The Message of the Gospel

Romans

In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul described the gospel as “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). This verse is often thought of as the theme of Paul’s letter – and for good reason. However, it is also important to note the first few verses of this letter as they introduce this central topic.

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1-6).

Since the gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16), we want to be prepared to talk to others about the gospel – especially those who are unfamiliar with it. The opening verses of the book of Romans provide us with an outline to help us do just that. Let us break down these verses and see how they help explain the message of the gospel.

The Source of the Message

First, Paul said he was a servant of Christ (Romans 1:1). He was doing the work that the Lord called him to do – to be “a minister and a witness…to open [people’s] eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith” (Acts 26:15-18). The apostles’ work was to carry the message of Christ to the world (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). Paul was one of the few who was “called as an apostle” (Romans 1:1) to carry out this mission.

Second, Paul said his message was “the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). He was responsible for teaching not “the word of men,” but “the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). When Jesus was on the earth, the message that He taught was from the Father in heaven (John 12:49-50). The apostles would teach this same message through direct guidance by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13-15).

Fulfillment of Prophecy

The message of the gospel was not an afterthought by the Lord. It was an eternal plan – hence the reason it was referred to elsewhere as “an eternal gospel” (Revelation 14:6). Because this was planned and not an afterthought, God was able to make promises “beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:2). Old Testament prophecies found their fulfillment in Christ (Luke 24:44). Paul described the old law as a “tutor to lead us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24).

The Deity and Humanity of Christ

Jesus was born as “a descendant of David” (Romans 1:3; cf. Matthew 1:1; Luke 3:23, 31). This was also a fulfillment of prophecy. Peter pointed this out in the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:29-36; cf. Psalm 132:11; 2 Samuel 7:12-13). Besides being a fulfillment of prophecy, this also meant that Jesus actually came in the flesh and lived among men. John warned of those who refused to “acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh,” explaining that one who would do this was “the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7). Part of the message of the gospel was that Jesus did come in the flesh.

However, Jesus was not just a man; He was the Son of God (Romans 1:4). This is vitally important. The fact that Jesus was the Son of God made Him equal with God. Even His enemies recognized that by “calling God His own Father,” He was “making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). On another occasion, Jesus plainly stated, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Paul explained that Jesus was “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). This proved His claims of being equal with God. He had authority, in harmony with the will of the Father, to lay down His life and take it up again (John 10:18). Furthermore, there is abundant evidence to establish the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). This proved that He was who He claimed to be – the Son of God.

Christ Was Raised from the Dead

We noticed this already in the previous point, but it is important to note that the resurrection of Christ was part of the foundation of the gospel. Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Jesus died for our sins. He took on “a body” that was “prepared” for Him and “offered one sacrifice for sins for all time” (Hebrews 10:5, 12). When He offered His life on the cross, He “died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Yet Jesus did not remain in the grave. He was more than just a martyr dying for a cause. He was raised from the dead. If He was never raised from the dead, we would have no hope; but since He was raised from the dead, we have hope of the resurrection ourselves (1 Corinthians 15:17-22).

We Have Received Grace

Paul explained that through Christ we have “received grace” (Romans 1:5). The gospel is a message of salvation (Romans 1:16). As we noticed in the previous point, through the resurrection of Christ we have hope. Yet this salvation is not anything that we have earned through our own good deeds. Paul made this clear later in his letter to the Romans: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. […] But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. […] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:6, 8, 10).

We are saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul explained that “eternal life” is a “free gift of God” (Romans 6:23). In our text, Paul also connected his “apostleship” to this (Romans 1:5) since he preached a message of grace – “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

We Must Faithfully Obey

When many people think of grace [previous point], they think of unconditional salvation. This is a concept rooted in Calvinism. Salvation is certainly a “free gift” of God (Romans 6:23), yet a gift may be given either conditionally or unconditionally. We need to allow the New Testament to explain grace.

The message of grace (cf. Acts 20:24) was meant to “bring about the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 16:26). We must obey the gospel in order to be saved. Jesus is “to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9). He is the one who said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).

Of course, we need to understand that obedience does not earn us salvation. Jesus said, “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done’” (Luke 17:10). But we are not justified without obedience. While many people in the religious world talk about being saved or justified by faith alone, James wrote, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). Jesus Himself asked, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). The gospel is a message that we are to faithfully obey in order to please the Lord.

We Are the Called of Christ

Paul told these brethren that they were “the called of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6). In another letter, he explained that we have been “called…through [the] gospel” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). We have the privilege of being “called children of God” (1 John 3:1). As disciples, we can be “called Christians” (Acts 11:26) – this is a divine calling (Isaiah 62:2). So the message of the gospel is that we can be counted by God as His people if we will follow Him through the gospel.

Conclusion

We need to remember these facts about the gospel. This is for our benefit and to be able to explain this to others. As Paul explained in the passage we considered, the gospel is from God and is part of His eternal plan. It shows us Christ, the Son of God, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead. It reveals the grace of God and shows us what we must do in order to receive His grace. This gospel is God’s power for salvation (Romans 1:16). Let us be sure we take advantage of it.


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Comments

  1. Thanks, Andy.

    Very well said and such good reasoning. I appreciate plain Bible teaching. Keep it up!