World English Bible translation
1:16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 1:17 For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith to faith. As it is written, "But the righteous shall live by faith."
In today's two short scriptures is contained the kernel of the book as a whole. Paul has told the Romans that he has heard of their faith, that he prayed unceasingly that God would allow him to come to them to impart some spiritual gift. He has told them that he is ready to preach the gospel in Rome. And the gospel that Paul is prepared to preach? This gospel is "the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith to faith."
This is the gospel of Christ, the "good news" that Jesus sought to bring us. Paul had experienced the magnitude of the power of this gospel on the road to Damascus and that encounter had driven fear from his heart. He had witnessed the Risen Christ in power and majesty. When a man has experienced divine power directly, there is little in this world that can bring fear and shame to his heart again. Paul was not the first to experience God in such a fashion. Moses had encountered God in the burning bush and the prophets had encountered God when they were called. Each man in his turn was changed by his encounter with God.
Paul had seen this power in his own life. He had been diametrically opposed to the will of God. He had seen the "power of God to salvation" in his own life. And he had experienced this power in the lives of other people as well. He had witnessed the sick healed and the dead raised. He had seen broken people made whole by the power of the gospel of Christ. For Paul, the power of the gospel was neither imaginary nor incomplete. It was a tangible, daily force in his life.
In Paul's experience, the gospel of Christ was "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." The greatest issue of tension in the church of Paul's day was the tension between Jewish Christianity and the influx of Gentile converts. The first century church experienced religious division to an extent that would surprise most Christians today. The early church showed just as much tendency to split and divide as religious institutions of today. Only in Paul's day, there were even greater cultural barriers to surmount. The Jews had been taught for centuries to separate themselves from Gentiles and the Greeks had been taught that theirs was the height of culture and sophistication.
Paul's mission from God and passion in life was to bridge the divide between Jews and Greeks. The righteousness that God offered man was not divided. There was not one way of righteousness for the Jew and another for the Greek. Christ had revealed but one way of righteousness to Paul, righteousness that came from God and was by faith. And once it had been revealed to Paul, he realized that everything in his training in Judaism had led him toward that righteousness all along. Hadn't it been written, "But the righteous shall live by faith"?
Here is the purpose of Paul's life and ministry. Through preaching the righteousness of God that comes by faith Paul sought to bring all men, both Jew and Greek, together in Christ. In John 17 Jesus prayed that He and those who believed in Him and the Father would all be one. In the same sense, Paul sought to bring all men together in Christ through faith in Him.
Do you know the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith? Over the course of the next months we will explore this righteousness and the salvation that God offers to everyone who believes.
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