by Mike Ratliff
1 I will stand on my guard post
And station myself on the rampart;
And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me,
And how I may reply when I am reproved.
2 Then the Lord answered me and said,
“Record the vision
And inscribe it on tablets,
That the one who reads it may run.
3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.
4 “Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:1-4 (NASB)
Just a few days ago I had a conversation with a young man who was interested in talking to me about my camera gear and how I approached all that went into setting it up and what I used in certain situations, et cetera. We were at a gym where I was taking pictures of children as they celebrated a birthday party. I had one camera on a tripod that I was using to shoot video and the other one I held with a flash that I was using to take facial shots. In any case, I asked him which kids were his and he pointed them out to me and I recognized one of them and so we talked about all sorts of things and eventually I asked him where he went to church. I was very surprised by his response. He just gave me a nervous grin and said he could not find a church that suited him. In Oklahoma that’s unusual. I understand someone saying that in place like Kansas City, but here there are churches everywhere. He then told me that all the churches that I mentioned as possibilities for him were too judgmental. That’s when I decided to ask him what his church background was. He said he grew up Catholic, but he was not real religious. We quit talking about church after that because I got too busy with my photoshoot. What do you think he meant by all those churches I mentioned as possibilities for him and his family being too judgmental? I had to think on that for awhile.
It has become painfully apparent to me that so much of the Christian teaching I sat under as a child and as an adult up until God caused us to to depart our old church because it was going Purpose Driven back in 2006, was mostly Law with just a little flavoring of the Gospel thrown in every now and then. Not every teacher I had did that of course, but the majority did and so did those who wrote those books I bought and read and taught those seminars I attended, et cetera. So much of the “discipleship” teaching I went through then when examined closely now is mostly “law.” From that, I have done a radical reevaluation of my own understanding of Law and Grace and the Gospel and have decided to do a study on the book of Romans. We will start in chapter 1 in this post in vv15-17. The book of Romans was the Apostle Paul’s apologetic to the Roman Church of the Gospel, the Law, and Grace. Let’s listen to the Holy Spirit as we examine closely in proper context what He shows us.
15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
16 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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “ But the righteous man shall live by faith.” Romans 1:15-17 (NASB)
The word translated as “to preach the gospel” is εὐαγγελίσασθαι the aorist tense, infinitive mood, middle voice form of εὐαγγελίζω or euaggelizō. It means “to announce good news.” The Roman Church was already made up of Christians. Why was Paul eager to preach the good news to them? It is a good thing for believers to hear the Gospel because it is a continual reminder that this eternal life we share in Christ is by God’s grace, not by anything we have done. All those religious works matter for nothing in light of what Christ did for His Church on the Cross. That includes all that stuff we do in our “devotions” everyday as well. No, we need to hear the Good News as a call to do those devotions and serve our Lord from the right motives. That would be from a grateful heart seeking to draw closer to Him, not earn points.
The words Paul used in v16 that is translated as “I am not ashamed” are Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι. The word in question here is ἐπαισχύνομαι which means “be ashamed of something.” Why would Christians be ashamed of the Gospel? Paul had been imprisoned, beaten, exiled, stoned, and treated as a fool for the Gospel. However, no matter how hostile people were to the Good News, he remained bold. That was what he is telling the Romans and we need to grasp this in our time. There is a tendency to want to soften or modify or edit the message of the Gospel a bit to make it more palatable or acceptable to this group or that group. Nonsense! Paul knew that the edited Gospel was no longer the Gospel. In fact, when Christians remain bold this way, the Gospel message they preach is, “δύναμις γὰρ Θεοῦ ἐστίν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, ᾿Ιουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ ῞Ελληνι” or it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” That word δύναμις is translated here as “power.” The unedited Gospel is the “power of God” that brings salvation. This is the message that the Holy Spirit blesses and uses to impart eternal life to those who hear it. The edited message of self-help, or good-works, or turning to Christ to get the right plan for your life, is not this “Good News.” Over the next several posts we will look closely at this Good News and we will see clearly what it is and what is is not.
Verse 17 reads, “ For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “ But the righteous man shall live by faith.” What does that mean? This Righteousness or Rightness is from God. It is His. Our justification is an imputation or decree by God. This Righteousness is actually Christ’s. All who believe the Good News, turn in repentance to Him as Lord and Saviour by grace through faith are imputed by God with Christ’s Righteousness. This means that according to God, they are in a state or condition of perfectly conforming to God’s perfect law and holy character. They are justified by faith. Only God is inherently righteous and man is woefully sinful. No exceptions. The Gospel reveals that on the basis of faith–and faith alone–God imputes His righteousness to ungodly sinners. Let us never forget this my brethren. This righteousness from God is completely on the basis of faith from beginning to end as we read in Habakkuk 2:4.
What does it mean that the Just or Righteous shall live by faith? Again, we will look at this in-depth as we move through Romans. Many try to use this to make it be something Christians do in order to earn something. Paul never teaches that. God justifies sinners by grace on the basis of faith alone, never according to works. No one has ever been declared righteous before God except by faith alone (Galatians 3:11). True saving faith is not a single event, but a way of life that endures. This endurance is called the perseverance of the saints (Colossians 1:22,23; Hebrews 3:12-14).
Soli Deo Gloria!