“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.” (Romans 1:15-17)
These few verses are among the most important in the Bible concerning the “gospel” and its implications for ungodly men and women. The first foundational truth revealed here is the absolute power of the good news about Jesus’ work for sinners. “It is the power of God…“. This is a very strong, emphatic declaration. The word “power” comes from the same Greek word where we get our English word “dynamite”! The simple telling of the story of the good news is enough. Inherent in the “good news” is the explosive power to make the most vile sinner take sober account of his lost condition and see that his only hope for immortality is the Christ of the gospel.
The “Gospel” story does not need an accompanying well versed messenger, or a well conceived evangelism program, or lengthy teaching to support the “Gospel”, it alone is quite enough. It is “the power of God“.
The “Gospel” is the power of God for a specific purpose. What? “For salvation“. By design the way God saves sinners is through the “Gospel”. It is good to teach people what is right and what is wrong. It is good to teach about the church and about worship and righteous living but it is through the “Gospel” that God saves the ungodly. By simply hearing the story of Christ’s work in life, death,and resurrection God brings sinners to himself.
How does he do this? He saves those who believe it.
“for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16b)
How can a person be saved? By believing the “Gospel”. Who can be saved? Everyone who believes. When can a person be saved? When he believes the “Gospel”. Why can a person be saved? Because God promised it.
A good translation of this last part of verse 16 could read as follows. “For it (the “Gospel”) is God’s mighty power to save everyone who believes and keeps on believing”. The “believe” in the original language was in the present perfect tense meaning it is a continuous action. While there is a point in time when God justifies the believing sinner, the evidence of genuine faith is that it never stands still. It is not a one time event but rather a persevering faith. It is a faith that keeps on believing and is illustrated by a life of devotion to the Christ of the “Gospel”. “Believes” is not giving mental assent to facts. It is to rely on, to depend on, to expectantly trust, not just accept a set of facts.
“The righteous shall live by faith“. (Romans 1:17b)
What is it about the “Gospel” that makes the sinner take notice?
“For in it (the “Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed”. (Romans1:17a)
God has chosen that by hearing the story of the work of Christ for sinners that his righteousness would be revealed. Jesus himself is the righteousness of God and God’s righteousness stands in stark contrast to the righteousness of man, which is in reality unrighteousness. God’s righteousness is one that is by faith from the first to the last. Our father Abraham in the faith believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness and so we follow him and are “made” righteous by trusting the truth claims of the “Gospel” of Jesus Christ.
The flip side of the coin is the wrath of God against sin. Immediately after this watershed passage about the glory of the “Gospel” comes this chilling warning.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)
Any person who spurns the story of the work of Jesus on behalf of sinners is now the target of the certain angry wrath of God against the unrighteousness of man kind. “The wages of sin is death”, it is true and sure. Just as sure and true is that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That is “good news”!