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The Power of the Gospel

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 1:13–16

What are your priorities in life? What do you see as your obligations? Paul’s personal perspective reminds us that, as followers of Christ, we should be eager to take the gospel to the lost world around us.


I once read about a gem dealer strolling through a flea market where colorful stones and minerals were being sold. He noticed a blue-violet stone the size of a potato. He immediately sensed it had far greater value than anyone there knew. He quietly purchased the large stone for ten dollars; then he had it appraised by experts. Its value soared to more than 2 million dollars.

It took someone who knew what to look for to recognize its value. I suppose you could say that he was able to see it through a different set of eyes. The apostle Paul now invites us to join him in looking at people, at life, differently—to sense the value that otherwise might be missed.

Here in the first chapter of Romans, Paul says four things about himself—he gives us a little personal biography that tells us how he looks at life through a different set of eyes.

First, he speaks of his personal desire to visit the believers in Rome:

I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. (verse 13)

Paul is not satisfied with just sending them this letter, even though it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. No, he wants personal, face-to-face contact with his spiritual brothers and sisters.

Paul understood the value of personal interaction. And it is just as valuable in the home as it is in the church. I remember reading some time ago that the average father spends thirty-seven seconds a day interacting on a personal level with his children. That does not include driving them to church or sitting on the couch watching television or asking them to pass the butter at the dinner table. No, thirty-seven seconds of face-to-face, eye-to-eye, one-on-one investment in their lives.

I mentioned this in a sermon, and a man told me later that his little seven-year-old daughter had been in that service and heard me give that statistic. When they arrived home, she looked up at him and said, “Okay Daddy, it’s time now for my thirty-seven seconds.”

Paul wants personal interaction with his spiritual children. He wants to help bring in a harvest of spiritual fruit in their lives. What kind of fruit is that? Well, there are two kinds of fruit mentioned in Paul’s writings. One is the fruit of salvation, when someone comes to faith in Christ; and the other is the fruit of the Spirit, when someone grows up in Christ.

Paul wants to see both kinds of fruit when he comes to Rome—the fruit of people becoming Christians, and the fruit in people who are growing as Christians.

The next biographical statement Paul makes has to do with his personal obligation. He writes in verse 14, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.”

Paul sees his debt as being “both to Greeks and to barbarians.” He is saying he is indebted to those who speak Greek and those who do not (the barbarians)—in other words, every living human being. He then says he is indebted to those who are wise (the educated) and those who are foolish, or unwise (the uneducated), again indicating his obligation to every human being.

Many Christians see life the opposite way. They do not have a debtor’s perspective but a creditor’s perspective. They don’t see themselves as owing anybody anything! In fact, they think everybody owes them! Paul sees people in terms of what he owes them—namely, delivering to them the gospel of Christ.

Third, Paul speaks of his personal eagerness. His obligation was not a bothersome duty but a joyful opportunity. He writes in verse 15, “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Let me tell you, he has discovered the fountain of life, and he is handing out cups of living water to anybody who is thirsty.

Finally, Paul speaks about his personal courage. He writes in verse 16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.”

Remember where Paul is heading. He is eager to come to Rome and preach the gospel there. Rome is the capital of the greatest empire on earth, and it is the most pagan city, per square mile, in the Roman Empire. People have their favorite gods and goddesses, and they offer incense daily to Caesar as divine. They are not going to be too happy with somebody showing up and preaching a message that there is only one true God and Caesar isn’t it.

If there is any place a believer might be intimidated to stand for Christ, it is Rome. It going to take some courage to stand for Christ in that city.

How about you and me today? Are you embarrassed to bow your head in a crowded restaurant and thank the Lord for your food? Are you hesitant to tell anybody at school that you were in church on Sunday? Are you ashamed to carry your Bible to work with you?

Do you want to know why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel? He tells us why in verse 16.

First, Paul says the gospel “is the power of God.” He does not say the gospel contains power or needs to be accompanied by power. He says, the gospel is the power of God. The gospel is operational—it is dynamic power.

The gospel is not only operational; it is also transformational. Paul says that it is “the power of God for salvation.” It saves people from sin and guilt and condemnation. The gospel is not a self-help program. It is not about turning over a new leaf; it is about receiving a new life. Sin is the basic problem of humanity, and the gospel provides the only answer to it. Why be ashamed of that?

My friend, have you been saved? Have you admitted you are sinful and lost? Have you accepted God’s gift of salvation by placing your faith in Christ alone, the one who died on the cross to pay for your sins? Have you come to Him and asked Him to deliver you, to save you by His power alone? When you do, the power of God through the gospel will begin to transform your life.

The gospel is operational, it’s transformational, and, Paul adds, it’s universal! He says here in verse 16 that the gospel is for everyone to believe. He is not saying that everyone will believe it; he is saying that he wants everyone to hear it! This is a universal invitation to believe.

Many have misinterpreted this phrase in verse 16 that the gospel is “to the Jew first and also the Greek.” They have taken it to mean our priority today must be given to reaching Jewish people with the gospel. That is a fine ministry to have, but Paul is speaking chronologically here; this is how the gospel unfolded. It came first to the Jews in Jerusalem. They were the first to hear that the Messiah had come; they were the first to be called to repent and believe in Him. Paul’s point is that the gospel went to the Jews first, but now it can go to both Jews and Gentiles.

So, this is Paul’s passion in life—giving his world the gospel as he personally interacts with people he knows. Let’s make that our mission as well. Let’s see people through a new set of eyes. They might be considered cheap in the flea markets of the world, but we know their eternal value.

And while you are at it, if you have some children waiting for you when you get home, why don’t you plan on giving them more than thirty-seven seconds of face-to-face interaction. Why don’t you plan to beat that national average. Give them more than thirty-seven seconds; in fact, give them all the time you can.

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