God’s Good News

Rom 1_16_17

Romans 1:16–17 (NLT)

16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.  17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

Paul opens his letter to the church at Rome with the typical greetings expected in a 1st century letter.  But he moves quickly to the theme of the letter:  how the Gospel, the Good News, is in fact “Good News” for all.  The Good News about Jesus Christ reveals not only the righteousness of God, which previously was revealed by other means, but also provides the way for making God’s righteousness a reality in one’s life by grce through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

The word translated “Good News” or “Gospel” (euangelion) is the same word from which we get our English word evangelism, and its root evangel.  Evangel is the English equivalent of euangelion.     In the New Testament (NT), it denotes the “good tidings” of the Kingdom of God and salvation through Jesus Christ, to be received by faith on the basis of his atoning work upon the cross, his resurrection and ascension.  The first appearance of the Word in the NT is in Mark 1:14, where “Good News” is used to summarize the preaching of Jesus.  Paul uses the term in two ways, historically and doctrinally.  Historically, Paul means the basic facts of the death, burial, resurrection of Christ (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:1-3). And doctrinally, Paul refers to the interpretation of these facts (e.g. Rom. 2:16; etc.).

In the context of the 1st Century, the Good News about Jesus Christ appeared to be foolishness, both to the Jews and to the Gentiles.  The Jews had been waiting for a powerful Messiah (Christ) to appear who would kick their Roman oppressors out and re-establish the Kingdom of David.  Instead, Paul preached a message about a Suffering Savior who reconciled humanity to God through his death upon the cross.  This is the scandal of the cross.

How could the Romans possible switch their allegiance from the Roman Emperor who claimed divine status to a carpenter turned rabbi who was condemned and executed by a Roman governor?  To proclaim “Jesus is Lord” was the same as declaring rebellion against the Roman Emperor, who demanded people to swear allegiance by saying, “Caesar is Lord.”  It was risky business.

Yet Paul proclaims, “I am not ashamed of the Good News about Jesus Christ!”  (v. 16)  He is convinced that the Good News about Jesus Christ can hold its own in the court of public opinion against both Jewish and pagan philosophers.

Paul is not ashamed when skeptics reject the Good News.  There will always be those who point out what they see as logical fallacies in the Christian faith.  That is why we need people like William Lane Craig (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/william-lane-craig) and J. P. Moreland (http://www.jpmoreland.com/).  I had the privilege of taking apologetics from Dr. Moreland.  I still frequently refer to his book, Scaling the Secular Wall.  These Christian philosophers have continued to fight the good fight of the faith arguing that Christianity is both reasonable and possible in the modern world.

This is the field of apologetics.  The purpose of apologetics is to demonstrate that the Christian faith is reasonable, and defend it against its detractors.  But thankfully, you don’t have to be a PhD. to have faith in Christ.

In the letter to the Romans, Paul demonstrates his awareness of and answers to objections raised against the Christian faith by both Jews and Gentiles.  He stands his ground and claims that in the Good News about Jesus Christ is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

I have seen criminals, animists, Muslims, atheists, neo-pagans, drug addicts, alcoholics, and all manner of sinners come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  I have seen people set free from their sins and heard them proclaim, “Jesus Christ is Lord!”  And I myself am one of them.  Like Paul I have come to know the “Good News” about Jesus Christ, that is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”  And neither am I ashamed of the Good News.  Jesus has been my Lord for my whole life.

Ultimately, it is not how well we know the arguments for the reasonableness of the Christian faith.  Rather, it is our faith relationship, our love relationship, with Christ that defines the Christian life.  The Gospel is Good News, not because it is reasonable, even though it can be demonstrated that our faith is reasonable.  No.  The Gospel is Good News, because it is the power of God through which God’s righteousness is revealed.  And through this Good News we have eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ plus nothing else.  (v. 17)

The question Paul answers in Romans is, “How can a sinner ever enter into a right relationship with a holy God?  The answer is “the righteous will live by faith.”  And this is the theme of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.

Lord, I am a sinner.  But I thank you that I am a sinner saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord.  And so I am not ashamed to proclaim, “Jesus Christ is Lord!”  against all powers and principalities in this world that would profess a different god as Lord, whether earthly powers or heavenly powers.  Help me to live each day by grace through faith.  Help me to walk in faith through your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

 

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