No one can preach the gospel of Christ except he be called of God; only when one is separated unto the gospel of Christ can one stand in strength, can he be fearless in the knowledge that God is with him.
Such is Paul’s constant boast. He never magnifies his own person, but he constantly magnifies his office. By virtue of this office he is called to serve God in his spirit in the preaching of the gospel. And his being a debtor is especially to the Gentiles. He is a chosen vessel of God to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. God wrought effectually through him unto the Gentiles. He labors in the consciousness of being a debtor to the Gentiles, whether they be Greeks or Barbarians, whether they be learned in the knowledge of the schools or whether they be unlearned men. Paul is called of God to preach to every class of men amongst the Gentiles. For the Son of God gathers His church out of the whole human race, elect unto everlasting life in the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God.
And what is more Paul is not ashamed as far as he is concerned at all of the gospel of Christ.
Of this wonderful boast of Paul in the gospel of Christ we will see more specifically in the Scripture passage which we have chosen for the next two issues of theStandard Bearer in this rubric—”From Holy Writ.”
This passage we translate as follows: “Unto the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the unlearned a debtor I am. Thus according me the purpose is also unto you who are in Rome to preach. For I am as respects myself I am not ashamed upon the gospel of Christ. For the power of God it is into salvation for everyone believing, the Jew first and also the Greek. For righteousness of God in the same in uncovered out of faith into faith, even as is written: the just shall live out of faith.” Romans 1:14-16.
Paul tells the readers in this passage, in a series of reasons, why he, as an ambassador of Christ, is not ashamed of the tidings that he brings. He does this in a series of reasons, each introduced with the particle “for,” “gar” in Greek. This series goes as follows:
1. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ—for power of God unto salvation it is.
2. Power of God unto salvation it is for righteousness of God is revealed in the same out of faith into faith.
3. And since the gospel is, such power unto salvation, such an efficacious message, Paul is not ashamed of it, yea, he is exceeding willing to press himself into the service of Christ, even in Rome. He has nothing to lose but is always the victor. He will thus surely confer some spiritual blessing in the church to their confirmation in the faith, and mutually be comforted together with the believers in the one faith.
Let us attempt to see a bit more of this.
First of all, we believe, it is necessary to state clearly what the idea and content of the gospel is. As to the idea of the gospel we may learn from the term in the Greek that it means: good message. The term is euaggelion. It is the good message of God to poor sinners in all their poverty and wretchedness, their blindness and hopelessness, their being dead by reason of their trespasses and sins, children of wrath even as the others. For such it is “glad tidings of the good things of God’s covenant, the New Testament in Christ’s blood. Since the content of the gospel tidings is always again this covenant of grace, this new Testament in Christ’s blood, written not upon the tables of stones, but upon the tables of the heart through the Spirit of Christ, it is called the gospel of Christ. Its whole subject matter is Christ the Messiah, prophet, priest and king. He is Christ Jesus, the crucified one. The subject matter of this gospel is briefly summed up in the Twelve Articles of Faith, the gospel revealed by God Himself in paradise, afterwards proclaimed by patriarchs and prophets, portrayed in the shadows and ceremonies of the law and finally fulfilled in God’s only begotten Son in our flesh. Thus, in one grand sweep, Paul views the gospel unto which he has been separated for many years in Romans 1:1, 3, where we read: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ a called apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which He before promised through the prophets of Him in holy Scriptures concerning His Son, who became out of the seed of David according to the flesh, but was set forth the Son of God in power according to the spirit of sanctification out of the resurrection of the dead.” Such is the gospel has in mind when he speaks of the gospel of Christ.
Now this gospel, this glad tidings in Christ is a power of God into salvation.
The question is: what does Paul here have in mind when he speaks of salvation?
We believe that the term “salvation” (soteria) refers really to the whole of the work of Christ for us on the cross. Yea, to this work of Christ not only on the cross, but also for us in His resurrection, ascension, and glorified state in heaven, as the Christ who is our prophet, priest and king in heaven. Salvation is then what Christ does for us and also in us, that is, in our hearts now, and what presently will be finished in the resurrection. Christ is our Savior. He will save his people from their sins. He is indeed our Soter. His salvation implies then:
1. That He delivers us from the deepest woe of our sin and death, our guilt and shame, our sin and corruption. He breaks the power of the devil in us as our adversary at law, and also breaks the works of the devil in us, sin’s dominion. Both legally and ethically we are set free.
2. Positively, He is our Savior in that He makes us full of His grace, writing His law in our hearts! He makes us sincerely willing to live before and unto Him, and assures us that He will continue to perfect His work in us until in the ages to come we shall stand before Him without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
Such is the salvation of which Paul here speaks.
In this Scripture passage Paul emphasizes that the gospel is power of God unto salvation.
Notice the following here:
1. Firstly that the gospel is here viewed then not as to its content, but that the content, the message of the gospel is efficacious power, as it confers, breaths and infuses the believers in such a way that it is unto salvation.
2. That the idea is not simply that the gospel message of all that is in Christ in us and for us, is simply leading us unto, up to salvation, but rather that it leads us into(eis) salvation. It leads the believer more and more into all the mysteries and glories of Christ. It is the picture of the oak tree that sends its roots downward and its mighty branches upward. And thus it causes us to be comforted in the only comfort in life and death in all the works of Christ for us and in us now, and in the hope of the future glories that abide.
3. That this gospel message is such because it is simply power of God. The original does not read “thepower of God. The apostle does not wish to single out this power here; in distinction from other power, but rather wishes to describe this power as he predicatesinto the gospel. The gospel as means of grace is a power, it is efficacious. It is divinely efficacious! There are other manifestations of the power and Divinity of God in the works of God’s creation. That too is God’s power. But it is not a power that is efficacious into salvation. That is only true of the gospel; it alone is power into salvation. It is a most positive, healing, correcting, instructing, admonitive power because it is life-giving and life affording power. As a power it is in no wise dependent upon the preacher who brings it. It is solely a dynamic which finds it energy in the Dynamo—God in Christ! Thus our fathers spoke of the wonderful mystery of faith that it is worked by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel!
Of such a gospel Paul is not ashamed. The need of shame is never to be based and founded upon what the gospel in its implicit nature, whereas it is most efficacious in enlightening the sin darkened mind and bending the will. True, we cannot trace out this work of God, we cannot fully comprehend this dynamic of the gospel. But such it is according to the clear testimony of Scripture, and we believe it to be thus!
Now notice that the gospel is not such a power in the hearts and lives of all who hear it proclaimed. It is such not for every Jew and Gentile to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel. The text says that the gospel is such power in “every one that believes.”
Notice the following matters in this connection:
1. That one cannot paraphrase the text in the following manner and retain the sense of the Spirit in this passage. One cannot thus paraphrase as follows: “the gospel is a power of God into salvation for everyone, if they believe.” First of all, if Paul had meant to express it thus he could have stated it thus. He did not. That should command our greatest alertness to try to see what the meaning of the Spirit is in this text. Then, too, it should be obvious that in thus Paraphrasing the text we would exactly have a gospel of which a preacher is ashamed, because it has a conditional power. It is power of God only—if we believe. To say that it is a power of God in me, if I believe, is another matter. Then it makes my believing an indication that God’s power is in me. But I cannot say that the gospel is power of God, if we believe. We therefore cast this possibility aside as so much corruption of Scripture.
2. That the text says that the gospel is a power of God in every one believing is very noteworthy.
a. In the first place, because it is the entire truth of the gospel on this point. It does not simply state what the believer must do, nor what the believer actually does, but it includes both what the object of the power of God in the gospel is (believing one) and what he actually does by virtue of being such a believing one.
b. Secondly it expresses that the believing one is exactly a believing one because of this power of God, the gospel of Christ. Exactly because the gospel ispower of God into salvation, the believer is a believing one. Such one has the Spirit of Christ.
c. Thus too we see the folly, not to speak of the refined error, of the statement that the text does not say “elect,” every one that is “elect.” I grant the formal fact, but I deny the implications! One must then not come with the lame-duck reasoning that this has “nothing to do with election.” One does not speak thus who has seen the genius of the Canons of Dordt! Exactly the elective grace of God is the guarantee of the power of God into salvation of every one believing! For this grace makes believers; the preaching makes believers as power of God and also causes these believers to persevere in the faith. Kept in the power of God we are through faith by, the power of God, the gospel that is efficacious!
(to be continued)