GOSPEL RESTORATION BIBLE SCHOOL IN ROME
Familiar passages must always be reexamined. And one of those passages that must always be reexamine is the commonly quoted statement of Paul in Romans 1:16:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel [good news], for it is the power [dunamis] of God unto [eis] salvation to every one who believes ….”
The context that explains this verse begins in verse 13, where Paul informed the Roman Christians that he had planned to come to them. He explains, however, that for some reason, we are not told, that he was hindered. To fully appreciate the significance of verse 16, therefore, it must be clearly understood that in the context Paul was writing his comments to Christians, not unbelievers. He was planning to go to Rome to meet with Christians who had previously heard and obeyed the gospel, possibly on a visit of some Jews to a Pentecost/Passover feast in Jerusalem (See At 2:9,10).
The fact that these were Christians to whom Paul planned to visit clarifies what he wanted to do when he arrived. He wanted to start a gospel Bible class. He explained his objective. He said that he wanted to visit them in order “that I might have some FRUIT among you also, even as I have among the other Gentiles” (Rm 1:13). His use of the word “fruit” would be better understood if he were going to unbelievers and preaching the gospel (See Ph 4:17). But in this context, the “fruit” refers to that which he wanted to produce in the hearts Christians, not unbelievers. This is a very interesting use of the word “fruit.” So verse 16 explains what he meant in reference to the “power” of the gospel that is able to continually produce fruit in the hearts of Christians.
Paul’s use of the word “fruit” in Romans 1:13 is similar to how he used the word in the context of Philippians 1:9-11. He desired that the Philippians “abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment . . . being filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (Ph 1:9,11). Paul likewise desired the same in the lives of the Christians in Rome. He wanted to bear the fruit of righteousness in them that began when they first responded to the gospel. Therefore, they would continue in the production of fruit by their continued study of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So herein lies the key to why Paul wanted to go to Rome. He wrote in verse 15, “So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you [Christians] also who are at Rome.” This is a very interesting statement in view of the fact that the good news (gospel) of the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and coronation of Jesus Christ is a message that is normally preached to unbelievers, not to those who already believe and have obeyed the gospel by immersion into Christ for the remission of their sins.
Some analysis is thus in order. What confuses some is that most translators use the English word “preach” to translate a word that is not the common word that is used for “preach” in the New Testament. The common word for “preach” is kerusso. This is the Greek word that is used to make a public announcement or proclamation about news that affects the community. When proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers, therefore, the word kerusso is the most appropriate word. Preaching is an announcement of good news to unbelievers.
But the word that Paul used in verse 15 is not kerusso, but the Greek word euaggelizo. This word is used to convey the concept of carrying on discussions concerning good news. This is the word that is used when emphasis is on teaching Christians matters concerning the good news of the Son of God coming into this world, His atoning sacrifice, and His present reign at the right hand of God the Father (See At 5:42; 8:4,12,35; 10:36; 11:20).
Contexts in which euaggelizo is used emphasize that the teacher is explaining the gospel to an audience or individual, particularly an audience of Christians. This brings us to the context of Paul’s statement in Romans 1:16. He wanted to go to the disciples in Rome in order to instruct them further in matters concerning the gospel. In the context, he already pointed out the reason for his trip. He wanted to produce the fruit of righteousness among the disciples in Rome. But there is also another understanding that we must take away from Romans 1:16.
Paul wrote that the gospel “is the power [dunamis] of God unto [eis] salvation.” The Greek word for “power” is dunamis, the word from which the English word “dynamite” is derived. We could metaphorically take the function of dynamite back into the statement that Paul made in reference to what a growing knowledge of the gospel does in one’s heart. As dynamite moves great stones, so the gospel of the incarnate Son of God moves hearts. In other words, the good news of the incarnation, atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and present reign of the Lord Jesus, is God’s motivational dynamite to move one into the realm of salvation, and subsequently, into the continued transformation of one’s life.
The gospel is not the salvation, it is the dynamite that motivates hearts to do that which is necessary in order to bring one into the realm of salvation. For this reason, Paul used the linear action of the participle of the word belief (believing). That is, if one begins and continues to believe, then the gospel continues to be the motivating power that leads to a life of continuous behavioral transformation (Rm 12:2).
If one does not continue to believe in the historical events of the gospel, then he will lose his salvation (See 1 Co 15:1,2). If we continue to believe the gospel, therefore, we will continue to allow Christ to be formed in our lives. This was Paul’s fatherly concern for the first generation disciples to whom he had preached the gospel in Galatia. “My Little children for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (Gl 4:19). Christ is not completely formed in one immediately at the time he or she obeys the gospel in baptism. “Forming,” or “transformation,” is a lifetime project for those who continue to believe and behave the gospel of Jesus. This point is what makes the statement, “Just believe on, or accept Jesus as your personal Savior,” so shallow in reference to the lifetime struggle to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus (See 2 Pt 3:18).
The gospel was an historical event that revealed the grace of God wherein only there is salvation. In an obedient response to this divine journey of the incarnate Son of God, the “beginning believer” is baptized into Christ (Rm 6:3-6; Gl 3:26-29). And if we are continually motivated by the death, burial and resurrection of the incarnate and reigning Lord Jesus Christ, then we will walk in the abundant life in this life (Jn 10:10), but also into eternal life when the Lord Jesus returns for His own.
It is the gospel that motivates those who are willing to believe, and thus be brought into the realm of God’s grace through their obedience that is manifested in baptism. Baptism, therefore, is not an action in reference to simply obeying law, but a response to the gospel. If it were simply a response to law, then we might feel that we have merited our salvation through our legal obedience to law. But if baptism is a personal response to the gospel, then what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:15 comes alive: “For all things [in reference to the revelation of the gospel] are for your sakes, so that the grace that is reaching many people may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.”
GOSPEL RESTORATION BIBLE SCHOOL IN ROME
In Romans 1:16 Paul linked gospel and salvation with one Greek word, the word eis. Simply believing in the gospel is not enough to bring one into the realm of salvation. The gospel is only the motivational power to stir one unto obedience of the gospel, and subsequently come into the realm of salvation. It is at the point of baptism that one’s sins are washed away by the gospel offering of the blood of Jesus (At 22:16). It is thus at the point of baptism that one is raised with Christ into a salvational relationship with God (Rm 6:3-6).
The historical event of the sacrificial offering of the incarnate Son of God will stir belief. But this belief must be a participle of action, not a once-off statement of belief in self-declaring one’s salvation. The active belief about which Paul wrote in Romans 1:16 was an action that must continue throughout one’s life. The same thought was stated by Jesus, but in different words: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:16). The believer will come into the realm of salvation only when his faith is stirred into action. He will come into this realm through obedience to the gospel wherein one’s sins are initially forgiven. It is also at this time that one’s cleansing of sin begins and continues throughout one’s life if one’s belief does not wane (At 2:38; 1 Jn 1:7). For this reason Paul wanted to go to the Christians in Rome and remind them again of the gospel to which they had responded.
The good news of the Son of God coming into this world, going to the cross, and His present reign, is the power that moves hearts from the time one first believes, until his last dying breath. This is the power that moves one into (eis) the realm of God’s grace, wherein he or she is saved. And thus, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves [through meritorious law-keeping], it is the gift of God” (Ep 3:8). When the gift of God’s Son becomes awesome in our hearts, it is then that we are moved with thanksgiving throughout our lives. Paul’s going to Rome in order to conduct a gospel Bible class, therefore, should generate a perfect attendance on the part of the Roman Christians.