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.”

"These two verses (Rom 1:16-17) have an importance out of all proportion to their length." Leon Morris.

"The gospel is not advice to people, suggesting that they lift themselves. It is power. It lifts them up. Paul does not say that the gospel brings power, but that it is (present tense= continually) power, and God's (omnipotent) power at that." Leon Morris on the gospel's inherent power. The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988, 68.
  1. The Gospel is the Power of God.
  2. The Gospel Saves Everyone Who Believes.
  3. The Gospel Reveals the Righteousness of/from God.
  4. The Gospel Enables us to Truly Live.
Questions for reflection and discussion:
  1. The word translated "for" or "because" is used three times in Rom 1:16-17. How would you explain this?
  2. Why was Paul not ashamed of the gospel (Rom 1:16a)? See 1 Cor 1:18; 2:4-5; 4:20; 2 Cor 4:7; 6:7; 12:9; Eph 3:7; 1 Th 1:5. How do Christians sometimes show a lack of faith in the power of the gospel?
  3. What is the condition, universality and restriction for salvation (Rom 1:16b)? What are the 3 tenses of salvation (Eph 2:8; Tit 3:5; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Cor 1:18; 2 Cor 2:15; Phil 2:12; Rom 5:9-10)? Why can't we save ourselves (Eph 2:1, 4-5)? How does faith happen (Rom 1:10:17, 11-14)? How might faith be misunderstood as a work on our part?
  4. What does the gospel reveal? Explain the "righteousness of/from God" (Rom 1:17; 3:21-26; Phil 3:9) in three ways?
  5. How do you react when you think of the righteousness of God being imputed to you through the power of God? What feelings, if any, rise up in your heart? What response, if any, ought this to evoke in our souls?
  6. Explain "by faith from first to last" (Rom 1:17, NIV), "from faith to faith" (Rom 1:17, NASB), "from faith for faith" (Rom 1:17, ESV), "from start to finish by faith" (Rom 1:17, NLT)?
“The hesitancy to ‘bear witness’ to the gospel was rooted in fear of suffering harm. The asseveration that Paul is not ashamed in Rom 1:16, therefore, refers both to his willingness to confess the gospel in public and the overcoming of fear. These are not empty words in Paul’s case since he had already endured much suffering (2 Cor 11:23-27).” Thomas Schreiner, Romans. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 60.

“In Rom 6:1, 15, the apostle is warding off the possible conclusion that the gospel leads to antinomianism, i.e., the perception that ‘belief in the gospel of God’s grace leads to a life of fleshly indulgence.’ In other words, ‘if you believe a gospel that is apparently antithetical to the law, and doesn’t demand continuous works of the law, you will of necessity become lawless.’ This lawlessness, of course, would be something to be ashamed of. But, here in the opening of the letter, Paul wants to make it clear that his gospel is able to deliver the believer from sin; it is nothing less than the power of God and for that reason he is not ashamed.” See also Greg Herrick, “Study and Exposition of Rom 1:16-17.

 There are thirteen occurrences of the phrase “power of God” in NT (Matt 22:29; Mark 12:24; Luke 22:69; Acts 8:10; Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18, 24; 2:5; 2 Cor 6:7; 13:4; 2 Tim 1:8; 1 Pet 1:5).

"Most interpretations include the idea of a progression from one kind of faith to another: from the faith of the OT to the faith of the NT; from the faith of the law to the faith of the gospel; from the faith of the preachers to the faith of the hearers; from the faith of the present to the faith of the future; from the faith of words we hear now to the faith that we will possess what the words promise; from the faithfulness of God to the faith of human beings; from the faithfulness of Christ to the faith of human beings; from smaller to greater faith; from faith as the ground to faith as the goal." Tom Schreiner, Romans.


  1. No Apologies Necessary (Rom 1:16-17): Many references and good Bible study questions.
  2. Study and Exposition of Romans 1:16-17.