If you are reading this, I hope it indicates that you have a spiritual curiosity and are searching for truth. This subject cannot and should not be quickly and lightly explained. I will carefully and concisely explain the gospel, but please take the time to read this thoughtfully; perhaps you should even read it a couple of times. At the top of the page is the contact link if you have further questions.
In the Bible, the word “gospel” means “good news.” The gospel is the good news that, as our substitute, Jesus Christ died on the cross and then rose from the dead to pay sin’s penalty; this is what was necessary to redeem us from sin and reconcile us to God.
The apostle Paul explained the gospel very carefully in the first 5 chapters of the book of Romans. If you have a Bible, I encourage you to have it with you as you read this.
The good news actually starts out with bad news, which is stated in very stark and shocking language. Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.” Lest you think that God is a vindictive tyrant, it is necessary to realize that mankind was created to have fellowship with God. He was created innocent and without sin, but in the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God, and they succumbed. When they became sinners, they passed on that nature to all humanity, separating every one of us from the sinless and holy God. The desire of God is for individuals to be brought back into a relationship with Him. Unfortunately, much of mankind wants to continue in their rebellion against their Creator, or they want to come back to Him on their terms rather than His. The wrath of God is justified because mankind continues to resist His efforts to reconcile them to Himself.
After declaring that mankind is under the wrath of God, Paul outlines all who are under God’s wrath and why.
Who is under God’s wrath, and why?
1. The Rebellious Romans 1:18-32
First, Paul explained that God has revealed Himself to mankind in creation (Psalm 19:1-6), yet rebellious men continue to resist God. Because of their rejection of Him, He has turned them over to the consequences of their sin and they continue fall deeper into idolatry, immorality, and hedonism (living entirely for personal pleasure). Because of their wickedness, they are worthy of God’s righteous judgment.
2. The Respectable Romans 2:1-16
Next, Paul addressed those who have judged themselves according to the previous group of people. They think that there is something in them that makes them better than the rebellious individuals listed above and that they may not experience God’s judgment because of their supposed inherent goodness. However, this passage of Scripture asserts that God judges every man individually by His standard, not in comparison to other men. These respectable men have resisted the goodness of God which was intended to draw them to Himself. They may not have the same level of moral wickedness as those mentioned above, but Paul said even those who simply “do not obey the truth” will suffer the wrath of God. He is the righteous Judge who judges perfectly, knowing the secrets in the heart of every man.
3. The Religious Romans 2:17-3:20
Finally, Paul wrote of those who think that they have a superior standing with God because of their religion. Specifically, those in view in this context are the Jews, but they are representative of any who trust their various religious practices to merit God’s favor. The argument is made against the religious ones that they have not kept every part of the law, and so their boast in the law is hypocritical and their confidence is misplaced. Paul concluded this section by quoting several Old Testament passages of Scripture which state that all men are sinners; this applies to the rebellious, the respectable, and the religious. Even though the religious man thinks that God will consider him righteous, because he attempts to live by the Old Testament religious law, he still has no righteousness and is still guilty before God.
So, the first part of the good news is very bad news. All men are without righteousness in and of themselves, and are therefore justly condemned by God.
Then how can man avoid the judgment of God?
The good news is overwhelming! Romans 3:21-31 announces that genuine righteousness is available through the person of Jesus Christ! All men have sinned and therefore cannot come to God on their own. However, those who in faith receive the forgiveness of sins by the blood of Christ shed on the cross will have the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to their eternal account. Those who receive Christ’s righteousness by faith will be declared righteous by God.
What causes God to declare a man righteous?
Knowing that man is helped in his understanding by a good illustration, Paul proceeded through the narrative of the life of Abraham. Abraham was declared righteous, or justified, by God. In Romans 4:16-22 (which we’ll consider in a few minutes), Paul wrote of what it was that caused God to justify Abraham, but first he made sure to explain what did not make him righteous.
1. Abraham was not declared righteous because of his good works Romans 4:1-8
Here, Paul asserted that Abraham was not justified because of his personal good works. There were two reasons for this: 1) Abraham would then have had a reason to boast; 2) God would have been a debtor to Abraham instead of the Giver of grace. These verses reveal that no man can earn or work for his standing before God. Salvation is only by grace.
2. Abraham was not declared righteous because of a religious rite Romans 4:9-12
In this next portion, Paul proved that righteousness does not come because of circumcision or any other religious rite. The Jews had circumcision as a sign of their covenant with God. There were even Jews teaching Gentile Christians that they had to be circumcised before they were truly righteous in the eyes of God. Paul refuted this false teaching with the logic that God had already declared Abraham righteous (Genesis 15:6) before he was even circumcised (Genesis 17:24). This illustrates for us that no religious rite or sacrament of any kind can save a man. As Baptists, we practice the ordinances of Communion and Baptism; however, neither of those makes a person righteous in the eyes of God. Communion and Baptism are external manifestations of inward activity.
3. Abraham was not declared righteous because he kept the law Romans 4:13-15
Abraham’s blessing from God did not come through the law, or the keeping of it. If righteousness could be earned through religion, then faith would not even be necessary. Also, the purpose of the law was to reveal and define sin.
Incidentally, chronologically speaking, Abraham died at least 330 years before Moses received the law on Mount Sinai. So, clearly, Abraham was not declared righteous by the law.
4. Abraham was declared righteous because of his faith – he took God at His Word Romans 4:16-22
Paul now showed that Abraham was counted righteous in the eyes of God because he believed what God had told him. Specifically, in this context, God told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. The reality was that his wife Sarah was barren and 90 years old; Abraham was 100, yet believed that God would keep His word to him. He was strong in faith; he gave weight to the Word of God; he was absolutely convinced that God could do what He promised. Therefore, “it was imputed (credited) to him for righteousness.”
5. We are declared righteous because of faith Romans 4:23-25
After using the life of Abraham as an illustration, Paul stated that just like Abraham was declared righteous because he took God at His Word, so we are counted righteous by God when we take Him at His Word.
Specifically, we must believe Him as it relates to the facts stated in verses Romans 4:24-25:
Fact #1: We are offenders (sinners). Paul stated that Christ was delivered for our offenses; we must believe that we are sinners. If a man will not acknowledge that he is a sinner, he is not going to acknowledge his need for a Savior. He will remain convinced that he is unworthy of God’s judgment. Before a man will be declared righteous by God, he must change his mind and acknowledge his sinful condition (this is called repentance).
Fact #2: Jesus was delivered for our sins. This phrase is a reference to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Because of His great love for fallen mankind, God the Father gave His Son, Jesus Christ, as the only pure and possible sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins. We must believe that Jesus Christ was our substitute; He atoned for our sins when He died on the cross.
Fact #3: Jesus was raised from the dead. There are several reasons why the resurrection of Jesus is important. This passage reveals that it was “for our justification.” This means that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead provided our righteous standing before God.
When Jesus was raised from the dead, it proved that He was in fact the Son of God; it proved that the wrath of God on sin had been appeased and the penalty of death was paid in full; it means that the provision of new spiritual and eternal life, for those who believe, had been accomplished.
Just like Abraham took God at His Word, as it related to the promise of a child and a nation, if you are going to be declared righteous by God, you must take Him at His Word and believe that you are a sinner, that Christ died on the cross in your place, and that He was raised from the dead in order to give you new life. This is the good news – the gospel!
If I believe, then what? Romans 5:1-11
The next paragraph in Paul’s letter is one of the most encouraging in the entire Bible. It shows that since we have been justified in the eyes of God, we now:
1) Have peace with God (past, present, and future)
2) Have access to His grace (strength for living, provided through prayer)
3) Have joy in the confidence of eternity in God’s Glory
4) Have an eternal perspective on trials (they help us to grow)
5) Have the indwelling Spirit of God lavishing the love of God in our hearts
6) Have the constant knowledge that God loved us so much that He, by Christ, reconciled us to Himself.
Conclusion: Romans 5:12-21
This final paragraph in Romans 5 summarizes what Paul had taught in the epistle to this point. Sin came into the world through our original ancestor, Adam. As a result, the consequence of sin, spiritual death, has come upon all men, because all men are sinners. Just like sin and death came upon all men through one man (Adam), so the free gift of God’s grace was made available for all men, by one man (Jesus Christ). Paul wrote in Romans 5:18-19, “As by the offence of one (Adam) judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one (Jesus Christ) the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s (Adam’s) disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience (Philippians 2:5-11) of one (Jesus Christ) shall many be made righteous.”
I finish with the words of Paul in Romans 5:20b “But where sin abounded, grace abounded more.”
So what about you? Have you taken God at His Word? I urge you, if the Holy Spirit of God is using these thoughts from the Scripture to convince you of your need to believe the gospel, don’t resist it! Take God at His Word!
If you have questions or if you would like to know more, please send me an e-mail from the contact link at the top of the page.
– Pastor Deatrick