Romans 1: Nothing Else Matters

Re-read Romans 1

“Jesus was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised
from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.
He is Jesus Christ our Lord.”
~Romans 1:4

Digging Deeper: The late Jaroslav Pelikan, one of the world’s leading scholars in the history of Christianity and medieval intellectual history, wrote, “If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen—nothing else matters.”

The resurrection is the fulcrum of our Christian faith and indeed, the pivotal point in all of human history. As C.S. Lewis said, “If the thing happened, it was the central event in the history of the earth.” If Jesus rose from the dead, then he is Lord of all. If he didn’t rise from the dead, then our faith is useless and, as Paul says in I Corinthians 15:12-19, Christians are hopeless and to be pitied above all people:

“…If Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.  And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead.  And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.  In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost!  And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.”

But we believe Jesus rose from the dead. We have staked our faith, our lives, and our eternities on the scriptural and historical evidence that Jesus broke the chains of death that bound him in that garden tomb and rose again to life, thus defeating death, hell and the grave.

Since that is true, nothing else matters—Jesus is the Son of God and Lord of all!

Since that is true, we can place our trust in Jesus Christ to save us from our sins and deliver us to eternal life.

Since that is true, we can have confidence in Jesus Christ to be with us every step of the way in our earthly journey, knowing that he will never leave us nor forsake us.

Since that is true, we can experience the same resurrection power that coursed through the body of Jesus Christ coursing through our mortal bodies, enabling us to live the abundant life that he came to give us—God’s favor in the physical, emotional, relational and spiritual dimensions of living.

Since that is true, we can experience the same overcoming life that Jesus Christ lived, living above sin and in holiness to God.

Since that is true, we can boldly share the Good News with lost people of how Jesus Christ has made a difference in our lives. We do not need to be ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). We do not have to be timid about our faith—in fact, if he is truly risen, to be timid would simply not be an option. If Jesus is risen, then he is either Lord of all, or not Lord of all.

Since that is true, we can place our lives squarely in God’s sovereign care, get busy fulfilling his purposes through our lives, and commit all of our energies, efforts and resources to glorifying him in everything we say and do.

He is risen! He is risen indeed! And nothing else matters.

“Our old history ends with the cross; our new history begins with the resurrection.”
~Watchman Nee

Romans 1 Reader’s Responses:

Bob’s Take: When I read words like “I am not ashamed of the Gospel,” which are so downright religious sounding, I have to look at the context in order to keep myself from rushing through it, or using modern word meanings to influence and perhaps even distract from the original intention. “Gospel” has become, in our day and age, a word to depict one of the first four books of the New Testament.  Is Paul saying he’s not ashamed of those books?  Of course not… those books hadn’t even been written yet.

As was pointed out in the Romans 1:1-17 blog, “Gospel” in whatever original language (probably Aramaic, but I don’t know for sure) merely meant “Good News.”  Paul is not ashamed of the good news?  Why would he be?  Why would any of us be?

And here’s where I have gotten distracted in the past.  If I’m ashamed of my church, am I ashamed of the gospel?  Many would say so, because the church is the modern proclaimer of the gospel.  If I’m ashamed of my Christian brother’s behavior, am I ashamed of the gospel?  Some would say so, because, after all, the gospel is what saved that Christian brother.

If I am ashamed of Jesus before men, I am worthy of judgment.  Jesus told us this in the “Good News” according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Is this the same thing as being ashamed of the Gospel?  Is this the same thing as being ashamed of my church or my Christian brother?

I suspect being ashamed of Jesus and being ashamed of what Paul is referring to as the “Good News” is in fact the same thing.  In fact, I think Paul is summing up the work Christ accomplished on the cross as the “Good News.”  He’s taking for granted that the readers have already heard the Good News Herald (with trumpets sounding, standing on a street corner with newspapers in hand, reading the headlines):

“Hear Ye! Hear Ye!  Christ has done it!  All Sinners’ Debts Have Been Paid in Full!  We Can Now Enter the Throne Room of God with Confidence!”

Paul is summing up all of that with the term “Good News” because, well, can you imagine repeating all of that 6 times in the first 17 verses?

Meanwhile, he seems to be defending himself against something.  It’s as if someone is telling him he *should* be ashamed of the Gospel.

If we look at the context of when this letter was written, and to whom it was written, it helps me with this.  I find in the study notes for the epistle that:

1) Paul has not yet visited the Romans, this will come later.  In fact, this epistle is probably by way of introducing himself to them, along with exhortation and education about the “good news” he preaches.

2) Paul is probably on the return-trip to Jerusalem of his 3rd missionary journey.  This would put him smack-dab in the middle of Acts 20.  This means that, by this time, Paul has been imprisoned, stoned, the subject of riots, not to mention being scorned by his own people (just as he scorned and persecuted the Christians before his own conversion).

Based on this, I’m sure people are ashamed of Paul, both Jew and Christian alike.  These people are asking “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?  We certainly are!  Don’t you think God is ashamed of you?  And if God isn’t ashamed of you, you don’t worship the same God as us!  Aren’t you ashamed of a god who would let you be imprisoned, insulted, stoned, left for dead, and persecuted?  What sort of god do you worship, anyway?”

To which Paul replies… “I am not ashamed of God, nor of Jesus.  He should be ashamed of me, because of all I did to His followers, passing judgment in His name.  Instead, Jesus saved me.  I am not ashamed of him, I owe my life and my salvation to Him!”

Paul was at times ashamed of his brothers.  He was ashamed of John Mark for “abandoning” them on the road.  He was ashamed of his people for not hearing the Gospel and turning a deaf ear to it.  He was ashamed of himself at times.

But he draws the line at being ashamed of the work Jesus did on the cross for him, and for me and for you…for the world.  It was a shameful thing.  We put the creator of the universe on a cross because we didn’t recognize him as the giver of life, the way to peace and wisdom.  He had to die to pay for our sin, but we didn’t have to make it so humiliating.  We should be ashamed of ourselves.

And it would be tempting to be ashamed of any God so humble and meek to be weak before men and submit Himself to such humiliation and shamefulness.  Zeus would never have done that!  (Nor would Lucifer, by the way.)  But, in fact, due to the nature of this fallen world of ours, the requisite death, which paid for the penalty of our sin, could come in no other way.  So I guess overcoming the temptation to be ashamed of my God who is willing to stoop to my level to reach me is one that I should in fact work hard to overcome, because I’d rather be in God’s company than Lucifer’s.

And in fact, I don’t find shame like that to be much of a temptation, as I suspect would be the case with most readers of your blog.

Am I ashamed to tell others about the Good News?  That’s not quite the same as being ashamed of the Gospel, but it might be close.  It’s especially difficult to proclaim my own Christianity to my workplace when I am ashamed of the behavior of other Christians in my workplace.  Or if I’m ashamed of how the church is acting in my community or society.  But if shame of my brother’s behavior or my church’s social engagement causes me to be ashamed of the Good News, I suspect I’m probably confusing my priorities.  I’ll have to think on that one.

James’ Take: The Good News is the power of God! It’s the one thing that can not only change a person’s eternity, but bring true fulfillment and purpose to a life. And I am often too worried about making myself or someone else “uncomfortable” by sharing that with them. How selfish I am! That’s what the Lord reminds me of whenever I read Romans 1:16.

But that’s the power of Scripture: to give us an accurate picture of God and to turn our hearts ever towards Jesus.

So today, when faced with the opportunity to share the message of Jesus Christ and his salvation, I’m going to remember that it’s worth is so much greater than my discomfort and shame. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “Romans 1: Nothing Else Matters

  1. I love the fact that you focused on verse 1:4 today. For me, this concept is the hinge-pin of my faith.

    I grew up in church and knew all the bible stories since I was young. (My mother tells me that when I was very young, if my family wasn’t going to go to church one Sunday, they’d have to tell me it was some other day, because I’d throw a fit. Apparently I loved going to church. I don’t remember that myself, and it quickly wore off by the time I was in grade school, but I guess that’s why we have others to remind us of the things we forget.)

    By the 6th grade I knew a lot of the Bible stories, impressing my sunday school teachers. By the 8th grade I could show the parallels between the Genesis account of creation and the big-bang theory (which was not taken seriously by scientists at the time). I could see that all the religions of the world were basically the same and Jesus was basically the Christian version of Mohammed, Ghandi, Confucius, etc. Every religion had their mascot, their token human raised to higher levels.

    I had missed the part about the resurrection, not taking it literally but figuratively.

    I knew the apostles’ creed, but that particular creed glosses over the resurrection. It says he spent 3 days in hell, then rose again and sits on the the right hand of the father in heaven. To which I would think…. “just like everyone else. We all go to heaven anyway, right?”

    So, although I’d grown up in the church and “knew” a lot (to the point that I was teaching Sunday school to youngsters and was a confirmed member of my church, by the way), I had missed the resurrection. I considered Easter the symbolism of what happens when we go to heaven.

    After becoming a christian at age 19 (or so), through the faithful witness of someone who actually believed the Bible to be true yet didn’t require me to believe it to be my friend, I realized that the bodily resurrection is what clinches the deal. Jesus walked on earth, ate food, spoke with disciples, for 40 days! That was enough to establish his “true life after death”, not a merely spirtual existence that we don’t really know whether it happened or not.

    (Let’s face it, we haven’t heard any verifiable proof that life after death really exists… it’s all rumors from this side of the grave. It might be wishful thinking. And I’m afraid, based on my “educated” and “enlightened” perspective prior to my “faith experience”, most of our world believes this to be the case. I think that’s why so many people are seeking everlasting life through leaving a legacy, having children, or even cryogenics… they believe the afterlife to be wishful thinking that, if it does exist, will be some sort of compromise, not a fulfilling life experience.)

    When people ask me why I think Jesus is any different from other religious leaders, or when my friends tell me that Jesus’ only real fault was that he actually believed the stories he was making up about himself, my reply is to ask them about the resurrection. They usually have a quick response as to why they think the resurrection is a myth… and most of those ideas can be countered with thoughtful questions about proof. The truth is that there is no proof of the resurrection. But the truth also is that, were there no resurrection, that would have been very easy to prove back in the day, and people back in the day were very interested in squashing the idea of the resurrection.

    Jesus was not some enlightened human being, like Ghandi, Mohammed, or the Dali Lama. I have a lot of respect for these guys, and I believe they deserve that as enlightened human beings. I am sure they are all more enlightened than I am. Jesus, however, was God taking the form of a human being. Quite a difference. This had been my missing “piece of information” that I didn’t understand until many months after my conversion. This is the hinge-pin.

    And, why do I think there is any reason to believe Jesus was anything other than an enlightened human being?

    Because of the resurrection.

    The resurrection isn’t what saves us. Jesus’ death on the cross is what atoned for our sins and saves us from sin and death. The resurrection is what proves that Jesus’ death on the cross was able to be that atonement.

    Because of the resurrection, I know that Jesus’ death was not the normal death that comes to all human beings. Jesus was sinless, therefore undeserving of death, and the resurrection shouts that from the mountaintops.