If you have been a Christian for at least 5 years or even 22 years like me, the gospel is not a news. In fact, you may not remember the time when you didn’t know the gospel. It has become like a tarnished jewelry that has lost its original sparkle and luster. Some years ago in my spiritual journey, I came to realize that it’s not about how much more knowledge or insights you gain about the gospel but rather it’s about how more precious, richer, and sweeter the gospel grows with each year. I want to share with you a blessing I received in my meditation on Romans 1:16-17 few weeks ago.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (ESV) but in verse 15, Paul writes, “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” That’s strange! Why is Paul “eager to preach the gospel” to the Christians? Aren’t they Christians because they have already heard the gospel and believed? Why would Paul need to preach the gospel to them again? He would not be saying this unless there was more to the gospel than merely converting the nonbelievers. Indeed, if we read on, Paul teaches that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to those who believe.
Today’s prevailing notion of salvation is often limited to the moment when people accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord. While it is absolutely the critical moment when one goes from condemnation to salvation, it is only the beginning. We were indeed saved through our faith in Christ sometime in the past, but we are still being saved at the moment and will be saved in the future. This ongoing process is referred to as “sanctification” where we are conformed to the likeness of Christ. Paul’s eagerness to preach the gospel to the Roman Christians comes from this knowledge and conviction in the power of the gospel for the believers.
How exactly, then, is the gospel the power of God for the believers? We must first have a sober understanding of the state of our sinfulness without grace. Unfortunately, sin, in the 21st Century Christian understanding is relegated to mere thoughts and behaviors that cause pain and harm either to ourselves or to others. Simply put, it is man-centered. As long as we’re not hurting or harming anyone, or breaking the law, then the notion of sin enters in our mind. But the Bible sets a completely different standard. Paul defines, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23)” Sin, in essence, is falling short of the glory of God. None of us give God the glory and honor that is due to Him. We belittle and trample over His glory by exchanging them for other things of this world. Consequently God’s wrath is upon all sinners and his righteousness demands judgment. Paul continues in Rom. 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed form heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” This is the ultimate problem for all mankind. The full weight of sin and the subsequent wrath of God must be understood and felt in the sinners’ heart to for the gospel to be truly a Good News.
However, in this context, Paul addresses the believers. Verse 17 says that the gospel is the power of God to salvation for the believers “for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith.” Two phrases must be unpacked in order to make sense of this verse: “The righteousness of God” and “from faith for faith.” “The righteousness of God” bears a double-meaning. First, it demands that justice be carried out by punishing the unrighteousness. Second, in His love, God provides His Son to die on the cross and fulfills the righteous requirements thereby making the gospel the righteousness of God. In another words, His righteousness demands and the same righteousness also provides for what we cannot provide on our own. The second phrase, “from faith for faith” means literally “from faith to or unto faith.” When the existing faith encounters the revelation and the power of the gospel, it multiplies and produces more faith so that we can continue to believe in the future. The gospel gives us the power to keep believing until the very end because it’s not based on our own righteousness but on Christ’s alone. Therefore, we must not try to be righteous or get rid of guilty-feelings through spiritual disciplines or “good” deeds but rather know that we’re already forgiven and daily lean on the righteousness of Christ that empowers us to join him in the suffering and joy.
During this Easter season, may the Lord awaken us to the power of the gospel that saves us each day until the day we hear our Lord say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest.”