For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
This quotation from Habakkuk that Paul uses is the great fact that he is expounding in the gospel. He is not ashamed of it, and that is a way of saying that he is proud of it.
Paul especially is not ashamed of the gospel in Rome because the Romans appreciated power, just as Americans do. The Romans prided themselves on their power. They had military power that could conquer all the nations that stood in their path; they had a tremendous program of road-building; they had some of the greatest law-makers of history; they had the power to write literature and create art. But Paul knew that the Romans also were powerless when it came to changing hearts. They were powerless to eliminate slavery. They were powerless to change the stubborn, hostile, hateful hearts of men and eliminate violence. Paul says that is why he is so proud of the gospel — because it is the power of God to do those very things that men cannot do. We never need to apologize for the gospel. It is absolutely without rival.
Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because it reveals a righteousness from God. Righteousness is an old word that we don’t understand very much. I would like to substitute for it the word worth, a worth before God. A sense of acceptance before God that He has given to you. You can’t earn it, you certainly don’t deserve it, but it is given. God really accepts you because of the gospel, because of the good news of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Therefore, it is something that you, or I, or anybody else can have, and it is complete, perfect.
The last thing Paul says is that this righteousness is received by faith. It is not something we can ever earn; it is something we can take anytime we need it, and that is good news. Our worth before God is not simply something we receive once, by faith, at the beginning of our Christian lives. It is also something we remind ourselves of every time we feel depressed, despairing, discouraged, defeated, etc. God has loved us, restored us, and we have perfect standing in his sight. He already accepts us and loves us as much as he possibly can; nothing more can be added to it. That is the righteousness that is revealed in the gospel, by faith, to all who believe, no matter what their background or training may be.
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Father, I pray that I may understand how hopeless, how dark and bitter my condition would be were it not for the gospel of the grace of God. Help me to know that nothing could have saved me from the wicked machinations of the evil one had it not been for the intervention of the gospel of grace.
When we consider the magnitude of God’s gift of unearned, undeserved righteousness, are we responding with gratitude and worship? How does it affect the habits of our hearts and our actions?