Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Saving Power of the Gospel in Romans 1:16

Romans 1:16-17 states the fundamental theme of the book of Romans that undergirds the rest of Paul's teaching in this epistle. In v. 16 Paul states that he was not ashamed of the gospel. Implied within this statement is that Paul’s opponents, the Christian Judaizers, were ashamed of the gospel. By insisting on circumcision and keeping the law of Moses as part of the gospel (such as we see in Acts 15:1, 5), the Judaizers were effectively trying to make the gospel kosher by Judaizing it, by trying to force Jesus and the gospel into the traditional framework of the Mosaic covenant. Their motivation in doing this was to try and make Christianity look acceptable to orthodox Jewish sensibilities. The Judaizers compromised the gospel in the face of social pressure.

But Paul (after his conversion) would have none of that. He was not ashamed of the gospel, because he understood that it is the powerful word of God that brings the fullness of salvation “to everyone who believes, both to the Jew first and to the Greek.” This verse contains the first use in Romans of the pan-ethnic all (translated here as everyone), which is derived from the phrase all the nations in Rom 1:5.

Paul understood that the gospel has a pan-ethnic relevance and application. By making the point that the gospel brings salvation to everyone who believes, Paul was opposing the position of the Judaizers, whose understanding of the gospel limited salvation to one nation (i.e., the nation of Israel), whose national boundary was marked by circumcision, and whose way of life was the law of Moses. Paul understood that the gospel had opened the door of salvation to all nations. This was a truth of which he was not ashamed, a truth that he was prepared to defend no matter what the personal cost.

No comments: