Romans 1:16 NASB
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
As Paul begins with the theme of the letter, he asserts his unashamed allegiance to the gospel. He has witnessed firsthand the power of Jesus and it’s efficacy on the human heart and mind. Paul was persecuting Christian’s violently, then by the power of Jesus is radically transformed into a new man. How could he possibly be ashamed? It would be like someone who discovered the cure to cancer, you wouldn’t care who spoke ill of you, you’d just want to get that message out!
Salvation is a broad term. It encompasses so much; election, atonement, regeneration, justification, sanctification and redemption. All of this is accomplished by the gospel which is God’s act of power to save mankind. This power is deliverance from the state of spiritual death to spiritual life in Jesus Christ. So it must be defined, what is the gospel, and how is it power from God to save us?
1. Gospel – original translation “glad tidings, or the good news”. This good news is that the Kingdom of God is accessible and rewarded to those who have faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
2. The power of God through the Gospel is the work of Jesus in His death and resurrection. There is literal power in what Jesus did on the cross and by His coming back to life. This power is mysterious and not completely understandable. But what we do understand, is that by Jesus’ work on the cross, power has been made accessible to man to be brought out of death and slavery to sin into life and righteousness in Christ.
This power of the Gospel is for everyone who believes. It has been widely accepted since the early church fathers that the extent of the atonement was made for all mankind, all the world. However, the extent of God’s forgiveness of sins is only made effectual to those who believe and have faith in Jesus.
Origen (AD 184/85-153/54)
“Such great things, then, He is, the Paraclete, the atonement, the propitiation, the sympathizer with our weaknesses, who was tempted in all human things, as we are, without sin: and in consequence He is a great High-Priest, having offered Himself as the sacrifice which is offered once and for all, and not for men only but for every rational creature. For without God He tasted death for every one. In some copies of the epistle to the Hebrews the words are ‘by the grace of God.’ Now, whether he tasted death for every one without God, He died not for men only but for all other intellectual beings too, or whether He tasted death for every one by the grace of God, He died for all without God, for by the grace of God He tasted death for every one.”
“No man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men: neither is there any other thing which keepeth us back from entering in, save only our own unbelief.”
Paul concludes this thought, that the gospel will be preached to the Jew first and to the Greek as well. This isn’t out of spite to non Jews but just as Jesus preached to Jews, so Paul makes sure that the people that have followed the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob receive the good news first because they are the descendants of the promise of the Messiah. The gospel will be preached to everyone in between, even to outermost parts of the world. God’s plan is for all to hear the glad tidings of salvation and forgiveness of sins through His Son Jesus Christ.
With this theme in mind, it helps us better understand what this letter is about, informing his readers that salvation has been extended to those outside of Judaism, God’s plan of redemption is for the world.