Thursday, September 24, 2015

I am not ashamed of the gospel, but what is it exactly? Part 1

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

I want to begin a series that addresses the question; what exactly is the gospel? I hope it will be informative, and cause us to examine what we mean when we use the word gospel in our writing or in our speech. We must look into what Paul meant by the gospel. Why you ask? The answer is simple. His mission was to the Gentiles. Therefore, all Gentile believers especially, must of necessity, be interested in the gospel according to Paul. Paul lays it out in Romans like no other epistle.

Rom 1:1-7 " Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God's good news-- (2) which He promised long ago through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures-- (3) concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh (4) and who has been declared to be the powerful Son of God by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness. First of all Paul was singled out for the gospel. It was promised by the prophets in the sacred writings, but it was a story about God's Son Jesus Christ, who is Lord, descended from David, but was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection.

(5) We have received grace and apostleship through Him to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations, on behalf of His name, (6) including yourselves who also belong to Jesus Christ by calling: (7) To all who are in Rome, loved by God, called as saints. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul was made an apostle to bring about the obedience of faith to the Gentiles. The Greek word, translated as nations is ethnos and it is the word that is used when you see the word Gentiles translated. Take notice that Paul calls it the obedience OF faith. The King James Version erroneously translates it as obedience to the faith in Romans 1:5, but then, takes the exact same phrase and translates it the obedience of faith in Romans 16:26. That in and of itself is interesting and I have written blog posts on that alone, but that is not for this one at this time.

Rom 1:13-17 " Now I want you to know, brothers, that I often planned to come to you (but was prevented until now) in order that I might have a fruitful ministry among you, just as among the rest of the Gentiles. (14) I am obligated both to Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish. (15) So I am eager to preach the good news to you also who are in Rome. (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. (17) For in it God's righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith." Here is verse 13 it is spelled out that Paul's ministry was to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. This makes Paul's explanation, definition, and description of the gospel most important to us here in the 21st century who make up a mostly Gentile Church.

In looking at Paul's claim here in this passage, I think it becomes important and instructive to understand a little bit about the Emperor Cult, the religion of Rome. Caesar was known as the Savior of the world, who had brought salvation to the world, and he was also believed to be the son of God, and they called him Lord. The reason for this is that he had brought peace to the world Pax Romana but it was done by military force. It is interesting to me that Jesus, his followers, and finally Paul, use this same language about Jesus. In Paul's gospel Jesus is Savior; Jesus is the Son of God; Jesus is Lord, and Jesus saves the world by bringing peace to it.

However, Jesus does not do this by military force. He does it by resurrection from the dead, something that can not be said about anyone else including Caesar. Since Jesus followers lived in Rome occupied Israel, they were very familiar with the claims of Rome, and so it is not strange that they too would believe that Jesus meant to do it by military force. There are those today that still believe that ultimately Jesus will establish peace and his kingdom by military force. But, that was not what Paul or any of the writers of the New Testament were saying.

Paul was saying that what Caesar had accomplished in an imperfect way by imperfect means for the natural world, Jesus had accomplished on a cosmic, supernatural, spiritual level, that set to rights the world, and brought ultimate peace with God. It was a spiritual reality that transcends the natural. There is a lot more to be explored but this will do as a jumping off point with more to come in the next post.

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