Any athlete knows the importance of returning to the basics. So-called advanced techniques are really just basic moves coupled with speed and accuracy. Golfers will go back to the basics when they’ve lost their swing. This is also true of basketball, baseball, and football players who have lost their game. As believers, it is important to regularly get back to the basics and understand the foundational truth of the gospel. I believe Romans 1-8 offers us an opportunity to do just that.
I really like this quote from Martin Luther about the book of Romans: “This Epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest gospel, and is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with, the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes.” An exploration of the book of Romans as a whole, but specifically Romans 1-8, which speaks of Christ’s finished work on the cross, allows us to become more acquainted with the gospel’s basics. This allows us to confidently press on victoriously in our journey with the Lord.
Paul introduces us to the power of the gospel in Romans 1:1-17. Paul begins by giving us a two-fold description of himself as well as the substance and scope of the gospel in verses 1-7. Paul is a servant and apostle. Paul is a humble servant of God with a special calling and authority given him by Christ. The substance of the gospel is Jesus Christ, and the scope of the gospel is everyone (all nations).
Then, in verses 8-15, we discover that the faith of the church in Rome is world-renown. Paul also discloses that he is a debtor. Paul can’t wait to go to Rome to minister and be ministered to. When the relationship between believers is as it should be, the blessings run both directions. The indebtedness Paul feels is due to receiving the good news about and salvation through Jesus Christ. He must share the love and message of Christ with others. When people enter into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ, they are immediately saved and sent.
Paul concludes his introduction to his epistle in verses 16-17 by declaring that the gospel is powerful in that it saves and reveals God’s righteousness. We read: “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’” (vv. 16-17). Notice Paul does not ask for the gospel to be powerful. The gospel is powerful.
We recognize the gospel’s power in the Son of God becoming incarnate, living a sinless life, suffering, being crucified and buried, rose again, and ascended into heaven. We recognize the gospel’s power in the accomplishment of salvation. Sinful people, far from God, can hear and respond to the good news that Christ died for their sins and was resurrected for their salvation and can repent and believe in Christ and be saved. Those in Christ are called by God, justified by grace, regenerated by the Spirit, united with Christ, adopted into God’s family, and filled with the very Spirit of God. Now that’s power!
The Christian life begins with faith and is maintained through growing faith. As J.B. Lightfoot rightly proclaimed: “Faith is the starting point and the goal.” The gospel is powerful, and God is righteous. Righteousness is a legal term. To be righteous is to be right, just, and good. It can speak of the actions and positive results of a sound relationship, especially within a community or communion. The Christian is granted Christ’s righteousness and seeks to bring about personal and social righteousness in all his/her relationships. God’s righteousness is a key concept in Romans. God is righteous because he always acts in accord with His holy character and promises to His people.
It’s important to understand that the person who waits to be saved based on his/her own righteousness will wait forever. Likewise, if we wait to grow spiritually based on our own prideful efforts, there will be no spiritual growth. The righteousness revealed by God is a God kind righteousness, that man unaided could never have conceived or still less attain. We come to Christ in faith and grow in faith. We trust God for our salvation and walk in step with the Spirit to become like Him. This is remarkable and speaks to the basics of the gospel. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!