Romans 1: 16-17- 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.”
In August of 1513, a monk lectured on the Book of Psalms to seminary students, but his inner life was nothing but turmoil. In his studies he came across Psalm 31:1: In Thy righteousness deliver me. The passage confused Luther; how could God’s righteousness do anything but condemn him to hell as a righteous punishment for his sins? Luther kept thinking about Romans 1:17, which says, the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” The monk went on to say: “Night and day I pondered until… I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Therefore I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise… This passage of Paul became to me a gateway into heaven.” Martin Luther was born again, and the Reformation began in his heart.BLB David Guzik Study Guide to Romans
History tells the story of the power of change that came over the Church world as a result of Martin Luther’s encounter with the letter to the Romans. Luther had already found no rest for his soul, no light in his darkness, no relief from the overwhelming sense of being lost. Burdened with the guilt of sin and shame, he was known to be found in prayer 8 times a day, or praying all night, or inflicting punishment upon himself because of the weight of bondage that troubled him daily. Then one day, these words of Paul resonated in his soul, like they had never done before:
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith,”Romans 1:17
and the Protestant Reformation literally changed the world.
This verse, is the key verse of the book of Romans. As we begin looking at the teachings included in this book, my hope is that we too can have the righteousness of God revealed to us like never before.
Paul mentions that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You would think that this would go without saying since he has been evangelizing all over the Greek provinces, but Paul knew the persecution of the Christians in Rome was real and wanted it to be known that his faith was strong in the gospel message. Paul suffered much because of this message. This is what he said about his trials:
Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—2 Corinthians 11:23-27
Paul went through some serious sufferings for the gospel of Jesus, and yet he was not ashamed of the gospel. Why? Because it was the power of God to salvation for him. He was literally stopped in his tracks as he lived contrary to the gospel of Jesus, hunting Christians down, putting them in jail, even watching them be stoned. He knew the dangers of proclaiming the gospel message, and yet, he was not ashamed of being called to deliver it. He was not ashamed of having believed.
The gospel is for everyone who believes. Calvinism came out of the same Protestant Reformation as Lutheranism did. John Calvin, a contemporary of Martin Luther, also believed in justification by faith, but felt that your election was sure and therefore you need not worry about your salvation again. As the teachings of Calvinism spread, the doctrines began to change. Now, it is associated with predestination, meaning that you are predestined by God to be either be saved or not be saved. This is contrary to what Paul wrote in this verse that the gospel is to everyone who believes. Salvation, Paul wrote, was first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles. But it was available to all who believe.
Why did Paul mention that it was first to the Jews, then the Gentiles? Jesus answered this Himself:
But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”Matthew 11:24 NKJV
Why did Jesus make this statement? A Gentile woman approached Jesus for healing for her demon-possessed daughter. Jesus told her that He had come for the Jews, and not the Gentiles, calling the Gentiles “dogs”. She responded by saying even the dogs get to eat the crumbs from under the children’s table. Jesus was so impressed with her statement, that was spoken from a heart of faith, that He healed her daughter.
While Jesus openly ministered to Gentiles, He brought salvation to the Jews, God’s chosen people. His own special people. But the gospel message was always intended to be a gospel for everyone. He told Nicodemus:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.John 3:16-17 NKJV
Then in the book of Acts, Luke tells us of a supernatural event in the life of Peter. He is on the rooftop of Simon the Tanner’s home spending some time in prayer. While there he goes into a trance. In the trance God shows him animals that are contrary to his kosher diet and tells him to rise, kill, and to eat. Peter refuses to do so calling them unclean! This is where we would have said, “Satan, I rebuke you! Or, “get thee behind me”)! God responded by telling Peter that what He has cleansed Peter must not call unclean (see Acts 10). Then God sends Peter to share the gospel with Cornelius, a Gentile!
Well, that’s all I have time for! Thank you for joining me in this study of Romans! It’s such a powerful insight into the theology of the life of the believer. Pray with me that I know by the Spirit, how to navigate this study for those who are really following along with it! And I thank you in advance! Wonderful Jesus!