The Greatness of the Gospel
Many people today live with emptiness and despair. Depression and apathy seem ubiquitous. Others aggressively pursue the elusive goals of this earthly life, only to be confronted with the hollowness of their dreams. Like gerbils running aimlessly in cages, they expend their energy but never seem to get anywhere.
Life doesn’t have to be this way. God has made wonderful provisions for us that should be good news to everyone who wants fulfillment and joy. The apostle Paul was eager to share this information with the fledgling church in Rome. Writing to believers he had not yet visited, he provided, in his epistle to the Romans, the fullest presentation of the gospel that he had been preaching elsewhere.
He began by expounding on the forgiveness of sin through Jesus. But he went much further, providing help and hope to believers (“beloved of God, called to be saints”; 1:7) who struggle with sin and hardship: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel [“good news”] of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation [Greek, soteria, “deliverance”] for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek [Gentile]” (1:16).
Deliverance From the Penalty of Sin (Romans 1—5)
At the outset, Paul wanted to make sure his readers understood the sinfulness of the human race and the hope God provided. In Romans 1:18—3:20, he explained that every single human being is bound in sin: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (3:19).
The good news is that deliverance from this sinful condition is available because “the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed,…through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (vv. 21–22). Any man, woman, or child—Jewish or Gentile—can be “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ [Messiah] Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood” (vv. 24–25).
How wonderful that we can share this message with people around us who are otherwise doomed in their innately sinful state. Deliverance from the darkness of sin and death and from eternal separation from God is available without charge. The very righteousness of God—which has been manifested through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection—is free to all who place their faith in Him. This gospel delivers people from the guilt and fear of death that has plagued them all their lives (Heb. 2:14–15).
The penalty for your sin has already been paid. The debt to God you could not pay has been canceled. It is as though you visited a doctor, learned you have an incurable disease, and then heard of a miracle cure guaranteed to work instantly. What news could be better? The only requirement is that you avail yourself of the cure.
Deliverance From the Power of Sin (Romans 6—8)
Paul’s gospel, however, extends beyond the wonderful news of deliverance from the penalty of sin. It includes deliverance from the power of sin. Romans 6—8 presents God’s solution to every believer’s struggle with sin. Even Paul was exasperated over it: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (7:24). His answer was the Holy Spirit, who ministers in the lives of believers to set them free from the law of sin and death. Through baptism, believers symbolically die with Christ to sin and are raised with Him to “walk in newness of life” (6:4): “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 11). The logical conclusion of this teaching is this:
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God (vv. 12–13).
The Greek grammar Paul employed means this passage is to be understood as saying, “Stop letting sin reign” and “Stop presenting your members.”
Though walking in newness of life is easier said than done, it is possible because “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made [us] free from the law of sin and death” (8:2). In other words, the law of the Spirit trumps the law of sin and death, just as the law of aerodynamics sets men free from the law of gravity.
The law of sin and death, however, does not disappear; but it is overpowered by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus for those who walk in the Spirit (v. 4). The Spirit of God then leads (v. 14), produces the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23), makes us obedient servants of God, and provides purpose in life. Paul added, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:28, 31).
Deliverance From the Presence of Sin (Romans 9—11)
At this point, Paul anticipated his readers would say, “You say nothing can separate us from the love of God (8:31–39), but what happened to Israel?” To answer this objection, Paul explained God’s sovereignty and touched on His coming Messianic Kingdom.
First, he confirmed, “The adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises” belong to Israel (9:4). Then he said, “It is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (v. 6). Not every Jewish person was saved, even under the old economy. Furthermore, God determined that He would save many from among the Gentiles, while still keeping a remnant from His Chosen People, such as Paul himself.
Toward the end of Romans 11, the apostle explained:
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (11:25–27, 29).
Paul taught that the sovereign God eventually will restore the Kingdom to Israel, and with that restoration will come the deliverance of all creation “from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (8:21). This, too, is great news. Believers have the opportunity to be part of God’s sovereign plan to glorify Himself, knowing He will fulfill all of His promises, both to Christians and to Israel.
The book of Revelation says Jesus will rule this Jewish Kingdom, and the glory of God will cover the earth. Satan and his deception will be eliminated. Consequently, sin and its effects will largely be absent during the Millennium, until Satan is released.
For today’s Church-Age believers, deliverance from sin’s presence will occur at death or the Rapture, whichever comes first. Tribulation saints will experience this deliverance at death or at the onset of the Messianic Kingdom, whichever comes first.
Consequently, Paul wrote, “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’” (1:16–17).
The entire book of Romans is the gospel. It reveals God’s righteousness and explains how people can have victory over sin. Good news, indeed.