Romans 1:16-17 – Part 1: The Gospel and Power of God

So, we’re back in Romans 1 again, and we’ll be talking about what I believe is Paul’s thesis statement of Romans. This is where Paul tells us what the rest of Romans will be teaching us.

Romans 1:16-17

16 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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

In verses 1-15, Paul has just finished introducing himself and stating that he had wanted to go to Rome before now, but had been prevented so far. We know that Paul did not begin this church, and neither did any of the other apostles from what Paul says in Romans 15:20. Most scholars believe that this church was founded by those who were present at the Pentecost mentioned in Acts 2. I believe this is why Romans is one of the most theologically detailed letters in the Bible; Paul wanted to make sure that this church had a solid understanding of the Gospel and its many implications on God’s role, as well as man’s.

The Gospel:
In verse 16, Paul says that he is “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”. What is the gospel? When asked this question, many people immediately think of John 3:16. This makes sense, as it is perhaps the most succinct explanation of the gospel as it pertains to man. It is so much more though, as Paul will explain later in Romans. The gospel is God’s gesture of good will towards man, that when we were enemies with God, He still reached out and saved us. The gospel is that we can know our eternal residence now, and not have to wait until the end.

Power of God:
Paul then says that the gospel is “the power of God”. Many different things come to mind when we think of power. Perhaps you think of water; which can put out fires, change the way the earth is shaped when it flows steadily over time, or cause mass destruction in the form of a hurricane. Maybe you think of something mythical like Hercules, Superman, or The Hulk. The Greek word for power in this verse is dynamis, when we transliterate it at least. First, as you may have guessed, this is the root word for dynamite. This gives us some meaning of the type of power the gospel displays; it is explosive. When explosives are in the hand of a munitions expert, they can cut a hole through a mountain, cause a building to explode causing death and chaos, or cause that same building to collapse on itself harming no one.

The actual definition of the word dynamis is: new and higher forces that have entered and are working in this lower world of ours

The use of this word tells us that the Gospel has explosive power, and that it is something new, that hasn’t been in effect until Christ came. Paul’s use of this word is striking at the Jewish belief that keeping the law will ensure their place with God in eternity. This power is doing something that the law couldn’t do; it is giving us a hope and confidence, when the law only proved we were guilt and deserved punishment. This “power of God” is God’s ability to breathe life into our spiritually dead souls, free us from the bondage to sin and total depravity, and change our affections to reflect what He desires, instead of only want we want out of selfishness, pride, and arrogance.

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