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Monday, October 17, 2011

The Gospel

The Gospel

"First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith." Romans 1:8-17 (ESV)

Paul's encouragement

What did Paul do to strengthen and encourage the faith of the believers in Rome?

Paul publicly thanked the Roman believers for their faith in Christ and their witness to others around them. He prayed for them daily, and he told them he was praying for them. He described to them his emotional attachment to them, his desire to see them and his need to be encouraged by them. Paul wanted to see them in person, face to face, and he expressed his frustration in not being allowed to thus far.

And what was Paul's greatest gift for his dear friends? What most did he long to share with them? The gospel.

The gospel? Paul was writing to Christians! Why would he feel the need to preach the gospel to them? Every word written by Paul thus far gives evidence that they were devoted, sincere, grounded Christians. Why would they benefit from the simple gospel message?

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith." Romans 1:16-17 (ESV)

ASHAMED: epaischynomai (to feel shame for something); from epi (superimposition, over, upon) and aischynomai (to feel shame for oneself); from aischos (disfigurement, disgrace)

Have you ever been ashamed?

Have you ever been caught picking your nose? Have you ever found yourself sucking your thumb and suddenly looked around to see if others were watching? Have you spilled food on your clothing or splashed water down the front of your pants?

Paul must have seen Christians act ashamed of the gospel, as if the gospel were something only for children. Perhaps Paul had met people who feared that they would appear ignorant or immature if they spoke of the gospel message.

Paul boldly preached the gospel. Paul deeply loved the gospel and considered it to be vitally important for even the "world-famous" believers in Rome. Paul eagerly hoped to speak of the gospel to his dearest friends.

GOSPEL: euangelion (a good message); from euangelizo (to announce good news, to "evangelize); from eu (good) and angelos (a messenger, an "angel" or pastor); from aggello (to bring tidings); from ago (to lead, bring, drive, go, pass, induce)

For Paul, the gospel was Good News, the Best News. When he considered what would most bless and encourage the believers in Rome, he immediately thought of the gospel.

The Power of God

Paul described the gospel as "the power of God for salvation" (force or miracle that leads to rescue or safety). He saw the gospel as essential for everyone who ALREADY believes in Christ. For the person who relies upon Jesus as Lord and Savior, the gospel is essential, every moment of every day! Without the gospel, without CONSIDERING the gospel every moment of every day, Christians will not experience the miraculous, powerful force of God that can protect them.

What specifically does the gospel message provide? What makes the gospel essential for daily living, even for the mature Christian who already trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior?

"For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith." Romans 1:17 (ESV)

RIGHTEOUSNESS: dikaiosyne (equity of character of act, justification); from dikaios (equitable, innocent, holy); from dike (right, as self-evident, justice); from deiknyo (to show)

"Equity", at its root, means even or equal. The gospel is the Good News of God's righteousness given to us...our moral condition is made even or equal with that of God's. Trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior means that we depend upon God to grant us what we do not deserve: equal righteousness as that of Jesus. Faith (constant reliance upon) this Good News provides the power (the miraculous force) to live (walk, act and behave) in way that reflects the righteousness of Jesus in our daily life.

"The righteous (people granted equal moral status as that of Christ) shall live by faith (constant reliance upon the gospel)." Romans 1:17

Practically speaking, how does a person constantly rely upon the gospel? What habits or routines would remind us daily, every moment of the day, of the Good News of God's powerful salvation granted to us?

Obviously, one tremendously effective habit would be to invite a preacher into your home every day, or at least once week, and ask them to remind you of the Greatest Good News that they can think of. Oh, wait! That's what church is for! At least, partly! Church is also for fellowship, food, and prayer (Acts 2:4).

In addition to regular attendance at a church that preaches the gospel powerfully and regularly, we can also use time at home to remind ourselves of this Great Gospel News. Before jumping into work and chores at home, spend some time in God's Word for yourself, listening to or reading, The Holy Bible. Start a program that will allow you to read through the entire Bible in a year or two, reading a section of verses, or a chapter or more each morning. Read prayerfully, emphasizing how each Scripture connects with the gospel. Pray while you read, and pray after reading, thanking God for His salvation, and asking that the powerful, miraculous force of His Holy Spirit would lead you the rest of the day, protecting you from ignorant, rebellious sin against Him, delivering you into opportunities of joyful service to Him.

Treat annoyances and difficulties as reminders of how great Heaven will be. Thank God for providing circumstances that try your patience and regard the trials as "spiritual exercises" that will strengthen your "spiritual muscles" of compassion for others. Daily dependence upon the gospel leads to the righteousness of God becoming more and more evident in your daily behaviour.

God's righteousness is granted to us spiritually at the moment at which we first treasure Jesus as our Lord and Savior. His righteousness grows and develops in our physical life as we daily rely upon the Good News of the gospel.

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

Image courtesy of Terje Skjerdal, www.flickr.com