Saturday, 3 December 2011

Romans - The Gospel of God

The gospel of God is the subject of the book of Romans (1:1). Christians are accustomed to saying that there are four gospels, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. However, Paul also refers to his epistle to the Romans as a gospel. The gospel in the first four books of the New Testament concerns Christ in the flesh as He lived among His disciples before His death and resurrection. After His incarnation and before His death and resurrection, He was among His disciples, but not yet in them. The gospel in Romans concerns Christ as the Spirit, not Christ in the flesh. The Christ in the four gospels was among the disciples; the Christ in Romans is within us. This is something deeper and more subjective than the Christ in the gospels. Keep this one point in mind: that the gospel in Romans concerns Christ as the Spirit in us after His resurrection.

If we only have the gospel concerning Christ as in the first four books of the New Testament, our gospel is too objective. We need the fifth gospel, the book of Romans, to reveal the subjective gospel of Christ. Our Christ is not merely the Christ in the flesh after incarnation and before resurrection, the Christ who was among His disciples. Our Christ is higher and more subjective. He is the Spirit of life within us. The book of Romans is the gospel of Christ after His resurrection, showing also that He is now the subjective Saviour in His believers. So, this gospel is deeper and more subjective.

I. PROMISED IN THE SCRIPTURES

This gospel was promised by God through the prophets in the Scriptures. This means that the gospel of God was not an accident; it was planned and prepared by God. The Bible shows us that this gospel was planned by God in eternity past. Before the foundation of the world, God planned to have this gospel. So, numerous times in the Holy Scriptures, from Genesis through Malachi, God spoke in promise through the prophets regarding the gospel of God.

II. CONCERNING CHRIST

This gospel of God concerns a Person, Christ. Of course, forgiveness, salvation, etc. are included in the gospel, but they are not the central point. The gospel of God concerns the Person of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. This wonderful Person has two natures—the divine nature and the human nature, divinity and humanity.

A. Come Out of the Seed of David

Paul mentions Christ’s humanity first, not His divinity, saying that He was born out of the seed of David according to the flesh (1:3). This is His human nature, His humanity.

B. Designated the Son of God out of Resurrection

Then Paul says that He was “designated the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness out of the resurrection of the dead” (1:4). This is a clear reference to Christ’s divinity. Why is His humanity mentioned first and His divinity last? Paul mentions Christ’s humanity first because he maintains the sequence of Christ’s process. Firstly, Christ passed through the process of incarnation to become flesh. Then He passed through the process of death and resurrection. By means of the second step of His process He became the Son of God out of resurrection. Christ has been processed in two steps: the first step - incarnation; the second step - death and resurrection. By these two steps Christ became two different things. He became flesh by incarnation and He became the Son of God through death and resurrection. His first step brought God into humanity. His second step brought man into divinity. Before His incarnation, Christ, as a divine Person, already was the Son of God (John 1:18). He was the Son of God before His incarnation, and even Romans 8:3 says, “God sent His Son.” Since Christ already was the Son of God before the incarnation, why did He need to be designated the Son of God out of resurrection? Because by incarnation He had put on an element, the flesh, the human nature, that had nothing to do with divinity. As a divine Person Christ was the Son of God before His incarnation, but that part of Him which was Jesus with the flesh, the human nature, born of Mary, was not the Son of God. That part of Him was human. By His resurrection Christ has sanctified and uplifted that part of His human nature, His humanity, and He was designated out of this resurrection as the Son of God with this human nature. So, in this sense, the Bible says that He was begotten the Son of God in His resurrection (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5). Hallelujah!

III. PREACHED BY THE SENT ONES

Now we need to proceed further and consider how the gospel of God is preached. It is preached by the sent ones. The sent ones are the apostles (1:5) separated for this purpose. Not all the believers are apostles, but, in a sense, all the believers are sent by the Lord for the gospel preaching.

A. In Spirit

This gospel is preached in spirit (1:9). Note that the word spirit here begins with a small letter, thereby indicating that it does not refer to the Holy Spirit. All Christians believe that we must be in the Holy Spirit in order to preach the gospel. But Paul says that we need to be in our spirit. Preaching the gospel depends on our spirit. Paul said that he served God in the spirit in the gospel of His Son. When we preach the gospel, we should not employ any gimmicks; we should exercise our spirit. Why is it only in the book of Romans that Paul says he serves God in his spirit? Because in this book he argues with the religious people who invariably are in something other than the spirit - in letters, in forms, or in doctrines. In the book of Romans Paul argues that whatever we do toward God must be done in our spirit, that whatever we are must be in spirit, and that whatever we have must be in spirit. In chapter 2, verse 29, he says that the genuine people of God must be in spirit, that true circumcision is not outward in the flesh but in the spirit. In chapter 7, verse 6, he says that we must serve God in newness of spirit. Paul refers to our human spirit eleven times in the book of Romans. The last instance is found in chapter 12, verse 11 where he says that we must be burning in spirit. Preaching the gospel of God is absolutely a matter of our spirit.

B. By Prayer

For the preaching of the gospel we need much prayer (1:9). We need to pray for souls and to pray for the gospel. In preaching the gospel, prayer is more needful than any kind of effort. If we are prayerless, we will be fruitless in our gospel preaching.

C. With Eagerness

Thirdly, we must preach the gospel with eagerness (1:13-15). If we mean business with the Lord in this matter of gospel preaching, we must exercise these three things: in spirit, by prayer, and with eagerness. Gimmicks and techniques will not be effective. We all need to exercise our spirit to touch people, to pray, and to be ready with eagerness. If the gospel does not inspire you, it will never inspire others. If the gospel cannot convince you, it will never convince others.

IV. RECEIVED BY THE CALLED ONES

The gospel of God is received by the called ones (1:6-7). What do these called ones do? They believe. Therefore, the gospel is received by the called ones and the believing ones. We are the called ones and the believing ones. To be called is to be called out; to believe is to believe into.
After we were called, we believed. To believe means to believe into. To believe Jesus does not simply mean to believe that there is a Jesus. To believe Jesus means to believe into Jesus; to believe God is to believe into God. Believing requires us to admit that we are hopeless and helpless and that we can do nothing to please God. We need to forget ourselves and terminate ourselves, terminating all that we are, have, and do. This is believing. In other words, believing is simply terminating ourselves and putting ourselves into the full trust of God. This believing is reckoned before God as righteousness and binds God to save us.

A. Through the Obedience of Faith

The called ones receive the gospel of God through the obedience of faith (1:5). What is this? Under the law of Moses, God gave people ten commandments to obey. That kind of obedience was the obedience of the law, the obedience of the commandment. In this age of grace, God has given us one, unique commandment - to believe in Jesus. Regardless of who we are, we must obey God’s commandment to believe in Jesus. Whoever believes in Christ shall be saved, and whoever will not believe in Christ has been condemned already because of his unbelief (John 3:18). When we obey God’s unique commandment, we have the obedience of faith. If you believe, you have the obedience of faith and you receive the gospel of God through such obedience. In the eyes of God the most obedient person is the one who believes in Jesus. The most disobedient person is the one who will not believe in Him. Nothing is more offensive to God than not believing in Jesus, and, on the contrary, nothing is more pleasing to God than believing in Him.

B. Unto Grace and Peace

The receiving of the gospel through the obedience of faith results in grace and peace. Grace is God in Christ as everything to us for our enjoyment, and peace is the issue of the enjoyment of God’s grace.

V. THE POWER OF GOD

This gospel is the power of God unto salvation (1:16). In the book of Romans salvation means a great deal. Salvation not only means to save us from God’s condemnation and from hell; it means to save us from our naturalness, our self-likeness, our individualism, and our divisiveness. This salvation saves us to the uttermost, enabling us to be sanctified, conformed, glorified, transformed, built up with others as the one Body, and not divisive in the church life. The gospel of God is the power of God unto such a full, complete, and ultimate salvation. It is the power of God for all who believe. Praise the Lord! We believe.

VI. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD REVEALED IN THE GOSPEL

Why is the gospel so powerful? It is powerful because the righteousness of God is revealed in it (1:17). Righteousness is a mighty bond. God is under such a bond to save us. God cannot escape, He has to save us because He is righteous. First John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, God is righteous to forgive us our sins because Christ has died for us and has shed His blood for us. Therefore, God must cleanse us. There was power in the gospel preached by Paul because the righteousness of God was revealed in it. When we come to chapter 3, we will see God’s righteousness.

A. Out of Faith to Faith

The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel out of faith and to faith (1:17), meaning that as long as we have the faith, we have the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God comes out of our faith and to our faith. Perhaps you will say you have no feeling that you believe. If you feel that you have no faith, try to stop believing. As long as you are unable to cease believing, that proves you have the faith. Praise the Lord! To say that the righteousness of God is revealed does not mean that it had no prior existence. It simply means that, although it had been in existence previously, it had not been revealed or made visible. For anything that can be revealed must exist already. This righteousness of God is revealed out of faith and to faith.

B. The Just Have Life and Live by Faith

The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel that the just may have life and live by faith (1:17). The Greek word rendered “live” in this verse means both “to live” and “have life.” The Chinese version translates it “to have life.” Young’s Concordance also tells us that the Greek word means to live and to have life. This verse is a quotation from Habakkuk 2:4, a verse which has been quoted three times in the New Testament. It is found in Hebrews 10:38 where, according to the context, it means the just shall live by faith. In Galatians 3:11 it means the just shall have life by faith because the context of Galatians 3 says that the law cannot give life to people (Gal. 3:21), that people can only have life by faith. Thus, in Galatians 3 it is not a question of living; it is a matter of having life. Romans 1:17 includes both of these meanings—to have life and to live. Therefore, we may translate the verse this way, “The just shall have life and live by faith.”
Source: Witness Lee, Life Study of Romans, Message 2.
Hymn
  1. There's a gospel of today
    That says believe and you'll be saved and then
    You can go to heaven and see the pearly gates
    And walk the golden streets;
    Words like these fail to treat
    All the vanity that is hidden in me.
  2. But the gospel is to me
    The Triune God within humanity
    As the Spirit reaching me to be in me
    The one reality;
    Love untold—Gospel theme
    Never getting old—story told eternally.
  3. Left the ninety-nine behind—
    You searched until the lost sheep You did find,
    Laid me on Your shoulders there, You bore me in
    Your tender loving care;
    Rejoicing—You found me
    Though a small lost sheep—You gave all to come find me.
  4. Sweeping in my deepest parts,
    You lit a lamp and searched my inward heart,
    Sanctifying deep within You shined in me,
    Exposed me of my sin;
    Repenting—now I see
    Lord, You're sprinkling me—with the blood You shed for me.
  5. Eagerly awaiting me
    That I the slightest turn to Thee would make
    Though my life had been a wreck, You ran to me
    And fell upon my neck
    Kissing me, affectionately;
    Killed the calf for me—"Let us eat and be merry."
Source: http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/ns/111#ixzz1f4v1zUzU

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