The Theme of the Epistle to the Romans
In the introduction following Paul's salutation and personal comments, comes a statement of the theme of the Epistle to the Romans. In those oft quoted and remarkable verses, the apostle Paul states the theme of his letter to the Roman church. The theme is the gospel, or literally, the "good news." And this good news is of Christ, as the third verse says, "concerning Christ."
But the gospel is more than only news concerning Him: Christ Himself is the good news. Apart from Jesus Christ there is no good news. If somebody should ask, "What is the gospel?", we ought to answer, "The gospel is not "what", it is "Who!" The gospel is the Lord Jesus Christ, in His blessed person and in His mighty work. To lose Jesus is to lose the gospel. One of the strangest things in the religious life of the world is that the world would like to have Christianity "without" Christ. It would like to get rid of Jesus and at the same time keep the gospel. The world would like to have good news from God without the Son of God (they love that); but they hate the name of Jesus, and the two are inseparable. Christians must stand with the apostle Paul and proclaim that apart from Jesus Christ, God has no good news for any man [and that's what the world wants!] Eliminate Him, and there remains no good news for the world, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of fiery indignation (see Hebrews 10:26).
In stating the gospel as he has here, Paul has used some great words. He talks about power, God, salvation, righteousness, faith, and the just. And then he talks about life. Seven powerful words. It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who gives meaning and value to those words; take Him out of those words and nothing is left but empty words and high sounding phrases.
For instance, take the first great word. He says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power." But what about power? "Christ [is] the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:2); that is what makes the gospel the power of God! Let us take the word "God." First Timothy 3:16 declares that Christ was God manifested in the flesh, for He is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15). How much would you know about God if you did not have Christ?
The next one: "The power of God unto salvation." Simeon, the old man, took Mary's child in his arms and looked up into heaven and said, "Mine eyes have seen thy salvation" (Luke 2:30). Jesus is our salvation.
The next word (which comes right in the middle of that perfect number seven; it is the heart of it): "righteousness." (1 Cor. 1:30). The next word is "faith": "Jesus [is] the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). Without Him, we would not have any faith.
The next expression is "just," in which Paul quotes from the Old Testament. Acts 22:14 speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ as "that Just One." Romans 5:9 declares that in His blood we are justified (declared just); we become just in Him. There would not be any such thing as a just man except for Him.
The last word is "life." John 6:51 a reads, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." So the word "life" occurs three times in one verse.
Thus it becomes evident that Christ is everything. When you take Him out, you have nothing left of the gospel: you have lost the power, you have lost the God that gave the gospel, the salvation that the gospel brings, the righteousness that it reveals, the faith by which we appropriate it, justification - yes, and we have lost life!
The first statement Paul makes about the gospel is, "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation." He does not say the gospel "contains" power, or that it "is" powerful, or that it "has" power, or that it "exerts" power. He doesn't say any of those things. But he does say that "the gospel "is" the power!"
Power is awe inspiring. No man can stand by Niagara Falls and see all that mighty torrent plunging over the rocks without feeling insignificant. Radium has the faculty of hurling our power 186,000 miles per second, a power than can pierce walls of stone and destroy every living tissue that is in its path; no man can handle a tube of radium without feeling awed. The stars also represent great power, as they are sustained in their orbits and maintained in their brightness.
The most condensed statement of the gospel is contained in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. In that passage is all the gospel: Jesus Christ, His death for sins, His resurrection again from the dead. This is the gospel in less than two verses and about twenty-six words, just a scrap of paper and a few drops of ink! "Not very impressive," someone may say. "Nothing to get excited about"; and yet those few words contain the most amazing power that is known in the universe today: the power of God which can save men's souls!
This power can take a sinner who is depraved in mind, body, and soul, a man who is spiritually dead, with no thought of God, bound by the law of choice and nature to an eternal hell and can arrest his course,cleanse him from all sin, make him righteous in the sight of God, raise him up with Jesus, and guarantee him future glory and happiness forever! What a marvelous, awesome thing the gospel is!
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 16)