Romans 1:16-17 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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
The Apostle Paul could write more truth into two verses than most men can write in two books. These two verses are like a suitcase-sized nuclear reactor. They are packed with incredible power and truth. Let’s take a brief look…
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ…
On the surface, it might appear that Paul was just simply affirming his personal love for Christ and making a bold statement that he was not embarrassed to be a Christian. But that is just on the surface….
First of all, remember what Paul had come from. He was a famous persecutor of Christians. He stood by and held the coats of those who stoned Stephen to death. He went around the country hunting down Christians and imprisoning them. He was notorious.
Now, here he was preaching the very same message he use to SWEAR was blasphemous and worthy of death. Think about it. We make fun of and dismiss politicians who “flip-flop” on issues. We consider a person unstable and nutty for following one idea one day, then completely reversing it the next. There is no doubt that Paul was insulted and made fun of ruthlessly by the general population. No doubt there were jokes about his big “reversal”. Can you imagine everything his detractors had to ridicule him about? Mr. “Can’t Make Up His Mind”! “Careful… he might be another religion tomorrow!”.
That was just the start of the reasons that could have cause Paul to shrink away from his faith. Consider Paul’s “reward” for following Christ:
- He was thrown in prison (Acts 16.23)
- He was run out of town (Acts 17.10)
- He was made fun of (Acts 17.32)
- He was called a fool (1Cor 1.18)
- He was almost killed by people throwing large stones at him (Acts 14.19)
- He was shipwrecked, beaten, starved, abandoned, insulted, ridiculed, maligned… you name it
Paul had all sorts of reason to “bow out” and retreat to a quieter, less conspicuous life. But he did not. He boldly proclaimed, “no matter how stupid or foolish it appears; no matter what happens to me; no matter what anyone thinks about it…. I AM NOT ASHAMED OF JESUS CHRIST”.
It is to our shame that most of us wilt and wither in the face of the mildest persecution; a little name calling perhaps; a dirty look; some whispering over in the corner of the office… is enough to reduce most Christians to emotional wrecks. What will happen when (not if) the REAL persecution begins?
…For it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes
The Gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. Salvation… isn’t that what all this is about? Therefore, shouldn’t the Gospel of Christ be the focal point of our lives and churches? And yet, it is not. Any number of other things ranging from the materialistic to the religious receive the attention that the Gospel should be getting. Programs, systematic theologies, creeds, politics, even “family” have taken center stage in most churches. There is a sign down the street from my office in front a large evangelical church that says “****** Church – Where family comes first!” And apparently, no one there sees the contradiction of a Christian church where family is declared as “first”, not Christ. The Gospel is routinely nothing more than an add-on at the end of sermons.
What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Paul tells us that as well:
- 1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (NKJV)
- 1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, (NKJV)
Christ crucified – that is the Gospel. Often I get asked “what are the steps to salvation”? I don’t know. The Bible doesn’t mention “steps of salvation”. Frequently I am asked “what is the plan of salvation?” I don’t know. The Bible doesn’t mention a “plan of salvation”. Men are so desparate to distill down the Gospel into some easy checklist for two reasons: 1) so we can claim to have successfully achieved this checklist and, 2) so we can condemn those who don’t follow our checklist.
These “steps” and “plans” are the root of countless sectarian divisions in Christ’s body. We accept and reject our fellow believers in Christ who do not teach and implement our “plan” that we have nicely outlined. No doubt I will be flooded with responses accusing me of everything from “universalism” to “ecumenism” to being “wishy-washy” for making these comments. But everyday I see the FACT of these divisions by the large quantities of emails I receive declaring that only those who follows these “plans” are truly saved. And if I don’t start publishing and proclaiming a certain “plan” or “steps” in my Devotional, then obviously, I am not saved either. I reject all of the man-derived “lists”, “steps” and “plans” and will simply declare that we should follow Christ in obedience to God’s Word.
What is the Gospel? Christ crucified. The Law condemns us, and convicts us of our sin. Christ crucified pays the penalty for our sin.
- Christ was crucified for our sins and we should believe on Him for salvation. (John 3.15-16; 1John 5.1)
- Christ was crucified for our sins and we should have faith in Him alone for salvation (Eph 2.8-9)
- Christ was crucified for our sins and we should repent of our sins and turn from our wickedness (1John 1.9; Acts 17.30: Luke 24.27)
- Christ was crucified for our sins and we should confess His name before men (Rom 10.9-11).
- Christ was crucified for our sins and we should be baptized in His name (Acts 2.38; Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16;Col 2.12)
- Christ was crucified for our sins and we should live holy, sacrificial lives (Rom 12.1; 1Thess 2.12)
- Christ was crucified for our sins and we should proclaim what Jesus did for us to all the world (Luke 24.27; John 3.16; Mark 16.15)
Those aren’t “steps”; this isn’t a checklist. It is the appropriate response of obedience to the Gospel which is summed up in two words: CHRIST CRUCIFIED. Checklists, “steps” and “plans” cause division and confusion. We go a step farther than Scripture and are compelled to pick a point in the checklist and declare, “THIS is WHEN salvation occurs!”, even though Scripture has no such checklist and no such declaration. We use these checklists to declare who is and isn’t saved EVEN WHEN THE VERY SAME PEOPLE WE REJECT AS CHRISTIANS HAVE TURNED IN BELIEF, FAITH AND OBEDIENCE TO JESUS CHRIST ALONE FOR SALVATION.
Well, that’s about enough to offend almost everybody, so I’ll finish this point repeating Paul: the Gospel of Jesus Christ is Christ Crucified. It is the power of salvation for all who believe and obey Christ Crucified. That is the “plan”, if you must call it that.
…For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith…
The “righteousness of God” speaks of being perfectly conformed to God’s plan or will. Paul is saying that in “it” (the Gospel) God’s perfect plan is revealed. Many times people ask, “why did God have to sacrifice His own Son? God knew how man would turn out, and yet He still went ahead and created man, knowing Jesus would have to die and suffer. Why?” Because it was God’s “perfect plan” originated from “righteousness” of whom God is the Source.
God, in His infinite wisdom and knowledge, knew that there was only one way to create man with the freedom to love God. Along with that true freedom, was the freedom to REJECT God as well. Freedom to love, or NOT to love, is the only TRUE freedom. God didn’t create robots. He created mankind; a creature who could TRULY love God of his own free will. This is why we have a TRUE relationship with God. We are not FORCED to love Him. We choose to love Him. This makes our relationship real, and special.
God knew that the Gospel – Christ crucified – would be necessary to eternally secure our relationship with Him. The Gospel reveals the “righteousness”, the perfect plan of God for mankind. That is why “Christ crucified” is the focal point of human history. Everything pivots, surrounds, and hinges on that one act of love by God.
…The just shall live by faith.
The “just” are those who are part of God’s righteousness. Faith is a focus upon God. The more we realize what God has done, the more our lives will be focused on God (faith). Faith is trust in God; a constant gaze on Him; a dependence in His power and steadfastness.
The “just” (those who are part of the righteous plan of God made possible by ‘Christ crucified’) live life focused on God, trusting in God, depending on God, hoping in God (faith!).
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That just barely scratches the surface of these verses. I hope it will be enough to really get you thinking about the absolute, single most important fact in the entire existence of man: Christ crucified.
Lord, help us understand the importance of ‘Christ crucified’ and to never be ashamed of His Name no matter how much the world makes fun of us. Help us to live by faith, focused on You, trusting in Your love and power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Contemplation: How central is “Christ crucified” to your life? Does your claim match your actions? Do you truly live by faith with your focus and trust on God alone?
Application: To claim that “Christ crucified” is the most important thing in your life means nothing if it doesn’t show in your life, schedule, effort, passion and concern for the lost. Whatever is the focal point of your life will be obvious; the only question is whether or not we are honest enough to see it.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?