God's Gospel, Son, Wrath, Power, Righteousness

Romans 1  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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What majesty! what wonders! All is of God, and we stand in awe as we contemplate the greatness of all that is His as revealed in the first chapter of Romans.
We are all familiar with the word "gospel"; it means "good news." Here then we meet with some good news that is described as being God's. Could any news be greater or better than that belonging to and originating with God Himself? Surely not. The gospel had been preached boldly after the resurrection of Christ, as recorded in The Acts, but nowhere do we find it so fully explained as in the epistle to the Romans. How fitting then that this epistle should be placed first among all the epistles, for it expounds in beautiful order God's gospel.
From the outset we are brought consciously to the thought of having to do with God-a God that has good news. From the rich and unfathomable depths of Himself comes forth the fountain called His gospel, and so it is, and must be, worthy of its blessed Source. And while man's deep and dire need of the gospel is not mentioned first, it is self-evident that God's good news must be for some persons who are in need of it. A man of great wealth would not consider news that he had been given a trifling sum, as particularly good. News, to be truly good, must be suited to the need and urgency of the person's state. We see what ruin the whole human race is in because of sin, and we believe that the great God could devise a plan suited to the need; the news of such a plan would surely be good, for it would bring hope and deliverance to the wretched and lost.
This wondrous gospel of God has been promised in the Old Testament through the prophets, but it could not be proclaimed until the work on which it was based was accomplished.
If God is the source of the gospel, God's Son is the means by which it was accomplished; therefore the "gospel of God" is "concerning His Son." We naturally think of the gospel as it meets our need, but we must not forget that it originated in the heart of God, nor should we overlook that it concerns His Son. If it comes forth from God and is worthy of Him, it must also begin at God, and we should view it first as it concerns Him. Before man's need is mentioned, we learn that God's interest in His gospel centers in His Son who alone could lay the foundation for the gospel; He alone could glorify God about sin, so that God could announce His glad tidings. God is interested in the gospel first because it centers in and around His dear Son. All that concerns God's Son is precious to His heart. It reminds us of the parable of the marriage of the king's son (Matt. 22). The guests that partook of that marriage feast were happy, but the king was primarily occupied with the happiness of his son.
God's Son came into this world according to all the promises and prophecies, and so these early verses of Romans 1 Connect with the Old Testament. The Son of God He was, but He came as the Son of David to fulfill the promises- He became a man-nevertheless He was declared to be the Son of God, and that by His victory over all the power of death-by resurrection. And those who had faith to discern could see that Spirit of holiness all through His life-the same Spirit by whom was the power in resurrection.
This gospel then concerns God's Son, but it is announced for the obedience of faith among all nations. Not that all nations are to be saved through it, but it is set forth to be received in faith among all nations. It is not restricted to the Jews; no race or tongue can lay sole claim to God's gospel. It comes for men wherever they are, for all have sinned and all need it; however, it is not for mere intellectual knowledge, but for faith obedience. Wherever it is thus received it bows the heart before God in true contrition and acknowledges Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Then in verse 16 the Apostle says he is not ashamed of that wondrous gospel, for he knows what it is-the power of God unto salvation. Knowing something of its source, its means, its scope, its power, the Apostle is not ashamed of it nor of his mission, but rather glories in it as something of inestimable value. What could be more powerful than something described as the "power of God"? Nothing! And nothing short of this very power could have met the need of fallen man. Lower he could not have fallen, and nothing short of God's power could lift him out of such depths. As Hannah prophetically spoke in 1 Samuel 2, "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill... to make them inherit the throne of glory." Nothing short of this "lift" would accomplish what the sinner required, and none less than God could do it. The epistle to the Romans later goes on to show how God could do such a thing righteously—this, Hannah's song did not enter into. Man was utterly powerless-"without strength"-and so all must be done for him by another. Mephibosheth being "fetched" by David from the place of "no pasture" (Lodebar) when he was lame on both his feet, and being brought by another to the king's table, is but a very feeble illustration of what the power of God does for the sinner. This power is His gospel, and it reaches down to the lowest depths for the vile sinner, and will not stop until he is safely seated in the glory, with and like Christ. Oh, what a power the power of God is! and it is "unto salvation," which here involves the complete salvation-when "we shall be like Him." And if the gospel is for some among all nations, it is only received by faith: "to everyone that believeth." Knowing about God's gospel is not enough; one must appropriate it to himself by faith-he must accept it as from God for himself as though he were the only sinner.
Now this gospel which is the display of God's power is that which reveals His righteousness. Man had no righteousness for God, but God's gospel brings out His righteousness for man. Fallen man might labor hard and long to produce a righteousness for God, but he could not begin to accomplish so great a thing; therefore, the glorious news of God's righteousness must sound a wondrous note in the ears of him who has none.
Christ went into death for us, and there on the cross He fully glorified God about the question of sin; now God is righteous in raising Him from the dead and seating Him on His own right hand in heaven. And God does not stop there, but places the believer in Christ in the same place; he is seated in Him in heavenly places. God is righteous in placing that redeemed sinner in the glory with Christ. God's gospel then reveals God's righteousness, not only in glorifying Christ, but in lifting up the believer in Him to the same heights-it is due to Christ that it should be so. And God accounts the sinner who believes righteous, and he is made the righteousness of God in Him, and Christ Himself is the believer's righteousness.
All this: God's gospel concerning His Son, God's power, and God's righteousness are in sharp contrast to all that went before. Israel was under the law of God, but that was not the gospel; it certainly was not "good news." It said that the man that did not do the things it required should die. In Exodus 32 The law written on the tables of stone was described as the "writing of God," and the tables as the "work of God," but certainly it was not the "gospel of God." And the law did not give a man power, nor could it be said to be the power of God. It only condemned the guilty, and everyone that came under the law was verily proved to be guilty. Even Saul of Tarsus (later known as the Apostle Paul) who was outwardly an upright Jew, found the law brought out what was in his evil heart. He found that the tenth commandment, "Thou shalt not covet," only provoked his desires to have, and so condemned him. The law was not power, nor did it bring power, except to condemn.
And the law did not bring in God's righteousness. None ever kept the law, and so there was not even human righteousness. If man had kept the law and obtained a righteousness, it would have been his own righteousness, not God's. Therefore, when it was proved that man did not and could not have a righteousness of his own, God brought out His in the gospel.
But there is another word in Romans 1 That we must not forget-God's wrath revealed from heaven (v. 18). This is not exactly in the gospel, but going along with it. If the gospel brought out what was in the heart of God, and what was accomplished by His Son, then along with it there came the revelation of the wrath of God. This had not been disclosed in the Old Testament, but now those that neglect or despise God's salvation through His gospel must know that He has wrath for the sinner who will not have Christ. In previous times God had punished certain cities and certain peoples for their iniquities, but in Romans 1 we have read of wrath being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. How solemn! how terrible! this wrath of God must be. Well may the Apostle say to the Corinthians, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men." If God's gospel is glorious, His power infinite, His righteousness perfect and intrinsic, what must His wrath be! Well may we say to the sinner today, "Flee from the wrath to come," while we know the Lord Jesus as our deliverer from the coming wrath (1 Thess. 1:1010And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)).