At the center of Paul’s message—indeed at the center of God’s message to humanity—is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. It is in Christ, who is both God and man, that we find forgiveness and eternal salvation.
Imagine camping out by a beautiful stream that runs through a wooded valley. In the morning, you wash your face in that clear, sparkling water and drink some of it too, only to become violently ill a few hours later. Why? Because further upstream, a man has poured toxic waste into the water. Now, all the water that flows down that mountain looks good; it appears clean, but there are invisible toxins that have poisoned the water.
This illustrates Adam, the first created man: he stands as it were at the fountainhead of humanity, and his sin has polluted the stream of mankind. You might say, “Hey, that isn’t fair! I didn’t eat that fruit there in the garden.”
Well, you did not eat that forbidden fruit, but you certainly committed forbidden sin. We have all proved that we are just like Adam—that we did indeed inherit the polluted water of Adam’s sin nature. Is there a solution? A remedy? A cure? Well, there in the garden, after Adam and Eve sinned, God gave the first gospel promise. In Genesis 3:15 He promised that a Redeemer would eventually arrive to crush the head of the serpent that tempted mankind to sin. This ultimately points to the defeat of Satan at the cross of Christ.
That is the difference between this gospel and the religions of the world. The gospel tells you what God has done for you; religion tells you what you must do for God: rituals and self-improvement, pilgrimages and penance. You are told by religion that if you are diligent and sincere, maybe you will get into heaven. Well let me tell you, “maybe” isn’t good news at all.
The word gospel in the Bible is from the Greek word euaggelion, and it means “good news.” Yes, there is sin; yes, there is guilt and shame; yes, there is death; but there is also good news! We have all drunk from the polluted stream of Adam’s race, but there is another Adam—a second Adam as Paul calls Jesus—who began a new race of forgiven men and women, boys and girls.
Now as Paul begins his letter to the Roman church, he gives us a descriptive outline of this good news. We are picking back up here in verse 2 of chapter 1, in the middle of a sentence. And by the way, let me just warn you that Paul can write some really long sentences. In fact, the first seven verses of Romans make up just one sentence!
Paul begins to describe here in verse 2 “the gospel of God” (verse 1), “which [God] promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures.” The gospel has its source in God—it is “the gospel of God.” And Paul makes the point that this has been around a long time, “promised beforehand,” he writes, by the Old Testament prophets who predicted the coming of the Messiah.
This gospel might be new to you, but it is an old gospel. It has been around since the beginning of time, and Paul will prove this by quoting repeatedly from the Old Testament. One writer counted Paul’s quotations from the Old Testament here in the book of Romans:
- Five times from Genesis
- Four times from Exodus
- Two times from Leviticus
- Five times from Deuteronomy
- 1 Kings—two times
- Psalms—fifteen times
- Proverbs—two times
- Isaiah—nineteen times
- Ezekiel—one time
- Hosea—two times
- Joel—one time
- Nahum—one time
- Habakkuk—one time
- And Malachi—one time
All these Old Testament writers were looking ahead to the Messiah; Paul here—along with you and me today—look back at the Messiah who came and died for our sins. Paul writes in verse 3 that this gospel is “concerning his [God’s] Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh.”
So, what is the gospel all about? It is about Jesus Christ and His work for you and me. This is how Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures . . . he was buried, [and] he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
Now, in Romans 1:3, where Paul delivers two truths about Jesus—and these are critical—Jesus is both divine and human.
When Paul writes here that Jesus is the Son of God, he is affirming the deity of Jesus. This truth is essential to the gospel message, for only an unblemished lamb, the perfect Son of God, could die as our substitute for sin. It also makes the virgin birth of Jesus absolutely essential.
Had Jesus been born from the union of a man and woman, He would have been just another human, with Adam’s sin nature poisoning Him as well. But Isaiah 7:14 prophesied, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” which means “God with us.”
So, Jesus, born from that miraculous conception in a virgin by the overshadowing presence of the Holy Spirit, is fully God and fully human. Paul writes that Jesus “descended from David according to the flesh.” The Old Testament had also prophesied that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David, from the tribe of Judah (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Jeremiah 23:5-6).
And that is another key point here. The true Messiah must be in the royal line of David. As David’s descendant, He would be legally the rightful heir to the throne of Israel. This is why the Gospel of Matthew begins with the genealogy of Christ, which traces Jesus’ family tree back to King David.
That little Baby born to Mary in the village of Bethlehem is nothing less than the miraculously conceived Messiah—the eternal God, and also the human heir to the throne of David, from which He will reign in His future kingdom. He qualifies, beloved, to be your Savior and King. This is not religion; it is a relationship with the Messiah, the Son of God who loves you and died to save you.
Today, no matter where you go in the world, people have an inner sense of emptiness and guilt. There has to be some ritual, some cleansing, some way to find forgiveness. There must be someone out there who can help!
Well, here is the good news: Someone can and will. Jesus offers salvation and forgiveness to everyone who trusts in Him. He offers what no religion, philosophy, or human effort can give. And that is why His gospel is good news!
Several years ago, I traveled to preach in India, a land of Hindus, who are bound to the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita and other writings they consider sacred. But this religion offers no hope or forgiveness at all. One morning I was near the Ganges River, and I watched a priest washing himself in that filthy polluted water, believing it would help to wash away his sin.
I visited a Hindu temple and noticed a plaque on the wall that said if you want to cross the painful ocean of life, which is full of the crocodiles of anger, greed, and lust, you should catch hold of the Bhagavad Gita and the disciplines of action, devotion, and wisdom as its oars. It will take you to the land of liberation. So, you are going to have to row your boat with all diligence and devotion if you ever hope to make it to heaven. It’s all up to you.
Beloved, that is not good news. The gospel of Christ is simply placing your trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ. He did all the work for you—He died for you and arose for you. He offers you forgiveness and spiritual rest. I hope you have come to accept Him as your Messiah. If you have not, what are you waiting for? Do it now.
 Alva J. McClain, Romans: The Gospel of God’s Grace (BMH Books, 1973), 37.