In the epistle to the Romans the Apostle Paul declares boldly that:- “…I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” Romans 1:16-17.
Most professing Christians would also claim, with Paul, not to be ashamed of the gospel. However in this day and age of great confusion the question we must ask ourselves is, do we really know what the gospel is? Well Paul certainly did, and knowing the power of it he was bold and unashamed in its proclamation. I’ve heard one preacher break down Romans 1:16 into five helpful headings. Let’s consider the verse under these headings to draw out five clear aspects of the gospel which the Holy Spirit reveals which are essential to its character and important for us to see.
Firstly, the gospel is DEFINITIVE
It is the “gospel of Christ”. The gospel is not something abstract, something vague, something to be guessed at. It isn’t a collection of testimonies or subjective experiences. It is defined. It is the gospel, the good news of Christ. As Romans 1:1-3 states “the gospel of God… concerning his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord”. The gospel is God’s message concerning the Person and the Work of His eternal Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. It declares Him, it sets Him forth. And any message, any ‘gospel’ which fails to set forth Christ, in all His fullness, is no gospel, and has no power to save.
Secondly, the gospel is OBJECTIVE
Paul states “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation”. The Gospel is an objective message, not subjective. IT is the power of God unto salvation. What is? The Gospel is. For the Gospel, in and of itself, when proclaimed by God the Holy Spirit through those whom He sends to preach it, is the power of God unto salvation.
Paul here does not say that the Spirit is the power of God unto salvation, but that the Gospel is. It is of course true that except the Spirit apply the word inwardly to the hearts of His hearers, they will remain dead in trespasses and sins, yet nevertheless the Spirit does not work in isolation. The Gospel is the power of the Spirit, His sword, which He uses to save sinners, to quicken them unto life in Christ. The Gospel itself, as an objective message, is the power of God unto salvation, and it is by the preaching of this objective message that God is pleased to save sinners: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:23-25
Thirdly, the gospel is EFFECTIVE
Yes, the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation”. The power of God. It is effective, it saves. There is no other power like it, and yet to the world, to them that perish, to the wise in their own understanding it is ‘foolishness’. As 1 Corinthians 1:18 states “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness” and yet “unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
What makes the gospel so effective, so powerful? Romans 1:17 tells us: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith”. That makes it powerful. For here is a message that declares that though all men are sinners, though all fell in their father Adam into sin, death and ruin, though all sin daily being at enmity to God, though man stands in his fallen nature guilty before God, deserving of eternal wrath and damnation, nevertheless God, in His great love, sent His Son to take His people’s sins away through His own death, to deliver them from judgment and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and everlasting life, which He freely gives them by grace (2 Corinthians 5:21). And this justifying righteousness is what is revealed in the gospel, hence its power to save.
Fourthly, the gospel is ELECTIVE
The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation”. Not of man. The gospel is God’s – it is His message concerning His work in the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died to “save His people from their sins” Matthew 1:21. This gospel was God’s to purpose, God’s to perform, is God’s to proclaim, and is God’s to apply. Consistently, and repeatedly, throughout its message the gospel clearly sets forth the salvation of that people of God, chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) who have been “predestinated … unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”. This people, described in the scriptures as God’s “sheep” (John 10:15) are those for whom Christ died, and none else, and are those who are saved, not according to their will but God’s (John 1:13, John 15:16). Yes, the gospel, the power of God unto salvation, being God’s to apply to whom He wills, is by definition, elective (See Romans 9).
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” 1 Peter 2:9
And fifthly, the gospel is REDEMPTIVE
Finally Romans 1:16 declares the effect of the gospel – the redemption of God’s people. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation”. The Gospel saves, and it does so, because Christ laid down His life for His own in order to redeem them from their sins. His own blood was the redemption price He paid to deliver them from death and secure their freedom. He died in their place, bearing their sins “in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24), suffering under the outpouring of God’s wrath against sin, that through His death, by the shedding of His blood, they would be delivered from death, from sin, and from condemnation and have everlasting life in Him (Romans 3:24, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, Hebrews 9:12).
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” 1 Peter 1:18-19
No wonder then that Paul was not ashamed of this gospel! For he knew its power, he knew what it was to be redeemed, to have his sins forgiven, he knew that it was God who saved him, by His will, not Paul’s (see Acts 9), he knew the glorious revelation of the righteousness of God in the gospel, put to his account, he knew what it was to be born again by the mighty operation of the Holy Spirit, and most of all he knew the Saviour who loved him, and gave himself for him, the Lord Jesus Christ….
But do you? Do you know this gospel? Has it been revealed to you? Do you believe it? Is this the gospel of which, like Paul, you can say that you are not ashamed?
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Revelation 14:6-7