“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.
We recently finished a special study about God’s Eternal Plan for Overcoming the World – a plan that Father, Son and Holy Spirit designed together before time began, before God created “the world.” If you haven’t read it yet, you may find it helpful before moving to the next part of our study.
You may also find it helpful to look back at our introduction to Acts 1:16-17 to remember some of the important aspects of Paul’s letter to the Romans and the honor-shame culture in which they lived.
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 power to bring salvation and honor to the lost soul. 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 Gospel of Christ is the “power, might, strength, ability, powerful deed, ability” of God “to salvation” – εις σωτηριαν. The Gospel is the “saving power” of God “for everyone who believes.”
The Greek reads παντι τω πιστευοντι – “to everyone believing.” The word for “everyone” is παντι and means “all, every part.” The word “believing” is πιστευοντι and means “have faith in, trust in, have confidence.” It comes from a root word for “persuasion” (to be persuaded). The word “believes” impacts the word “everyone.” The Gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation for believers. Belief (trust, faith, confidence) is a vital aspect of how God expresses “saving power.”
The Jew First
Who is this “everyone” who believes? Paul answers –
“… for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
The Greek reads ιουδαιω τε πρωτον και ελληνι, “to Jew both firstly and to Greek.” This is God’s eternal plan, so let’s think about the order Paul gives us. It goes back to a promise God made to a man thousands of years ago.
“Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3
God called a man and his family to leave their home in Ur of the Chaldees and go to a land God would show them. The man was Abram and the land was Canaan (Genesis 11:31; 12:5). God told Abram that He would make him “a great nation” and make his name “great.” God also told Abram that “all the families of the earth” would be blessed through him.
Let’s go back to Romans 1:1-4 for a reminder about how Paul is weaving together the facts of biblical history to understand how the Gospel is the power of God “to salvation for everyone who believes.”
“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” Romans 1:1-4
Paul began his letter to the Romans by telling them that the “gospel of God” concerned His Son Jesus Christ, “who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh.” The Greek for “according to the flesh” is κατα σαρκα and addresses the physical genealogy of Jesus. The first verse of the New Testament reads – “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1) Here’s how David connects to Abraham –
“Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king.” Matthew 1:2-6
Both Matthew 1 and Romans 1 remind us that Jesus is the “promised seed” of Abraham who would become a blessing to Israel and all the nations of the world.
Soon after Pentecost Peter addressed the issue of how God would bless the world through Israel because they were the “seed of Abraham.”
“So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: ‘Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. ‘Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” Acts 3:12-26
All the Families of the Earth
God sent His Son Jesus to bless Israel and through Israel to bless “all the families of the earth.” However, the religious leaders of Israel rejected God’s offer by killing Jesus and some of His Jewish followers (e.g. James, Stephen), so God opened the door to the Gentiles in a new way.
We’ll look at that next time as we continue our study – Romans – The Gospel of God.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.