‘Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God…regarding his Son,’ (Romans 1:1,3 NIV)
We don’t write letters like we used to. Today it’s all emails, texts, tweets, or Facebook messages. When we do write letters the modern convention is to address our correspondent first (Dear Jack…) and only identify ourselves at the end (Yours sincerely, Jill).
In the world in which Paul wrote the convention was to reverse the order with the writer introducing herself first and then mentioning the correspondent (Jill sending greetings to Jack). When Paul wrote the letter to the Romans the opening salutation takes a similar form but on this occasion he expands each part of the greeting, so much so that the recipients of the letter are not mentioned until verse 7. This is probably because Paul did not found the church in Rome, hadn’t yet visited it, and felt the need to establish his credentials and summarise the gospel message.
For us reading this piece of correspondence in the 21st century we can be grateful to Paul for opening the letter in this way as it reveals the substance of the gospel. The gospel of God
(Romans 1:1) is about his Son Jesus
(Romans 1:9). God’s good news is about Jesus. As Calvin wrote, ‘the whole gospel is contained in Christ…[therefore]…to move even a step from Christ means to withdraw oneself from the gospel’.
Paul describes this Jesus as a descendant of David
(Romans 1:3), the Son of God who rose from the dead and who is Lord
(Romans 1:4). Here Paul references the birth (as to his earthly life), death (required for his resurrection), resurrection and ascension (to Lordship) of Jesus. Paul is showing both the humanity and divinity of Jesus as a descendant of David and the Son of God, and thereby sums up succinctly the content of ‘God’s gospel:’ Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, is the one who saves humanity through his life, death, resurrection and ascension.
This is the good news which Paul felt compelled to preach,
(Romans 1:14–15) that has power to bring salvation to all people
(Romans 1:16); it is good news is for everybody. Its scope is universal. All are included without exception or distinction.
If we are to be committed to spreading the gospel to the whole world then we must not be ashamed of Jesus
(Romans 1:16) but proclaim loud and clear that ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’
(Acts 4:12); for this is the gospel of God to human beings.
Now that’s a message worth communicating, whether it’s by letter or email, text or tweet, or a message on Facebook.
Father, thank you for the good news of Jesus, may we spread it through all available means of communication.
Have a good week spreading the gospel.