ROMANS 1:16-17 (ESV)
16 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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
This week we are entering into, what many scholars and theologians have believed for a long time, is Paul’s greatest work in all of the New Testament (if there is such a thing as ranking Scripture!).
The book of Romans is weighty, theologically dense, and carries in it some of the most quoted passages in all of scripture. Passages like, “If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 NIV), “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NIV), or my favorite, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV).
These scriptures are powerful. But Paul sets the tone for the entire book and cuts straight to the point from the very beginning by reminding us of the crucial reality of being a Christian; it’s not about us.
Paul was writing to a specific audience: the Romans. If you were a Christian during the time of the Roman Empire like Paul, you would have found yourself in a booming, sophisticated, and powerful culture. The focus of the majority was on power, but not the kind of power that Paul opens up with in verse 16. Their culture was focused on power, selfish gain, and sensuality; basically, everything that the Word of God warns against.
If you were a Christian during this time, you’ve got to remember that the Church was growing but was nowhere near the place of influence that we see today. Even in our backward culture today, being a Christian can be difficult but compared to the early church we’ve got it pretty easy. David Guzik says, “In a sophisticated city like Rome, some might be embarrassed by a gospel centered on a crucified Jewish Savior and embraced by the lowest classes of people…”
So what does Paul do? How in the world is Paul going to encourage these believers in Rome to be BOLD about Jesus in the society they found themselves in? He does it by reminding them that it’s not about them! This may not sound very empowering but this is by far the most freeing truth there is to know about the gospel. Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” How is it that Paul is so bold about Jesus in a world that could care less about Jesus? Paul understands that gospel IS POWER. When Paul is going around, speaking of the good news, and telling people about Jesus, he recognizes that the message of Jesus IS POWER. Our confidence doesn’t give the gospel power. Our good works do not give the gospel its power. Our knowledge of the Bible, our history, our charisma; none of what we bring to the table gives the message of Jesus its power because it’s not about us.
When we receive the revelation of this truth, the freedom we are invited to walk in is endless. We no longer have to hide our light because we think it is up to us to give the gospel message its power. No longer do we have to be afraid of sharing about what Jesus has done in us with our coworkers, classmates, or lost siblings because at the end of the day; it’s not about us to save them. The good news of Jesus is so good that it ALREADY carries the power to save before it ever leaves our lips.
So be bold church! Don’t be ashamed of the message you carry because IT (the Gospel) is the power of God for salvation to EVERYONE who believes.