Last week we said Paul wasn’t content to proclaim the gospel without regard for the outcome; he was determined that people be converted to Christ followers through his preaching the gospel. He never tossed out the truth with a cavalier attitude, indifferent to its reception or rejection. He longed to see fruit, a harvest of souls, from his labor. He yearned that the lost be brought into the kingdom. The passion to win people to Christ was a strong drive in Paul’s spirit, a fire in his bones. This drive was pouring out of him. This was down deep in his spirit. Reaching lost souls with the gospel was what Paul was about.
With that in mind, let’s look at the next couple of verses in this passage: “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians [anyone not Greek], both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’.” (Rom 1:14-17)
Paul describes himself as being under obligation not just to Christ, but also to the people Christ has sent him to reach with the gospel. So Paul understands himself to be obligated both to Greeks—meaning those who speak Greek and fit into Greek culture—and to barbarians—meaning everyone else. He believed himself to be obligated to all people groups, everyone “beloved of God, called to be saints” (Rom 1:7). And Paul was joyous in his obligation; it was his life’s purpose.
Now Paul declares boldly that he is not ashamed of the gospel. Perhaps he sensed that some of the Christians in Rome were tempted to be ashamed about it. There may have been very few Christians in Rome. The great truths about Christ seemed new and absurd to many people. Christians were being persecuted. It’s one thing to believe the gospel; it’s another thing to take the risk of preaching it to strangers.
Paul will have none of that. The gospel message is nothing less than power from God, for everyone who believes it, to be saved. Anyone, everyone, who puts their faith in Christ and his death for their sin on the cross will be justified—will be made right with God—and welcomed into God’s family. If that is all true, and Paul had staked his life on it, then what is there to be ashamed of? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Rom 1:16)
Now Paul describes what the gospel does. “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’.” (Rom 1:17) In the gospel, the righteousness of God is “revealed,” in one sense, in that it is given to human beings by their faith in Christ. In other words, God declares human beings to be righteous in His eyes because of their faith. The words “from faith to faith” likely mean that this declaration of people being righteous is by faith from first to last, from start to finish.
As Romans will make abundantly clear, people cannot be declared righteous before God by following the law. Good works and ritual obedience do nothing to make us right with God. And if we are not declared righteous in God’s eyes—a condition referred to as being “justified”—then we cannot be with God. We are separated from Him forever because of our sinfulness. However, according to the gospel, Christ died to pay the penalty of death and separation from God for our sins on the cross. When we trust in Christ, God sees us through Christ and declares us to be “righteous” or “justified”. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5:21)
Heavenly Father, thank You for the glorious gospel of Christ. Thank You that the righteousness of God that has been revealed in the cross, where Christ suffered the punishment for my sin and paid the price for my redemption with His holy and precious blood. Thank You that I am saved by grace through faith in Christ. Lord I want to live my life by faith and grow in grace from one degree of faith to the next, until Christ is formed in me. My life is not my own for I have been bought with a price. I pray that my life may be lived by faith to Your praise and glory. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.