The Gospel of God Concerning His Son, Rom. 1. 1-3; Of His Son, 1. 9
If the epistle to the Romans had a title, it would be this. The expression occurs right at the outset of the letter, in the context of Paul’s credentials as a ‘bondman of Jesus Christ and a called apostle’ (i.e. an apostle by divine calling); and the gospel with this description is presented as that to which he was separated, that is, from the mass of humanity: taken out by God, deliberately, and distinctively gifted, for the express purpose of proclaiming this glorious message to all mankind. (The title in verse 9, ‘the gospel of his Son’, is but a shortened form of the longer description.)
The Epistle to the Romans is a comprehensive exposition of the gospel, its occasion and purpose, its moral and spiritual basis and characteristics, and its results. It accordingly begins with a full consideration of the fallen, sinful condition of the human race in its entirety, and in effect addresses the question posed centuries before in the Book of Job, ‘How can man be just (i.e. counted righteous) with God?’, Job 9. 2. Rome, though the capital city of a Gentile empire, had a considerable Jewish population, and this was reflected in the composition of the assembly there, as is clear from the way in which the apostle addresses himself specifically to the Jew in the opening chapters.
The essence of this description of the gospel is that God is its Author and His Son the Subject. The implication of this is that there is no scope for human ideas as to the content of the gospel, and no possibility of blessing without acceptance of the central place of Christ as Saviour. Without attempting, in the compass of a short article, to give an analysis of this great epistle, it may be helpful to note the main features and the order in which they are presented as the apostle proceeds to expound the ‘gospel of God concerning His Son’.
He first summarizes it as being ‘God’s power to salvation to everyone that believes, ‘1. 16, and indicates what are perhaps the two most important principles involved, the righteousness of God and faith on man’s part. Then he proceeds to explain the occasion, or necessity, of the gospel because of man’s total ruin and degradation, beginning with the darkness and corruption of the most ancient world; then the moral shortcomings of both Gentile philosophers and the Jewish exponents of the Mosaic law, leading up to ‘all the world … guilty (under judgment) before God’, Rom. 3. 19, and the pronouncement for the individual that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, 3. 23. This enables Paul to present the core of the gospel: justification (being made righteous) for man freely by faith, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus as a result of His sacrifice. The great themes of the righteousness of God, and righteousness for man by faith, are developed in chapters 3 and 4, with Abraham as a prototype believer, leading to the establishment of the believer in Christ in a new and wonderful relationship with God (chapter 5) and in the blessing of new life in Christ. Chapters 6 and 7 deal with the implications of this for the believer living in a sinful world, and with a sinful nature (the flesh), and the deliverance which is essential if the full enjoyment and liberty of that new life is to be realised through the indwelling of the Holy spirit (chapter 8).
This part of the epistle concludes with the glorious statement, in keeping with this description of the gospel, that ‘all things work together for good to them that love God … the called according to His purpose’, who are to be ‘conformed to the image of His Son’; with the triumphant assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and from the love of God ‘in Christ Jesus our Lord’, Rom. 8. 35-39.
This is really the end of Paul’s gospel exposition. In chapters 9 to 11 he digresses, to write of God’s intentions with regard to Israel, and then in chapter 12 he resumes his general discourse with exhortations to believers in the light of all that he has said in chapters 1 to 8 (implicit in the expression ‘the compassions of God’, 12. 1), beginning with the presenting of our bodies as ‘a living sacrifice acceptable to God’.
The Gospel of Peace, Rom. 10. 15; Bph. 2. 17, 6. 15
This is a most attractive description of the gospel. It may be considered in at least four aspects. Peace with God in respect of our sinful history, most clearly demonstrated by Paul’s statement in Romans 5. 1. Having first reasoned in chapters 3 and 4, that (as in 4. 24, 25) by believing God’s own testimony that Jesus our Lord was delivered for our offences, and was raised again by God for our justification. Anyone thus believing will be accounted righteous by God. Such are ‘justified by his (Christ’s) blood’, i.e. His atoning work, and saved from the wrath which their sins deserved, Rom. 5. 9. This complete and irrevocable clearance from responsibility for sins committed, rightly apprehended with due acknowledgement of guilt on our part, enables us to enjoy settled peace with God and access into that abiding favour expressed in and through the Lord Jesus Christ at His right hand in glory.
Peace on Earth
This was part of the angels’ message to the shepherds at the birth of Christ, Luke 2. 14, and looked on to the gospel which would be proclaimed after His death and resurrection. It must be apparent to anyone looking at the history of nations in the last 2,000 years that the realization of this blessing in the world generally is still as far off today as ever, if not more so. But it can and should be realized and enjoyed in the assembly, composed of those who have received the gospel of peace in faith; and it is this reconciliation, primarily between Jewish and Gentile believers, which the preaching of Eph. 2. 17, contemplates, with the result stated in 2. 15, 16, both national categories being formed ‘in Himself (Christ) into one new man’, and peace being made … and both reconciled ‘in one body’ to God by the cross. This peace and harmony is achieved by God having placed all on the same footing, as in Romans 3. 22, 23, ‘no difference, for all have sinned …’, and 10. 12, ‘there is no difference between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord of all is rich towards all that call upon him’. And this peace and harmony is intended to cover all natural differences of race or colour, and has many times been proved to do so. Of course, as always, human failure may prevent God’s purpose being realized while we are in these mortal bodies, with their inbuilt sinful nature, but this does not vitiate His purpose or the blessing which the gospel offers, and which will be fulfilled and revealed in its completeness in the future day of glory.
The Peace of conscious Relationship and Dependence
Other scriptures than those already cited offer the prospect of this character of peace, which is based on more than a realization of the result of Christ’s atoning work and God’s grace towards us as repentant and believing sinners. The Lord’s words to His disciples in John 14. 27 are very precious, ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you’. This character of peace obviously has nothing directly to do with the forgiveness of sins, for our Lord was sinless. From the context, in which He went on to speak of His Father, v. 28, ‘I go unto the Father’ and verse 31, ‘I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do’ – it derives from His conscious relationship with His Father and His own love and obedience, and His complete dependence upon His Father: a relationship with the Father which divine love – His own and the Father’s – has given us to share in some measure with Himself. How wondrous! And the features mentioned, applying to Himself – love, obedience and dependence – can, and surely should, be found (though in an infinitely smaller degree) in His disciples who owe their blessing to Him and to the Father.
This character of peace, then, is that flowing from conscious relationship with the Father as His children and sons in association with Christ the Son; and to be enjoyed, must be accompanied by love, obedience and dependence. The setting of John 14. 27 would suggest that this precious gift of our Lord (‘My peace’) is something to be known by us individually. There is, however, a similar thought applicable in a more collective sense, in the light of Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 3. 15, ‘Let the peace of Christ preside in your hearts, to which also ye have been called in one body’. The context there, from verses 12 to 17, is collective, and the reference to ‘one body’ (the assembly) confirms that the apostle was thinking of the local assembly as a whole. The enjoyment of peace in this collective sense is vital if the local assembly is to function properly in accordance with the divine intention, both in outgoing testimony and in responsive service Godward.
Peace in a Contrary Scene
Ephesians 6. 15, clearly views the believer as in a hostile scene where there is conflict with Satanic powers. We are to have our feet ‘shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace’, this no doubt bearing on our attitude towards others, including unbelievers, so as not to give any advantage to the enemy of our souls. Paul’s reference to peace in Philippians 4. 7 (’the peace of God which passes all understanding’) is also made in relation to the earthly pathway of the believer, and in his closing remarks to the Romans he refers to ‘the ‘God of peace’ in a similar context: ‘the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly’, Rom. 16. 20. These are very comforting words for the people of God in a contrary scene where the will of man under the influence of Satan is so much in evidence.
May we all desire to know more of peace in these four characters: as that which relates to our sinful history, through the grace of God and the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ; that peace which is based on conscious relationship with and dependence on God the Father and the Lord Jesus; a similar character of peace, but realised collectively in association with our brethren (brothers and sisters) in the local assembly; and the peace of God which is able to sustain us in a hostile world where the rights of God in Christ are not recognised. And what a gospel message to present!