Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
-- Romans 1:1,7, ESV
The Old Testament is the Gospel promised. The Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, present this Gospel in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Epistles, beginning with the book of Romans, explain the Gospel. So let's walk with Paul for a while on this Roman road and explore the greatness of the Gospel.
The Explainer is Paul.
To the Romans, Paul identified himself in three idioms: "a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God." I do not think there is any real peer of the Apostle Paul. But I do believe every Christian should strive to be like the Christian Paul, at least in these three senses.
Every Christian is a "servant," a slave set free (from sin) who abides as a servant (of God and His word). Every Christian is "called," for a reason and a purpose. Every Christian is "set apart," or distinctive, in at least two ways. In the world, Christians should have a spiritual, moral, and ethical quality that is different, higher, more noble than non-Christians. In the church, all the members have distinctive spiritual gifts, strengths, and interests enabling them to speak and serve for the building up of Christ's body, where a strong church can put the Gospel on grand display.
The Explained is the Gospel.
The Gospels display "the son of God in power according to the Spirit" and each one is capped "by his resurrection from the dead." The Gospels tell the Gospel. Acts records the "apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations," until Christ comes again as described in the book of Revelation.
Without Romans and the Epistles, however, we would not have a full explanation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "You who are called to belong to Jesus Christ" need to know how serious sin is, and its consequences. We need to know why Jesus had to die and rise from the dead. We need to understand justification, sanctification, and glorification, and what God has done to provide them to us. We need to know how the church would worship and work until Christ comes again. We need the Gospel, explained, in terms we can understand, to reveal its inexhaustible riches. Romans explains the Gospel in these ways and more.
The Explanation is Grace.
Paul's first explanation is in relatively simple terms that everyone should be able to understand. It is an explanation of how God calls and the Gospel comes. It is the explanation of how a sinner is saved and becomes a saint. The explanation of the Gospel is that it is given and accepted by "grace" alone through "faith" alone in "Jesus Christ our Lord" alone!
"Grace" comes first in Verse 7, for without grace one cannot have "peace from God." By grace we are effectually "called" (mentioned three times in the text). Grace means we are saved when God calls us, not when we call God, for until He calls us we cannot call on Him. At the same time, Romans teaches us "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (10:13).
When we call on the Lord it is called "faith," and saving faith always results in "the obedience of faith." We are not saved by obedience, we are saved to be obedient, which all genuinely saved people will reasonably be. Not perfect, but obedient to the word of God, the disciples of the church, the responsibilities of Christian manhood, womanhood, and childhood.
We experience grace and engage in faith in order to show our love, honor, and desire to glorify God. It's all by grace. It's all in faith. And, it's all for Him, "Jesus Christ our Lord."
Many who do read Holy Scripture regularly have said if they could only have one of the books of the Bible to read and reread, it would be this book of Romans. The great German reformer Martin Luther was among them. Let us all value this great book and press on in this study. Let us savor every word, sentence, paragraph and chapter, and let us learn in greater detail and live with greater dedication this great Gospel of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ!
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].