Read Romans 1:1-17
Paul’s introduction to this powerful letter is overflowing with theology, wisdom, and encouragement. In just the first two verses, Paul explains that God had promised the gospel through the prophets in the scriptures. This means that we should be able to read the Old Testament and see the gospel all over it!
The gospel is Paul’s main topic in this letter, and verses 16-17 give us incredible insight about what it is. Paul’s first point is that he is “not ashamed of the gospel.” But why would Paul even mention this? Why would he, or the Christians in Rome, have reason to be ashamed of the gospel? In Rome, execution by crucifixion was incredibly shameful. The victim was stripped naked, beaten, and then crucified. The crowds would taunt the victim as he hung there gasping for air. For a Roman citizen, to claim to be a disciple of a man who was executed by crucifixion would be identifying themselves with that shame.
Do we have reason to be ashamed of the gospel today? Some reject the gospel because of its extravagant grace. Most of the people in this group are church-goers who think salvation is earned, and so the gospel of grace is utter foolishness to them. Others reject the gospel based on popularity. As Christianity becomes a minority view in our society, many will view Christianity as an increasingly unpopular choice that could jeopardize their relationships or even their livelihood.
But Paul continues to explain what the gospel message really is. He says, “…it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” This power is understood through the Old Testament (as Paul points out in verses 1-2). In the Old Testament we learn about a God who loves his people and single-handedly delivers them from their enemies. What Paul is saying here is that this is what God has always done, and this is what He is continuing to do even now through Jesus Christ.
Questions for study and discussion:
1. What is the gospel? In 1 Corinthians, Paul gives the most succinct summary of the gospel message. Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-10, then attempt to summarize the gospel message in 10 words or less.
2. How might being a follower of Jesus be shameful or embarrassing in our world today? Have you ever felt ashamed or embarrassed by the gospel?
3. If you’re a follower of Jesus and trusting in his gospel, what are some things that God has delivered you from? These may be sins, addictions, or vices in which you were deeply invested, or it could be temptations or struggles which you only experience internally.
4. In Romans 1:8, Paul says that he thanks God for the faith of the Roman church that is famous around the world. What are Christians “famous” for today? How are other Christians, or even non-Christians, thankful for your faith?