“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.’“
This is probably one of those verses that sounds vaguely familiar, especially the ”I am not ashamed of the gospel“ part. Even so, this is an encouraging verse as Paul continues to share his heart with those who are ministering in Rome. Remember, Paul had just expressed how eager he was to be with his brethren in Rome, to preach the gospel to people in the city (Romans 1:15). In verses 16-17, he tells us why he’s so eager to be with them. Here’s four quick points that Paul is trying to convey to his readers through Romans 1:16-17:
1. The Gospel is Better (v. 16a)
I once heard a pastor say that the bible included so many ”thou shalt not“ passages explicitly because people were ”thou shalt“-ing; he was saying that God only gives strict commands because his people often do the opposite of what he wants or what is good for them. That’s exactly what’s going on here. People were ashamed of the gospel, and rightly so. Christians were a minority, a rebellious group of ragtag civilians under the towering Roman empire (not like today’s ”Christian“ dominated society), yet they were expected to preach the gospel and stand firm against a dominant pagan religion. Their faith seemed like foolishness to the world. Still Paul calls them to be bold in their faith, to take pride in the gospel just as he did. He was eager to get to Rome to preach the gospel—why? Because the gospel is better. Paul knew that the gospel and its effects were more valuable than a good reputation or even life itself. He wasn’t ashamed of the gospel because the world and its pleasures didn’t even compare to the eternal gift of salvation.
2. We are Wholly Dependent on God for Salvation (v. 16b)
God the Father chose to save us. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, completed it. Paul attributes all the credit and glory of our salvation to God and no one else. He says that he’s not ashamed of the gospel because, ”it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.“ There is nothing we could have done to save ourselves, but it is wholly through the power of God that we even have the opportunity to be saved from our sins. There’s only one requirement that Paul mentions in this verse: that we believe. He’s very explicit about the fact that salvation through the power of God is provided to everyone who believes. Thus, it logically follows that we need to put our faith and trust in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
3. The Gospel is Intended for God’s Own Glory (v. 17a)
This might sound slightly awkward, but it’s true. The gospel, the saving grace that was given to us is intended to glorify God. Paul says that in the gospel, ”the righteousness of God is revealed,“ that we
come to learn about and love God through the gospel. His perfect righteousness is put on display in order to encourage us in our faith as Christians. This also means that God granted us righteousness, that through the gospel, Christ bore our unrighteousness and gave us a right standing before God. All of this is for his own glory, that we might turn from our sins and worship him.
4. A Life of Faith is Intended (v. 17b)
Frank, check it out: the word ”faith” appears three times in that last verse. If you ask me, I’d tell you that Paul is trying to tell us something important. God wants us to live faithfully. Another translation of ”from faith for faith“ is ”beginning and ending in faith,“ as in, our renewed lives in Christ begin and end with our faith in him. And still, it only ends because faith becomes sight when we die—our faith becomes real when we see our heavenly Father face-to-face. Lastly, Paul quotes Habakuk 2:4 and says that, ”The righteous shall live by faith.“ Faith is supposed to be all-encompassing, absolutely filling out lives from the moment we wake up to the time we lay down to sleep, faith is supposed to characterize our lives.
Frank, I remember you used to ask me what the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian was. At the time, I didn’t have my thoughts straight so I gave you a ‘jambalaya’ of an answer. Well, here’s a better answer: Christians have hope. All four of those points give a person like me immense hope in life. The gospel gives me hope of a right relationship with God and an eternal salvation; my dependence on God gives me hope because it shows me how much the God of the universe loves me, that he would suffer the death of his own Son for me; God’s glory gives me hope because I know his plans are better than mine and that he will be the victor when this world is over; and the calling to a life of faith gives me hope because through it I can grow closer to God in anticipation of the day that I finally meet Him. You see, by believing in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I have an eternal assurance that I will one day be with Jesus in heaven. This is my greatest hope. No matter what life throws at me, I can take heart in the gospel and the hope that it brings.
I pray this week that you will experience the hope that I have in Christ.
Responding to This Hope I Have,