The Gospel: The Power of God – Romans 1:8-17Posted: August 28, 2011
Scripture Intro: The word Gospel appears 76 times in the NT, 60 of those in Paul’s writings, twelve in Romans, and five (counting “it” referring to the gospel) in vs 8-17. Oddly however, though clearly emphasizing the gospel, why does Paul declare “I am not ashamed of the gospel”?
Prayer of Illumination:
Sermon Intro: Years later, recalling his conversion as he wrestled with Romans 1:16-17, Martin Luther writes, “I greatly longed to understand Paul’s epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression “the righteousness of God”… “When I discovered the distinction that [with regard to righteousness] the law is one thing and the gospel another, I broke through.”
It is not exaggerating to say that I too experienced a breakthrough with these verses and preach to you this morning because of its impact on me personally.
These same verses drive our Vision statement as a Church: “The Gospel IS THE POWER of God for Worship, Missions and Renewal.”
We continue to need a breakthrough about this gift of the righteousness of God, Luther clarifies: “Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.”
Think of the discussions you have with friends, the persuasive arguments you use in discussing politics or religion; the things you are passionate about and try to beat into people’s heads. As a parent, how many times have I tried to beat the law and rules for living into the heads of my children?
If we are going to have a breakthrough,
Then the gospel needs to be continually beaten into our heads.
Three points: The Power of the Gospel, Ashamed of the Gospel, and Faith in the Gospel.
M/P1: Power of the Gospel:
A. That the Gospel is the Power of God — The word for “power” is “dunamis”, our word for dynamite. They didn’t have dynamite then, but the point is clear. The gospel is the explosive power, the dynamic power of God.
Quickly and clearly; Paul is not saying the gospel leads to the power of God, or is about the power of God; even that it brings power from God.
The GOSPEL IS THE EXPLOSIVE TRANSFORMING POWER OF GOD! When the power of the gospel of God is released everything changes.
B. How the Gospel is the Power of God — For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith bringing salvation to everyone who believes.
Illustration: “I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant” continues Luther. “Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the righteousness of God and the statement that “the just shall live by faith.”
“Then I grasped that the righteousness of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith.”
Luther’s point is more obvious in Greek than English because the word “righteousness” and “justifies” are the same word in Greek. Thus, “The righteousness of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God declares us righteous through faith.”
As a result, “The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning. Before “the righteousness of God” filled me with hate. Now [the righteousness of God] became to me inexpressibly sweet. This passage became to me a gate to heaven…”
Application: Many people think that Jesus died to forgive us. Certainly this is true, and we hardly believe our sins are completely forgiven. But the power of the Gospel is not that Jesus wiped our slate clean. The power of the Gospel is that we are declared forever righteous and eternally acceptable in God’s sight through faith in Christ.
But also notice that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe. As Christians, we are to treat each other as if righteous in God’s sight. We undeservingly credit righteousness to others as we have undeservingly received righteousness.
How is the Christian to see himself and other Christians in this world? “Simul Iustus et Peccator” — at the same time righteous and a sinner.
Mike, If the gospel is the explosive power of God, what is the problem?
M/P2: We are more ashamed of the Gospel than we realize
Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones writes “If you have never been ashamed of the gospel, the probable reason is NOT that you are “an exceptionally good Christian,” but rather that “your understanding of the Christian message has never been clear”.
A. Fear. When I ask why we don’t share the gospel though we do share other things, more often, fear is frequently cited as a reason. Certainly Paul had reason to be afraid. However, Paul had been beaten five times to the point of death. So while fear is one reason we may be ashamed of the gospel, I don’t think it is Paul’s meaning.
B. Foolishness. Notice vs. 14. Greeks were the wise, and the Barbarians the foolish and uneducated. Elsewhere Paul will say that the gospel is foolishness to the Greeks. In vs. 16, Paul will contrast the educated Greeks with the religious Jews.
Jim Boice on Romans, and helped me with this. “Barbarian” refers to speech patterns. When Greeks heard foreigners speak, it sounded like “bar, bar, bar” babbling.
However, history, science, religion, philosophy, government, business, education, theater, music were all in Greek. Therefore, if you couldn’t speak Greek, you were cut off from culture; you were disadvantaged.
Think of some of the ways in which you may feel cut off from the mainstream of society. Maybe you haven’t had educational opportunities others have had. You were not able to go to college. You haven’t read all the books others have. You don’t know the buzz words. Maybe you have a strong accent, or an actual speech impediment that slurs your words. Maybe you make grammatical mistakes. Perhaps you feel cut off because of your race. You’re self-conscious about your low income which shows in the clothes you can afford, stuff you have, the house you live in, or the car you drive.
But also let’s flip all these. Maybe you don’t feel cut off, but instead feel confident and secure that you have are inside your desired group are at least on the edge. You don’t feel cut off. Jesus was cut off from everything he loved so that we are brought in to his love and affection.
Why do we as Christians make other people feel left out? Of all people, Paul who wouldn’t have ben caught dead with Greeks and Barbarians, says he is under obligation to the Greeks and Barbarians, wise and foolish.
To the Greeks the gospel is foolish. But also to the Jews it is a stumbling block. The gospel was too easy. You can’t receive righteousness as a gift. You have to work for it. You have to prove your sincerity by your obedience and gratitude.
Big Point: Sanctification doesn’t prove your justification. Most Christians try to prove their justification by their progress in being transformed and shipwreck their faith.
Rather justification proves your sanctification. Let me be more precise. God’s having justified you once and for all time proves that he will transform you. God’s ongoing transformation of you proves that he has already justified you. It is all by his grace and He gets all the glory. Think about that!
It is no wonder that those who received the gospel first were the poor, uneducated, aliens, sinners, simple, those who know what it feels like to be cut off. We are more ashamed of the gospel than we realize.
C. Thirdly, Frailty. We prize strength and power, and hate being weak. If the gospel is the power of God, and there is no other way we can get that power except through the weakness of faith, what does that say about our spiritual strength?
Illustration: Paul’s confronting Peter in Galatians 2 is the best example I can give of our being ashamed of the Gospel. Peter had come to Antioch to check on the largely Gentile church.
While it was just Peter, he ate and fellowshipped with the Gentiles. But soon a contingent of more the religious Christian police came and rebuked Peter and Barnabas shaming them with the law so that that they withdrew from fellowship. We know how to shame people with the law.
But Paul shames Peter with the gospel. Any time you add to or take away from the gospel of God, what you are saying is that the gospel is not good enough. In other words, we are ashamed of the gospel or offended by the gospel.
This natural proclivity to be ashamed of the gospel really convicted me this week. This same struggle of Christians struggling with being ashamed of the gospel runs through the NT including Romans and continues today.
Application: Most of us do not think we are ashamed of the gospel. We may think we are afraid, or perhaps unprepared. I think that is self-serving and lets us off to easily.
The Redeemer Study Guide gives four ways that the gospel can offends us, or be despised by us.
1. By telling us that our salvation is free (not earned), the Gospel is really insulting. It tells us that we are spiritual failures. The only way we can be saved is for the gospel to be a complete gift. This is very offense to a religious person who thinks of themselves as more moral than others.
2. By telling us that Jesus died for us, the Gospel is really insulting. It tells us that we are so wicked that only the death of the Son of God could save us. This is offensive to the popular belief that man is basically good, and the modern cult of self-expression.
3. By telling us that “trying to be good and spiritual isn’t enough”, the Gospel is offensive to the modern notion that any nice person can find God in his own way as long as he is sincere. This insults our sense of autonomy and determining our own destiny that only those who come to God through Jesus can be saved.
4. The Gospel tells us that our salvation was accomplished by Jesus’ suffering and serving (not conquering and destroying) and that following him means to suffer and to serve. This is offensive to people who want salvation to be an easy life, people who want God so they can be safe and comfortable.
If Peter and Barnabas were ashamed of the Gospel, what makes you think you aren’t?
M/P3: We can cover our 3rd point quickly — Faith in the Gospel. We will have plenty to time in Romans to discuss the nature of faith, so I am not going in depth on defining faith. Two things — a gift and a continuing gift.
A. A Gift — The good news is that we receive this free gift of righteousness, the power of God, through faith. Look at vs. 8. First (not first as in a series because there is no 2nd, but of first importance). First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
Paul does not praise and thank the Roman Christians for their faith. Paul thanks God for the faith of the Roman Christians. Faith is a gift from God, and God receives all praise and glory. This is of first important, that even your faith is a complete gift from God. You will never believe the gospel, you will most certainly be ashamed of the gospel, if God doesn’t give you faith, because the gospel is offensive to our natures.
B. Finally, Faith is a Continuing Gift. Look at vs. 17 then back at 14. It is from faith for faith, or from faith to faith, as it is written, the righteous shall live (keep on living) by faith. Faith began as a gift of God and continues as a gift from God.
Unless God in his grace continues giving us faith through the power of the Gospel in him, we will surely fall.
Thus Paul’s reason for writing: So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. Paul is eager to preach the gospel to Christians in Rome. What? I thought the gospel was for non-Christians.
This simple, yet most obvious and profound realization, introducing all of Paul’s letters, changed my life. That the gospel is the power of God for non-Christians I had known. That the Gospel continues to be the power of God for Christians was a new revelation for me, though it shouldn’t have been.
And then I began to realize that what Jesus is doing in the Gospel is far bigger than my salvation and the shame he is reversing much deeper.
He is going back to the original shame, the shame that is underneath all shame, the shame that drives all our sin — that original loss of our “right-ness” (righteousness) with God, in the beginning in the Garden of Eden.
Through the power of the Gospel, God reveals a righteousness from faith to faith that makes all things new by cutting to the very root, core, heart of the problem — we are not right with God. God doesn’t change his righteousness.
He reorients his relationship to our unrighteousness in Christ so that we can reorient our relationship to him and his righteousness. He declares us right with him, and then sets about remaking us into his image.
Then if we admit that we are more ashamed of the gospel than we realized, how do we deal with this shame? Jesus is not ashamed of you! Guilt is being ashamed of what you have done. Shame is being ashamed of who you are. Jesus is not ashamed of you!
We repent of who we are, not just what we have done. And God takes our shame over who we are and what we’ve done, and gives us his grace. He took your sin, guilt and shame on the cross and now your heavenly Father forever delights in you as his own beloved child.