4 CRUCIAL TRUTHS THE GOSPEL PRESENTS by Servants of Gracefor
One of the best places to start looking for a basic explanation of the gospel is Paul’s letter to the Romans. Perhaps more clearly than any other book of the Bible, Romans contains a deliberate, step-by-step expression of what Paul understood to be the good news.
Actually, the book of Romans is not so much a book at all, at least as we usually think of books. It’s a letter, a way for Paul to introduce himself and his message to a group of Christians he had never met. That’s why it has such a systematic, step-by-step feel. Paul wanted these Christians to know about him, his ministry, and especially his message. He wanted them to know that the good news he preached was the same good news they believed.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel,” he begins, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). From there, especially through the first four chapters, Paul explains the good news about Jesus in wonderful detail. As we look at these chapters, we’ll see that Paul structures his presentation of the gospel around a few critical truths, truths that show up again and again in the apostles’ preaching of the gospel. Let’s look at the progression of Paul’s thought in Romans 1–4.
1. PAUL TELLS HIS READERS THAT IT IS GOD TO WHOM THEY ARE ACCOUNTABLE.
After his introductory remarks in Romans 1:1–7, Paul begins his presentation of the gospel by declaring that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven” (Rom. 1:18). With his very first words, Paul insists that humanity is not autonomous. We did not create ourselves, and we are neither self-reliant nor self-accountable. No, it is God who created the world and everything in it, including us. Because he created us, God has the right to demand that we worship him. Look what Paul says in Romans 1:21: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Thus Paul indicts humanity: they have sinned by not honoring and thanking God. It is our obligation, as people created and owned by God, to give him the honor and glory that is due to him, to live and speak and act and think in a way that recognizes and acknowledges his authority over us. We are made by him, owned by him, dependent on him, and therefore accountable to him. That’s the first point Paul labors to make as he explains the good news of Christianity.
2. PAUL TELLS HIS READERS THAT THEIR PROBLEM IS THAT THEY REBELLED AGAINST GOD.
They—along with everyone else—did not honor God and give thanks to him as they should have. Their foolish hearts were darkened and they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Rom. 1:23). That’s a truly revolting image, isn’t it? For human beings to consider their Creator and then decide that a wooden or metal image of a frog or a bird or even themselves is more glorious, more satisfying, and more valuable is the height of insult and rebellion against God. It is the root and essence of sin, and its results are nothing short of horrific.