Simplicity Series #30

The Glorious Message of the Gospel

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God, which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be theSon of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead …” Rom. 1:1–4

The Apostle’s Calling

Paul became a slave of Jesus through his calling, which was that of “apostle.” By this calling, he was separated from all other endeavors to the proclamation of the Gospel message.

The word “called” is crucial in the book of Romans, as it deals with the doctrine of election. The root word, kaleo, speaks of three things:

  1. First, an invitation (Isa. 50:2; 65:12; 66:4; Mat. 4:21–22; Joh. 7:37–38)
  2. Second, an identification (Isa. 43; 1, 7; 62:2; Mat. 1:23; 4:18; Joh. 1:42; Acts 11:26)
  3. Third, a vocation (Rom. 1:1, 6–7; 2 Pet. 1:10)

The divine calling is both corporate (Israel/the Church) and personal. The corporate calling involves an unconditional covenant (i.e., the Abrahamic, Gen. 12:1–3), which is totally due to the sovereign will of God. Personal entrance into that covenant is based on a faith-response to the promise of God (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3; 10:13).

The mission God gave to Paul was to be the “herald” to the Gentile world of the invitation to enter into the company of the saints, which we call the Church. Remember that “church” comes from ekkaleo, meaning a “called-out body.” Individuals enter into that company by responding to the invitation of the Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ. This faith is neither coerced nor imposed. This is a critical point, because the whole book of Romans is Paul’s defense of the righteousness and justice of God (see Rom. 1:17; 3:5, 25–26).

The Story of the Messiah

The Gospel, or “good news,” is the story of the glorious figure of Jesus the Messiah (Rom. 1:3–4). This “greatest story ever told” spans the entire scope of human history and links eternity-past to eternity-future.

Jesus is the central figure of the Old Testament Scriptures, the vital reason for the existence of the nation of Israel, the Victor in the ages-old spiritual war, the Cornerstone of the Church, and the confident Hope of both a redeemed humanity and a redeemed creation (Rom. 8:18–24).

If we follow the book of Romans carefully, we will see that Paul takes us step-by-step from the beginning of creation (Rom. 1:20) to the Garden (Rom. 5:12), through Old Testament history (Rom. 1:18–4:25; 9:1–29; 10:18–21) up to the cross of Christ (Rom. 3:20–31; 5:1–21), to the purpose of the Church (Rom. 11:1–36), the restoration of Israel (Romans 9–11), and actually on into eternity–future (Rom. 8:18–25).

The story of Jesus Christ our Redeemer is the glorious and majestic theme throughout the Bible. It is portrayed in prophecy and “type” in more ways than can be counted. The book of Ruth alone is an astounding preview of the “romance of redemption,” as J. Vernon McGee called it.

In this brief but beautiful story, we see rebellion (Elimelech) followed by death (Ruth 1:1–5), destitution met with faith (Naomi and Ruth, Ruth 1:6–22), the introduction of a heroic and virtuous redeemer (Boaz, Ruth chapter 2), a betrothal based on God’s Word (Ruth 3:1–4:12), and the anticipation of a coming king (David, Ruth 4:13–22). The Old Testament story is filled from beginning to end with the “good news” (Gal. 3:8).

An Invitation to all Nations

As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul received, along with the other apostles, “grace” (spiritual equipping) and “apostleship” (authority) to accomplish the calling of the nations to “the obedience of faith.”

This is a key theme running all through the book, as Rom. 1:5 and Rom. 16:26 use this phrase to “bookend” the entire epistle. Paul makes clear in Rom. 10:16 that to “obey the gospel” is simply to believe it.

He goes on to say (Rom. 10:17) that, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” The reception of the Word of God, with an open mind and heart, provides the opportunity for the Spirit to work in convicting power (John 16:8–11) so that God, in His mercy, can open the heart to His Word (Acts 16:14; Eph. 1:15–20).

As we grow, the obedience consisting of faith produces the obedience which comes from faith, that is, obedience to the Word of God (Rom. 1:8; 6:16; 16:19). In this, Paul and James are in agreement. Initially, we are justified by faith alone (Rom. 4:3). As we grow, our initial faith is then justified by our works, which spring from faith (James 2:21–24; Eph. 2:8–10).

A Personal Decision, A Corporate Standing

Paul addresses the Roman church as those “beloved of God, called … saints.” There is both a personal and a corporate meaning here. The Roman church was most likely made up of many “house churches,” yet they are viewed as one body, one company. The focus of the book of Romans all the way through is consistently corporate first—a covenant community—and only then, individual and personal. It is due to failure to take note of this fact that the most divisive problems have arisen historically in the interpretation of this book.

Note the “all … you” in Rom. 1:6–13. The “you” here is plural: “y’all,” as the Southerners would say. Paul’s desire is for the blessing and benefit of all the saints in Rome. This does not lessen his concern for individuals at all (Rom. 14:1; 15:1). However, the individual is always viewed as a member of the Royal Family of God, possessing both spiritual privileges and temporal responsibilities.

When we get to Romans 9–11 we will see how failure to adopt Paul’s perspective results in interpreting corporate passages with an individual focus, resulting in some of the worst exegetical and hermeneutical errors ever foisted on the Church, and which make the passages say exactly the opposite of what Paul means.

God chose the Church—those who are “in Christ” before time began—to be the recipients of a pre-determined, glorious destiny. This was His sovereign decision and purpose. However, as Paul makes clear throughout the book, individual entrance into that family is a personal decision of faith. The historical precedent is found in the Exodus, where God chose to deliver Israel out of Egypt, but each individual had to apply the blood of the lamb to their door (Exo. 12:3–13, 21–25).

Priceless Privilege, Awesome Accountability

The Apostle Paul saw his calling as both a privilege and a great responsibility (Rom. 1:13–15). He declared himself “a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.” Here, we find a bit of a paradox. As “a bondservant of Jesus Christ,” it would be natural for us to understand that Paul had a debt of gratitude to his Savior.

But in what way could he be indebted to men? The answer is that, as a slave of Christ, Paul adopted not only the work, but the motive, of his Lord. Christ Himself declared that He came to be a servant of all mankind (Luke 22:27). Coming as the Redeemer of the human race, He accepted our debt as His own. Remember the “kinsman-redeemer” (Ruth 4:1–6)?

Paul was under a debt to all men because his Savior had died for all men (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:5–6; 2 Pet. 2:1; 1 John 2:2). The grief he felt for the lost reflected the grief in the heart of the Lord Himself (Mat. 23:37; Rom. 9:1–2; 10:1). The call to possess the riches of Christ is wonderful (Eph. 1:3, 7, 18), but it carries with it great responsibility (Eph. 4:1; 5:2, 8). It is crucial for each and every one of us who have trusted Christ to remember that, “to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). The debt that Paul felt so keenly is one each of us shares!

The Justification of God

Paul declares that the Gospel reveals two things (Rom. 1:16–17): “the power of God to salvation … the righteousness of God.” In reality, the book of Romans is Paul’s defense of both God’s righteousness and His justice. Paul is defending the reputation of God against the slanders of His own creatures and, worst of all, of many who had believed.

It astounds me that the very slanders, which Paul is combating, are still promoted and taught today, and the book of Romans is used as the proof text! God has justified Himself from all possible charges of injustice or unrighteousness (see Rom. 3:24–26; 9:14), which ungodly man might bring against Him. How has he done this? By demonstrating His power to save “everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16), for “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” and “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:11, 13).

Paul says that the righteousness of God “is revealed from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17). As we will see again in Rom. 3:22, this would better be translated “from (God’s) faithfulness to (our) faith.” God has publicly demonstrated His faithfulness and justice to every member of the human race through the faithfulness of Christ who died in our place (Rom. 3:25). His sacrifice covered all sins–both those before the cross and those after (Rom. 3:25–26)—so that God would be justified in saving all who believe in Jesus Christ.


Not only does the cross of Christ remove any ground for boasting on the part of man (Rom. 3:27), but also any charge of unfairness or injustice against God (Rom. 3:3–4; 10:18–21). No member of the human race will ever stand before God with any excuse for not believing (Rom. 1:20b; 2:1). Every human being has equal provision and equal opportunity.

What then of those who have never heard the Gospel? Paul has an answer for that, and we will deal with it in the next post.




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