It’s interesting that the Apostle Paul wrote to an established church that he was ready to preach the Gospel to you who are in Rome also, Romans 1:15 (NKJV). He wanted to impart… some spiritual gift to them, that [they] may be established, 1:11. How could that be?
Perhaps the answer lies in the possibility that “the gospel” is about so much more than just “getting people saved”.
Even a cursory look at Romans reveals a wide range of topics, all of which, in my opinion, make up “the gospel.” Even after 50 years of “being saved,” I still need this “gospel” as much as someone who’s never even heard of it. Regardless of where you are in your journey through life, so do you.
What do I mean?
Well, let’s take a stroll through the book.
1. Salutation, 1:1-17.
We’ll not do an exhaustive survey of the book – that would take a large book in itself! This will probably wind up being a long post, anyway! In these verses, Paul introduces himself to a church he hasn’t yet visited. He describes himself a little bit, then writes of his desire to visit them for the reason we quoted above. Providentially hindered until now, he wants them to know that they’re on his heart and he wants to meet them face to face. He declares that he’s ready to preach the gospel to them – a gospel he isn’t ashamed of, because of its origin and power, as well as it’s outcome: ‘the just shall live by faith,” 1:17. He begins his exposition of the gospel by describing why we need it to begin with: the dark area of man’s
2. Condemnation, 1:18-3:20.
If Romans had been written by a modern Christian, perhaps v. 18 would start, “For the love of God is revealed from heaven….” However, Paul knew that man’s relationship to God isn’t that of a wayward son, trampling on the love of a Father, as some today seem to think, but that of a willful rebel, a traitor against the rule of his King, a criminal defying the laws of God. Paul describes that rebellion in these verses.
Mention of the creation of the world, v.20, leads me to believe that this is a description of early man after the Fall. There are those who believe that between the Fall and the giving of the Law at Sinai, man was pretty much left to the guidance of his own conscience. However, Job said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food,” Job 23:12. Of Abraham, God said that he had “…obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws,” Genesis 26:5. These men both lived long before the giving of the Law, so what “word” or “voice” did they “obey?” There are other indications sprinkled throughout Genesis that there was a substantial revelation given to men, of which we have only incidental records. Further, there was the interaction of Abraham and Melchizedek, who was called a priest of God Most High, Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:1, 2.
My point is that when Paul wrote of these early inhabitants of our planet, he wasn’t just saying that they knew “about” God, but that they knew Him – and turned away from Him.
The terrible things recorded in 1:18-32 are a result of the judgment of God on their rebellion; note please that He gave them up, vs. 24, 26, 28, to the depravity of their fallen natures. Paul did not say that He gave up. He let them go. He gave them what they wanted – their way, not His. He turned His back in judgment on those who had turned their back on Him. One has to wonder what application these verses might have to the US in view of recent and ongoing events.
But it wasn’t just “early man” who sinned against God. The Gentile world in general since then has turned away from God, even though their understanding that there is a “right” and “wrong” puts them under the same judgment as their ancestors. Even the Jewish people, who had been given a revelation of God through the Mosaic Covenant, and who had, generally speaking, turned away from it, to the point of crucifying their Messiah when He came, were guilty just like the Gentiles, whom they despised. Paul’s conclusion: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.
3. Justification, 3:21-5:21.
I believe it was Socrates who said that there might be a way for the gods to forgive man, but he didn’t know what it could be.
There used to be a bumper sticker which said, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” While the first part is certainly true, the second part is, well, lacking…. We are so much more than “just forgiven.” In this section, Paul declares that we have been justified. That’s a big word that means that we have been declared righteous by God, even though in and of ourselves we are anything but righteous. But, we’re not declared righteous because we have somehow been able to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps or because we have been able to cobble together a kind of obedience to the law. We’re declared righteous through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is His righteousness we need, not some cheap knock-off we might be able to put together.
Paul shows that even Abraham, whom the Jews revered, was justified, declared righteous, by faith. Circumcision was given as the sign of that truth, not as a means of salvation in itself. Every Jewish male was reminded that his relationship with God through the Abrahamic Covenant was to be one of faith, not works, though I doubt if many of them thought of it that way. Many of them thought that the simple possession of “the sign of the covenant” was all they needed. Many follow in their footsteps, having been taught that what is said to have succeeded circumcision, namely infant baptism, is all they need, bolstered by “confirmation” a few years later. But all that is a post for another day.
Throughout history, men and women, boys and girls have always been saved by faith, their own faith, not someone else’s, either in the coming Savior, or in Him after He came.
4. Sanctification, 6:1-8:15.
God has declared His people to be “righteous,” though we are anything but. However, He doesn’t leave us as He found us. Through the Spirit and the Word, He sets about to make us righteous. “Sanctification” isn’t some mysterious “experience,” some bolt out of the blue which makes us perfectly sinless – would that it were! Ephesians 2:10 says that we are His workmanship, created for good works. Sanctification is simply the Holy Spirit seeing to it that we look like it. The word itself simply means “to set apart,” as a cook might wash a dish and set it on the table, ready for use.
Paul’s main argument in this is our spiritual union with Christ. When He died, we died. We’re to consider ourselves dead to sin and not yield our bodies to sinful things. This doesn’t mean, as Romans 7 tells us, that sin is dead to us. I know there’s a lot of discussion about exactly what Paul meant as he wrote. Some think he wrote of his pre-conversion life. I’m content to believe that he’s talking about himself as a Christian, and the struggle between what we are in ourselves and what we are becoming in Christ. Sin may have been slain on the Cross, but its death struggles go on.
But, will this struggle ever end? It seems to be a never-ending battle. There’s good news.
5. Glorification, 8:16-39.
This is a short section, but filled with glory and promise. It basically starts off with the idea that we are joint-heirs with Christ, v. 16, and that nothing at any time or place can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, v. 39. Paul takes us from eternity past when God “foreknew” us, that is, chose us, not just foresaw that we would choose Him, all the way into eternity future, where we will be “glorified,” that is, all the barnacles of sin, disease, frailty, fallenness, the Curse, will be taken away from us, and we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2. A happy day that will be indeed. Paul says that in the purpose of God, it’s already as good as done.
6. Explanation, chs. 9-11.
Paul’s exclamation in 8:39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God might have brought up the question, “Well, yes, but what about Israel?” After all, she crucified her Messiah and, for the most part, had rejected Him. The church center, as it were, had moved from Jerusalem to Antioch and the church was rapidly becoming more Gentile than Jewish.
There is a large portion of Christendom which says, “Yes, God is done with Israel. Her sin has indeed separated her from the love of God, and she is undergoing His judgment. Individual Jews may certainly be saved, and are being saved, but the nation itself is done.”
This is the farthest thing from Paul’s mind. Reminding his readers of the privileges Israel had enjoyed, 9:1-5, privileges given to no other nation on earth, Paul pointed that there had always just been a remnant according to the election of grace, 11:5. There had never been a time when the entire nation had followed God. Further, Israel had indeed been given up as a nation, but that setting aside was only temporary, 11:25.
One of the strangest expositions of these chapters I’ve ever heard centered around 11:12. A brother interpreted it like this: “Now if their [Israel’s] fall is riches for the world, and their [Israel’s] failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” He simply would not or could not accept that “their fullness” referred to Israel as much as the two phrases he marked as theirs.
11:26, And so All Israel will be saved,… he interpreted to mean “spiritual Israel,” that is, saved Jews and Gentiles who make up “the church.” According to this interpretation, it has nothing at all to do with the nation of Israel. Such views, in my opinion, entirely miss what Paul was saying. Now, Paul didn’t mean that every single Jew will be saved, as this brother seemed to think my view required, but only that every single Jew alive as the time when this verse comes true, will be saved.
The prophetic books of the Old Testament are filled to the brim with descriptions of what “their fullness” will be like.
7. Application, chs. 12-16.
Having answered possible questions about Israel’s future, as well as our own, with all the blessings that will happen there, he then brings us back to the present.
Because, “there” isn’t here, yet.
He lists various responsibilities believers have. The motivation for serving God. Our attitude toward government, especially in the areas of taxation. How to deal with those who haven’t arrived at our understanding of Christian liberty. There’s material here for much study.
He closes with his plans and desire to visit them, sends greetings to various members of the church and finishes up with a benediction ending with the phrase, to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen. Romans 13:27
So, you see, “the Gospel” has a much grander scope than often imagined. And our few words are by no means exhaustive of its treasures. In fact, I’m not sure we’ll ever get beyond its grace and glory, even “over there.”