Text: Romans 1:1-7, 16-17
Subject: Paul’s Definition of the Gospel
Date: Sunday Morning – April 23 , 2000 (The Audio is dated 2/2/2014 )
Tape # V-79a
Reading: Romans 1:1-17
Should you go to the street corner of any city in this country and ask those who passed by, or stand upon the doorsteps of almost any church building and ask folks as they left the church house this morning, “What is the gospel?” you would get a different answer from almost every person. Almost all people define the gospel by their own experiences, thoughts, and emotions, by their church creed, or by an opinion handed down to them by someone else. The vast majority of men and women are not terribly dogmatic about what the gospel is, and acknowledge that one person’s opinion, or one churches teaching is really as good as another.
However, if you open the Word of God, you will very quickly discover that this blessed Book everywhere asserts that there is only one gospel, and that every rival gospel is a false gospel. Granted, the gospel is called by many different names in the New Testament.
- The Gospel of God
- The Gospel of the Kingdom
- The Gospel of Christ
- The Gospel of the Grace of God
- The Gospel of Peace
- The Glorious Gospel of Christ
- The Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God
Still, there is but one gospel, one gospel which we must believe, if we would be saved. All other gospels are false gospels and, therefore, no gospel at all. The Apostle Paul tells us plainly that all who preach a false gospel are false prophets, and all who believe a false gospel are damned by the gospel they believe.
Galatians 1:6-9 “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
In the light of these things, my subject this morning should be of great, very great interest to us all. The title of my message is – THE GOSPEL DEFINED. I am not going to show you the Baptist definition of the gospel, the Calvinistic definition of the gospel, or the Reformed definition of the gospel. I am no more interested in the Baptist definition of the gospel than I am in the Mormon definition. I am no more interested in the Calvinistic definition than I am in the Arminian definition. I am no more interested in the Reformed definition of the gospel than I am in the Catholic definition of the gospel. But I am interested in God’s definition of the gospel, and you better be.
Turn with me to Romans 1. You will find my text in the opening words of this inspired textbook of theology. This was not Paul’s first inspired epistle. He wrote several before this. But the Book of Romans has been placed first in the Pauline Epistles by divine arrangement with good reason. As Calvin put it, “When anyone gains a knowledge of this epistle, he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture.”
Paul’s primary object in this great epistle is to set forth the foundation doctrine of Holy Scripture, the foundation doctrine of Christianity, to set forth in clear, unmistakable light the doctrine of justification, justification not by nature, or by law or religious ceremony, but by the righteousness of Christ imputed to chosen, redeemed sinners by the grace of God and received by faith in Christ.
Let’s begin in Romans 1:1
Romans 1:1 “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,”
This epistle begins in the most unadorned, self-abasing manner possible, without any flowery pretense and show of humility, but with an evidently humble man, who seeks nothing for himself. – “Paul.” That’s all. Just “Paul,” not “Dr. Paul,” “Rev. Paul,” “Eld. Paul,” “Bis. Paul,” “Cardinal Paul,” “Father Paul,” Pope Paul,” or even “Bro. Paul,” just “Paul.”
You see, those men who are the true servants of Christ are not fond of fancy titles. They seek no glory, honor, or praise for themselves. Paul identifies himself in a three ways.
- “A servant of Jesus Christ.” This was certainly an expression of humility; but is was more than that. It was a declaration of a recognized fact. A true gospel preacher is the minister (servant) of Christ and his church. He considers himself indeed a willing, loving, obedient bond slave of Jesus Christ (Exod. 21:1-6).
- “Called to be an apostle.” An apostle was a man who was sent by Christ, had his authority and doctrine directly from Christ, and had the special, apostolic power to work miracles in confirmation of his mission and authority (Heb. 2:3,4). Paul was the last apostle, the apostle born out of due time, distinctly chosen of God to be the apostle to the Gentiles, specifically chosen to take Judas’s place.
- “Separated unto the gospel.” Like Jeremiah, Paul was separated from his mother’s womb (Gal. 1:15). He was separated by Christ to bear the gospel to Gentiles (Acts 9:15). And he was separated by the Holy Ghost (Acts 13:2). But there is more here than his being separated by God. This distinctly refers to Paul’s own resolve and determination preach the gospel of God!
Here is a man fully, deliberately dedicated to preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17; 2:2). He was determined to be faithful to his calling; and he was.
1 Corinthians 1:17 “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”
1 Corinthians 2:2 “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
1 Corinthians 9:16 “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”
2 Timothy 4:6-8 “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
All right. Stay with me in Romans 1. Here is a fivefold definition of the gospel, given to us by God himself through the pen of the Apostle Paul.
It is the gospel of God in that he is the Author of it, the Executor of it, the Subject of it and the Revealer of it.
- First, the Holy Spirit here defines the gospel as “THE GOSPEL OF GOD.” — “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.”
Again, I remind you, I am talking about “the gospel.” There is only one. It is defined here as “the gospel of God” for at least these three reasons.
- God is the Author of it.
- God is the Subject of it.
- God is the Revealer of it.
- God is the Executor of it (Eph. 1:3-14).
Ephesians 1:3-14 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
2 Corinthians 5:18-21 “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
Look at verse 2.
Romans 1:2 “(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures.)”
This gospel of God is no new gospel. It is not a novel doctrine. This is the gospel of peace is the everlasting gospel.
- It was conceived in the heart of God from all eternity. It was ordained before the world was.
- It was hid in Christ from the beginning (Pro. 8).
- It was revealed to the sons of men in promise, by prophets, in pictures, in type and in ceremony throughout the Old Testament (Acts 10:43; Heb. 1:1,2; Luke 24:44,45).
- It was manifested by the coming of our Lord (2 Tim. 1:9,10).
2 Timothy 1:9-10 “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Now, look at verse 3; but read verses 1 and 3 together, leaving out the parenthetical explanation in verse 2.
Romans 1:1,3 — “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, … 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;”
- Here we are given a second definition of the gospel. Here we are told that the gospel of God is “the gospel of God CONCERNING HIS SON.”
The gospel of God is all about Christ. The gospel is not about baptism, morality, or religious reformation and ritualism of any kind. The gospel is all about Christ. Christ is the express and solitary subject of the gospel. Christ is the gospel! The gospel concerns his person and his work. The whole gospel is included in Christ; and if a man removes one step from Christ, he departs from the gospel (2 Cor. 11:3; 1 John 5:11-13, 20).
2 Corinthians 11:3 “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
1 John 5:11-13 “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
1 John 5:20 “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”
- He who is our Savior is and must be God the Son. The gospel identifies and owns him as such.
- He is Jesus, the Savior (Matt. 1:21).
- The gospel we preach is the gospel of the Christ, God’s Anointed One.
- This great God, the Son, Jesus Christ, is our Lord. The gospel declares him Lord, the sovereign Monarch of the universe.
All these statements refer to our Savior’s glorious divinity and godhead. But God, absolute God, could never redeem and save fallen, sinful, guilty, condemned men. If he would save, if ever there was to be a gospel to preach, the Son of God must become the Son of man. Therefore we are told that…
- The Son of God “was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.”
These two things must be found in Christ in order that we may obtain salvation in him: deity and humanity (Isa. 9:6; Matt. 1:23; John 1:14). He is the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the flesh he is the seed of David (Ps. 132:11; Luke 1:32). He is David’s son and David’s Lord.
Read verse 4.
Romans 1:4 “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
- The Lord Jesus was made a man; but he was not made the Son of God. He was “declared to be the Son of God.”
Be sure you get this. Christ made or became a man, the seed of David (Gal. 4:4), but he was declared to be the Son of God (John 10:30).
- He is declared to be the Son of God with power (Heb. 1:2,3; Matt. 28:18; John 17:2; 5:36).
- He was declared to be the Son of God with power “according to the spirit of holiness” by whom he was justified when he raised him from the dead (1 Tim. 3:16).
- He was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.
It is upon this great fact, the fact of his resurrection from the dead, that the whole gospel rests (1 Cor. 15:12-19).
1 Corinthians 15:12-19 “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
- Our Lord’s resurrection from the dead declares visibly and undeniably that he is all that he claimed.
- His resurrection is the declaration of our justification (Rom. 4:25-5:1).
- His resurrection from the dead is the guarantee of ours. — He is the first-fruit.
Let’s move on to verse 5.
Romans 1:5 “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:”
III. Here we are taught that the gospel of God is THE GOSPEL OF GRACE!
Here Paul reveals both his attitude toward the ministry and the character of the gospel. He speaks of his call to the apostleship and the purpose of his ministry, as matters of great grace.
Ephesians 3:8 “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
It was through divine favor, not his own worthiness, that he was chosen for such a high office (1 Cor. 15:10) for the honor and glory of the name of Christ, in whose name he went in and in whose name he preached (Rom. 10:13-15). But the beginning of the whole matter was grace. He received grace, all grace, from God the Father, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, just like we have, by the gospel.
- Grace was given to us in eternity (Eph. 1:3).
- All this grace, all the grace of God was given to us in Christ.
- This grace is known and experienced by the almighty, irresistible, effectual call of God the Holy Spirit.
Romans 1:6-7 “Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Those were the elect in eternity are the called in time. Those who were the redeemed at Calvary are the called. They, and they only are…
- “beloved of God.”
- “saints” – (people made holy).
- beneficiaries of all grace and peace.
- children of God “our Father.”
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Paul prayed that God would ever grant to these Roman saints a continual increase of grace. Every grace is imperfect, and those who have the most stand in need of more (2 Peter 3:18).
Peace here is peace with God through Christ, peace in our own hearts, and peace with each other. The Father is the Giver and Christ is the Fountain of all blessings in this life and of all blessedness throughout eternity!
Skip down to verse 16, and see Paul’s fourth definition of the gospel.
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
- The gospel of Christ is “THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION.”
Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of God’s of the grace of God. He openly confessed it and publicly preached it to everyone. He was not ashamed to believe it; and he was not ashamed to be identified with it. He gloried in it (Gal. 6:14 — T.U.L.I.P). Some own these things in private. God’s people own them in public. Some cover the offense of the cross with words of wisdom and human philosophy, seeking to please men. God’s servants preach the gospel boldly and plainly. Some attempt to add their works to his grace and mix free will with free grace. God’s servants preach grace alone, free, sovereign, eternal grace in Christ!
Why are we not ashamed of the gospel? It is the power (dynamite) of God unto salvation. The gospel of Christ and the preaching of that gospel are the means God uses to…
- bring dead sinners to life (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23; Mark 16:15,16);
- open blind eyes (2 Cor. 4:3-6);
- reveal Christ (Rom. 10:13-15; 1 Cor. 15:1-4); and
- declare salvation through Christ (Rom. 3:24-26).
Now, look at verse 17. The gospel is…
- the gospel of God,
- concerning his Son,
- a message of grace,
- the power of God, and…
- Fifth, the gospel of God is THE REVELATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Romans 1:17 “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”
If we would have God’s salvation, if we would have life with God, his righteousness must first be found, for God is holy, just and righteous. In order to be loved by God, accepted by God and justified before God, we must become righteous — not by our own deeds of righteousness, which are filthy rags, but by his righteousness (Matt. 5:20; Rom. 10:1-4).
The gospel of Christ is the revelation of the righteousness of God (Rom. 3:25, 26). We cannot obtain salvation anywhere but through the gospel of Christ, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed (Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:21). This righteousness is not known nor understood by the light of nature, but must be revealed (1 Cor. 2:9,10).
- “Revealed from faith to faith.” Righteousness is secured by Christ and received by faith.
“From faith to faith” means from one degree of faith to another, for faith, like any other grace, grows.
- “The just shall live by faith.” This statement is found four times in Scripture (Hab. 2:4; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).
- We begin by faith (Rom. 3:22).
- We continue in faith (Col. 1:23).
- And we die in faith (Heb. 11:13).
Application: Do you see the gospel? Do you believe the gospel? Let us preach the gospel to sinners everywhere, for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:1-4 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Illustration: — The Worm