The Gospel According to Paul
By Chuck Missler
What is the greatest thought that ever entered the mind of Man? Daniel Webster suggested, “My responsibility to my Maker!”
God created man “in His own image.” Since we are persons, so is God. Since we have personal feelings, so has God. If God be God, He must be the judge of all. You must meet God as He is, not as you might wish Him to be. We really need to understand how He sees things! (A God small enough for our mind would not be big enough for our need.)
What is God’s greatest problem? How to be just and yet justify sinful man. What is God’s greatest barrier? God’s own character! Even Socrates recognized this dilemma, in his comment to Plato about 500 B.C:
“It may be that the Deity can forgive sins, but I do not see how.”
God solved this dilemma by giving His greatest gift: His Son.
The “Gospel” is not a code of ethics or morals; it’s not a creed to be accepted, not a system of religion to be adhered to, not “good advice” to follow – it is a message concerning a divine Person.
Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is all about the Grace of God revealed through the gift of a person. It spans the gulf between His righteousness and our iniquity, and His remedy through grace. Hal Lindsey suggests that “GRACE” can be viewed as an acronym: “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”
Paul did not address his letter to “the church in Rome.” (That at least one church did exist in Rome is obvious because Paul sent greetings to the church that met in the home of Aquila and Priscilla.)1 However, this letter is addressed to the saints – to believers – and it is regarded by many as the most comprehensive and profound book in the New Testament, written by one of the greatest minds of any of the writers of the New Testament. This is a book which will delight the greatest logician, hold the attention of the wisest of men, and will bring the most prideful soul to tears of repentance at the feet of the Savior.
This definitive expression of the nature of God and His redemption helped turn the ancient world upside down.2 Yet, it is tragic that teaching on grace always seems ultimately to yield to various forms of legalism. And as the understanding of grace was eventually obscured, the world plunged into what is appropriately called, “the Dark Ages” (590-1517).3 And yet, it was this very book that brought mankind back to the light as it sparked the Reformation. Its ultimate impact on the history of Western Civilization is unequaled.
The Epistle to the Romans is part of Paul’s trilogy on Habakkuk 2:4, “The Just Shall Live by Faith”:
“The Just…” (Who are they?) — Romans (Rom 1:17)
“…Shall live” (How?) — Galatians (Gal 3:11)
“…By Faith!” — Hebrews (Heb 10:39)
In this unique epistle, we encounter the greatest passages in all Scripture concerning the great principles according to which God’s judgment of human action must proceed. God has made known, in advance, how He will decide and act; otherwise, men would “imagine vain things” about the True God, and hug their delusions to their own damnation.
Why was “the Law” given? We would naturally assume that it was to provide a guide for our behavior, to get us to behave better, etc. It comes as a shock to discover that it was given so that sin would increase!4
The Law was given to expose our sin nature5 and to incite the sin nature to sin more;6 and, since the sin nature cannot be reformed, to drive us to despair of self-effort;7 and, thus, to drive us to dependence upon the Holy Spirit alone.8 This leads to the end of the reign of sin nature: Why, “it ain’t gonna ‘reign’ no more!”
The great triumvirate – redemption,9 propitiation,10 and reconciliation,11 – is totally the work of God, accomplished through the death of Jesus Christ. And it is all appropriated to us by faith. Faith is the one thing we can do which has no merit on our part.
This book gives us the most complete diagnosis of sin, salvation and justification. And the three verb tenses of “being saved”:
a) Have been saved: Positionally;12 from the penalty of sin, called justification salvation.
b) Are being saved: Operationally, by the Holy Spirit, moment by moment;13 from the power of sin, called sanctification.
c) Shall be saved: from the presence of sin.14
Can a man lose his salvation? Yes! If it depends on him.
The Arminian denies that the true child of God is eternally secure. The Calvinist insists that, if he does not persevere in holiness, he was never regenerate in the first place. Yet, it seems that 400 years of these doctrinal disputes – with outstanding scholars on both sides of this continuing issue -appear to be the result of a failure to precisely define terms: to adequately distinguish between justification salvation and the possibility of several different kinds of inheritances.15 There are different kinds of inheritances in both the Old Testament and New Testament. The term for inheritance: klhronomew – kleronomeo, can mean several things, including a reward for a life of faithfulness. Even Jesus achieved His inheritance by perseverance in suffering.16 His companions17 (Greek, metachoi) will inherit the same way.18
An inheritance can be forfeited because of disobedience (as in the case of Esau);19 and it is only obtained by persevering-“faith and patience.”20 The partaker, or metachoi, as a true child of God, is obligated to persevere21 (Paul’s word), but he might not. If he does not, he does not forfeit salvation but faces divine discipline in time and the loss of reward at the judgment seat of Christ.22 (Permission to enter my home doesn’t include ownership or permission to rearrange the furniture.)
These are fundamental issues for every Christian and a careful study of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is an essential prerequisite on our path to maturity.