The Second Part Of The Introduction Of Paul’s Letter To the Romans; The Importance Of The Gospel; The Righteousness Of God
Paul’s letter to the Romans may be the greatest work on theology ever written. It was written by one of the greatest men who ever lived. It is Paul’s magnum opus, his greatest work. It is divinely inspired. It is true in every respect. It should be studied, understood, believed, allowed to permeate our thoughts; and it should be put into practice.
In the first seven verses, Paul starts his letter to Messiah’s Community in Rome with his credentials. He is a servant of Messiah Yeshua, who is the Greatest Person Of All. Some of Messiah’s greatness rubbed off on Paul. He is also an apostle, and not just any apostle, but God’s special representative to the Gentiles, to the peoples of the world. Paul was set apart by God to preach, teach and defend the Gospel, this amazing message about the Son of God. Someone with credentials like Paul must be believed.
Let’s continue with Paul’s introduction, starting with verse 8: It’s easy to criticize other people. It’s easy to identify their weakness and point them out. Aliza tells me that it would be better if I criticized less and complimented more. I’m sure she’s right. It’s nice to be complimented. It can make you want to respond in a positive way to the one who is complimenting you. With that in mind, notice that Paul compliments Messiah’s followers in Rome. First, I thank my God through Messiah Yeshua for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.
Paul compliments the members of Messiah’s community in Rome for their faith. They know the truth. They believe the truth. Their faith had been making an impact well beyond the city of Rome. Their faith had been touching people throughout the Roman empire. I can almost hear non-Christians of that time saying: “have you heard that a growing number of people in the capital believe that a carpenter from Israel who was crucified, came back to life? They believe He is the Son of God.” I can almost hear Christians in other parts of the Roman empire saying: “How exciting! The Faith has spread to the capital. Messiah’s Community is growing in Rome itself. How encouraging!”
Note that the thing that Paul commended them for was their faith; not their level of sophistication; not their prominence; not their numbers; but their faith. I love what A.W. Tozer said about faith – that the most important thing about any human being is what, deep in his heart, he believes about God.
What do you consider to be the most important thing about you? Your family? Your intelligence? Your looks? Talents? Accomplishments? Career? Wealth? It was their faith, their belief in God and the Word of God that impressed Paul and caused him to thank God. We should place a high value on faith – the way Paul did.
The Rabbi thanked God the Father for their faith, and acknowledged that his giving of thanks was made possible “through Messiah Yeshua.” Just as salvation is made possible through our mediator, Messiah Yeshua, it was because of Messiah that Paul was able to thank God in a way that was fully acceptable to God.
It is possible to thank God in a way that is not fully acceptable to Him? I believe there is. Here’s an example: let’s say there’s a very talented man, and God wanted him to commit his life to Yeshua and become a great leader of the Faith, but that man refused to follow the Messiah. After many years that man became extremely wealthy. One day he decided to thank God for his wealth. “Thank You God for enabling me to become so wealthy. Hear my prayer of thanks.” God heard his thanks, but thought to Himself: you are thanking me for your wealth, but what I really wanted you to thank Me for is for sending My Son, who makes salvation possible. I wanted you to thank Me for a life well-lived, a life spent in My service – which you have refused to do.” I thank my God through Messiah Yeshua.
We tend to respond better to those whom we know care about us than to those who don’t care about us. Paul wanted the Christians and Messianic Jews in Rome to respond well to him. He let them know that he cared for them. He thought about them and prayed for them all the time. Therefore they should accept him and the things he was writing to them.
God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
Paul prayed for the community in Rome all the time, and he prayed that God the Father would make it possible for him to visit them. He invoked God as his witness that his statements were true. If they could speak to God Himself, and hear from God Himself, He would verify that Paul prayed for them at all times and had been praying to be able to visit them. Since he genuinely cared for them, they should respond positively to him.
The Rabbi reinforced that he was speaking truthfully by letting them know that if he informed them that he prayed for them all the time and had been praying for the opportunity to visit them, it was true – because he was a man who served God in his spirit by preaching the Good News.
He let them know that he was a servant of God, and served God – not in a shallow, superficial way – but in his spirit, at the core of who he was. A man who serves God in his spirit should be believed – and obeyed.
He was a servant of God, and a servant of the God who is faithful and true, does not lie. They should believe him and accept him and his teachings.
There are many ways to serve God. Paul served God in a very important and special way – by preaching the Gospel. The Gospel is true. Paul served God by preaching a true message. He was a man who was committed to speaking the truth. Therefore they should believe him and receive everything he was communicating to them.
Paul didn’t preach any gospel. The gospel he proclaimed was the gospel of God’s Son. The focus of Paul’s message was Yeshua, who is the Son of God. Paul’s message was that the Son of God came into this world through the incarnation; lived a perfect life; died an atoning death; overcame Satan and the demons, sin and death and Hell by rising from the dead. The Son of God then ascended to Heaven, to the right hand of God the Father, and from that exalted place is able to send the Spirit of God to human being on Earth, the Spirit who is able to give new life and a new nature to those who believe in the Messiah. That is the Gospel of God’s Son.
God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times. Paul assured the Romans, using very strong terms, that he was a servant of God who genuinely cared for them; and that he was truthful. Therefore, they should accept him and the things he was writing to them. And so should we. Do you agree?
Next the Rabbi tells them why he wanted to visit them. He gives them three reasons. The first: mutual strengthening. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. God has designed Messiah’s Community so that individual Christians and Messianic Jews benefit from each other. When we come together, we are able to give each other spiritual gifts; we encourage each other; we strengthen each other; we bless each other. Paul wanted to visit them so they could be mutually encouraged with the spiritual gifts that God had given them.
Paul is not limiting spiritual gifts to supernatural gifts like prophecy or speaking in other languages. Paul is referring to all kinds of spiritual gifts. Being able to encourage someone is a spiritual gift. Gifts of wisdom, good advice, sound counsel and good teaching are spiritual gifts. Praying together and for each other and working together to advance the Good News are spiritual gifts. The first reason Paul wanted to visit them – the mutual strengthening that would result from the giving of spiritual gifts.
The second reason the Lord’s representative wanted to visit them was to reap a harvest in Rome. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.
Paul was one of the greatest evangelists and teachers of all time. The Lord used him to reap many harvests by bringing people to Messiah and teaching them and starting communities in Asia Minor and Greece. How could Paul not want to proclaim the message about Messiah to the people in the capital of the Roman empire? How could the apostle to the Gentiles not want to teach and strengthen the believers in Rome – which is another kind of spiritual harvest?
Note that we don’t always get what we want when we want it – even for someone as close to God as Paul was; even if it is for something as worthy as preaching the Gospel. I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now). Paul made numerous plans to travel to Rome, but every time he made a plan to travel there, something happened that prevented him from being able to get there.
Note that Paul was not angry with God that He had not allowed any of Paul’s plans to travel to Rome to happen. Paul understood that man plans, but God directs; that it’s OK for us to plan something good – but we need to have the attitude that God is God, and we aren’t; that we are not in control of things; that God in His wisdom may overrule our plans, or delay the implementation of our plans. And if that happens, we need to submit to the will of God and not get angry with Him.
The third reason Paul wanted to visit them – it was his duty to proclaim the truth to everyone, which included those in Rome. I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. The Lord made Paul an apostle to the nations. The Lord gave Paul the responsibility of proclaiming the Good News to the nations, to every people he could reach – to Greeks and non-Greeks; to nations that were advanced in cultural accomplishments and nations that weren’t; to peoples that were better educated and peoples who weren’t. Preaching the Good News to those in Rome was part of Paul’s divine mandate. He was obligated to preach the message about the Messiah who can save us, to those in Rome.
Paul had three good reasons why he wanted to visit them: the mutual strengthening that would result from the giving and receiving of spiritual gifts; he wanted to reap a spiritual harvest by preaching the Good News to non-believers and teaching the believers; it was his duty to preach and teach there. When someone writes to you and lets you know that he has good reasons to visit you, it causes you to be inclined to accept him and what he is writing to you.
Paul’s introduction is finished. Now he moves on to one of his main teachings – the Gospel, the Good News, the message he proclaims. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
The Gospel is a strange message. It’s an unacceptable message to most people. God is real. There is only one God. He is three and yet one. God is good and wise and powerful. He made the universe and everything it in. He made this beautiful planet and placed the first human beings, who were made in His image, in a delightful garden. However, instead of remaining loyal to Him, Adam and Eve sinned and joined the rebellion of the fallen angels. That ruined our relationship to God. That damaged every aspect of who we are. That condemned us to death and to Hell. But God loved us and the Father sent His Son into this world to save us, since it was impossible for us to do enough to save ourselves. The Messiah lived a perfect life, died an atoning death, was raised from death and ascended to Heaven, to the right hand of the Father. Those who turn to God and His good ways, and turn from their sins, and become loyal to the Father and the Son are forgiven. They are reconciled to God. They receive the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son. The Spirit gives them new life and a new nature. They become the sons and daughters of God who will live forever with God in a new heavens and a new Earth.
That’s the Gospel. I like the Gospel, but most people don’t like the Good News – for various reasons:
They don’t believe in God.
They don’t believe that God is three and yet one.
They don’t believe that Yeshua is the unique Son of God.
They don’t believe in miracles like Messiah’s incarnation or resurrection. They don’t believe in a day of judgment or Heaven or Hell or eternal life.
They don’t believe they are sinners who are in need of the salvation that only Yeshua can provide.
They don’t want to acknowledge they are sinners.
They don’t want to repent. They want to live the way they want to, not the way God wants them to.
They want to be in control of their lives, not allow God to be in control.
They believe their good works will save them, or their good deeds outweighing their bad deeds.
They believe some other religion or ideology will save them.
For various reasons, the world doesn’t like the Good News; the world rejects the Good News; and the world opposes those who believe and proclaim the Good News.
Many Christians and Messianic Jews, after sharing the Good News with others and meeting with rejection, mockery or hostility, become ashamed of the Good News. Not Paul. He knew that this message, and this message alone, is powerful; that this message, when simply believed, is able to bring salvation to human beings who are in the most desperate need of salvation and who can’t save themselves. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.
Notice that the Good News is powerful, and its power is focus on bringing salvation, spiritual salvation – not physical healing, not the creation of wealth or a comfortable life.
How can anyone be ashamed of the one and only message that God has crafted and filled with the power to bring salvation to everyone who believes it?
Are you ashamed of it? If you are ashamed of the Gospel, it’s probably because you don’t believe it – not really.
Paul tells us something else about the Good News: it has a God-designed priority – to go to the Jewish people first. This is a God-designed priority based on God’s choice of Israel as the Chosen People. This God-ordained “to the Jewish people first” emphasis of the Good News was not limited to the ministry of Paul. Nor was this God-ordained “to the Jewish people first” emphasis of the Gospel limited by time. It did not end in the first century. As long as there are a Jewish people, this God-ordained principle will remain in effect. The need to prioritize bringing the Good News to the Jewish people remains in effect today.
How tragic that the plain teaching, the clear words and meaning of the apostle to the peoples of the world have been reinterpreted by most of the Church so that this God-designed priority of gospel proclamation to the Jewish people first is ignored. May the Lord so work among His people that this God-ordained priority is once again understood; and implemented. Amen?
Something else Paul tells us about the Good News: it is based completely on faith, from start to finish. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” The Gospel is based on faith; on believing the truth; of being convinced of and accepting what really is. The Good News is based on faith, as contrasted to works, human effort, law-keeping, good deeds, good deeds outweighing bad deeds.
The Gospel, when properly understood; when believed; when received with faith – produces righteousness. What is righteousness? Righteousness is a condition of being right with God; of having a right relationship with God; of being in a right relationship with God.
The Gospel is a message about those who were not in a state of being right with God (which is horrible, as well as universal), entering into a condition of being right with God – by doing nothing other than believing the Good News.
That is a radical message, but it is not a new message. This is not a new teaching that Paul invented. Nor is this a new way that God makes people righteous. This has been the teaching of the Word of God from the beginning. This has always been the way that God made people righteous – which is why Paul quotes Habakkuk: The righteous will live by faith.
There is not enough we can do on our own to become righteous. We can never be good enough or religious enough; we can never keep enough laws, or do enough so that our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds for God to consider us to be in a right relationship with Him. The only way to become righteous and live, not die; to live forever, and not die forever, is to believe the message of the Good News. The righteous will live by faith.
It is a righteousness that comes from faith, from believing the right things, believing the truth and remaining committed to the truth – the righteous will live by faith. It’s not a generic kind of faith. It’s not having any kind of belief system or object of faith. The righteous will live by faith, but it must be a very specific kind of faith, this faith, faith based on the Gospel and nothing else. It’s Gospel faith. It’s Bible faith. It’s the same faith, the same beliefs that Paul had.
There is something else the Gospel does. It reveals something about God’s nature. It reveals the righteousness of God. It reveals that God is righteous. He is fair. He is just. He is committed to always and only do what is right. The Gospel reveals that God, who is righteous, demands that His fallen human beings, who are unrighteous, become righteous. The Gospel reveals that God is righteous and He will reject those who refuse to become righteous. It reveals how those who are unrighteous can become righteous. What a great thing – to understand the righteousness of God, and how we can become righteous!
First, I thank my God through Messiah Yeshua for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Thank You for Paul, and for his letter to the Romans, this great work on theology which teaches us about You and the ways You work. He us study it, learn it and practice the truths it teaches.
Lord, You have designed Messiah’s Community so that when we come together, we strengthen each other. Help us to be faithful in our coming together; to make that a priority. Help us be in a condition so that we are full of Your Spirit and are able to be a blessing to each other when we come together.
Thank You for the Gospel – for its reality; its truthfulness. The hope it creates in us. The peace it gives us. The joy it produces in us.
Help us to not be ashamed of the Gospel. Help us proclaim it boldly, unashamedly, courageously.
Even though we are not great apostles like Paul, every Christian, every Messianic Jew, has a duty to proclaim the Good News to those around us. What You whisper in our ear, we are to shout from the housetops. Help us to do that.
Help us, and others, bring the Gospel to the Jewish people first. May You so work among all of Your people that Your God-designed priority of Jewish evangelism is once again understood, and implemented.
Like Paul, may we be Your servants, and serve You, not in a shallow, superficial way – but in our spirits, down deep at the center of who we are.
May the Shema community be like the faithful in Rome in the first century. May our faith be real and genuine and courageous and make an impact to those who are near and to those who are far. Amen.