God's Good News
In Romans, Paul presents his most detailed explanation of the “Good News of God,” a message centered on His Son, Jesus Christ. He was dealing with conflicts between Gentile and Jewish believers in the Assembly of Rome and preparing the ground for taking the Gospel to the western regions of the Roman Empire. In the process of doing so, he addressed several related topics, including death, redemption, the Law, resurrection, and the New Creation.
In explaining the “Gospel of God,” Paul connects the Gift of the Spirit, the future resurrection, and immortal life in the coming New Creation, the “redemption of our bodies.”
|[Photo by Lukas Gächter on Unsplash]|
The Apostle to the Gentiles begins by describing the plight of humanity that resulted from Adam’s disobedience, and then he presents the solution provided by God through His son, Jesus of Nazareth.
In the end, all men are in the same dilemma. Disobedience has alienated them from God and condemned every member of humanity to weakness, decay, and death. No one is exempt, neither Jew nor Greek, not even the most righteous saint in the history of Israel.
Even the holy law given by God at Mount Sinai has proved itself unable to reverse this horrific reality. No one is or can be set right before God “from the works of the Law.”
Paul identifies himself as “Paul, a called apostle, separated unto the Gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets.” In his apostolic role, he proclaims the Good News about the one who was “marked out as Son of God by power, according to a spirit of holiness, from a resurrection from among dead ones” - (Romans 1:1-4).
The Gospel is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Jews and Gentiles acquire right-standing before God on the same basis, namely, faith.
In Jesus Christ, God has “revealed a righteousness from faith for faith,” but the proclamation of His Good News also reveals His “wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”
Sinners resist what truth they already possess from the knowledge they glean from the created order (“The invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made”). Having rejected the God who created all things, they exchange the worship of Him for that of the “likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things” – namely, idolatrous worship.
Therefore, God has “delivered them up to the lusts of their hearts.” The presence of the very sins that humanity revels in demonstrates that men are under His “wrath” even before the final judgment. Put another way, the “wrath” of God includes His handing men over to engage in the sins for which they lust. The picture in Chapter 1 of idolatry run amok has primarily Gentiles in view.
But what about Jews? Are they any better off than the idolatrous Gentiles? Paul answers in the negative - “No, certainly not, for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin.”
He cites several passages from the Hebrew Bible to prove that all men have sinned. Everyone is in the same sinking ship, including the most rigorously Torah-observant Jews. “There is none righteous, no, not one… There is none that does good, no, not, so much as one.”
What about the Law? Does not its possession give Israel an advantage over unenlightened Gentiles? Yes and no. The Jews possess it, and therefore, they understand what God requires. However, the Law speaks to those who are “within the Law,” that is, Israel:
- “So that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under penal sentence of God, because from the works of the law will no flesh be set right in his sight. For through law is the awareness of sin” - (Romans 3:19).
Paul writes that, “For through law is the AWARENESS of sin.” The English term “awareness” translates the Greek noun epignôsis, a compound of the preposition epi and the noun gnosis. The latter means simply “knowledge.” Compounded with epi, it acquires a fuller sense such as “full knowledge,” “understanding,” and “comprehension.”
Because the Jews are taught the Law of Moses, they comprehend more fully what God requires, and what will result from violating His statutes, putting especially devout Jews in double jeopardy since they are truly without excuse. They are at even greater risk of enduring God’s “wrath” than are unenlightened Gentiles who do not live “within the Law.”
In contrast to the Law, the Gospel provides a solution for both Jews and Gentiles, “The righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ for all who believe, for there is no distinction; all have sinned and lack the glory of God.”
Both Jews and Gentiles are set right before God “through the redemption in Christ Jesus.” Thus, a man is put into a right relationship with God from faith, and that is “apart from the works of the Torah.” Thus, God demonstrates His love for us:
- “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now set right through his blood, we will be saved from the wrath through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life.”
When Paul states that we are saved “through his life,” he means the resurrection life of the Son of God. Sin is not reckoned to us if we believe that God “raised Jesus our Lord from among the dead.” He was delivered to a violent death for our trespasses, but he was “raised for our justification.”
And this is the plight of humanity - “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; thus, death passed to all men since all have sinned.”
SPIRIT & RESURRECTION
The penalty for sin is death. In the passage from Chapter 5, Paul refers to Adam and his disobedience in the Garden of Eden. That first sin doomed all humanity to death and enslavement under sin, the just punishment for disobedience. Not that all die for Adam’s sin, for all men sin. Therefore, all men rightly deserve death. Fortunately, God did not leave humanity without hope:
- “If by the trespass of the one man, the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound unto the many… For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one, much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.”
Believers have been baptized into Christ’s death so that, “Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection… if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death no more has dominion over him. For the death that he died, he died unto sin once: but the life that he lives, he lives unto God.”
Throughout Paul’s argument, the counterpart to death is resurrection - Life received by the bodily resurrection from the dead. That knowledge should reorient our entire lives, including our relationship to the Law.
We also must “become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that we should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead.” Despite being set right before God, believers are still subject to death.
However, “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Jesus from the dead will give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit.”
Believers remain mortal as they continue living in the present age. But whether mortal now or immortal after the resurrection, they live an embodied existence, and the Gift of the Spirit is the guarantee of their future resurrection when Jesus returns.
The Spirit dwells in mortal believers and attests that they are the “children of God,” and therefore, “coheirs with Christ.” The creation itself is in “earnest expectation” as it awaits the day when the “sons of God will be revealed.”
Adam’s disobedience subjected the creation to decay and death, but all creation will be delivered from this “bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God…at our adoption, that is, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:10-23).
Thus, Paul links the Gift of the Spirit, the bodily resurrection, and the New Creation. The “redemption of our bodies” refers to our future resurrection when Jesus “arrives” from heaven at the end of the age, and the individual believer’s participation in the resurrection and life in the “New Heavens and New Erath” is guaranteed by his receipt and possession of the Gift of the Spirit.
Moreover, if the creation itself is anticipating that event, then its arrival can only mean the commencement of the New Creation. Who, then, “shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Certainly NOT death!