Romans 1:16-17

New International Version

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.

This passage serves as a theological foundation for the entire book of Romans. It encapsulates the Gospel’s transformative power, the universal offer of salvation through faith, and the revelation of God’s righteousness. This passage emphasizes that salvation is by faith alone, and it underscores the importance of trusting in God’s redemptive work.

The Power of the Gospel

Romans 1:16 begins with Paul’s declaration, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” This statement may seem curious at first glance. Why would Paul need to assert that he is not ashamed of the Gospel? The answer lies in the societal context of the time. The Gospel message, centered on the crucified Christ, was seen as foolishness and a stumbling block to many (1 Corinthians 1:23).1 In the eyes of both Jews and Gentiles, the message of the cross was scandalous.

However, Paul’s unashamed proclamation of the Gospel underscores its profound significance. He views the Gospel as “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” This declaration is pivotal and deserves closer examination.

The Power of God

Paul’s characterization of the Gospel as “the power of God” reflects its transformative nature. The Gospel is not merely a set of doctrines or ethical teachings; it is the dynamic and life-changing revelation of God’s redemptive plan. The power of the Gospel is not rooted in human wisdom or effort but in the divine intervention of God.

This concept aligns with the theological perspective presented in the sources provided. John R. W. Stott, in “The Message of Romans,” emphasizes the Gospel’s power as a divine attribute, activity, and achievement. It reveals God’s faithfulness to His righteous nature and His covenant promises (Stott 61). The Gospel demonstrates God’s justice in justifying the unrighteous (Stott 62).

For the Salvation of Everyone Who Believes

Paul asserts that the Gospel’s power is directed towards “the salvation of everyone who believes.” Salvation, in the biblical context, encompasses deliverance from sin, reconciliation with God, and the gift of eternal life. It is both a present reality and a future hope.

The inclusivity of salvation is highlighted when Paul mentions, “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” While historically the Gospel came to the Jews first, Paul emphasizes that salvation is universally accessible. This aligns with the theological perspective presented by Leon Morris, who notes that salvation is open to all who believe, regardless of their ethnic background (Morris 69). The Gospel breaks down barriers and unites believers in Christ (Galatians 3:28).

The Revelation of God’s Righteousness

In Romans 1:17, Paul continues to expound on the Gospel’s significance, focusing on the revelation of God’s righteousness. This verse serves as a bridge to the concept of justification by faith, a central theme in the book of Romans.

  1. The Righteousness of God

The expression “the righteousness of God” has been the subject of theological debate and interpretation. It can be understood as both a divine attribute or quality and a right standing or status bestowed by God. In the context of Romans 1:17, Paul emphasizes the righteousness that God provides to believers through faith.

Paul’s perspective aligns with Charles Cranfield’s interpretation, which emphasizes that God’s righteousness is a righteous status given to believers (Mounce 68). It is a gift obtained through the atoning sacrifice of the cross and revealed in the Gospel.

  1. By Faith from First to Last

The phrase “a righteousness that is by faith from first to last” highlights the central role of faith in the process of salvation. Faith is not a human effort to earn righteousness but an act of trust in God’s provision. It is the means by which individuals are justified and declared righteous before God.

The theological significance of faith in salvation is emphasized by Dodd, who defines faith as “acknowledging our complete insufficiency” and relying entirely on God’s sufficiency (Morris 71). Faith is not self-assertion but a recognition of human inadequacy and a reliance on divine initiative.

  1. The Quotation from Habakkuk

Paul supports his assertion with a quotation from the Old Testament, specifically from Habakkuk 2:4: “The righteous will live by faith.” This prophetic statement by Habakkuk underscores the enduring truth that the righteous are characterized by their faith and reliance on God, even in the face of adversity.

The interpretation of this quotation has led to variations in translation. While some prefer “The just shall live by faith,” others advocate for “He that is just by faith shall live.” Both interpretations convey the idea that righteousness is inseparable from faith.


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