Wherever the letter of Romans travels, the world is transformed by changed people. The letter to the Romans is 7,114 words, the longest of Apostle Paul’s letters; no one writes letters that long (especially in the first century). Romans is the Mount Everest of the Bible and is single-handedly responsible for almost every major spiritual awakening, revival, or outpouring of God’s Spirit in church history. Why is Romans so life-changing? The answer: Romans is about the gospel… Romans releases the gospel.
Romans 1.16-17 is Paul’s thesis for Romans and is the outline of the entire book. If you reach into Romans 1.16-17, you pull out the remainder of the book. Why is Romans so effective at changing the world by changing people? The Apostle Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation….”(Rom. 1.16). The gospel “is” (present not past tense) the power of God for salvation – a salvation that is comprehensive including both justification ( becoming a Christian) and sanctification ( living the Christian life).
Many Christians today have a “Rearview Mirror Jesus.” If the Christian life is driving a car, then Jesus is the rearview mirror. Jesus as the rearview mirror is good for seeing what’s behind you - how you became a Christian and for remembering and feeling some gratitude for your conversion grace (past grace) – but as far as living the Christian life (present grace), not needed. What is essential is a good front windshield, and there are numerous options today from five steps to “victory” and three steps to “surrendering all” to two “secrets” to access the Holy Spirit in your life.
The Apostle Paul says the gospel “is” the power of God… the gospel is the front windshield. Paul is not saying the gospel has power in it or the gospel brings power with it, but that the gospel “is” power, a present power, a transforming power for both the unbelieving person and the Christian. The gospel is not empty words, ideas, concepts, and propositions. The gospel is living words, power-infused words, God-words that lift, transform, and change things for both the unbeliever and believer.
The Apostle Paul is not ashamed of the power of God. God’s power heals a broken life, energizes worship, changes a life, generates genuine community, equips for ministry, teaches and enables self-giving love and service, restores character, makes us more human, produces joy, life, and obedience, and enables the Christian life. That is the transforming power of the gospel.
Romans invites us to place confidence in the gospel, in the power of God, whether you’re investigating Christianity or have been a Christian for many years. The gospel releases the power of God upon you; it doesn’t need you to do its lifting, transforming, enlivening, changing work. Therefore, ask and expect God to release his power on you in the hearing, outlining, explaining, and reflecting upon the gospel.