Sermon from October 29th, 2017. For Full Audio visit our sermons page.
To be unashamed of the Gospel is to embrace our weakness and believe that what we need, God will provide. It’s not just about witnessing for your faith. Being unashamed of the Gospel is looking at your marriage, looking at your children and saying God you have promised to give me what I need and I know that won’t come from my own strength, I need you. And then going to counseling. Or gathering with a group of trusted friends and admitting how devastated you are that your child has walked away from the faith they once professed.
Being unashamed of the Gospel means listening to someone at work say you’d have to be a fool to believe in God and you gently responding, “I know it may seem that way from you’re vantage point, but I know Jesus is God and He has saved me.” That’s hard to do without fighting back and there is a place for defending the faith with reason and logical discourse, but we can be sure many people won’t understand our faith. That doesn’t mean we don’t keep trying.
A few more. Being unashamed of the Gospel means when you’re seeing your checking account getting tight that you don’t say let’s pull back our generosity and our sacrificial giving, God has promised that when we do this, He will meet our needs, let’s keep trusting Him in this. This might be the most important—being unashamed of the Gospel means that when you don’t know what God’s plan is or why you are suffering in this way, you keep giving glory to God and bringing your heart to Him because the Gospel is the good news that He loves you and He will never leave you on your own.
That’s being unashamed of the Gospel, but there is a bigger question on the table here in Romans 1. That is: How do we receive the Gospel? If that’s what it means to be unashamed of the Gospel, how do we receive it and how do we continue in it? That’s the question that Luther wrestled with when he came to Romans 1:17, especially when he saw it in the original language. For him, as he had grown up, as he had entered the monastery, as he studied for his doctorate, the news of God was that He was angry with almost everybody, but by ritual and self-denial and even through payment, salvation could be bought. That’s when Luther came to 1:17 and began asking is that really how we are saved or is there another way. That’s what’s at stake in Romans 1: How are we saved?
Let me just try to carry us into Luther’s study for a minute. Here we are, our whole lives being told that the righteousness of God was not a good thing…this is what Luther heard and was taught his whole life, he’s going to come to see that it’s not true, but this is where he started…the righteousness of God is not good, because it’s according to the righteousness of God that we are damned, that we’re under wrath, that we’re condemned. God is righteous, we are unrighteous, what hope is there? For his whole life, Luther heard that hope was in giving your money and begging God and feeling awful all the time may, not may, be enough to get you into Heaven.
Then he came to Romans 1:17 and learned this, that the righteousness of God is still very real, that we are indeed unrighteous and under his wrath, but for those who believe God takes their unrighteousness away and places onto us, gives us, imputes to us his own righteousness. Put really simply: The righteousness that God demands from us, He gifts to us. That’s what verse 17 says.
Let’s look at how it says that. Word-by-word. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” For in it, that it refers to the Gospel, so in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed. Remember, the Gospel is the good news that God saves us from wrath. So, in God saving us from wrath, the righteousness of God is revealed. This is where the break begins to happen. If you’ve grown up hearing that God is angry with you and that He’s vengeful and He is mean, then you would expect this verse to read like this: For in His wrath the righteousness of God is revealed. But that’s not what it says, it says that the righteousness, the right-ness of God is revealed in saving, not in condemning. Do you see the break happening here? God is righteous to condemn, but that’s not all that He is righteous to do, He is righteous to give grace, to save.
The Gospel is revealed by faith, we’ll come back to that because first I want to look at the end. As it is written and then there is a quotation from the prophet Habakkuk. This quote appears 3 different times in the New Testament, the righteous shall live by faith. If you go back and read Habbakuk 2:4, this is what you’d read: “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” Look at the quote in Habakkuk and look at it in Romans. There is a word in Habakkuk that is implied in Romans, but if we’re not dialed in we’ll miss it. Many people have missed it. In Habbakuk, it says that the righteous man will live by faith.
Now, look again at all of Romans 1:17. For in it the righteousness of God (whose righteousness is it? Gods.) is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous (It’s implied and fleshed out by going to Habakkuk to see this that what Paul means to say is the righteous ONE or the righteous MAN) shall live by faith.” In the span of one small verse Paul is referring to God’s righteousness and man’s righteousness and he’s saying that when there’s faith, the two are actually not at odds with one another, they are the same as one another. That in the Gospel—the power to save and hold in salvation—the righteousness of God is given, is credited to man or a person so that those who have faith have God’s righteousness. What is it that we need to be spared from God’s wrath? Righteousness. We can’t have it on our own, so God gives it to us. He gives us His own righteousness so that we will be saved.