Paul the apostle wrote a long letter to the church at Rome in the first century. What is amazing about this author, is that not too many years earlier, he was ravaging the church, attempting to crush it in its infancy.
His purpose for writing this letter is found in 1:16-17; “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’” (ESV).
Unfortunately over time this message became muddied and/or lost for generations until the 14th and 15th centuries, when some voices out of the wilderness cried, “This is the way!” These people, John Wycliffe and Jan Huss among others, were hunted and killed for gifted attempts to lead their fellows out of the spiritual wilderness.
Other men like William Tyndale, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and Martin Luther also cried out, responding to God’s call, and they did not fail or falter. “Here is the way in which you should go…” God seemed to say, and they did.
We are again in a time when there seems to be confusion as to the message of the Bible and how one is accepted by God. Increasingly today, many are teaching that there are many roads, paths or ways to heaven and eternal life with God. But the Bible tells us of only one, “I am the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV). This should eliminate any confusion, but in our day and age, people are trying to get to God in other ways than that which is clearly laid out in the Bible.
God is not the author of confusion but of perfect clarity. It is us that have muddied that message by and through our sin. We appear to be reliving the book of Judges, where everyone does right in their own eyes. But there are many voices crying out to be saved and Christians are the only ones with the answer that the world needs.
And God’s gospel is powerful unto salvation and we don’t have to do anything to earn it for the price would be our own blood, and we still would fall far short of what God requires. So God took care of it on our behalf.
The answer which we will see in the next few weeks is that God gave the gospel in the person of His Son to do for us what we could not possibly do for ourselves. He lived a perfect life and then died the death we deserve. This, believe it or not, is the righteousness of God in action.
Be open to the Biblical righteousness of God and then let Him do His work on your behalf. It is for His glory and your eternal joy.
King David who reigned in Israel for 40 years probably never saw this day coming, but he did encourage those reading his words to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6a). As people of God, both those of Jewish descent and those who follow Jesus ought to pray for the peace of this great city. It seems that the whole of history revolves around this one city. There are three major groups that inhabit this great city: Jews, Christians and Muslims. If there is currently any peace in Jerusalem it is tenuous at best.
The one sentence phrase in Psalm 122 is in the context of a “Song of Ascent.” Psalms of Ascent were 15 Psalms that were probably sung when either the Jews were ascending to Jerusalem for the prescribed feasts or the 15 steps that were ascended into the temple. Whatever the reason the truth remains truth as we read in this Psalm. Going up to the “house of the LORD!” is the immediate context of David’s Psalm; maybe this is what David meant by a song of ascent?
Read the whole of this wonderful Psalm by the Psalter of Israel. “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’ Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem – built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you! Peace be within in your walls and security within your towers! For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, ‘Peace be within you!’ For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.”
Why should we pray for the peace of Jerusalem? First is the promise to Abraham long ago before Abraham was even named Abraham. Genesis 12:1-3 begins to unfold the greatest story ever told as God unveils through this chosen man redemption history. “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
For the next few chapters as God unfolds His promises to Abram, soon to be Abraham. Finally in chapter 17:8 we read; “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (Emphasis mine) The Abrahamic Covenant is complete as it is promised to this “friend of God” but yet not fulfilled in history. However, it will be, but it is in God’s time and in His perfect will.
The Psalmist in 105 puts this covenant in very clear terms and it is a truth that both Jews and Christians ought to rest and rejoice in. Verses 7-11 read this way: “He is the LORD our God; His judgments are in all the earth. He remembers His covenant forever, the word that He commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that He made with Abraham, His sworn promise to Isaac, which He confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for and inheritance.’” (Emphasis mine) God has not forgotten His promises to Abraham and to the great nation Israel.
This promise continues in the New Testament with Paul the apostle in his letter to the Romans. “I ask, then, has God rejected His people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2a). Later in verse 29 Paul tells the church and the world that “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” God’s eternal promise still stands and the reason is that the Abrahamic Covenant was for all nations and that includes people of Gentile nations. And so until the number of Gentiles that God has appointed in His sovereign grace the world continues to stupefy the world audience.
Much more could be written about the everlasting covenant promised to Abraham/Israel from God, but it would become a book and not simply recorded in a blog. So everything that is occurring in the Middle East and especially in Israel it is not out of God’s control and eternal plan. God’s sovereignty is so far above our understanding that those of Jewish and Christian backgrounds must trust that God knows what He is doing.
To my brothers who are Jewish my prayer is that you will receive your Savior who has already come to fulfill all of the Jewish Scriptures. Followers of Jesus ought never to look down upon those who gave us the Scriptures and the Messiah but pray for them and befriend them. They have much to teach us and I pray it is reciprocal.
Thanks to our Guest Contributor:
Pastor Ray Peters
Harvest Alliance Church
Paul the apostle and author of 11 books of the New Testament wrote to the church at 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 1:16-17).
What is interesting to this author is that Paul had never been to the church at Rome and he addresses them with a very long introduction and then states the theme of his entire letter in very few words. He is very blunt in his words and his life also proved it out as one would read in the book of Acts. Paul is on trial and he does not back down and is straightforward about the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the gospel; He is the good news of God come to earth as a man to reconcile man to God. What a blessed truth and promise!
According to historical records Paul was beheaded by Nero in about AD64. He definitely was not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Philippians 1:21 he wrote, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” He gained when his head was separated from his earthly body and then immediately he laid his eyes upon the One who called him out of his sin and into eternal life. His faith finally became eternal sight and he continues to bask in the very presence of Jesus Christ, the One who is the gospel.
Here in these most magnificent verses of Romans 1:16-17 where Martin Luther was dramatically changed as well as John Wesley and possibly countless others; we see that God’s power is at work through the gospel. Paul states that the gospel is the power of God to save those who believe in the blessed truth of the good news that Jesus saves.
There are two types of people in verse 16 – Jews and Greeks. The Jews are fairly easy to define here as those of Jewish descent, but the Greeks are a little more difficult to define. When we look at the word for Greek it can mean not only national Greek people but also Greek-speaking and even non-Jewish people. In that day the main language spoken was Koine or Common Greek and it was put into place during the reign of Alexander the Great. Many people of that day spoke the Greek language even though they were not from the nation Greece. There were two types of people in that day – Jews and non-Jews and that is what Paul was referring to.
In Luke 19:10 Jesus stated His reason for coming to earth as a man: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” The people of that day knew what Jesus meant but many today do not know what Jesus came to save people from. Paul writes in Romans 5:9 that we are saved by Jesus from the wrath of God. This sounds sort of brutal but as humans our sin has put a separation between us and God (Isaiah 59:2), but man in his natural state wants nothing to do with God. Paul also writes in the letter to the church at Rome that no one seeks for God, not even one person for everyone does right in their own eyes and really desire to be their own god. However, this is not the way we were created. We were originally created to have an intimate relationship with our Maker but we decided to do our own thing and go our own way and then we told God that we did not want Him either. So He allowed us to go our own way and to create our own path, but He knew exactly what He was doing and what we were doing.
We deceived ourselves, but not God. Romans 1:18-23 really gets to the heart of the matter.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (ESV)
Men know about God but most, unfortunately, choose to ignore Him; they know He’s there but they will do or say anything to satisfy their guilty conscience. Even though this is the truth God has it under control. In His mind in eternity past God put His perfect plan of sending His Son Jesus to earth as the Savior of mankind.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconcile, shall we be saved by His life” (Romans 5:6-10, ESV).
So there it is – we were weak, while we were stuck in our sin and while we were enemies of God it was at that time Jesus Christ came into the world and then died on behalf of our sins. Why would Paul be ashamed of the gospel? No reason here.
God sent His Son into the world to pursue those who wanted nothing to do with Him because He loved mankind and desired to be reconciled to the prodigal. When you love something or someone you might do whatever it takes to get that something or someone. But God did whatever it took and it took sending His Son at just the perfect time in history to come to the earth as a man and to become the perfect sacrifice to reconcile us to God. Why would Paul be ashamed of something this marvelous?
The question now becomes are you and I ashamed of the gospel? Why should we be? Followers of Jesus have the greatest news in the whole world and it needs to get out. No, not everyone will receive the good news that we have to offer, but we must tell it and tell it often. Oh that God might revive us today to carry out His perfect will of making disciples by sharing the good news of His Son of whom Paul the apostle was not ashamed of and either should we.