“I am not Ashamed of the Gospel”
The Book of Romans is considered by many to be the most profound piece of literature in existence. It is, without question, an epistle of pure gold from beginning to end. It has powerfully influenced and altered the lives of countless men and women for nearly two thousand years. John Calvin said, “When anyone gains a knowledge of this Epistle, he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture.”
The importance of this Epistle cannot be overstated. Martin Luther called the Book of Romans “the perfect Gospel” and referred to it as “the true masterpiece of the New Testament.” He wrote, “This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.”
It was this Book, Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, that God used to cause “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ” to shine in Luther’s heart and light the fire that lit up the world, that we call “the Reformation.”
Paul wrote this Epistle to the
not know how the church in
The Book is important because it reveals every essential aspect of Gospel doctrine. In the 1st chapter Paul clearly defines the gospel. Remember, there is but one gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). The New Testament does not reveal a gospel. It reveals the gospel. Here the gospel is defined by a man writing under divine inspiration. All other definitions and descriptions of the gospel given by men must be judged in the light of this definition.
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made 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: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ” (vv. 1-6).
The Gospel is of God. It is defined here as “the gospel of God” for at least these four reasons: (1.) God is the Author of it, (2.) God is the Subject of it, (3.) God is the Revealer of it, and (4.) God is the Executor of it (Eph. 1:3-14). The Gospel we believe and preach was “Promised afore by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures.” It is not a novel doctrine. This is the everlasting gospel. It was conceived in the heart of God from all eternity. It was ordained before the world was. It was hid in Christ, the Wisdom of God, from the beginning (Pro. 8). It was revealed to the sons of men in promise, by the prophets, in pictures, in type and in ceremony throughout the Old Testament (Acts ; Heb. 1:1, 2; Luke 24:44, 45). It was manifested in time by the coming of our Lord (2 Tim. 1:9, 10).
It is “concerning his Son.” The gospel of God is all about Christ. The gospel is not about baptism, morality, or religious reformation and ritualism of any kind. The gospel is all about Christ. Christ is the express and solitary subject of the gospel. Christ is the gospel. The gospel concerns his person and his work. The whole gospel is included in Christ; and if a man removes one step from Christ, he departs from the gospel (2 Cor. 11:3; 1 John -13, 20).
It is all about Christ, who was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (v. 4). Be sure you get this. Christ was made or became a man, the seed of David (Gal. 4:4); but he was not made the Son of God. He was “declared to be the Son of God” (John ). He is declared to be the Son of God with power (Heb. 1:2,3; Matt. 28:18; John 17:2; ). He was declared to be the Son of God with power, “according to the spirit of holiness,” by whom he was justified when he raised him from the dead (1 Tim. ).
He was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. It is upon this great fact, the fact of his resurrection from the dead that the whole gospel rests (1 Cor. -19). Our Lord’s resurrection from the dead declares visibly and undeniably that he is all that he claimed. His resurrection is the declaration of our justification (Rom. -5:1). And his resurrection from the dead is the guarantee of ours.
Then, Paul tells us (vv. 5-6) that it is
in Christ and by the gospel that we receive grace unto the obedience of faith,
being called of God by the irresistible grace and power of his Spirit. It is
against this backdrop that Paul declares in verses 15-17, “So, as much as in
me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at
Beginning with verse 18 in chapter 1 and going through , Paul shows us the universal need of the gospel by setting forth the utter depravity and total inability of all men to know God or attain salvation without the gospel. All men by nature are condemned and under the wrath of God because all “hold (hold down and suppress) the truth of God in unrighteousness” (). The heathen know the truth of God by the light of nature and conscience, but suppress and pervert it according to their own lusts. The Jews know the truth of God, both by the light of nature and conscience and by the revelation of God in the Old Testament Scriptures, but suppress and pervert it according to their own lusts.
Men and women the world over who have the inspired Volume of Holy Scripture, and who have heard the gospel preached in this day are in a position of even greater responsibility. Yet, the world over, fallen men and women sin against the light of creation, the light of conscience, and the light of inspiration in Holy Scripture, suppressing and perverting the truth of God in unrighteousness according to their own lusts. ― “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man…For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law” (2:1, 12).
That simply means that salvation by the works of men is utterly impossible. Salvation must come by the gospel. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” ().
Beginning in verse 20 of chapter 3 and going through chapter 5, the Holy Spirit shows us that justification is altogether the work of God’s free grace in Jesus Christ, without works of any kind on our part. The gospel of Christ is the proclamation of free justification by Christ, the declaration of redemption accomplished, showing forth the righteousness of God, righteousness earned by the faithful obedience of Christ unto death as the sinner’s Substitute. It is the proclamation of the good news that the God of heaven is “a just God and a Savior” (Isa. .
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (3:20-26).
Abraham and David
In the 4th chapter Paul uses both Abraham and David as examples of this free justification. Both Abraham and David received justification by faith in Christ, just as believers do today. Believing on Christ, God declared them righteous, without any righteousness or righteous works of their own.
“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (4:3-8).
Justification is not accomplished by faith. If faith added anything to justification, Paul’s statement in Roman’s would not make any sense. Rather, faith receives the blessedness of free justification accomplished by Christ. “Therefore,” we read, “it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed” (v. 16).
When we read in Romans 4:22 that God
imputed the righteousness of Christ to Abraham, Paul tells us that that was not
written for Abraham’s sake alone, “but for us also, to whom it is being
imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (v.
24 ― my translation). In verse 25 Paul tells us that justification was
accomplished by Christ at
“Therefore being justified, by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (5:1-11).
In Romans 5:12-21 Paul shows that our father Adam, and the sin and fall of our race in and by him, was typical and representative of our salvation by Christ. Just as all the human race were made sinners by what Adam did as our representative before God, so all God’s elect are made righteous before God by what Christ did as the last Adam, our all-glorious Federal Head, Substitute and Representative before God.
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (5:12, 18-21).
Paul’s message here is very simple and clear. ― Righteousness and justification are things accomplished for us by Christ, totally outside our experience and altogether without contribution of any kind from us.
Chapter 6 begins with a brief discussion of believer’s baptism, declaring that by baptism every believer is symbolically baptized into Christ and into his death, asserting that when Christ died as our Substitute, we died with him and in him. Rising up from the watery grave, we declare, that when Christ arose, we arose with him and in him. Then, Paul draws this conclusion to our symbolic profession of faith in Christ, ― “Even so, we also should walk in the newness of life.” With that, he begins to tell us about our new life in Christ which we refer to as “sanctification.”
Being sanctified, separated from all men by the grace of God and made righteous in Christ, we must not serve sin (vv. 6-11). Having assured us that God reckons every believer dead to sin in free justification, he tells us that we who believe ought to use God’s reckoning with reference to ourselves. ― “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Being saved by the grace of God, we are free in Christ. We do not live as slaves under the yoke of legal bondage, but as sons and daughters of our God and heavenly Father. Twice in two verses he declares that we “are not under the law” (vv. 14-15). Then, in the 7th chapter he tells us that we are free from the law in exactly the same way as a woman whose husband is dead is free from the law of her husband. ― “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (7:1-4).
Yet, as long as we live in this body of flesh, God’s saints in this world live in a constant struggle with sin. Believers are men and women constantly at war with themselves. We would love God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves; but we simply are not able (yet) to do so. We would never sin against our God; but we cannot (yet) live without sin.
“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (-25).
This subject of our sanctification continues in chapter 8 (vv. 1-27). Sanctification is life in the Spirit, and life in the Spirit is neither more nor less than living by faith, walking with God by faith in Christ Jesus. Those who are born of God no longer live after the flesh. That is to say, we do not live by the bondage of the law, but in the blessed liberty of grace. And living by grace, trusting Christ alone as our righteousness before God, the law of God is fulfilled in us (Rom. ).
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (8:1-10).
Paul proceeds to tell us that all who live by faith in Christ, that all who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit, being totally free from all fear of condemnation, or even the possibility of it, live in the constant, immediate hope and expectancy of the glorious liberty of the sons of God, as “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.”
Many modern commentators, preachers, and religious leaders tell us that, “The Book of Romans reveals God’s great plan of salvation.” Nothing could be further from the truth. God almighty does not have a plan of salvation! I make plans; and you make plans. But, we all know that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” God almighty doesn’t have a plan. He has an eternal, unalterable purpose of grace called divine predestination, by which he sovereignly rules the universe all the time. That is the subject of Romans .
Romans gives us the sweet assurance of God’s wise, adorable, unerring providence, which is but the execution of his eternal purpose of grace in predestination. God’s eternal purpose of grace in predestination secured the eternal glory of God’s elect before the world began and assures every believing sinner of the certainty of eternal glory with Christ, even while we live in this world, struggling with our own unbelief and sin.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:28-39).
No passage in the Book of God is sweeter to the tastes of believing hearts, no pillow can be found that is more soft and restful for our aching heads, there are no words from our God in which our souls more greatly rejoice than Romans 8:28-39, unless it is Romans 9. Romans 8:28-39 declares God’s purpose of grace, his determination to save the people of his love. Romans 9 declares that nothing in that great purpose of grace is ever in jeopardy, because nothing in the purpose of God hinges upon the will and work of men. Nothing hinges upon what we call the good choices and works of men or the evil choices and works of men. Everything hinges upon, is determined, and comes to pass according to his sovereign will, according to his good purpose of grace.
“(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (-18).
Does that men that men have no responsibility? Does that men that some cannot be saved? Perish the thought! This all means that some men most certainly shall be saved. This means that every sinner in the world who believes on Christ has eternal life. This is a matter of certainty because the work is already done. That is what Paul tells us in verses 4-8. In verse 13 he declares, “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Then, he tells us that God has determined that all he has purposed to save, he has purposed to save by the hearing of the gospel (vv. 14-17). But what if they live in a heathen land? What if no one in that land has ever heard of Christ? That would create a problem for the plannings of men, but not for the purpose of God!
Chapter 11 describes how the Lord God raised up the nation of Israel and used their rebellion and unbelief, and his resulting judgment upon them, called “the casting away” of Israel after the flesh, to send the Gospel into all the world and save his elect out of every nation, his true Israel, the Israel of God.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” (11:25-27).
Yes, God raises up men and nations and tears them down, precisely according to his own eternal, sovereign, good, wise, and adorable purpose of grace toward his elect (Isa. 43:3-7). Paul was simply overwhelmed by this fact. Let every redeemed sinner who reads this Epistle join him in his adulation of our great God
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (-36).
Something Very Reasonable
In chapters 12-16 the Apostle Paul calls upon all of us who are the objects of God’s eternal love and the recipients of his saving operations of grace to devote our lives entirely to him, to the glory of his name and the welfare of his people, and tells us that this entire consecration of our lives to God is the only reasonable thing that can be expected from saved sinners.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (12:1-3).
In the rest of chapter 12 he tells us to love one another. In chapter 13 he tells us to live as good citizens in this world, rendering evil to none, not even our most implacable enemies, but only good. In chapters 14 and 15 he teaches us to bend over backwards to get along with our brethren, never despising the young and the weak, but nurturing them as the children of God, following the example of Christ
“Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (15:2-7).
In the 16th chapter Paul closes this Epistle with a sweet, blessed promise of grace. ― “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (v. 20). Then, he adds…
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen” (-27).
A Precious Book
The Book of Romans is very interesting when we see how the Lord has been pleased to use it. It is very important because of its content and message. But it has become precious to those who have experienced its message. As I read this great Epistle, I identify with what I read. Do you?
I am not ashamed of the gospel (1:1-17). Though I am, by nature, a guilty sinner, without excuse before God (), I am completely, freely, forever justified in Christ (). As I am justified by the grace of God, so too, I am sanctified by the grace of God (chap. 6). Yet, I am a man at war with myself (chap. 7). Though I am a man at war with myself, I am a man without guilt before God, free from all possibility of condemnation, living in hope of eternal life, and assured of eternal glory with Christ (chap. 8). I am a chosen vessel of mercy (chap. 9). I know that I am because I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (chap. 10). I am amazed as I stand in awe before my all-wise, ever-gracious, sovereign God and Savior (chap. 11). I belong to God my Savior by the sweet constraint of his grace. I belong to him. All the world belongs to him. All my brothers and sisters in Christ belong to him (chaps. 12-16). ― “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!…For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”
 In my opinion the most serious flaw in our English translation of the New Testament is the placing of the comma after faith rather than after justification. With the comma being placed after faith, it makes it appear that Paul is telling us that justification is conditioned upon our believing, which is diametrically opposed to what he has just declared. The comma should be placed after justified. Faith in Christ brings us the joy and peace of justification; but faith has nothing to do with the accomplishment of justification. Faith is one of the fruits of justification, not the cause.