; ).
6. So the Jews were given the first opportunityto receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, but Paul goes on to say that it was given “also to the Greek.” The word “Greek” (Elleni) here refers to all non-Jews, which means all of theGentiles.
7. The salvation of God was always intended for everyone in the entire world who will exercise saving faith in Jesus Christ alone. According to God’s plan, when the Jews refused to accept the gospel, the apostles thenproclaimed it to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46; 18:5-6; 19:8-9; 28:25-28).
8. Therefore, there is only one messageof God’s salvation for the world—the gospel of Jesus Christ. It alone will save everyone who believes, regardless of who they are, where they’re from, or what they’ve done.
9. So you should never be ashamed to share it!
10. The fourth reason why you should never be ashamed of the gospel is because:
IV. It reveals God’sRighteousness byFaith
A. Look at v. 17: For in it the righteousnessof God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
1. The third “for” (gar)here explains why the gospel is the power of God for salvation. Because in itGod’s righteousnessiscontinually “revealed” (apokalyptetai—present tense) or made knownandmanifested.
2. The question, “How can a holy Godforgivesinners and still be holy?” is answered only in the gospel of Jesus Christ.Man’s greatest needis for the “righteousnessof God.”
3. Paul will show this in 1:18-3:20, in that, both Jews and Gentilesalike have absolutely no righteous of their own. Therefore, the whole worldstandsguilty and condemned before the holy Judge of the universe.
4. So if man’sgreatest need is for the “righteousness of God,” which occurs eight times in Romans (1:17; 3:5, 21, 22, 25, 26; 10:3 [twice]), what is it and how is it received?
5. I think John Stott says it best when he states, “The ‘righteousness of God’ can be thought of as a divine attribute (our God is a righteous God), or activity (he comes to our rescue), or achievement (he bestows on us a righteous status). All three are true and have been held by different scholars, sometimes in relation to each other. For myself, I have never been able to see why we have to choose, and why all three should not be combined.” (Stott pg. 63)
6. In other words, all three are involved:
• Righteousnessinnately belongs to God aloneas one of Hisattributesand is expressed in His Word (Jn. 17:25).
• Since God alone is innately righteous, by His gracious saving activity in the atoning deathof Christ on our behalf Hedeclares sinners to be righteous before Him when they place their faith in Jesus Christ.
• And when they do, God imputes the achievement,or better gift,of a righteous standing or statusto every believerthat is not his or her own but Christ’s righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).And since this positional righteousness is genuine, it will evidence itself in practical righteousnessthat is lived out in the believer’s life.
B. Now notice that this“righteousness of God” in Christ revealed in the gospel is received only by faith. Look again at v. 17: For in it the righteousness of God is revealedfrom faith to faith…” (Stop there)
1. The phrase “from faith to faith” seems to parallel “everyone who believes” in v. 16.John MacArthur says about this, “If so, the idea is ‘from faith to faith to faith to faith,’ as if Paul weresingling out the faith of each individual believer.”
2. In other words, God declares us to be righteous before Him because of faith and faith alone. Romans 4:5 states, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Phil. 3:8-9)
3. Paul then drives homehis point at the end of v. 17by quotingHabakkuk 2:4, “…as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
4. Faith is the way to righteousnessbefore God. However, faith and faithfulness are inseparable.
5. True savingfaith is not a one-time act, but is a way of life whereby we live in faithfulness to God. Our entire Christian lives are all of faith from beginning to end.
6. For 2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us that “…we walk by faith, not by sight.” And Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
7. Now since we have been saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and therefore, declared righteous before God and clothed in the righteousness of Christ, we should live faithfully to Him and never be ashamed of the gospel that brought aboutthis transformationin our lives.
In closing, Paul has just summarized the theme of his letter to the Romans in these two verses—the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the most life-saving and life-transformingtruththat Godhas ever given to mankind. Because of what he knew the gospel to be he was never ashamed of it: It originated from God about Christ; It is God’s power for salvation; It will save everyone who believes; and, It reveals God’s righteousness by faith.
Because these things are still true today, we as believers should also never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But instead,like Paul, live faithfully to God andshare the gospel with a lost and dying world that desperately needs what only God can give.
Now since no one can give what they do not possess, let me ask you: Do you know for certain that if you were to die today you would go to heaven? Have you received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord? If not, I encourage you to do today what one dayyou will be glad you did when you stand before the holy Judge of the universe.