Romans – The Gospel of God (Part 31)

“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

The Apostle Paul is just 16 verses into his letter to the Romans and has already use the word “gospel” four times.

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.” vs 1

“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” vs 9

“So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.” vs. 15

“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.” vs. 16

Paul told the Romans he was “ready” to preach the Gospel to them because it is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” Before we consider the “power” of the Gospel, let’s look at the “purpose” of the Gospel.

The Eternal God

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

“In the beginning God …” Genesis 1:1

God. Just God. No universe. No heavens. No earth. No time. No space. No angels. Just God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Based on what the Bible tells us about God, He has always existed. God is ‘self-existent.’ He is the ‘Necessary Being’ and dependent on no one for His existence. God is without beginning or end. He is not encumbered by time or space. He is free from all succession of time. He is infinite and immortal. God has all power, all knowledge, all understanding and all wisdom and has always had it!

The Eternal Plan

We come now to one of the most difficult and debated theological issues in all of history – the existence of evil, sin, pain, suffering and death. If God is a “loving” God and an “all-powerful” God, why did He create a world where evil, sin, pain, suffering and death were possible? Why would He allow that to happen when it was within His power to create a world where evil, sin, pain, suffering and death were impossible? What was His purpose?

If God meant for human beings to be able to answer that important question, He would have revealed the answer to us. I say “revealed” because there is no other way humans could possibly know why God chose to do something before time began, before He created the heavens and the earth. As God asked Job – “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4) The answer is simple – Job wasn’t there; no human beings existed when God laid the foundations of the earth. How can we possibly know why God did what He did? He must reveal it to us – and He has – in His Word.

In light of the fact that God promised us eternal life “before time began” (Titus 1:2), chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4) and “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), we see clearly that God had a plan for all of humanity before He created the heavens and the earth. The “gospel of God” was not an afterthought when things didn’t go well in the Garden of Eden. The “gospel of His Son” was not a plan that God threw together at the last minute when He saw things turning out badly for Adam and Eve. The All-Knowing, All-Wise God created the heavens and the earth with an eternal plan that we are witness to every day.

The Plan Revealed

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

God conceived a ‘plan’ based on His ‘purpose’ and Genesis 1:1 is the beginning of ‘revealing’ that plan to His new creation. As we read God’s process of bara (create) in Genesis 1, we see His immense power and size, his phenomenal intellect and wisdom, and we see His incomparable creativity and amazing sense of order. We also see that God is alive (e.g. conscious, aware, moving, acting), personal (e.g. thought, sight, speech, intent, will) and existed before time (e.g. eternal, not encumbered by time or space).

Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:26-28

The creation of man was God’s crowning achievement. God (elohim) made (na’a’seh – let us make) man (adam) “in Our image” (besalmenu), “according to Our likeness” (kidmutenu). The statement is repeated in verse 27 – “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” God (elohim) created (wayyibra) man (haadam) in His own image (besalmow) in the image (beselem) of God (elohim) He created (bara) them male and female He created (bara) them.

The Hebrew word for “image,” tselem, and the word for “likeness,” dᵉmûwth, work together to help reveal God’s intention for humans. The word tselem means “a resemblance, a representative figure.”  It was used in Genesis 5:3 to describe how Adam “begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth,” and in Numbers 33:52 and other Scriptures for how idols were “images” of false gods (graven images). The word dᵉmûwth means “similitude, similar in appearance.” It could mean both a visual and audible similarity. It comes from the word dâmâh, which means “to resemble, to be like.” Using the two words together shows that God’s intention was to create a living being that was not just an “image” of Him, but also “like” Him.

God placed so much emphasis on the importance of creating man in His image and likeness that He would say to Noah and his family after the Flood – “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.” The Hebrew words translated “in the image of God” are baselem elohim – the same words used in Genesis 1:26-27. 

It’s important to remember that when God made man “in Our image, according to Our likeness” He was revealing a plan that Father, Son and Holy Spirit had already determined to carry out. Everything we see God do in the process of Creation is based on that plan – “according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9). It appears that God’s earlier creative acts were part of the preparation for the unveiling of His great plan concerning the adam He created “in Our image, according to Our likeness.”

There are many amazing creatures in God’s universe, but only human beings were created in God’s image and likeness. It speaks to a purposeful relationship. God created man, male and female, “in Our image, according to Our likeness” for a specific purpose and relationship. We will look at that purpose and relationship and what has become of it in the next part our study of Romans.

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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