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What We Believe
In our series on what we believe, last week we looked at the Bible and how it is God’s word to us providing answers and directions for life that are practical, beneficial, and relevant. It teaches us what is true and reproves what isn’t, and it instructs us on how to get and stay right with God.
Therefore it is only natural that this week we look the gospel of Jesus Christ in our series.
I’d like to begin with a story about Fritz Kreisler, a world-famous violinist. On one of his trips he discovered an exquisite violin, but didn’t have the money to buy it. Later, having raised enough money he returned to the seller only to find that he had already sold it to a collector.
Kreisler then made his way to the collector’s home and offered to buy the violin, but the collector was unwilling to part with what he called his most prized possession. Disappointed, Kreisler was about to leave when he asked if he could play the instrument one more time before it was consigned to silence.
The collector agreed, and it is said that Kreisler played such heart moving music that the emotions of the collector were so moved that he said, “I have no right to keep this to myself. It’s yours, take it into the world and let the people hear it.”
This story is at the heart of our text this morning. It is Paul’s declaration that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, and was ready to preach it to whomever, even the Gentiles, because the gospel is the power of God to salvation to all who will believe it.
“I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:14-17)
Paul begins by saying that he owed a debt to the Gentiles, but it wasn’t so much a debt he owed to the Gentiles, as it was a debt he owed to God, with payments being made to the Gentiles.
Paul sees himself as a man who cannot rest until every gospel cent was paid back. But what we must understand is that while his debt is to God, his payment is to humanity.
This should bring a breath of fresh air to revive our tired spirits in the same endeavor as God has called all of us to this same mission. If we see ourselves as such debtors to God made payable to our neighbors, community, and the world, then nothing would stop us from opening our mouths and letting others know.
This very thing is what drove Hudson Taylor to the mission field and to China where there was no witness for Jesus Christ and the gospel message. When it was said of Hudson Taylor that he had given his life to the Orient because he loved the Chinese he said, “No, not because I love the Chinese, but because I love God.”
Getting back to our story about Paul, why take it to the Gentiles and not the Jews? Actually it was both, as we see in our text as Paul said, “to the Jew first and also for the Greek,” but God called Paul to specifically pay His debt forward to the Gentiles.
This was actually part of Paul’s job description, if I could say it like that. The Lord described Paul’s mission to Ananias, a disciple of Christ who lived in Damascus. Ananias was told by the Lord to go and heal Paul of his blindness, which Ananias was hesitant to do. To say that he wasn’t too thrilled about it is an understatement, because Paul was an enemy to those of the Christian faith putting them in jail and even to death.
But the Lord told Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” (Acts 9:15)
Therefore, in every city he visited, Paul always began his missionary work and the preaching of the gospel in the local synagogue, but then took it out to the Gentiles to fulfill the Lord’s command. Paul explained this in the city of Antioch Pisidia, because of the Jewish hostility against his message, he said to them, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46)
Because of this, and Paul’s statement to the Roman church, he is often referred to as the Apostle to the Gentiles. And God did this to fulfill the promise made by Jesus that the message of salvation would be open to all who would believe.
Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)
In the Greek language, the word gospel means “good news.” So what is the good news? In a nutshell it is that the Lord provided Himself as the way of salvation through Jesus’s sacrifice and death upon the cross and His resurrection from the dead three days later. This is a gift given by God to all who will accept it.
Therefore, like that collector who wanted to hoard the violin, we do not have the right or the freedom to keep this wonderful message to ourselves. The good news, the gospel is for sharing, and the Lord puts us under a debt to pay it forward.
And so, from the time of his conversion, Paul has never been ashamed of the gospel message. And in like manner how can we ever be ashamed of it. For though it God has reconciled us to Himself through Christ. He has forgiven our sins, made us His children, put His Holy Spirit within us, and has moved us from this temporary life to eternal life with Him in heaven. How can we ever be ashamed of that?
Paul then goes on in our passage to give us two reasons as to why this is so.
1. It is the Power of God
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16 NKJV)
This word, “power,” in the Greek language is where we get our English word, “dynamite.” It is an explosive power, or more literally it is the dynamic unharnessed power of God to bring people out of the darkness of being forever lost and into the light of eternal salvation.
But here’s the kicker. It is not a power that belongs to man or is inherent within us. The gospel’s power is a power that is derived from God. It is the very power that created the universe.
You might want to think of it this way. The most urgent and imperative need of the human soul isn’t significance; rather it is love, joy, peace, and a never-ending future with God. And only the gospel of Jesus Christ can provide these. It is the gospel that rescues humanity from the consequences of sin, which is eternal death, and brings them into the state of holiness, righteousness, freedom, fellowship, and everlasting life.
And by saying that it is for everyone, what that means is that the gospel has the power to save without distinction. Paul is saying is that the qualification for salvation isn’t based upon a person’s background, nationality, intellect, or education. Rather, it’s based on belief. And so while salvation is open to all, it is limited to only those who will by faith believe in and receive it.
2. It is the Righteousness of God
“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17, NIV)
It is in the gospel of Jesus Christ that God’s righteousness is revealed. But what kind of righteousness is being revealed. Well, what I can say is that it isn’t a righteousness based upon human standards or human achievements. Rather, it is a righteousness that comes from God and from Him alone, and is bestowed upon a person through faith in Jesus Christ.
You see, our own self-made righteousness, or our man-made standards is what keeps us from having a right standing, or a right relationship with God. But the righteousness offered to us through the gospel is God’s own righteousness whereby we can stand in a right relationship with Him forever. Therefore, it is by God’s grace through our faith, and not through our own works of righteousness that we are saved.
This is brought out by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesian church. He said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Seeing then that it is through God’s own righteousness and since there is no work that we might do to make ourselves righteous before God, what this means is that when we come to Him by faith believing in what Jesus Christ did for us upon the cross, God no longer considers us as sinners or His enemies to be judged and punished, but rather He treats us as if we never have sinned and as a child of His to be loved.
And therein lies the good news, that no matter how helplessly mired in sin we may be, there is a way to gain that right standing with God and be accepted as His child. You see, the gospel message is for those who come to the end of themselves, an end of their trying to get right with God based upon their own understanding and righteousness. Instead they come to that place of completely trusting in what God has done in providing His Son, Jesus Christ, as that perfect sinless sacrifice, and that all who will believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.
And so, because the gospel is the righteousness of God,
• It is possible for us to stand sinless before God
• It is possible for us to know that we have eternal life
• And it is possible for us to be free from the frustration of trying to do it on our own.
All it takes is faith in God’s amazing grace proclaimed in the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
But in saying that, there is something else we need to consider. And that is God’s righteousness isn’t something that we can earn; rather God’s righteousness is a gift.
Look at what Paul goes on to say to the church in Rome.
“For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17 NKJV)
And so, like God’s grace that we looked at several weeks back, God’s righteousness is also a gift to be received.
And so, not only is the gospel the power of God, but it is also the righteousness of God as well. It was this; along with the debt he owed to God made payable to the Gentiles that motivated Paul not to be ashamed of the gospel.
Therefore, instead of chasing the dreams of this world, we should be having as our goal something that is far greater, something that is far superior, and that is the ministry of the gospel wherever God has placed us.
The gospel message is so simple. The gospel is the power and righteousness of God for salvation to everyone who believes, and it all is a matter of faith.
So, don’t let Satan put you on the shelf and silence you as one of his prized possession like that violin collector tried to do. Instead let it out for the whole world to hear.
Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35 NKJV)
But let me share with you how the New Living Translation reads.
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” (Mark 8:35 NLT)
My prayer for all of us is that the Lord will ignite a passion deep within to become His messengers to whomever He sends us to wherever they may be at.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study