“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 1:16-17
In our last study we saw that the Apostle Paul was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” We looked at how readers might understand this statement based on their living in an ‘honor-shame’ culture. Public shame was to be shunned at all cost. However, the Gospel of Christ carried with it a strong message of public shame.
When the Apostle Peter preached in public in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, he accused the people of Israel of shamefully killing Jesus Christ “by lawless hands.” When Peter and other apostles were arrested for preaching about Jesus in the public arena, they accused the rulers of Israel publicly of shamefully murdering Jesus and opposing God who had exalted Jesus to His right hand to be Prince and Savior and to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. When the deacon Stephen defended his preaching of the Gospel in the streets of Jerusalem, he accused the people of Israel of shamefully being “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears” and always resisting the Holy Spirit because they killed Jesus. When Paul spoke publicly to King Agrippa and others who were in attendance that day, he admitted to shamefully persecuting followers of Christ before becoming a Christ-follower.
In this study we will see that Romans 1:16-17 is thematic. Paul presented the thesis for the first section of his letter and it addresses the powerful issue of humanity’s shame and God’s offer of honor.
Here is the basic flow of Paul’s thematic argument in Romans 1:16-17:
- I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ
- 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 Gospel of Christ) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith
- The just shall live by faith
Paul lived, traveled, preached and taught the Gospel of Christ in an honor-shame culture and was not ashamed of it. Why? Because it had a unique ‘power’ within it. The Greek word for ‘power’ in Romans 1:16 is δυναμις and means “power, might, strength, ability, marvelous works, powerful deeds, efficacy, energy.” δυναμις comes from the word δύναμαι which means “to be able, to have power.” The Gospel of Christ is the “power, might, strength, ability, powerful deed, ability” of God “to salvation – εις σωτηριαν. The word εις is a preposition that indicates motion, direction, purpose and result. The direction of the Gospel is from ‘shame’ to ‘honor.’
Paul is going to make a case in his letter to the Romans that everyone, Jew and Gentile, has sinned and come short of God’s standard. Paul will make the case that God’s standard is “righteousness,” but every human misses the mark of that standard and is “unrighteous” before Him. The solution is in the Gospel of Christ because it contains the “power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”
The Greek word for ‘salvation’ in Romans 1:16 is σωτηριαν and means “deliverance, rescue, preservation, safety, salvation.” It comes from the word σωτήρ which means “savior, deliverer, preserver” and from σῴζω which means “safe, save, well, preserve, heal, rescue.” Paul did not introduce the idea of ‘salvation.’ It was not a specific ‘Pauline’ doctrine (teaching). The need for salvation finds its beginning in the eternal plan and purpose of God.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:3-6
When did God choose Paul and other human beings for every spiritual blessing, to be holy and without blame before Him in love, and to be adopted as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself? “… before the foundation of the world.” The Greek word for “foundation” is καταβολή and means ‘a laying down, throwing down, casting down, foundation, depositing, sowing, act of conception.’ It comes from the word καταβάλλω which is a combination of the preposition κατά (down, against, according to) and the verb βάλλω (to throw, cast). Jesus used the word καταβολή when he said – “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)
The Apostle Peter used the word καταβολή in the context of how God saves people through Christ, who was “foreordained before the foundation of the world” to be the unblemished, unspotted sacrifice for our sin.
“And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:17-21
Paul wrote to Timothy that he shouldn’t be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ because God had a purpose for suffering for the Gospel from “before time began” and it is connected to our salvation and holy calling – “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
Think about that for a minute. God gave us His ‘grace’ (which was in Christ Jesus) ‘before time began.’ How could God give ‘us’ anything before time began? How could we receive what He gave us before time began? Paul also told Titus that God made us a promise before time began – “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Titus 1:2). That promise was the hope of ‘eternal life.’
The Eternal God
God is called the “Eternal God” and the “Everlasting God” in Scripture (e.g. Genesis 21:33; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 9:6). God exists ‘from everlasting to everlasting’ – “Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:2)
We also know from Scripture that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternal and were involved in creating the universe.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:1-2
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:1-3
In order to understand something that God purposed, promised and gave before He created the world, we need to consider what God was thinking prior to the beginning of time. To know what God was thinking before time, we need to see what He has revealed to us about that since there is no way we can know that information apart from revelation.
Jesus gave His disciples some insights to what was going on between Him and the Father before time began.
“And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” John 17:5
“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24
God the Father ‘loved’ God the Son and shared ‘glory’ with the Son ‘before the foundation of the world.’ These are keys to understanding what God purposed and promised and why He did what He did. We’ll look deeper into God’s purpose and promise in our next study.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”