Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 12 2013 - Romans 1:1-17 – Unashamed of the Gospel

Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome. He has never been there but he has heard all about them and he longs to visit them. One of the things that he has learned about them is that there are tensions between the Jewish and Gentile Christians. This may have been the result of their history.

In 49 AD the Emperor Claudius banished all Jews from Rome because, “the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus.” The controversy may have been between Jews who had embraced Jesus as the Christ and those who refused to accept a crucified Messiah. Whatever the cause, Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome, including the Jewish Christians (see Acts 18:1-2). The church in Rome was left solely to the Gentile Christians.

Claudius died in 54 AD and his decree banishing Jews from Rome died with him. Jews, including Jewish Christians, began to return to the city. The reference to Priscilla and Aquila in Romans 16:3, along perhaps with reference to several others whom Paul had previously worked with, is probably a reflection of such migrations. The returning Jewish Christians may well have outnumbered the Gentile Christians.

Such changes were a recipe for controversy. The Gentile Christians may have felt that the church was theirs – after all, the majority of the Jews had rejected the Messiah; Christianity was Gentile. The Jewish Christians may have felt equally strongly that the church belonged to them. After all, it was the company of those who acknowledged and followed the Jewish Messiah.

Paul’s letter to this divided community emphasises both the Jewish origin of the Gospel and its universal embrace. The good news he preaches is all about the Messiah, David’s greater Son, through whom God is fulfilling all of the promises he made to his people in the Hebrew Scriptures. Yet this message is for all the world without distinction. The risen Christ had appointed Paul to be a missionary to the Gentiles; to call upon people of all nations and backgrounds to bow the knee to Jesus Christ and recognise that he is Lord of all.

And Paul says that he is 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” (Romans 1:16). The good news of the gospel is about the power of God for its focus is in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, by which God has declared him to be Lord and Christ. But it is also a message that possesses power, for the power that raised Jesus from the dead is now at work in the world through the Spirit to give life to all who believe (Romans 1:4). Though it may bring mockery and even persecution, Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because God is at work through this message to bring people from death to life and from rebellion to the obedience that springs from faith (1:5). It is this power that has created a people from both Jews and Gentiles and it is this same power that can continue to break down the walls of prejudice and suspicion between them and unite them in praise of the living God.

The gospel is not just a set of propositions about sin, Saviour and salvation. The gospel is dynamite. It has the power to break down walls, burst dams of opposition and transform lives. Paul was unashamed of this gospel; its power had turned his life upside down and held him captive to Christ. Have we lost confidence in God’s power to transform the world through this message and through the living presence of the crucified and risen Saviour?

Living God, you have brought me to bow the knee to Jesus Christ and own him as Lord. Help me by your Spirit to live in obedience to him. Keep me from ever being ashamed of the gospel; work powerfully through me to draw others to the Saviour.

Peter Misselbrook