“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1)
The first seven verses of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans are remarkable in many ways. First of all, there is something unusual about these 7 verses that might be easily overlooked and that is the fact that this entire passage is one single sentence. Not one period ends a single verse until the Seventh. Rather than being comprised of several independent sentences, each verse is but a modifying clause of the previous one. Like those antique, ceramic “Russian Nesting Dolls” — where one doll is opened only to reveal another doll inside — this passage is a chain of subjects which, once each one is opened, we discover branches out into an ever-increasing complexity. We can feel the anticipation of the Apostle Paul, eager to dive right into the wondrous topic at hand, as his attention is drawn away again and again in order to elaborate, be it ever so briefly, as he mentions one subject after another; each deserving of several paragraphs of added detail in its own right. He cannot mention the “Gospel of God” without commenting parenthetically a little more on it. The Gospel, which concerns Jesus Christ, Who is our Lord, Who was born of the seed of David, Who was declared to be the Son of God, by Whom we have received grace and apostleship (apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations), and among Whom are we the “called.” Within that very first verse, however, we have what will be the overriding theme of the entire book: “The Gospel of God.”
“The theme of Romans is “the Gospel of God”, the very widest possible designation of the whole body of redemption truth, for it is He with whom is “no respect of persons”; and who is not “the God of the Jews only”, but “of the Gentiles also” (2:11, 3:29)” (1)
So writes Dr. C.I. Scofield in his introduction to the Book of Romans. And “the Gospel of God” will certainly be the topic of the entire Epistle. For not only are the first seven verses an expansion defining what the term means, so is every other verse which follows. Many periods will be written in the rest of the text, ending sentences throughout the book, but in thought and purpose the entirety of Romans is but an unfolding of this solitary subject. In the logical and orderly progression of a true master orator, Paul will move from one issue to the next, all with the precise goal of defining what “the Gospel of God” is and, more importantly, what it means to each of us.
Two profound truths about the Gospel of God are listed in Verses 2 and 3. First, the Gospel was promised in earlier times by God’s prophets in His Holy Word. Second, the Gospel concerns the Son of God, Jesus Christ. We don’t often really think of it this way, but the subject of the Old Testament is the Gospel just as much as it is the subject of the New. All the way from Genesis 3:15 through Malachi, the primary theme of the Old Testament was the looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, the One Who would bring Salvation. Throughout the Book of Acts, we see time and time again the testimony of the prophets and the promises of God to send the Messiah used as a foundation for the presentation of the Gospel. Stephen, before he is executed by the Sanhedrin, presents the history of the Jewish people all the way back to Abraham and concludes with the statement: “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:” (Acts 7:52). The Apostle Paul, preaching in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, declares: “And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:32-33). The prophets of God throughout the Old Testament bore witness to the coming Gospel wherein Salvation would be made available to man.
“Concerning His Son Jesus Christ.” The Gospel is not about a method, a ritual, or a religious observation. It’s about a Person. It’s about the Lord Jesus Christ. Though faith is the vehicle by which we receive the Gospel, it is never about what we do, it is about what Jesus has done. Our part is but to believe on Him, every other part of the Gospel is His. The Gospel concerns itself with the Person and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Finally, we should note that this is the Gospel of God. It belongs to Him and originated with Him. This is His plan, not ours, not Paul’s. It is God’s. I have read material from a movement that seeks to discredit the Apostle Paul as a usurper and a deceiver; they state that Christianity as we know it originated entirely from the mind of Paul and is vastly different from what Christ taught. But Paul did not come in his own name, nor did he preach a “gospel” that he authored. This is the same Gospel that Jesus Christ taught, that the Apostles Peter and John taught, and that originated with God alone. If we find fault with it, none other but God can we blame; if we find life through it, none other but God can we credit.
(1) Taken from the “Scofield Reference Bible”, edited by Dr. C.I. Scofield. (c) 1909, 1917, 1937, and 1945.