Sermon on Romans 1:16-17, preached on 7 October 2018.
Sermon Recording: Clik Here to Listen
Bible Readings: (OT) Psalm 40:1-17 / (NT) Romans 1:16-17
I. The gospel is the power of God for salvation
II. Salvation is for everyone who believes
III. God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel
We’ve just read one of the most important parts of the Bible. Many Christians agree that this is the heart of the gospel of Christ Jesus. This two-verse long section teaches basically three points; first, ‘the gospel is the power of God for salvation,’ second, ‘salvation is for everyone who believes,’ and third, ‘God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel.’ Based on this truth, the Apostle Paul says that he is not ashamed of the gospel. Truth is that he is more than being unashamed of the gospel; rather, he is proud of it. This is why he said in v. 15 which we covered last week that he was eager to come to Rome and preach the gospel to those Christians in Rome.
More important than Paul’s being proud of the gospel is the goodness of the gospel that must be proclaimed to the world and shared with everyone. It’s too good not to share with all – that’s the apostle’s point here. Many years ago, Mercedes Benz was producing their cars with an effective energy-absorbing car body. Someone asked the company spokesperson why they hadn’t enforced their patent on that design which was evidently copied by other companies. The spokesperson replied matter-of-factly, ‘Because some things in life are too important not to share.’ How true! In that category also falls the gospel of salvation, which saves people from far more than car collisions. The gospel Paul received from the Lord Jesus Christ saves people from their eternal damnation; it’s the most important thing to share with everyone in the whole world. In this sense, the Apostle Paul is not ashamed, and more than that, he is proud of the gospel.
So, now, let us see the three points these two verses which are often called as ‘the heart of the gospel’ teach – namely, ‘the gospel is the power of God for salvation,’ second, ‘salvation is for everyone who believes,’ and third, ‘God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel.’
I. THE GOSPEL IS THE POWER OF GOD FOR SALVATION
The first goodness of the gospel is its saving power. It means the kindness of God to save men who are powerless in terms of saving themselves from sin and death. Without this kindness of God, there would have been only one way for all in mankind – that is, eternal damnation.
Eph. 2:1 says that we were dead in trespasses and sins. If the word ‘dead’ implies anything, it implies ‘powerlessness.’ Physically dead people are in a state of total physical inability. They are absolutely powerless. They just lay there, cold, silent, still and decaying. People who are physically alive but spiritually dead are in a state of total spiritual inability; they’re spiritually powerless. Regarding this spiritual powerlessness and inability, Jesus says in Jn. 6:65, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Rom. 8:8 agrees and says, “Those who are in the flesh [meaning, spiritually dead ones] cannot please God.” To give you a couple more NT verses that describe this dead status are Jn. 3:3 and 5 and Mt. 7:16-18. In Jn. 3:3 and 5, Jesus speaks to Nicodemus who sought the way of salvation, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God … unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus again says in Mt. 7:16-18, “You will recognise [wolves] by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” The OT is not different from this teaching; Jeremiah speaks in Jer. 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” Please bear with me when I give you one last Bible verse that concludes this teaching of inability and powerlessness of the spiritually dead people – it’s 1 Cor. 2:14 which says: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” To put this in simple words, ‘sin is like a cancer with a 0% survival rate.’ Men die in sin and there’s no possible survival from it.
The gospel is about the power of God that saves sinners. In other words, it’s the good news of a 100% cure with 100% guaranty. If a cancer patient hears of a treatment with 100% guarantee, he would say it a lie or news of a false hope, but this news of God’s power to save sinners is true and solid.
This saving power is available through Jesus’ being fully man and fully God. Being fully man, yet, without sin, He was able to pay a human penalty for sins by dying a human death. Being fully God, Jesus can bear the burden of sin for whomever believes.
This good news is preached to people who have no eyes to see it, no ears to hear it. But the Holy Spirit opens their eyes and ears, thus, by seeing and hearing it, they may come to the Lord in repentance and faith. By repenting from their sins and trusting in Jesus the Saviour, the sinners who were dead in trespasses and sins are now alive in Christ, their bondage to sin is broken once and for all by the saving power of Jesus Christ. In this way, salvation is powerfully accomplished and powerfully applied to our hearts. Seeing this power of God in Jesus for the sinners like Paul and us, the apostle exclaims in Eph. 1:19, saying, “the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe”!
Surely, the power of God for salvation is what the gospel of Jesus reveals, and this is why the gospel is the good news for all sinners.
II. SALVATION IS FOR EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES
Another reason for proclaiming to and sharing the gospel with all men is because salvation is for everyone who believes. There’s no discrimination for receiving the benefit of salvation. Anyone and everyone can come and claim its eternal benefit, yet, through believing in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Our text passage says that this is ‘to the Jew first and also to the Greek.’ This means all peoples and tribes. It doesn’t mean salvation is for every human being who ever lived; rather, it means that, through faith, people of every race and tribe are saved. The Apostle Paul is, therefore, unashamed to preach this gospel of Jesus that saves to all people.
There was and still is a division between peoples in this world. According to each one’s language, people divide one from another. Language is not the only category for separation; appearance and sex, social status and cultural difference among peoples do sever them and the list never ends. But God’s salvation proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ is for any and all people from every fragment of man’s division. God’s salvation is granted to whosoever repents from sin and trusts in Jesus, believing that He is the Son of God who came in flesh to live a perfect life without sin, yet, die for the sinners, thus, pay the penalty for sin for those who believe. Salvation is for everyone who believes and because of this, the gospel of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed to the world and shared with everyone.
Moreover, God’s salvation is free. No price is to be paid for receiving this salvation. Only believe in the Lord Jesus! Faith is the only requirement. Yet, according to Eph. 2:8, even this faith is the gift of God, rather than our own doing. So, the only requirement for salvation – that is, faith – is not what we, sinners, offer to God for earning salvation; it is rather given to us by God as His gracious gift. So, it’s perfectly right to say that God’s salvation is free, without price. So, the invitation given in Isa. 55:1 and following is correct when it says, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. … Incline your ear, and come to Me; hear, that you may live.” The same is offered in Rev. 22:17 in these words: “Come … let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Our Lord Jesus explained this gift of God and its benefit in Jn. 4:13 in these words: “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spiring of water welling up to eternal life.”
God’s salvation is for everyone who believes, and this faith is even the gift from God. If this is the case, who would not share it with others? Moreover, God’s saving power is limitless and endless like the illustration of spring of water Jesus used. Its welling up to eternal life sounds like the never-ending supply of water to the oceans. The water in the oceans never dries up. No matter how much water anyone draws from it, there’s no lack of water. Likewise, God’s salvation, His ‘living water’ never dries up but always available for anyone who thirsts and comes to the Lord Jesus. In receiving this salvation through faith, there’s no discrimination or division or denial as Gal. 3:28 clearly points out, saying, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
So, how could the Apostle Paul or anyone else be ashamed of this gospel? It’s God’s power for salvation and this salvation is for everyone who believes. After all, this faith is God’s gift to whomever He delights to give. How could any of us be ashamed of such good news as this free gospel of Christ Jesus? We’re instead proud of it! More than being proud, we praise God before the eyes of the world for this powerful and gracious gospel!
III. GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS IS REVEALED IN THE GOSPEL
Our third and last reason for being proud of this gospel, thus, proclaiming and sharing it with the world is ‘God’s righteousness revealed in the gospel.’
Simply put, this means that the gospel of Jesus Christ proves that God is, first, righteous, second, faithful, and therefore, third, reliable. Let’s consider the first, that is, God is righteous. This is about His character or attribute of righteousness. This means, ‘God is always right.’ No matter what, God is always right. If anything seems to be unfair to man’s eyes or illogic to man’s logic, God is always right – that’s what the gospel reveals.
Think about sinful man’s fate. What is our fate? Death penalty for our sins and, after that, eternal damnation in hell – that’s what we deserve. Some people may still question our deservedness of death penalty for sin; but everyone including those sceptics has an innate sense for justice – that is, one who sins must face and receive its due punishment. Otherwise, movie industry would’ve never ventured to even exist. Everyone commits sins in addition to his/her original sin. So, everyone must die. So, Jesus died to pay the penalty for sins but not of His, but of others whom God the Father planned to save. Jesus was sinless from birth to the very end of His earthly life. So, He didn’t have to die; He supposed to not die because He had no penalty to pay. But He died to the death on the cross which meant ‘death under curse.’ Why? To demonstrate God’s righteousness, to tell the world who God is. He is righteous; whatever He does is good and upright. No matter how men see His works, how people talk about His decisions, God is righteous, and the gospel of Jesus Christ reveals it to the very eyes of the world!
The gospel also reveals God’s faithfulness. His righteousness means His faithfulness too because God keeps His promise for salvation. From the beginning, God’s promise was for those who put their trust in Him. He said, “I will … be your God and you shall be My people.” His promise is for salvation of His own. The blood of animal, however, could not save them because of its insufficiency to cancel the penalty for the sins of the sinners. Their keeping the law of God was not enough either because everyone failed it. So, God sent His Son, Jesus, to be the Substitute for all His elect. By shedding His divine blood, God saved His elect and kept His promise. Jesus’ blood still saves all who come to Him in repentance and faith! God is faithful and this is God’s righteousness revealed in the gospel.
Because of these two points, namely, God is righteous in all He does and God is faithful in keeping His promises, He is reliable, dependable, trustworthy. This is the third aspect of God’s righteousness revealed in the gospel. The righteous and faithful God is reliable; thus, come to Him in faith, come to Him in joy, come and drink from Him living water that wells up to eternal life! This is why we proclaim to the world that Jesus is the only Way, the only Truth and the only Life.
Of course, the Apostle Paul could not be ashamed of this life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. He eagerly desired to come to Rome and preach this powerful message of God’s salvation that is open for everyone from every tribe and people, and for free!
My dear fellow members of God’s household, the gospel of Christ Jesus is not something anyone could be ashamed of. Far from it! It is the only message the whole world must hear and take to their hearts because this message alone saves sinners!
So, what must be our response to hearing today’s message? Let us be and remain proud of this greatest message and only message for the mankind. Let us teach and share it with all people around us. Seek the Lord’s guidance and power in order that you may help others to hear it and benefit from it as you do now.
Let me finish by reading our text passage for today once again, “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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Amen. May God bless us, His children, saved by grace through hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. ***