The Duty of the Gospel
Studies In Paul’s Letter to the Romans
by Bob Burridge ©2011
Lesson 5: Romans 1:13-17
Some people love to give advice. Someone in a group mentions that he has a head ache or a stomach ache, then the suggestions and remedies begin. Each person has a strongly recommended cure. You might casually mention that you need to pick a vacation spot. Before long everyone is a travel agent. They all want you to go to some special place. Or when you say you are thinking about buying a car it’s not uncommon to hear story after story of car buying horrors or personal testimonials of favorite cars to own. This is the way we often learn and get information. The things our trusted friends have found helpful are much appreciated.
When a person brings up things relating to God’s law and justice, of things relating to his soul, he speaks of far greater matters than relief of a headache, where to go on vacation, or buying a car. Most headaches go away, bad vacation choices often give us great stories to tell. Even buying a lemon of a car is something we can survive. But the needs of the soul are eternal, far more important than these other matters.
It’s strange that believers often feel conflicted to help others with important spiritual advice. Few hesitate to advise about taking aspirin, buying a Saturn, or taking a trip to Bush Gardens, but to tell someone at work they need Christ’s forgiveness, to tell a family member they will not find peace outside of living by God’s ways, or suggesting to a neighbor to honor the Sabbath day as God commandment, these issues are seen as bing much harder to bring up.
There should be something in the soul of a true believer in Christ that presses on his conscience to let others know about the gospel that has meant so much to him, a gospel that not only gives eternal life, but also satisfies his deepest needs, and enables him to live in a way pleasing to God.
Sadly, believers often hesitate to speak out for the gospel of Christ. We are all well aware of how such messages are often received. Strange cults have given religious advice a bad reputation. The current morality condemns and scoffs at anyone who believes in absolutes and truth. The real message of the gospel humbles a person and points out his need. Today, people have come to religiously believe that man’s soul has no real problem, that he’s fully able to help himself without God. Many who say they trust in the finished work of Christ are not confident that God can make his plan work without our help.
Modern prejudice has put an anxiety in people’s hearts. They may really want to help,but they don’t want to alienate friends, build barriers, or drive them somewhere else. This presents a great temptation not to say anything, or to modify the message making it more acceptable to the fallen heart.
Paul faced attacks and rejection when he presented the gospel of God. He was shouted at, ridiculed, exiled from cities, beaten, stoned almost to death, accused of imagined crimes, arrested on false charges, jailed, and eventually executed. But until death itself silenced him, he kept on presenting that life changing message. Here in Romans 1:13-17 we see a glimpse of what helped him overcome his anxieties. Paul offers some principles as remedies to help us faithfully represent Christ to a lost world.
A person growing in Christ is compelled to testify about the gospel.
Paul had a great desire that could not just let the issue drop. In Romans 1:13 he said, “Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.”
In verse 15 of the same chapter he wrote, “So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.”
In our study of verses 8-12 we saw Paul’s strong desire to fellowship with the believers in Rome. He wanted to care for them, and to enjoy their fellowship and encouragement for himself. But there was work to be done in many other places in the world also. So God, in his providence, had not yet provided for Paul to go to Rome.
Yet, in spite of all the threats, dangers and personal sacrifices involved, something inside him kept pressing on his heart to teach those at Rome about God’s message of grace in the Messiah. He did the only thing he could do considering the circumstances. He took time to write this very well planned and organized letter to Rome summarizing the message of the Gospel.
Where did Paul find that power that overcame the threats of his enemies? that so willingly accepted challenging inconveniences? What was it that made him willing to risk even his friendships which he had in his career as a respected Rabbi?
It came from a life transforming work on his soul, the very fruit of the Gospel itself. No one can be a witness for Christ by the mere words they speak. They must be personal recipients of God’s saving Grace themselves. He puts life into us which can be seen by others. He produces a change in us.
Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus in Ephesians 2:5 where he said, “even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)”
Our new life in Christ shows through us as a testimony to the power of God, not to our own power. Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
If we are redeemed, the inner change ought to compel us to tell others about God’s nature and promises. In 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8 Paul wrote, “so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.”
Paul also put it clearly in his letter to the believers in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 9:16 he wrote, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!”
Peter and John were often persecuted for their message. They were threatened, jailed, and beaten. When told by men to silence the message, they explained the same inner conviction in Acts 4:19-20, “But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.’ ”
There is no reason for shame in the gospel. In Romans 1:16 Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
There is nothing about which to be shy. Its message really helps people. Your personal remedy for a headache may not work for everyone. Your dream car may turn out to be a nightmare to someone else. But God’s remedy for the soul in Christ has no defects when it is presented honestly and received with a God-given faith.
Of course you know that the un-redeemed soul will not see it that way. Is that why you hesitate to tell others? In Paul’s time the promoters of the many Roman gods saw Christianity’s belief in just one God as atheism. The Jews saw Paul as one who was bringing in gentile culture and subverting their traditions. Together they ridiculed, and persecuted the Apostle.
Considering all that, when warned of his arrest in Jerusalem, Paul said, “… For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13)
He boldly entered Athens where he faced the philosophers alone. He went to Jerusalem where he was arrested, just as had been foretold to him. Later he came to Rome as a prisoner to face trial in the courts of the Empire. In each case he stood as a clear spokesman for Christ. He could not hold back out of fear from all the intimidation and threats.
Paul understood why those who needed the message of Christ would be opposed to him. God explained it in many places in Scripture and Paul summarized the problem in his First Letter to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 1:23 he said, “but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.” Then in 1 Corinthians 2:14 he explained, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
We should not let the unbeliever’s wrong assessment of his own need silence us. Paul encouraged young Timothy saying, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:80). In verse 12 of the same chapter he explained his own confidence which overcame his intimidation, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (2 Timothy 1:12).
No religion is as offensive to the pride of man and stirs his anger as much as the true gospel. Instead of telling men they are basically OK, it tells them they are in eternal danger and have offended the eternal God beyond any hope of repair. It calls them to admit their own inability and rest in God’s Savior alone. Fallen man hates to admit to things like that.
Don’t let that keep you from telling God’s truth. There is a strong temptation to hide parts of God’s truth, or to make up messages more appealing to lost hearts than the true one.
Transformed people will love the plain, unvarnished truth of God. To those who are made alive in Christ, the gospel is a wonderful message. However, it begins with a sobering truth that must not be hidden. We dare not sugar coat it with a deceptive lie to tell the unbeliever.
We twist God’s word if we say, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Eternity in the fires of hell? Is that the wonderful plan? Yet it God’s plan for many fallen humans. It is where we all deserve to spend eternity according to God’s word. That’s where the masses of humanity will end up. Only those who are washed in the blood of Christ are rescued from that.
Now that’s a hard doctrine! It may cause you to not speak out, or to change it. God forbid that we should be ashamed of the real good news, the truth of God.
Dr. Haldane observed, “The more the Gospel is corrupted, the more its peculiar features are obscured by error, the less do we observe of the shame it is calculated to produce. It is in fact the fear of opposition and contempt that often leads to the corruption of the Gospel.”
God’s truth will always be despised by the unregenerate. It challenges that most loved myth of man’s independence and his imagined ability to determine his own path. It shakes up his security and brings him face to face with the Almighty and Holy God he has offended.
Jesus said, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
Therefore to overcome your shame in the gospel it must first have its powerful work in you. It is the Gospel alone that transforms and produces that compelling desire that is greater than our own self-comforts and defenses. Once you are his, the most important way to become a better representative for Christ is to better know Christ yourself. When the gospel grows in you, it will compel you to testify eagerly about the gospel.
(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)