Scripture Text: Romans 1:16-17
Everyone likes news. We want to know what is happening. The Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Romans to tell a people some news and this passage captures the main idea of that letter. Last year we looked at this passage during Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, a day we set aside to honor the sanctity of all human life. God gave us life and then He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we would really live. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is exactly that, God not only giving us life but giving us a full life — an abundant life. As we look at this passage again, I want to look at what this “news” means for believers, particularly the notion that it is the “power of God for salvation”. There are four questions I would like to answer in this message — What is the Gospel? Who receives it? Why is it powerful? How do we live it?
What is the Gospel?
We see the word “gospel” mentioned in the New Testament about one hundred times. What exactly is the Gospel? Well, it is news, but not any kind of news. It is not like the news we hear on the radio, or see on WRAL, CNN or Fox News. The Gospel is a particular kind of news. This news is not merely useful or sensational, but it is life changing news. It will change your life if you receive it. The word “gospel” comes from the Old English word godspel which means “good news”. We all like to hear good news, but what makes the Gospel of Jesus Christ good? Look at what the passage says.
Romans 1:16 16 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.
The Gospel is good news because it tells the story of a lost and dying world being saved through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first four books of the New Testament are often called the “Four Gospels” because they tell of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Actually, I would say that there are four accounts of the same Gospel. There is really only one Gospel, which is the good news of God’s Son coming into the world so that the world might not perish but be saved through Him. That is good news. Without the Gospel, we are all doomed to perish. With it, we have hope and peace through Jesus Christ, our Savior. That is the Gospel.
Who Receives the Gospel?
Another reason the Gospel is good news is because who can receive it. When news is announced it may be intended for certain people. The good news of the Gospel is that it is intended for whoever will receive it. The Gospel is not just for a certain group of people, but for whosoever will hear it and turn to Jesus Christ in faith. The Gospel is about Jesus Christ coming to save everyone who will accept Him, whatever their color, their race, their geographic location, their wealth — whosoever will come to Him. That is good news. God wants to create a holy people from all over the world who will worship Him. If you have a problem with someone who is not like you, who does not look like you, who does not sound like you, then you are going to be miserable in Heaven. God is not a racist. The Gospel is for everyone who believes.
You might ask, “Believe what?” Believe that you are a sinner, separated from God, and because of that, trust in Jesus Christ as your only means of salvation. God sent His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life. (John 3:16) The Gospel is for whoever places his or her trust in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is for whoever trusts that nothing but the blood of Jesus Christ will make him or her right with God. There is a reason why faith is important for a relationship with God. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolish to him. He is not able to understand them. They are spiritually discerned by faith. (1 Cor. 2:14) If you believe in Christ, the Gospel is for you.
Why is the Gospel Powerful?
Paul called the Gospel the “power of God”. The first thing we ought to realize is the Gospel is about God’s power, not ours. It is His work, His doing, not ours. But, have you ever thought that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful? How is it the power of God? When I think of God’s power, I think of the Creation, the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the ten plagues of Egypt, and the parting of the Red Sea. I do not really think about the Gospel of Jesus Christ as being powerful. In fact, some people see the Gospel far from powerful. Some think it is foolish. Some say, “How can a dead Jewish carpenter do anything?” If He were just a Jewish carpenter, then they would be right. But, He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. If He were still dead, they would be right, but He is very much alive sitting at the right hand of God the Father. Elsewhere, Paul wrote this:
1 Corinthians 1:18 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Yes, the Gospel is foolish to those who do not believe it, who are perishing in their sin, but to others, it is powerful. The Gospel is the power of God to change your life. It is the power of God to take a sinner and turn him or her into a righteous child of God. You cannot change your past, it is impossible; but God can change your present and your future. God can change who you are, what you will become, and what your permanent address will be. That is the power of the Gospel. Paul wrote that he was not ashamed of the Gospel. While others considered it foolish, Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because it had changed him. It had turned him from a hateful enemy of God into a faithful servant of God set apart to preach it to the world. It has power.
How Do We Live the Gospel?
The Gospel’s power to save us is not just a one time occurrence. I am not talking about being saved over and over again. Some people believe you have to accept Jesus Christ many times throughout your life. Every time you sin becomes another reason you need to accept Christ. I do believe one needs to repent often, but the truth is that once a person genuinely accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he or she will remain in Christ forever. Nothing will separate a believer from God. But the Gospel means more than just getting an unbeliever to become a believer. It is certainly about bringing people into the family of God; but, it is also about keeping the believer in the family of God.
There are other people who think that all they are supposed to do is say a prayer and get baptized. They think they can “believe” in Jesus Christ once and then live the rest of their lives like an unbeliever. That, too, is not what Paul meant here when he wrote, “Everyone who believes”. In fact, Paul literally said the Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who is believing.” It is not just once in your life you believe and you are done, but it is a continuous life of faith. The Gospel is not fire insurance, but it is the power of God for you to live your life every day to the fullest in Christ Jesus. How do we “live” the Gospel? Look at the second verse in this passage.
Romans 1:17 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
We live the Gospel every day of our lives by faith! The righteous people, those who have heard the Gospel and trusted in Jesus Christ, will live by faith. God always initiates a relationship with us and we respond to it in faith. Not only do we begin our relationship with Him by one act of faith, we continue our relationship with God by faith. Every point of the Gospel’s influence in our life depends on faith, not on works. It does not depend on you doing, but you trusting in what Christ has done, is doing, and will do for you. And by faith, we receive God’s righteousness. There is no rightness in us, it is all from God. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote the following:
Philippians 3:8–9 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.
Righteousness comes through faith in Christ. It depends on faith in Christ. It is sustained by faith in Christ. But, how can we live in the power of the Gospel? I suggest there are at least five ways to do this.
1) The Gospel removes any claim of us deserving anything. How many received Jesus Christ because they deserve Him? How many will go to Heaven because they deserve it? The answer is none. We do not earn Heaven. We do not earn a relationship with God. We do not earn rewards from God. God graciously bestows His gifts on us through His Son. The Gospel is about receiving mercy and grace, which we do not deserve.
2) The Gospel means I have no power. Paul wrote that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation. The Gospel is not a display of our power. It is not evidence of our ability to do anything. It is solely the powerful working of Christ in our lives. We can do nothing, absolutely nothing, to make ourselves right with God. It is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ that puts us in a right relationship with God. We can stop working our way into God’s favor and trust the work He has done and is still doing. Because the Gospel is God’s power for our salvation, we can be confident in our future.
3) The Gospel changes our relationship with God. The Gospel shows us that God loved each one of us so much, even while we were enemies and sinners, that He sent His only begotten Son. God’s love for us ought to motivate us to respond in love to Him. The Gospel changes us from sinful, hateful, enemies of God into righteous, loving, children of God. That is power! The Gospel changes who we are. Live as a child of the King.
4) The Gospel changes how we interact with one another. Once we believe that we cannot earn our salvation and that God forgives us, adopts us, and grants us peace and eternal life out of the good pleasure of His will, we are free to extend that grace to others. We do not have to worry about the person who cuts us off in traffic. We should not be concerned about the server who takes too long or forgets something on our order. We do not have to live for making people pay for their wrongdoings. The power of the Gospel, if we genuinely receive it, is that it changes who we are. We become more merciful, more gracious, and more forgiving. Because God has given us so much, through the working of Holy Spirit, we become more like Christ and extend grace.
5) The Gospel gives hope. Hope is a powerful thing. One of the most memorable statements I have recently heard was from the movie The Hunger Games. The President in that story explained why they had these brutal “gladiator” competitions instead of just beating people into submission. He said, “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.” Let that sink in for a second. Hope is a powerful thing! It can get us through some of the darkest moments in life. The Gospel is powerful because it gives us hope. It gives us hope for a better day. It gives us hope for an end of pain and suffering. It gives us hope for a life without fear, without condemnation, without death. We have hope that Christ has fully paid our debt of sin and nothing, I repeat nothing, will ever separate us from the love God has for us. (Col. 2:13-14, Rom. 8:38-39) That is powerful!
We all want to hear good news. There is Good News and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ! This is the best news to those who receive it. The Gospel is not just a one time experience to get you right with God. The Gospel is the power of God to put you in a right relationship with God and to then keep you in a right relationship with God. Real life begins by humbly coming before God and saying, “Here I am! I have nothing to give You except my very life, which is Yours anyway. I am utterly dependent upon you, but I trust in You to save me and to give me abundant life forever.” That is the power of the Gospel. It changes us and gives us life. News is powerful, but it is not good news if it is not received in time. News must be told to be received. Who have you shared the Gospel? Who will you share it this week? What can wash away sin? What can make you whole again? What is all your righteousness? It is nothing but the blood of Jesus. That is Good News and it is powerful. Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.