Updated: Sep 19
The apostle Paul just seems to explode on to the pages of Romans. He can hardly seem to contain his excitement as he sits down to pen his letter. Just as quick as he introduces himself, he is off and on to talking about the gospel.
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 1: 1-7 (ESV)
Although not quoted, as we continue to read through Romans chapter 1, the theme of the gospel becomes very prominent. It’s not hard to see that this becomes an important theme in the letter itself. Perhaps we could argue that a good summary verse for the whole of Romans could be found in Rom. 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.”
Considering the importance of the gospel in Paul’s letter to the Romans, we may pause and ask ourselves “What does Paul mean by the gospel?” Interestingly, among some scholars today this question has become the topic of debate and discussion. I am not trying to step into a debate here, but I do believe, at least for myself, I have had a very limited understanding of the gospel. Simply put, there is more to the gospel than I have often realized.
The gospel simply means “good news.” This was a word used in the language and culture of the first century. However, as the New Testament authors proclaim the gospel, what is the good news they are announcing?
As I mentioned, my understanding of the gospel has been fairly limited. If you were to ask me “What is the gospel?” My answer, more than likely, would have been to tell you about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. I likely would have pointed to 1 Corinthians 15: 1-4 as an explanation of my understanding. In looking at Romans, Paul certainly has this in mind. Paul says he is a servant who was set apart for the gospel of God, the good news concerning his Son (ref. Rom. 1: 1-3). The death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is foundational to our faith. It is core to the gospel (ref. 1 Cor. 15: 12-19). Still, I am left with asking “Is there more to the good news than the apostles proclaimed?”
There Is More
I would argue that there is much more to the gospel than I have understood. I believe there is more to the gospel that the apostles intended for us to know and understand.
If we keep reading through 1 Corinthians 15 and do not stop at verse 4, it seems to me that Paul describes more of the good news he and the other apostles proclaimed. Paul does teach and proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. However, he also talks about how Christ is the “firstfruits” of those who have fallen asleep. How by man (Adam) death came; but also by Man (Jesus) came the resurrection of the dead. In Christ, all shall be made alive (1 Cor. 15: 20-23).
Paul also speaks of the reign of Christ. How Christ rules and will deliver the kingdom to God the Father when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power (1 Cor. 15: 24-25). Christ must reign till all enemies are under His feet, the last enemy being destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15: 25-26).
He also speaks about a glorious body; that there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. Each having its own glory (1 Cor. 15: 35-44). He would record in (1 Cor. 15:49) “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” Toward the end of chapter 15, Paul talks about our final victory. Of how we will be transformed, in a moment, in the twinkling of the eye, “we shall be changed” and death will be “swallowed up” (ref. 1 Cor. 15: 50-58).
As I notice there is more to the gospel than I have understood, it inspires depths of hope just as a well of fresh, clean water.
The Gospel In Romans
When we read the book of Romans, understanding the gospel helps us understand a key theme in this letter. The church at Rome was having difficulties. There was friction between the Messianic Jews and the Gentiles. Paul presents the gospel as the answer to their friction. Focusing on the gospel, the distractions become less. Focusing on the gospel helps us align our priorities and keeps our attention where it should be.
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Scripture References: The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
1. εὐαγγέλιον, τό, the good news of the coming of the Messiah, the gospel: the gen. after it expresses sometimes the giver (God), sometimes the subject (the Messiah, &c.), sometimes the human transmitter (an apostle).
Souter, A. (1917). A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (p. 99). Oxford: Clarendon Press.