Getting the Gospel Right, Part II - Romans 1:3-7

Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:3-7).

 

The gospel is the good news that God has provided salvation for perishing sinners through the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. But the gospel is more than good news. It is the best news that anyone will ever receive. No one will ever hear better news than what they hear in the gospel of God. Here is the glorious news that there is deliverance from the gathering storm of the coming wrath of God on the last day.

 

The book of Romans contains the most comprehensive treatment of the gospel to be found anywhere in Scripture. In this letter, the apostle Paul traces the building development of the gospel, from condemnation to glorification, from guilt to glory. In this epistle, Paul follows the logical development of the gospel from the depths of human depravity to the heights of divine grace. Here is the full spectrum of the gospel that reaches back to eternity past and extends into eternity future. Here is the alpha and omega of the gospel, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

 

In our last lesson, we began looking at the opening prologue to this epistle to the Romans. Specifically, we began looking at verses one through seven and were only able to investigate the first two verses. In this lesson, we want to continue where we concluded and consider verses three through seven. As we do, I want to extend the same outline that we began using last time. To this point, we have seen: (1) The Messenger of the Gospel (verse 1), (2) The Source (verse 1), (3) The Meaning (verse 1), (4) The Exclusivity (verse 1), and (5) The Antiquity (verse 2). Presently, we will consider more aspects of the gospel in verses three through seven.

 

What we are considering in this opening prologue is a matter of first importance to our Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This is not incidental, but fundamental to our spiritual lives. This is not peripheral, but primary – it is not secondary, but supreme. Let us give our utmost attention to the gospel truths contained in these verses.

 

VI. The Subject of the Gospel (1:3-5a)

 

Sixth, we note the subject of the gospel in verse 3. Please note the first word “concerning.” The gospel deals with what will follow in the next verses. Here is the substance of the gospel, namely, Jesus Christ. The Son of God is the alpha and the omega of the gospel. The gospel is rooted and grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ. John Calvin rightly said, “The whole gospel is contained in Jesus Christ.” As we look at these verses, verse three gives us the person of Christ, verse four gives us the proof of Christ, and the beginning of verse five gives us the provision of Christ. The whole gospel is found in Jesus Christ. If you have Christ you have everything. If you do not have Him, you have nothing. “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:12).

 

The Incomparable Person of Christ

Paul begins his explanation of the subject of the gospel in verse three with the incomparable person of Christ. What makes this verse so remarkable is that this is one of the rare passages where we find both the deity and the humanity of Christ joined together in one text. He writes about the gospel that it is, “concerning His Son.” There can be no mistake but that the gospel concerns the eternal Son of the living God, the second Person of the Trinity. He is the One who is coequal and coeternal with the Father. Jesus Christ is as much God as God the Father and God the Spirit are God. That the gospel focuses upon and concerns itself with Jesus Christ is why Paul said, “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23). He also said, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

 

Someone may say, “Wait a minute, Paul. You wrote thirteen epistles in the New Testament and covered the full counsel of God. You addressed all ten major areas of theology – bibliology, theology proper, Christology, pneumatology, angelology, anthropology, soteriology, hamartiology, ecclesiology, and eschatology. Paul, you covered the full gamut. Why would you say to us that you determined to know nothing among us except Jesus Christ and Him crucified, when you said to the elders in Acts 20 that you have declared the full counsel of God?” The answer is that out of every area of theology, the lines rise and intersect at the highest apex in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the very heart and heartbeat of the gospel. In Colossians 1:28, Paul puts it even more succinctly, “we proclaim Him.” That was the sum and the substance of the gospel that Paul preached. It was all about Christ.

 

What is the Gospel?

A few years ago, I was preaching at the Shepherd’s Conference in Los Angeles. I did a radio interview with Todd Friel and at the end of the interview, he asked me to tell the large crowd gathered there what the gospel is. I made a beeline to the Lord Jesus Christ. I launched into His virgin birth, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, present enthronement, and imminent return. After the interview was over, I went to the speakers’ room where I spoke with John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and others. They asked what I had been doing, and I told them about the interview. Dr. MacArthur replied, “Ok, what is the gospel?” I went into a discourse on the Lord Jesus Christ. Shortly after, I flew to Ligonier and was sharing with Dr. Sproul about the interview. He asked me, “Ok, what is the gospel?” I again proceeded to give a diatribe on Jesus Christ. We should be able to wake up at 3:00 in the morning and, within two seconds, give the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

If you know anything, you have to know the gospel. You cannot be saved without the gospel. You cannot be a witness for Christ without the gospel. You might say, “Well, I will just live it.” Then people will go to hell thinking you are a good person. No one can be saved apart from the gospel.

 

Truly God, Truly Man

As verse three continues, we see the humanity of the Son of God. We read in verse three, “who was born of a descendent of David.” Eternal God without beginning was born? He entered the human race as a descendant of David, according to the flesh. This alludes to the virgin birth, to be like us, yet so unlike us. He came in the royal lineage of David that had been marked out through the centuries past by the prophets. Jesus was the God-man, truly God and truly man, not half-God and half-man. Jesus was God in human flesh.

 

Jesus Christ had to be truly God, truly man in order to be our mediator. A mediator stands between two parties who have had a falling out in order to make peace between the two offended sides. These two parties are at enmity with one another. Or worse, they are at war with one another. In order to make reconciliation, a mediator has to be equal to both sides. There can be no partiality toward either side. Jesus had to be truly God if He was to represent God to us. And He had to be truly man if He was to represent us before God. No one else could have stood between God and the human race and mediated reconciliation between the two separated parties. No one else could have propitiated the righteous anger of God toward us. No one else could have redeemed us out of the slave-market of sin. No one except one who was truly God and truly man.

 

We could not lift ourselves up to God by our own self-righteousness. We could not ascend up to God by our good works. God had to come down to us. That is what He did for us in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus entered the human race and got into our skin. He became one of us, that He might lift us up to the heights of heaven by His sinless life and substitutionary death. The person and work of Christ is the very heart and soul of the gospel that we have believed and preach. Whenever you give a witness to someone, you must speak of Christ. Spurgeon said, “The more gospel we would preach, the more of Christ we must preach.” There is no gospel outside of Jesus Christ.

 

The Indisputable Proof of Christ

In verse four, Paul writes about the indisputable proof of Jesus Christ. It says that He was “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” This is the ultimate validation that Jesus Christ is exactly who He claimed to be. Early in his public ministry, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). By this, He was referring to the temple of His own body and His own resurrection. Jesus later said, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). Jesus also said, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later” (Mark 9:31). The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead unmistakably affirms His full deity.

 

In reality, the resurrection was a Trinitarian resurrection. In verse four, Paul notes the resurrection of Jesus Christ was, “according to the Spirit of holiness.” This is a Hebraism, meaning “by the Holy Spirit.” In many passages, the Scripture teaches that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 13:30). Here, God the Holy Spirit raised Him from the dead. God the Son said that He would raise Himself from the dead. Jesus said, “I have authority to lay [my life] down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father” (John 10:18). All three Persons of the Trinity were active in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus Christ Our Lord

Notice the last four words of verse four, “Jesus Christ our Lord.” What Paul is saying is so important that he gives all three names for the Son of God, the Son of Man. Lest there be any misunderstanding of who is the subject and substance of the gospel, Paul uses all three names.

 

“Jesus” is His saving name. It means “Jehovah Saves.” Matthew 1:21 explains, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus is His saving name. That is the mission. “Christ” is His strong name. It means “the anointed one.” He was anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit in Luke 3:21 as He inaugurated His public ministry. He was endued with power from on high in order to carry out His enterprise of salvation. He is the Christ, the anointed One, the One who was endued with supernatural power, even to hang upon the cross in His humanity. “Lord” is His sovereign name. Here, the Greek word kurios is used, meaning ‘despot, ruler, Lord over all.’ It is also used in Philippians 2:10-11 as Paul declares, “That every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Paul belabors this at the end of verse four, as if to take a pen and underscore it before our eyes. “Jesus Christ our Lord” is the subject and substance of the gospel. John 4:42 tells us, “this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”

 

The Infinite Provision of Christ

In verse five, we see the infinite provision of Christ. We have seen the person of Christ, the proof of Christ, and now the provision of Christ. Verse five begins with “through.” The word “through” means ‘a means or a channel.’ It is like a pipe through which something is flowing. “Through whom,” “whom” is a personal pronoun. Paul is not talking about an impersonal ‘what’ but a personal ‘whom.’ We are not talking about a mere plan, but about the person of Jesus Christ. “Through whom we have received grace.” “We” refers to all believers. There is nothing we can do to work for grace. It can only be “received.” “Grace” is not a reward for the righteous, but a gift for the guilty. It can only be received with the empty hand of faith. We did not earn it. We do not deserve it. We have not merited it. We did not work for it. God’s grace is freely given as a gift purchased by Jesus Christ.

 

This includes every aspect of grace – saving grace, sanctifying grace, strengthening grace, serving grace, and sustaining grace. We have received “grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Grace has been “multiplied” to us. This speaks of the overflowing, abundant grace that is flowing into our lives. All grace is through Christ. There is not one drop of grace outside of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only mediator by which the grace of God comes flooding into our lives. It all comes through this exclusive channel, through this one and only means, through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

 

We can give our testimony and tell others about what God has done in our lives. But that is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is not about us. It concerns Jesus Christ. Charles Spurgeon said that a sermon without Christ – or we could add, a witness without Christ – is like a day without the sun, a night without the moon, the ocean without water, the skies without the stars. A sermon without Christ is an empty well that mocks the traveler or a cloud that never rains. Christ is the Savior of sinners, the very subject and substance of the gospel.

 

VII. The Demand of the Gospel (1:5b)

 

Seventh, we see the demand of the gospel. In verse five, Paul continues to say that the gospel is intended “to bring about the obedience of faith.” The “obedience of faith” means the obedience that springs from faith. In other words, true saving faith produces obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ as His sovereign will is revealed in His written word. The gospel calls for obedience at the moment of any person’s conversion. Obedience to Jesus Christ is not an optional step that occurs three or four years subsequent to our conversion. Obedience starts at conversion, because the gospel itself is more than merely a public proclamation. It is more than a free offer or an open invitation. It is these things, but it is more than that. The gospel is a divine imperative that commands our repentance and faith. Jesus inaugurated His public ministry preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). “Repent” is issued in the imperative mood, making it a command. Saving faith is a decisive step of obedience to the command of the gospel to believe in Jesus Christ. Unbelief is defiant disobedience (John 3:36), because God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).

 

At the moment of conversion, genuine, true, saving faith immediately produces the initial obedience to Jesus Christ as one submits his life, denies himself, takes up his cross, entrusts his life to Christ, and walks through the narrow gate. Faith and obedience cannot be separated. True faith always produces obedience that leads to a transformed life.

 

John Stott writes, “Paul looked for a total, unreserved commitment to Jesus Christ, which he called the obedience of faith. This is our answer to those who argue that it is possible to accept Jesus as Savior without surrendering to Him as Lord. If there is no obedience, there is no faith. It is just talk. It is just raising a hand, walking an aisle, signing a card, and getting wet. True, saving faith immediately comes under the Lordship of Christ and obeys Him even to receive the gospel.” This is precisely what the apostle Paul is teaching.

 

VIII. The Scope of the Gospel (1:5c)

 

Eighth, we see the scope of the gospel. As we continue in verse five, Paul writes, “among all the Gentiles.” This message that the gospel is to be preached to all the world, and it must be received by all the Gentiles. All tribes, all tongues, all nations, and all peoples must have the gospel brought to them. This is why we are committed to world missions and the global task of bringing the gospel to all peoples. There must be the worldwide endeavor of taking the gospel to every individual on the planet. The gospel is for everyone. If you are breathing today, you need the gospel.

 

This reality brings us back to the point made earlier on the exclusivity of the gospel. If the gospel is for “all the Gentiles,” then there is no other message in the world by which men and women may be saved except through this gospel. There was not one way for someone to be saved in Rome, but a different way for people in Asia to be saved. Nor could there be a different way for the Russians to be saved apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is God’s only saving message for the world.

 

IX. The Sake of the Gospel (1:5d)

 

Ninth, Paul stresses the sake of the gospel at the end of verse five. He says, “for His name’s sake.” The gospel is for the honor and glory of the Son of God. Here is the highest purpose of the gospel. This saving message is, ultimately, for the fame of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is that there would be a vast multitude of voices in the Hallelujah Choir, singing the praises of His name. The gospel is for the lofty purpose that throughout all the ages to come, there would be myriads upon myriads of fervent worshipers who will magnify the excellencies of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the purpose of the gospel. Getting people out of hell and into heaven is somewhat peripheral. What is primary is the magnification of Jesus Christ.

 

At the heart of the gospel is that the Son of God would have a chosen bride who would be conformed into His image and who would sing His praises throughout all the ages to come. The gospel is the means by which this glorification of Jesus Christ would come to pass. The sake of the gospel is that Christ would be known, that Christ would be embraced, that Christ would be worshiped, that Christ would be honored, that Christ would be obeyed, and that Christ would be followed. The gospel is what elevates and exonerates Christ.

 

X. The Success of the Gospel (1:6-7a)

 

Tenth, Paul addresses the success of the gospel in verses six and seven. The apostle next addresses the believers in Rome as “among whom you also are the called of Christ Jesus; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints.” “You” clearly refers to all believers and believers only. They are “the called of Jesus Christ.” In the Bible there are mentioned three different calls of God, and each must be distinguished one from the other. R.C. Sproul said to me several times, “A good theologian makes careful distinctions. He knows how to slice a subject and make distinctions.” When we come to the matter of the call of Jesus Christ, there is the external call and the internal call.

 

The external call is the voice of the preacher, the voice of the Sunday school teacher, the voice of the mother or father, the voice of one who would give a witness. As we say out loud, “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21), that is the external call. It can go only to the ear and no further. No one will ever be saved until there is this second call.

 

One, there is the call to vocational ministry, we saw that in verse one. Paul was called to be “an apostle.” Everyone has received a vocational call to serve God in some capacity. Two, there is the external call of God whenever the gospel is made known. Jesus said, “Many are called, but few chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Three, there is the internal call of God that draws the elect to faith in Jesus Christ. Theologians refer to it as the effectual call, meaning there is a cause and effect relationship between this call and saving faith. The effectual cause will always bring about the intended effect for which God extended it. This divine call apprehends the one called, and in that moment overcomes all human resistance. This call conquers the heart and brings that one to faith in Christ. It opens the heart and takes out the old heart of stone and puts in the heart of flesh. It writes God’s word upon the tablet of the heart and deposits the Holy Spirit within the one called. This summons causes the one subpoenaed to walk in the written statues of God. The Spirit of God, in that split second, grants repentance and faith. The sinner cries out, “Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me, the sinner.”

 

In this saving process, the conception took place before the delivery. God had already been sovereignly at work in that heart. All those whom He foreknew He predestined, and whom He predestined He called, and whom He called He justified, and whom He justified He glorified (Romans 8:29-30). The group He began with in eternity past is the group He will conclude with in eternity future. There are no dropouts along the way. There are none added along the way. God will have His way with His chosen people. In the day that God calls, the gospel will have a reception. The gospel will not go unheeded. There will be many who will reject it. But all those whom He foreknew and predestined, He will call into the kingdom. He will justify His called ones, and He will one day glorify them. This is the guaranteed success of the gospel made certain by God Himself.

 

Our responsibility is to proclaim the gospel to as many people as possible and leave the results with God. We are to scatter the seed of the gospel as far and as wide as we can. That is what the word ‘broadcasting’ means. It is to cast the seed of the gospel as broad as we can. We must leave the results with God. God has already purposed and decreed that there will be a positive response to the gospel.

 

XI. The Blessings of the Gospel (1:7b)

 

Eleventh, we see the blessings of the gospel in the second half of verse seven. Paul concludes, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Both of these blessings flow from the gospel. Apart from the gospel, neither come to any person. The order of these words is important. First comes grace and then peace. These come from God the Father through the Son, applied by God the Spirit. The grace of God brings His peace to those called. The overflow of divine grace is supernatural peace.

 

In verse seven, Paul does not say peace with God, but peace from God. He does not refer here to objective peace with God that is the result of justification. We find this objective peace mentioned later in Romans, “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God” (5:1). In Romans 1:7, the reference is to the subjective peace of God, which is the inner calmness and tranquility of the heart that comes from God alone. This subjective peace is found in Philippians 4:6-7, when Paul writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Only those who know God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, experience this all-sufficient grace and internal peace in the heart.

 

Conclusion

I want to ask you, does there need to be a response in your heart today to the gospel? Have you believed in Jesus Christ? Have you entrusted your life to Him who is the only Savior of sinners? Have you entered through the narrow gate? Have you been born again by the Spirit of God from above? Have you laid hold of Christ by faith?

 

If you have never believed upon Jesus Christ, I am extending to you the external call on behalf of the King, who has sent me as His ambassador to proclaim to you the good news that God receives sinners into His kingdom. God has thrown open the gates of paradise, and the Savior is standing in the gateway saying, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38). Come to Christ now!

 

Have you ever come to Christ by faith? Come to Him this moment. This is more than an invitation. The gospel is commanding you today to step out of the shadows and darkness of your unbelief and to enter into the light of His grace and His mercy. He will receive you. He is a physician who has not come for those who are well, but for those who are sick. He has not come for the righteous, but for the unrighteous. He has come for those who are just like you. If you will come to Christ in repentance and faith, He will gladly receive you. Come to Him in humility and submission. Come to Him in saving faith, and He will gather you into His loving arms and never let you go.

Dr. Steven J. Lawson

Dr. Steven J. Lawson is President and founder of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to equip biblical expositors to bring about a new reformation in the church. Dr. Lawson hosts The Institute for Expository Preaching in cities around the world. Dr. Lawson is also a Teaching Fellow for Ligonier Ministries, where he serves on its board. Moreover, he is Professor of Preaching and oversees the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master’s Seminary, where he also serves on its board. Dr. Lawson is also Professor in Residence for Truth Remains, a work designed to promote and proclaim God’s written Word. Further, Dr. Lawson serves as the Executive Editor for Expositor Magazine published by OnePassion Ministries.