The wonder of the Gospel is something that I love to contemplate. Think about it! God sends HIS SON to live among the creatures He made. Not the ones he pronounced “Good” mind you, but the corrupted, ugly, sinful, tainted creatures we became by turning our backs on HIM. (If you don’t like that depiction I can lend you my glasses and mirror.) Just the thought of what it was to leave His throne to come to live in a world suffering from complete decay after having spoken it to existence in glorious perfection. I can’t imagine what it would be like. Can you?
I have often been reminded of the wonder of the incarnation during the Christmas season, but for me the incarnation means more to me at the Cross. For me the incarnation of Christ is most real when He is hanging on my cross and crying out “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?” It is most real because I have uttered those words at times, only to be reminded that He has NEVER forsaken me. Do you get that?! God turned His face away from HIS OWN SON, so He would never have to turn it away from me!!! That is truly what amazing Grace is about.
The best part is that this is only the beginning. The Gospel is what Paul wrote about in the entire book of Romans. Now some of you are going to say that he addressed other topics in there, but to you I would say that when he touches on different topics he does so to illustrate what the Gospel looks like in real life. For example, when Paul talks about the role of Israel in the future he does so in light of the Gospel. When he talks about Christian liberty he does so to demonstrate what a person who has been changed by the Gospel acts like.
Today I want to bring your attention to a particular part of the Gospel; the power of it to transform lives. Right now you are probably thinking, “DUH!!” But please allow me to explain. We know that the Gospel can completely transform lives, bringing hope to the hopeless, freedom to the oppressed, etc. But what I am driving at is that the Gospel, when properly understood, does something for the believer that is incredible, at least until you experience it (then it’s like, DUH!!).
I have been studying the book of Romans for quite a while now. (I don’t know that I will ever get to the bottom of it!) I was trying to make sense of chapters 5-8 and I kept getting hung up. That is until I noticed something (thanks to the commentary by Thomas Schreiner.) When Paul addresses the topic of the new life in Christ that is given to every believer, he does so in such a progressive way that I think I was skipping over the logical progression. I will try to sum up what I have gathered so far, if I can I will do it succinctly.
In the first part of chapter 1 Paul introduces himself, his Lord, his calling and his gospel. In chapters 1-3 Paul points out the absolute need of man for redemption due to the nature of man’s absolute sinfulness. In Chapter four he introduces the concept of justification through faith. Up to here most commentators agree, with minor differences. In Chapter 5 Paul introduces a new concept, namely what the results of justification are. Many posit that this is where Paul talks about original sin. I disagree I think he is talking about the overwhelming power of the justification in Christ over the power and consequence of sin.* Paul repeatedly uses comparative language with the work of Christ being over and abundantly able to counter the effect of sin and death.
Personally I see Paul expounding on this concept in the next three chapters. In chapter 6 he talks about the new life and freedom from sin. In chapter seven he points out that the dead are not subject to the law, but rather that the new life in Christ brings a whole new set of responsibilities. The interesting thing is that he points out a catch, while the spirit is renewed, and the soul set free, the body has yet to be redeemed.
I think that up to this point most of us can relate. I am a new creature in Christ. I am free from the bondage of sin. Intellectually we know this. Practically, oh boy, that is a different story. If we manage to conform to the outward standard that God would have us follow, we still have to admit that we struggle inwardly. We may say all the right things but we constantly war with the wrong thoughts inwardly. I think we sometimes wonder if the power of the gospel is as great as we have been taught it is. Let me answer that question for you; IT IS!!!!
So why don’t we feel like it is? Well that is why I believe Romans 8 is in the Bible. God knew we would ask these questions and have these struggles. Romans 8 is about victory, not from knowledge of the gospel, but through the power of the Gospel. Paul points out that this body may be “dead weight” dragging us down, but that if we are alive in Christ His power extends to this dead flesh. I think that the point that Paul is trying to make is found in verses 22-25 of chapter 8. We are anxiously awaiting the redemption of our bodies. We don’t want the struggle. We want the results. Paul reminds us that the results are already available. The point is that we live in guilt when we should live in victory. Let me try to tie Romans 5 to Romans 8. (If you will allow me to paraphrase.) Romans 5:8 Christ died for sinners, because God loved us in spite of our sin. Romans 8:35 who will separate us from the Love of God? You see the power that saved you is also working in you. And nothing can take that away, not your doubts, fears, thoughts, foibles or falls. Paul said it best in Romans 8:37 “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (NASB) The one who died for you did so to bring you to life. Not a life of fear and struggle but of joy and peace, and yes, victory.
So the next time you think about the gospel do more than just think about the Savior who died for you. Think about the Savior who loves you so much He is there to help you live for Him in VICTORY!!!
*I do believe that the scriptures teach original sin and that Romans 5 supports this. What I disagree with is that this is Paul’s main thrust here.