The Dynamite of God – Romans 1:16-18

 
Saul of Tarsus, one of the up and coming leaders of Israel, was on a business trip to Syria. He was traveling first class, but it wasn’t on board a 747 or the Amtrak train from Jerusalem. You could say that he was minding his own business, because, despite what he thought, it was not the business of God. But then not far from the gates to Damascus, the power of God struck that man to the ground – literally. Contrary to his nature, contrary to his religion, and in a sense contrary to his will, Saul of Tarsus became a citizen of Heaven – a child of God. He became “a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.”

There was no more hated and offensive religion in the world at time, than to what that man was converted. As Saul became an Apostle of Christ and eventually changed his name to Paul, Christianity remained the most hated religion in the world. And I believe that Bible Christianity is still, the most hated religion in the world, Judaism, Mormonism, and Russelism, not withstanding. It might be argued that the abundance of Christians prove it could not possibly be as hated as I suggest. The statistics tell us that Christianity is the third largest general religion in the world. But I don’t think that Christianity can be measured by those assemblies of people who deny half the Bible, live like the world, have pleasure in sin, and still call themselves “Christians.” I think that the measure of Bible Christianity is seen in those churches, like ours, only better, which still have to struggle for their existence in the world.

Why did Paul have to suggest that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, if it wasn’t for the fact that other people were? I know that our message last Sunday dealt with this theme, but let me start there and take it a little farther. John Gill suggested that people are ashamed of the gospel when they: Have the ability and opportunity to share it with others, but they won’t. And when they preach a host of other religious or Biblical themes, but not the gospel. And when they preach only the parts of the gospel that they particularly enjoy. “Jesus died on the cross, and if you believe on Christ, He will take you to Heaven.” He said, people are ashamed of the gospel, when they only talk about it privately. And when they speak about it ambiguously, avoiding the more offensive words and ideas. And when they blend the true Gospel with their own ideas. “Believe on the loving Jesus and ask him to come into your heart.” People are ashamed of the gospel, when they preach it and adapt it in order to get applause. And when they are doing it for their own glory – rather than for the Lord. And when they can’t bear the reproach that comes with preaching the entire gospel. “What? Do you believe that God has sovereignly elected to save some – but not all?”

Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, and that was quite obvious. He preached it before kings and governors, before intellectuals and country bumpkins – rubes. He tried to preach it to his former peers from the steps of the Castle of Antonia, just after they tried to brutally murder him. He wasn’t ashamed of that gospel – he personally believed its message and trusted its Saviour. He was willing to give everything that he possessed, including his own life, in order to spread that gospel.

Not only did he say that he was “ready to PREACH the gospel to you that are at Rome,” but he also said, “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to DIE at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Why was it that he was so willing to endure so much for the gospel of Christ? Quickly he tells us.

The Gospel of Christ is the POWER OF GOD.

As Bible students know, the New Testament word “power” could be translated from a couple Greek words. One, “exousia,” speaks about power in the sense of authority. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” That is in the sense of John 5:22 – “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” In other words, “God, has give me supreme control, rule and authority over every corner of Creation.” If “exousia” was the Greek word in Romans 1:16 it would say that the gospel of Christ contains the authority of God unto salvation. But the word is not “exousia,” rather it is “dunamis” from which comes our English word “dynamite.” The gospel is the power – the force – the energy – the dynamite which brings about salvation. And when the power of the gospel is impelled by the authority of Christ, it is irresistible.

Perhaps these two words point out the difference between the true gospel and the common gospel. Most of evangelical Christianity preaches a gospel which offers sinners permission to become Christians. This kind of evangelist suggests that if the sinner thinks that it’s a good idea, he ought to repent and believe on Christ in order to be saved. If he is sufficiently tired of his sin, and he’d like to try a more respectable life, he should believe on Christ. If he thinks that he’d prefer eternity in Heaven rather than Hell, he should accept Jesus into his heart. But the gospel which is really out of the Word of God, is the actual power which converts rebels and sinners. It is not the suggestion to accept the good idea of salvation through Christ. It is the accomplishment of that salvation by Christ. Paul was chosen and sought out by the Lord and then blasted into Christianity by the dynamite of the gospel.

The Gospel of Christ is the means used by the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of those who have been blinded by sin and by Satan. It is the tool used by the Lord to unstop deaf ears. The gospel is a part of the way in which hearts as hard as granite are softened and made pliable.

And the words “of God” are absolutely essential to the equation. The gospel is not the power of the evangelist or the persuasion of the Christian witness. The gospel which is transmitted by human lips to the ears of other human beings, doesn’t carry the mere power of the witness – it is the dynamite of the Omnipotent God. This dynamite is used for constructive, not destructive, purposes.

The Gospel of Christ is the Power of God UNTO SALVATION.

Just as it is not explained in most scriptures, salvation is not explained in this scripture either. But after finding the word more about four dozen times in the New Testament… And after adding “save” and “saves” another ten dozen times, it becomes easy to define. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” We “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you.” “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”

Biblically speaking, to be “saved” is to be delivered from God’s wrath and the penalty for our sins. It is to be regenerated, born again, and given a new heart, making us children of God. The ultimate result is to taken from this world into the presence of the Lord to enjoy Him for all eternity. And this gospel of Christ is the power of God unto these things. But Paul mentions three things in particular here.

It is “the power of God unto salvation … for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.” Part of this statement is quite difficult to understand and explain, but not all of it. For example, we know that God is intrinsically – God is by nature – perfectly righteous. He is absolutely sinless, and perfectly holy. He is always right, and everything that He ever does is good. Jehovah is incapable of being or doing anything else, because he is essentially, inherently, and fundamentally righteous. And we could say the same thing about the eternal Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ – they are righteous. Although the gospel of Christ cannot be reasonably preached without revealing this kind of righteousness, I don’t believe that this is to what Paul refers. He isn’t talking about exposing or making us to understand that God is righteous. He is talking about Christ’s ability to share divine righteousness with those of us who are totally sinful.

And what is salvation? It is the work of God whereby you and I who are depraved, despicable and dead before God, are given the righteousness of Christ. In many ways I Corinthians 1 parallels Romans 1 – for example: “For the preaching of the cross (the gospel) is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called … That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and RIGHTEOUSNESS, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” Salvation means that Christ becomes our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. In Philippians 3, after talking about his own useless personal background, Paul expresses it in another way: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

Salvation is the righteousness of Christ bestowed upon the sinner. Please turn to Romans 3:23, and keep your finger in that spot. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

How is salvation revealed from faith to faith? That is the really difficult part of the equation. Some say that this is talking about from God to the sinner. Others think that it is from the preacher’s faith to the sinners to whom he is talking. Others say that it is Old Testament faith to New Testament faith. And yet others think that it is talking about a weak faith growing into a stronger and stronger faith. Perhaps the explanation to this question is found in the context of Romans 3:23. Look to verse 3:19“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” What is the source of the sinner’s faith in Christ? What can a dead man do to believe? As Ephesians 2 teaches us faith is as much the gift of God as salvation itself. And perhaps Romans 3:22 hints at that as well – “the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” Ours is not to worry about the source of faith; our job, as sinners is to repent and believe on Christ. But the righteousness which is given to us at that point comes with the faith which God gives us.

Another aspect of our salvation is life – “The just shall LIVE by faith.”

I’ve already hinted at the fact that the sinner is dead in trespasses and sins. This is something which is repeated several times in the Word of God and is not worthy of debate. What is debated, worthily or not, is the degree of that death. I have trouble keeping a straight face, when talking about this. Death is not a funny subject and should never be laughed at, but arguing about “degrees of death?” When Jesus died on the cross, did His heart stop? Did His brain function cease? Absolutely. He did not merely pass-out; He was not unconscious; He was not in a coma; He was dead. And when the Bible speaks about sinners being spiritually dead – it means that they have no spiritual life. They have no ability to do anything which might please God – pray, worship, repent, witness or serve God. They are not in a spiritual coma, or spiritually unconscious or temporarily asleep – they are dead.

But when Christ’s faith is given to that sin-dead soul, it begins to live, to believe the gospel and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as its Saviour. Of course, since that sinner is spiritually dead, he cannot perceive the marvelous gifts that he is given. He doesn’t understand that he can’t repent until the Lord gives him repentance. So the Christian witness just shares the gospel according to II Thessalonians 2:25, “if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” And since that sinner is spiritually dead he doesn’t realize he can’t believe until he is given faith by God, but it will be there the moment the Lord wants to save him. So he may think that his faith and his repentance have given him life, but we know better. By the grace of God, bestowed through the gospel, this sinner is justified before God and begins a new kind of life – spiritual life.

A third aspect of salvation has to do with the stilling of the WRATH OF GOD.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” I am not going to deal with the last part of verse 18 – “Who hold the truth in unrighteousness” – just yet. This verse introduces us to the rest of the chapter. Right now our theme is the kind salvation which the dynamite of the Gospel provides.

Along with those verses which speak of the spiritually dead condition of the sinner, there are ten times as many verses which speak about God’s wrath against him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but THE WRATH OF GOD ABIDETH ON HIM.”

In Romans 2 Paul continues the theme that he starts with 1:18. “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of WRATH AND REVELATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT OF GOD; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, INDIGNATION AND WRATH, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile.”

There are almost 200 references to “wrath” in the Word of God. For example there is Revelation 6 – “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and FROM THE WRATH OF THE LAMB: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”

Fortunately, one of the dynamics of the dynamite of the gospel is deliverance from this wrath. In a somewhat similar fashion to Romans 1, Paul wrote to his friends in Thessalonica. “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, WHICH DELIVERED US FROM THE WRATH TO COME.”

No wonder Paul wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed to preach the gospel. It is the dynamite of God – capable of meeting man’s utmost needs: Life to correct our spiritual death; peace to subdue God’s wrath against us; and righteousness to replace our sinfulness before His holy sight. There are no greater needs than these.

Are you absolutely sure that you have peace and life before God? Listen to the “good news” the gospel of God’s Son, and bow in repentance and faith before Him. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”