Intro: Imagine an announcement that someone would be handing out $100 bills on 10th and Grand tomorrow morning. No strings attached, just show up and you get one. Would you show up? Would you call your friends and tell them about it? That’s pretty good news – free $100 dollar bills to anyone who wants one.
What is the good news in your life? New baby, restored health following surgery, a much wanted promotion, a new contract for your company, a much needed raise, the news of a child’s success, the salvation of your soul? We hunger for good news. We’ll drop everything to celebrate when it comes our way.
When you open the book of Romans, you immediately sense that Paul was a man consumed by the gospel – not a technical, theological, systematic scheme of doctrine – but an outrageously, joyful outpouring of good news. That’s what gospel means – good news. Paul uses the word “gospel” six times in the first 17 verses of Romans, 80 times throughout his letters.
Romans 1:1-4 “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God - the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”
This gospel – “the gospel of God” – is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ.
Paul lets us know that this gospel had its beginnings long before the birth of Jesus – it was preached and promised through the prophets centuries before.
Galatians 3:8 “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”
The truth is that the gospel is as old as Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
The gospel did not begin with the birth of Jesus (God has always been about good news), but the gospel had its final and ultimate consummation – its ultimate definition in Jesus. All of gospel history is focused on the cross.
Who would have expected good news to come out of something like the cross? An instrument of death – surrounded by suffering and pain and humiliation – it was anything but good news. Yet, as Paul writes to the church in Corinth – The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18).
For Paul, “good news” doesn’t mean an exemption from human suffering. Good news is not contingent upon our comfort and success. Good news for Paul is this – God is in control and God loves us absolutely and unconditionally. The gospel of God is expressed most perfectly and precisely in the fact that God would send his one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins – 1 Cor. 15:1-4 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
For Paul, the gospel of Jesus Christ was the defining and motivating force in his life.
From the Damascus road where his life was transformed – 1 Cor. 15:9-10 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
What he preached was not theoretical – it was intensely personal and absolutely practical.
In Romans 1:1, Paul lays the foundation and sets the parameters for his ministry – Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.
Paul’s life was so empowered, so precisely defined by the gospel of Jesus Christ, that the only word I can think of to describe Paul’s relationship with the gospel is “consumed.”
Rom. 1:9 God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son…
He willingly suffered for the sake of the gospel – So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God (2 Tim. 1:8).
He rejoiced that his suffering had a purpose: Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel (Phil. 1:12).
Was Paul a fanatic? Absolutely! He proudly referred to himself as a “fool for Christ.” Nothing else mattered – not health, not personal success, not life itself – only that the gospel of Jesus Christ – his death, burial and resurrection – be preached.
It is out of that all-consuming relationship that Paul writes this letter to the church in the city of Rome. And that he so powerfully states the theme of this letter in Romans 1:16-17 – I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
It is not only the theme of the letter to the Romans, it is the theme of Paul’s life – “it is the power of God for salvation.”
Salvation is rooted in the gospel. This will be a theme that Paul will pursue through each page of this letter to the Romans. Salvation is never a human accomplishment – never a result of personal righteousness, never attained through keeping the law. Salvation is God’s gift, and God alone is able to give it – and he does – freely – “to everyone who believes” – regardless of nationality or background.
The good news tells us that God extends his own righteousness to us – not righteousness based on our own moral goodness and perfection – but righteousness that is bestowed on us through the blood of his own Son, shed on the cross.
And one vital component of this salvation – this righteousness through the gospel: it is by faith. Paul writes, literally, “from faith to faith” – (NIV) “by faith from first to last.” And then he quotes the prophet Habakkuk – “the righteous will live by faith.”
The gospel is dependent on our absolute trust in God. If for a moment we think we bring some merit, some deservedness to this relationship – that somehow God is obligated to us – that we have attained some level of spiritual maturity that qualifies us – then we have tragically missed the point.
The gospel is good news only as we acknowledge our own spiritual bankruptcy – our absolute dependence on God’s grace to save us.
That doesn’t make much sense does it? We take a lot of pride in self-dependence – on having resources in the bank so that we aren’t dependent on anyone else. Bankruptcy? We would hang our head in shame. We would lose our self respect. We don’t ask others for help because (like a 2 year old) we say, “I can do it myself.” We think asking for help, admitting we can’t do it our self is a sign of weakness.
And for many of Paul’s Jewish readers, to admit they needed grace was a sign of weakness. They assumed they had earned their salvation – they were Jews, God’s chosen people, they kept the Law, they were children of Abraham. None of this grace for them. They didn’t need it.
But Paul turns that kind of thinking upside down. “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation.” When we enter the water of baptism, we are renouncing our claim of self-dependence, we no longer claim any resources other than our absolute dependence on God. And Paul calls that good news and says, “I am not ashamed.”
Good news changes everything. In your darkest moment, at your weakest point, when everything seems stacked against you, God rescues you and saves you.
The point of the gospel is not to knock you on your back and remind you of how sinful you are, but to drive you to your knees so that you can see what a great God you have.
And the result? It is that you and I need to become “gospel people” – “good news people” – our lives so completely infected with the startling message of grace that we contagiously spread it to everybody we meet.
How do you spread good news? How do you tell the world about a new baby, an engagement, a graduation? How do you celebrate a victory over cancer? How do you let people know that your God is an amazing God?
The question this morning is, “what consumes you?” What are you so passionate about that you cannot help but tell others about it? What keeps you from committing everything you have to living for God?
I am convinced that if we truly grasped the significance and the power of the gospel it would change our lives as it did for the Christians in Colossae to whom Paul wrote: All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. (Col. 1:6)
You think that someone passing out $100 bills is good news? God is passing out grace and salvation – the gift of eternal life to everyone who wants it. That’s his offer to you.
Posted on Sun, January 22, 2012
by John Roberts