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Monday, August 13, 2012

Characteristics of the Gospel

By Jim McGuiggan
     He says it is the “gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).  This phrase may mean it is a gospel that comes from God, a gospel that God Himself makes known.  It may also mean it is a gospel “about” God.  There is no need to choose between these two because Paul might have had both in mind.  Both are certainly true and it is important in the book of Romans to see that both are true.
     The gospel isn’t about less important things like the weather, or the economy of the Greco-Roman world or how to get along with our neighbors.  The gospel is about God Himself and how He relates to this sinful creation. And the gospel comes from God Himself.  It isn’t good advice or a philosophy that Paul or others have dreamed up—it comes from God.  All this means is that the Romans (and we) should pay close attention to his message.
     He says the gospel is God’s power to save (1:16).  We’re tempted to think of God’s “power” as merely “divine muscle,” but it’s a mistake to think of it like that in this context. Even when speaking about human power, we know the difference between the power to move a huge stone and the power to “move” a person.  A person “saved” in Paul’s sense means God brought that person back into relationship with Himself and so saved him/her from sin and loss.  This kind of “saving” isn’t done with “divine muscle.”  Since God saves us in and by the cross of Christ, it’s clear that He doesn’t bully us into life and doesn’t save us by force.  To be saved by God’s “power” means God set Himself the task and was able to complete it.  The gospel, or good news, is the message that a faithful God did that very thing, and that He did it through the crucified Jesus Christ.  There are some places naked power or force can’t enter, and one of them is the human heart.
     He says the gospel is God’s power to save all who believe because in the gospel God’s righteousness (faithfulness) continues to be revealed (1:16-17).  God’s righteousness is God’s faithfulness.  He keeps His commitments, and when He created humanity He made a commitment to humanity.  Despite our rebellion against Him, He didn’t utterly destroy us. He was faithful to His word, and that’s part of what we mean when we say God is “righteous.”  His faithfulness is to all people, and not only those who are Jews.  The gospel message that proclaims God’s faithfulness draws people to God in response to that faithfulness, and they put their trust in Him.  So the gospel is “from” faith (God’s faithfulness) “unto faith” (the faith of those who hear).  The relationship between the righteous God and those who are declared righteous by faith is a dynamic one if salvation is to be experienced.  It isn’t just God keeping faith with man; it is man trusting himself to that God who keeps faith.

- Jim McGuiggan,
Romans: The Witness & His Story (1), via THE SOWER, a weekly publication of the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL. Ron Bartanen, who serves as minister and editor, may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com

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