Gospel Power

"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'" (Rom 1:16-17).

1:16-17 is the theme and the thesis statement of Romans in summary form. It summarizes Paul's theology as a whole. James Montgomery Boice (Romans, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005) wrote that Rom 1:16-17 “are the most important in the letter and perhaps in all literature. They are the theme of this epistle and the essence of Christianity.”


Romans summary (N.T. Wright)

The Righteousness of God (Rom 1:17, Douglas Moo).

From the NIB (New Interpreter's Bible)
  • Chapters 1-4: The faithfulness of God. God's gospel unveils the fact that in the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, the God of Israel has been true to the covenant established with Abraham and has thereby brought saving order to the whole world. In the face of a world in rebellion and a chosen people unfaithful to their commission, God has, through the surrogate faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah, created a worldwide--that is, a Jewish and Gentile--family for Abraham (chap. 4; Genesis 15), marked out by the covenant sign of faith.
  • Chapters 5-8: God has thereby done what the covenant was set up to do: to address and solve the problem expressed in biblical terms as the sin of Adam. In the Messiah, Jesus, God has done for this new people what was done for Israel of old in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham: Redeemed from the Egypt of enslavement to sin, they are led through the wilderness of the present life by the Spirit (not by the Torah), and they look forward to the inheritance, which will consist of the entire redeemed creation. This is how the creator will finally put the whole world to rights. All this is the result of God's astonishing, unchanging, self-giving covenant love expressed completely and finally in the death of Jesus.


Daring Greatly

"It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,

whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs, who comes short again and again,


Gospel Enthusiasm

Romans 1:7-15

"That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome" (Rom 1:15, NIV).

In Rom 1:7-15, Paul expresses eagerness, enthusiasm, energy and excitement (not reluctance or unwillingness) in his:
  1. greeting (Rom 1:7).
  2. thanksgiving (Rom 1:8).
  3. preaching of the gospel (Rom 1:9, 15).
  4. prayers (Rom 1:10).
  5. longing to share some spiritual gift (Rom 1:11).
  6. desire for mutual encouragement (Rom 1:12).
  7. transparency about his intention and desire for a harvest (Rom 1:13).
  8. sense of debt to all people (Rom 1:14).


A Vine Ripened Life

Stanley D. Gale, senior minister of The Reformed Presbyterian Church, West Chester, Pennsylvania, explains the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) in his book, A Vine Ripened Life. After two introductory chapters that encourages us to remain in the vine by abiding in Christ, Gale expounds in a chapter each on each of these nine virtues and finally concludes with humility and grace:
  1. Fruit of the Vine (Jn 15:5).
  2. My Father, the Gardener (Jn 15:1-2).
  3. No Ordinary Love (1 Jn 4:9-12).
  4. Joy Inexpressible (1 Pet 1:6-8).
  5. Peace Beyond Understanding (Phil 4:6-7).
  6. The Leaven of Patience (Col 1:9-11).
  7. Not-So-Random Kindness (Eph 2:4-7).
  8. Gracious Goodness (Gal 6:6-12).
  9. A Great Faithfulness (Lk 16:10-12).
  10. Gentle Strength (Mt 11:28-30).
  11. Self-Control or Willpower (2 Tim 1:7-9).
  12. Potent Humility (Jas 4:6, 10).
  13. Grace Grown (Tit 2:11-14).

Faith and Obedience

Faith is not obedience. Obedience is not faith. But faith and obedience always go together.

Obedience is a NT teaching. In the NT, the word translated "obedience" (ὑπακοή) occurs 15 times (Rom 1:5; 5:19; 6:16; 15:18; 16:19, 26; 2 Cor 10:6; Phm 1:21; Heb 5:8; 1 Pet 1:2, 14, 22). So, like it or not, it is a teaching of Paul and Peter. Interestingly, Jesus did not use this Pauline word, but he used the word translated "keep" (τηρέω), which means to observe, guard and attend carefully to his word and teaching (Jn 8:51; 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10, 20; 17:6).

Obedience and faith are linked together. Check out Romans 1:5 in five common English translations. The NIV says, "the obedience that comes from faith." The ESV, NASB and HCSB says, "the obedience of faith." The NLT says, "believe and obey." The Message says, "obedient trust." N.T. Wright's The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation says, "believing obedience."


Live Your Life With Christ

This attractive DVD and handbook series by author and gospel communicator Rebecca Manley Pippert addresses five common and very important and sometimes troubling issues for seekers, skeptics and new believers. Each of the five issues are addressed in five sessions on the DVD, with each session having three sections: 1) a short Introduction section. 2) a Following Jesus section that addresses the question. And 3) Three short Life Stories. The five issues are:
  1. How Do I Know It Is Real? (The DVD gives the evidences for Christ and the resurrection.)
  2. What Is The Good News? (The DVD explains what the gospel is.)
  3. Is It Worth It? (The DVD explains the cost and benefits of following Christ from three parables of Luke 15.)
  4. A Time For Commitment (The DVD explains Christian conversion.)
  5. New Life In Christ (The DVD


Gospel and Grace

Romans 1:1-6: "...called...and set apart for the gospel" (Rom 1:1, NIV).

What scholars, theologians and church leaders have said about Romans:
  • "(Romans) is the fullest and grandest statement of the gospel in the NT...a timeless manifesto of freedom through Jesus Christ." John Stott, The Message of Romans, 1994.
  • "Romans is Paul's summary of the gospel that he preaches. The theme of the letter is the gospel." Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 1996.
  • "The quintessence and perfection of saving doctrine." Thomas Draxe, 17th century English Puritan.
  • Martin Luther wrote in his "Preface to the Epistle to the Romans" that Romans is "really the chief part of the NT, and ... truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul."
  • John Calvin declared that "if we have gained a true understanding of this Epistle, we have an open door to all the most profound treasures of Scripture."


The righteousness of God - Martin Luther

I greatly longed to understand Paul's Epistle to the Romans, and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, "the righteousness of God," because I took it to mean that righteousness whereby God is righteous and deals righteously in punishing the unrighteous. . . . Night and day I pondered until . . . I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before "the righteousness of God" had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gateway to heaven.


How Can I Be Sure

In a fallen world under God's curse and judgment and subject to Satan, doubt is to be expected, even and perhaps especially after one becomes a Christian. Former University of Birmingham Professor, John Stevens, assure us that doubts and questions about faith are not necessarily bad. Drawing from his personal encounters with various believers, he looks at such questions as:
  1. What is doubt?
  2. Why is doubt dangerous?
  3. What do I have to believe to be a Christian?
  4. How can I overcome doubt as a Christian?
  5. How can I develop a confident faith?
  • Conclusion: From doubt to faith.
I love the quotes in this book:
  • "The art of doubting is easy, for it is an ability that is born with us." Martin Luther.


Faith, a New and Comprehensive Sense (John Newton)

This visceral poem could be paraphrased as loving and delighting in God with all of our five senses and the entirety of our being.

Sight, hearing, feeling, taste and smell,

Are gifts we highly prize;

But faith does singly each excel,

And all the five comprise.

More piercing than the eagle's flight

It views the world unknown;

Surveys the glorious realms of light,

And Jesus on the throne.

It hears the mighty voice of God,

And ponders what he saith

His word and works, his gifts and rod,

Have each a voice to faith.

It feels the touch of heavenly pow'r, (Lk 8:46)

And from that boundless source,

Derives fresh vigor every hour,

To run its daily course.

It smells the dear Redeemer's name

Like ointment poured forth; SS 1:3

Faith only knows or can proclaim,

Its favor or its worth.

Till saving faith possess the mind,

In vain of sense we boast;

We are but senseless, tasteless, blind,

And deaf, and dead, and lost.

John Newton, Faith a New and Comprehensive Sense.

God, Our Intimate Friend (Ps 63:1-11). Tim Keller.
Intimacy with God (Rev 3:14-22). Andy Stanley.
Thoughts on Religious Experience, Archibald Alexander (1772-1851), 1844.


Idolatry, the Basic Sin

I is for Idolatry (Romans 1:18-25, 28-32; 2:1-5)

"...and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images... They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen." (Rom 1:23a, 25).

"An idol can be ... anything that can substitute for God." Os Guiness and John Seel, No God but God, 32-33.

"Every idolater is a prisoner, held in humiliating bondage." John Stott, The Message of 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

"Self-righteousness—this is the largest idol of the human heart—the idol which man loves most and God hates most." Robert Murray M'Cheyne.

"We can make an idol of anything, including your church." Scotty Smith, A Prayer Lamenting "My Church" Idolatry.


Biblical Portraits of Creation

As the title declares, Biblical Portraits of Creation is indeed a celebration of the Maker of Heaven and Earth. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I plan to use it and encourage its use in preaching and Bible studies. I highly recommend it.

The important, glorious, majestic and dynamic doctrine of creation that emphasizes God as Creator (Gen 1:1) is often a neglected theme of sermons and Bible studies in churches, which favors redemptive historical aspects of the Bible. But Biblical Portraits of Creation faithfully and edifyingly lays emphasis on the utmost importance of God as Creator. It captures the grandeur, glory and majesty of the creation (and new creation) texts of both the Old Testament and New Testament by explaining, expounding and exegeting those texts in an engaging way. (See titles for the 12 chapters and the corresponding biblical text below.) It is an excellent resource for Christians, pastors and lay Bible teachers who wants to preach and/or teach about creation and new creation. The concise and succinct summary points at the end of each chapter is very useful, along with study questions, which can benefit and facilitate group Bible studies and personal reflection.


Intimacy: Outline, Quotes

"O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you..." (Ps 63:1, NLT). [I is for Intimacy.]

Theme: God created us for intimacy. No one can truly live happily without it. Jesus was the happiest man who ever lived, because of his unbroken intimacy with the One who loved him.

"Some of us know at times what it is to be almost too happy to live! The love of God has been so overpoweringly experienced by us on some occasions, that we have almost had to ask for a stay of the delight because we could not endure any more. If the glory had not been veiled a little, we should have died of excess of rapture, or happiness." Charles Spurgeon.

How To Have Intimacy
  1. A true knowledge of God and of ourselves (John Calvin, Institutes, Chap. 1, Sec. 1,2). "There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God."


The Two Most Important Things To Know

John Calvin states, “There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God.” Thus, the two most important things to know are:
  1. A true knowledge of God.
  2. A true knowledge of ourselves.
What John Calvin wrote in Institutes of the Christian Religion, Chapter 1, Sections 1,2.

True wisdom consists of two connecting parts. OUR wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.

No person can know themselves without turning to God. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven, are like streams conducting us to the fountain.

How To Have Intimacy

Theme: God created us for intimacy. No one can truly live happily without it. Jesus was the happiest man who ever lived, because of his unbroken intimacy with One who loved him.

Have you ever experienced being too happy? Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, preached a sermon entitled Prodigal Love for the Prodigal Son (or Many Kisses for Returning Sinners). The verse he based it on is "...and kissed him." (Lk 15:20). In his sermon Spurgeon said, "Some of us know at times what it is to be almost too happy to live! The love of God has been so overpoweringly experienced by us on some occasions, that we have almost had to ask for a stay of the delight because we could not endure any more. If the glory had not been veiled a little, we should have died of excess of rapture, or happiness."

As a Christian, how does one find intimacy? We need to know the following about God and man (ourselves):



Psalm 63:1-8; Ps 63:1, NLT

"O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you..."

Quotes for reflection: "Intimacy begins with oneself. It does no good to try to find intimacy with friends, lovers, and family if you are starting out from alienation and division within yourself." Thomas Moore (author, former Catholic monk), Care of the Soul.

“It is hard to hear God, but it is even harder not to hear God. The pain one brings upon oneself by living outside of evident reality is a greater and longer-lasting pain than the brief pain of facing it head on.” Richard Rohr.

"The dominant characteristic of an authentic spiritual life is the gratitude that flows from trust - not only for all the gifts that I receive from God, but gratitude for all the suffering. Because in that purifying experience, suffering has often been the shortest path to intimacy with God." Brennan Manning.