Gospel Encouragement (Romans #2)

Text: Romans 1:8-17

Their Christianity was encouraging to other Christians (vs 8)

  • Rome became a hotbed of persecution against Christianity in the 1st century. But not for the reasons you might think. The Greco/Roman non-Jewish world was largely disinterested in Christianity. The Roman politicians and judges didn’t care enough about it to harass Christians. They were generally like Pilate, not wanting to be involved when cases against Christianity were brought to them.
  • The real problem was the unbelieving Jews. They were rioting against Christians in Rome and this was common wherever Christianity spread. Rome attempted to keep the peace, but because Christianity was largely Jewish at the beginning, Rome began silencing both Jews and Jewish Christians indiscriminately. Claudius ordered all Jews out of the capital city (Acts 18:1-2). The Roman historian Suetonius records this and there is also a record in the acts of Claudius. So Claudius dispersed the Jews not because he was anti-semitic, nor was he anti-Christian per se, but because he had no other way of keeping the peace in the capital. 
  • This brings us to verse 8. Paul commends the Roman Christians’ faith noting that the whole world is talking about them.

Establishment of faith by faith (vss 9-13)

  • Paul wants to establish the Roman Christians’ faith through some spiritual gifting. That’s a complicated way of simply saying he wants to be there to encourage the Roman Christians who are dealing with tremendous opposition.
  • The care of souls is primarily about ministering the words of God to people.
  • Peter would say the same thing having the same desire in his second letter (2 Peter 1:8-15). He wants to establish professing Christians in virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity.
  • Back to Romans, Paul wanted to preach the gospel in order to establish these early Christians. He says it in Romans 1:17, from faith to faith.

The gospel according to Paul

  • This brings us to verse 15 which poses a problem to our 21st-century understanding of the gospel. When 1st-century Christians are talking about the gospel, they are clearly talking about more than the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; more than just three days of Jesus’ life. They are talking about the entire scope of good news from God above. The gospel will be the complete work of God in Jesus Christ. His life, his teachings, future hope in him, his death for sins, his judgment of sinners, all of these things fall under the umbrella of the gospel which is good news.
  • The gospel is described many ways such as the gospel of God, gospel of Jesus Christ, gospel of his Son, everlasting gospel, gospel of the kingdom, gospel of the kingdom of God, this gospel, my gospel, the gospel, that gospel, our gospel, gospel of the grace of God, gospel of Christ, gospel of peace, Christ’s gospel, and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    • I mention this because Clarence Larkin picked four of these descriptions and said there were four gospels. This was then picked up by some to mean there were actually four different ways of salvation. Reality is there aren’t only four descriptions and they aren’t describing different ways of salvation. There are fifteen different descriptions of God’s gospel. Six of those descriptions show up in Romans.
    • It’s simply like describing an orange as orange, fruity, sweet, juicy, round, and refreshing. It’s the same orange though.
    • The word gospel is not the same thing as saying salvation.
    • Peter wanted to establish his audience in all those things he listed by the gospel.
    • Paul wants to go to Rome to preach the gospel to people who already believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross and was resurrected. He wants the gospel to encourage and instruct these Roman Christians on how to endure their troubling circumstances and deal with these Jewish oppositions in a sound way.
  • So what is the gospel according to biblical authors who originally used the term?
    • It is more than just three days of Jesus’ life. It is the entire scope of good news from God above. The gospel will be the complete work of God in Jesus Christ. His life, his teachings, future hope in him, his death for sins, his judgment of sinners, all of these things fall under the umbrella of the gospel which is good news.
    • Paul was separated unto the gospel (vs 1). The gospel is a life-changing message that turned a man devoted to his self-righteous religion into a selfless, caretaker of souls through teaching the scriptures.
    • The gospel was preached by the prophets and recorded in the scriptures (vs 2)
    • The gospel is Paul’s new vocation (vs 9).
    • It’s what Paul wants to preach to the believers in Rome to encourage them amidst their troubles.
    • It is the power of God unto salvation to the Jew first and also to the Greek. God’s good news, particularly in Jesus Christ, is the raceless and unbiased power of God to any soul. The Jews would be privileged to get news from God first.

Christians become stewards of the righteousness of God (vs 17)

  • The big thing here is the righteousness of God. As opposed to self-righteous works which the hypocrites are used to doing.
  • The Christian lives by faith. The Christian receives God’s instructions for life, for eternal life, for living, and faith becomes the vehicle for God’s righteousness.
  • God’s righteousness turns out to be more than a declaration by God of someone’s standing, but a righteous life to live by.
  • The just shall LIVE by faith is taken from Habakkuk 2:4. It’s an Old Testament principle of how a child of God becomes a child of God, being led by the Spirit of God.
  • Hebrews 10:37-39 says the same thing and cites the same verse.
  • The Christian is a steward of God’s righteousness in the same way a water boy on the sidelines becomes a steward of the water on the sidelines. The Christian becomes the administrator, priest, caretaker and distributor of the righteousness of God by faith.