God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Not Ashamed of the Gospel - Romans 1:16

Read Romans 1 – ESV, The Message

After Paul reassures the church he plans to visit with them and tells them his absence is due to God changing his plans (vv. 8-15), he gives an interesting couple of statements:
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.” (vv. 16-17, ESV)

I want to spend the next two posts on these two verses.

Not Ashamed of the Gospel

Coming from a Jew, this statement is not as innocuous as we would think. Jews would have accepted a gospel that was “the power of God for salvation.” Jews wanted the Gospel to save them, as long as it included the Law of Moses and could be done in their spare time. Jesus’ message was not acceptable to proper Jews because it had less to do with physical acts and focused too much on the heart. Jesus wasn’t the Savior they were waiting for because his salvation did not match what they expected. Paul wanted them to see their inability to understand Jesus and the Gospel and that put him in great opposition to many Jews all his days (see all of Acts). Paul would soon be imprisoned and sent to Rome (ironically) because of this stance on the Gospel.

21st Century

Churched Christians are in a somewhat similar position today. If a church heard a minister speak of “the Gospel as the Power of God for salvation” they would accept it. Churched Christians want God to save them through Jesus – provided it includes going to worship service and service projects done in their spare time. When the Gospel of Christ is seen through the Sermon on the Mount things get complicated. "That was then. We’re very different now, thanks." Christians are too polite to place preachers in jail, but they would certainly not ask that minister back.

To Everyone Who Believes

One problem even believing Jews would find with his statement is the notion that God’s salvation came to everyone who believed. If he had stated “to every Jew who believed” he would have been tolerated. But this notion that God’s salvation comes outside the Law of Moses would have put Paul’s perspective at odds with the Jewish mindset of being the only Children of God. That God’s salvation could come to the Gentiles caused Paul to be expelled from Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:13-52).

21st Century

Try an experiment: Go to members of a church and suggest that salvation can be found outside the church. Tell them it comes by trusting the creator of the universe, not in following what your church teaches regarding salvation. This will go over like a lead balloon. I believe, because I held this belief for most of my life, that this comes from our wish to be the only Children of God. We have so institutionalized ‘church’ that we can no longer how God could work outside this arrangement. In so doing we have missed Paul's lesson to this church.