15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom 1:15-16, ESV)
In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul expressed his eagerness to personally visit Roman believers and preach to them the gospel face-to-face. He then explains why he so eager, because (for) the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.
The above passage poses to us two questions, 1) What is the gospel?, and 2) What is this “power of God” of which Paul speaks?
The answer to the first question, ‘What is the gospel?’ is really simple, since Paul defined it, and very specifically, in his first letter to the Corinthian church;
“1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. . .” (1 Cor 15:1-4)
As to the second question, What is the power of God for salvation?
First of all it is for, or unto salvation, meaning that it’s a power that unfailingly moves an unbeliever to repent of sin and believe in Christ, and then carries the new believer all the way to ultimate glorification and eternity in the presence of God, and his Son. Why do I say this? Because of what Paul tells us later on in the same letter to the Roman church:
“28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”.(Romans 8:28-30, ESV)
Note that in the above passage Paul first tells us that everything works together for the ultimate good of the those who love God and have been called according to his (God’s) purpose. Most of are familiar with, and love that verse. We also tend to separate it from what follows – the WHY of Paul’s argument. With the use of the preposition ‘for’, Paul tells us how all the ‘stuff of life’ works for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.
Secondly, this salvation pertains to a group of people he calls ‘foreknown’ ones. God foreknew them, not what they might do at some point in their lives. The text is unmistakably clear. It’s the same ‘knowing’ expressed concerning the prophet Jeremiah, of whom God said “before you were in your mother’s womb, I knew you”. And on behalf of all those whom God foreknew, he demonstrated his mighty power in
It’s predestining, or predetermining power. We are told that God determined beforehand that a certain group of people would be conformed to the image of his Son, not that he would create the possibility to be conformed to the image of Christ. If you are thinking that salvation is not in view here, think again. Does being conformed to the image of Christ require salvation, or not? if the former is predestined, so must be the latter.
It’s calling power. It’s a call that produces the desired results, each and every time it goes forth. Jesus didn’t ask dead, stinking Lazarus if he would consider coming out of the grave, He commanded, “Lazarus, come forth!” If God’s call of the guilty sinner is ‘for salvation’, guess what is going to happen?
It’s justifying power. When God justifies, he declares the sinner perfectly righteous IN Christ, although not a one of us will die completely free of sin in our mortal selves. Who is IN Christ? All those who have been predestined to be conformed to Christ and called by God to repent of sin and believe in Christ.
And finally, it’s glorifying power. Just as Christ was resurrected and glorified in the presence of God, at whose right hand he now sits, all who were foreknown, predestined, called, and justified, were also glorified. Note the past tense used on our Romans passage. It’s important. It’s a done deal in the mind of God! We have yet to see it, but God has decreed it!
You might have noticed that sanctifying power is not mentioned in our Romans passage. I would like to suggest that sanctification is undeniably implicit in God’s having predestined those he foreknew to be conformed to the image of his Son, We would all agree (Reformed and non-Reformed) that being conformed to the image of our Savior is the very definition of progressive sanctification,
In concluding this article, I ask you one thing. Do you think, even for a moment, that the power of God for salvation that is described herein could be thwarted by any other power?
Dear Lord, we pray that those who are already yours will be greatly humbled in the face of your power to save. We pray also that wherever there are those in need of salvation power, you would open hearts to hear the gospel, and send messengers to share that gospel.