THE GOD OF THE GOSPEL
1. Romans is an exposition of “the gospel of God” (1:1; 15:16).
a. It is “the fullest, plainest and grandest statement of the gospel in the N.T.” (Stott), and “a light and a way into the whole of Scripture” (Tyndale).
b. It is a carefully reasoned and deeply challenging explanation of what God has done through Christ, and why.
2. Romans puts the emphasis on “the God of the gospel.”
a. One writer observed, “God is the most important word in this epistle. Romans is a book about God” (L. Morris).
b. That should not be a surprise, for at least two reasons.
i. He is both the initiator and the doer in the gospel, the source of it as well as the actor within it.
ii. It would make no sense to concentrate on a scheme designed to make us right with God, but to say nothing about who he is.
c. The gospel is what a God like this had to do, and of what only he could do.
1. The God of the gospel is there whether people recognize that he lives or not.
a. Romans treats the existence of God as “the truth” (1:18b)--reality, the actual fact of life both for people who face up to it and for those who do not. In other words, his existence is independent of us, and none of us can survive apart from his favor.
b. Further, Romans insists that we know it.
i. 1:19, 20 – in the things that have been made. “Just as artists reveal themselves in what they draw, paint and sculpt, so the Divine Artist has revealed himself in his creation” (Stott, 73).
ii. 2:14, 15 – in the witness of the conscience
iii. 1:2; 3:21 – in what Scripture says about his actions within history
c. The starting place with the gospel is not whether people know there is a God who exercises lordship over creation, but what we do although we know him (1:21).
2. The God of the gospel is righteous by nature and acts accordingly, whether it seems so to people in the midst of any snapshot of time, or not.
a. In character and in conduct, “good and right is he,” as the rest of Scripture puts it.
b. His righteousness involves action that combines two qualities which are essential to goodness, and which are satisfied at the same time.
i. One is that he is just: “He will render to each one according to his works” (2:6; cf. 3:26).
ii. The other is that he is merciful: the apostle can speak of “the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience” (2:4).
c. God is righteous in the sense that he acts in keeping with his own being, that is, in keeping with who he really is.
i. He does not merely act arbitrarily or capriciously; he wills and does with integrity, with self-consistency.
ii. We “stand in awe” of him because his real character includes kindness and severity (11:20, 22).
3. The God of the gospel is exercising his wrath toward that which suppresses the truth of his life and that which contradicts the goodness of his being, whether people realize he is doing so or not.
a. That’s what sin is: the attempt to get rid of God, and the determination to live as though that futile attempt had been successful.
i. Sin is thought or action which proceeds as if who God is or what he says is irrelevant to what is right or wrong.
ii. The “ungodliness” which refuses to recognize God and the “unrighteousness” which refuses to imitate him is pervasive, universal, and completely evil (3:9-18).
b. Romans declares that sin necessarily meets “the wrath of God” (1:18).
i. The “wrath of God” does not mean that God loses his temper, or flies into a rage, or is ever hateful or spiteful or little.
ii. One writer explained, “The alternative to wrath is not ‘love’ but ‘neutrality’ in moral conduct. And God is not neutral. On the contrary, his wrath is his holy hostility to evil, his refusal to condone it or to come to terms with it, his just judgment upon it...Nothing arouses it except evil, and evil always does” (Stott, 72).
c. The wrath of God against ungodliness and unrighteousness works itself out in two ways.
i. In his ceasing to intervene in the consequences of the exchange of the glory of the immortal God for idols (1:21-23).
(1) Immorality, 1:24f
(2) Anti-social behavior, 1:28f
(3) A debased mind which can neither choose right nor approve of it
ii. In the day of righteous judgment which lies ahead for all of us (2:5, 16; 14:10).
4. The God of the gospel has a unity which will not allow him to excuse some people on the basis of favoritism, or to deal with others on the basis of a separate reality, even if people do divide themselves into groups.
a. The equality of Jew and Gentile before God is an important theme in Romans: the apostle repeatedly says “there is no distinction” (3:22; 10:12).
b. The reason is the nature of God.
i. “Since God is one” (3:30) he justifies people by the same means.
ii. He judges people on the same basis, “for God shows no partiality” (2:11).
c. The clearest statement on the unity and impartiality of God may be this one: “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (14:12).
5. The God of the gospel loves the people he has created in his image despite their missing the mark of his glory and despite their deserving his righteous judgment.
a. It is no accident that some of the most beautiful declarations of this fact occur in this book.
i. 8:38, 39 – nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God
ii. 5:5 – hope does not put to shame because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts
iii. 5:8 – God has demonstrates his love for us
b. Two points from this last verse should especially be noticed.
i. First, the “we.”
ii. Next, the “while we were still sinners”– and the context adds “weak” and “ungodly” (6) and “enemies” (11).
c. Obviously, his own gracious love must initiate any efforts he makes in seeking us!
6. The God of the gospel is faithful, not only to his own nature and to reality, but also to his promises, whether any people are worthy of trust or not.
a. The faithlessness of some does not nullify his faithfulness; God will be true even if every man is a liar (3:3, 4).
b. God made promises beforehand (1:2); some of those to whom he first made them proved unfaithful, but God fulfilled them because he is faithful.
i. Christ became a servant to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs (15:8).
ii. God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all (8:32); by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh (8:3); he raised him up from the dead for our justification (4:24, 25).
iii. One student of scripture summarized what took place like this, “God, because in his mercy he willed to forgive sinful men, and being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against his very own Self in the person of his Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved....[He gave his own Son as a propitiation in order] that he might justify sinners righteously, that is, in a way that is altogether worthy of himself as the truly loving and merciful eternal God...[For him to have tried to redeem lightly would have been] to have compromised with the lie that moral evil does not matter and so to have violated his own truth and mocked men with an empty, lying reassurance, which, at their most human, they must have recognized as the squalid falsehood which it would have been.” (Canfield, quoted by Stott, 115-116)
c. What God has done produces nothing less than “newness of life!” (6:4)
7. The God of the gospel is wise beyond anything people may imagine, even if they are the most intelligent and imaginative.
a. Romans says that when it looked as if the will and intentions of God were an absolute failure–that his own people were condemned by his own law–it turned out that he had only shut them all up in disobedience that he might have mercy on all! (11:32)
i. 8:29-30 offers an expansive view of his purpose from eternity to eternity.
ii. He is able to purpose it by his grace, plan it by his wisdom, and bring it to pass by his power.
iii. Despite the profound nature of the work, and despite the weakness of the flesh, and despite the power of sin and death, he accomplishes it!
b. We can only marvel at such a God and fall down before him in loving and humble worship.
i. Romans 11:33-36
ii. Romans 16:27
1. There is an ‘inner logic of the gospel’ in that it is but the outworking of who God is.
2. Because of the gospel, we can have peace with God (5:1), the hope of the glory of God (5:2), and we rejoice in God (5:11)
3. The God of the gospel can become to us the God of endurance and encouragement (15:5), the God of hope (15:13), and the God of peace (15:33; 16:20).
4. What remains is for us to identify ourselves with his work (10:13, 9-10; 6:3-4, 16-18).