Tim Keller | February 8, 2009
We’re tracing the storyline of the Bible, and we looked first at what it says went wrong with the human race. Now we look at Romans 1 through 4, at perhaps the single most comprehensive place where we learn what God has done to make things right.
Scholars of Romans believe verses 16 and 17 are Paul’s way of putting the gospel in a nutshell. Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, said these two verses brought about his own breakthrough, where he was completely transformed by pondering on these verses.
If these two verses have never done to you what they did to Luther, I’m going to try to show you three factors you have to grasp if you’re going to break through. According to this text, you have to grasp 1) the form of the gospel, 2) the content of the gospel, and 3) the power of the gospel.
The Bible tells one big story. It shows us how people mess up, how God steps in to fix things, and how everything comes together in the end. Verses 16 and 17 in the book of Romans give us a nutshell version of this story, what we call the gospel. We can learn a lot from how Martin Luther, a famous Christian leader, discovered the true meaning of the gospel. His experience shows us how powerful this message can be.
1. The shape of the gospel
The word “gospel” comes from a Greek term “euaggelion,” which means “good news.” We see this term most often in Romans 1:1-17. This good news is what Christianity is all about. It’s not a to-do list for us, but a celebration of what God has already done. This makes us ask: is our faith about what we do, or is it about what God has done for us?
2. What the gospel says
Martin Luther realized something big: the gospel changes how we relate to God, but it doesn’t change God. This good news offers more than just forgiveness. It’s like a prisoner who not only gets set free, but also gets a major award. Christianity isn’t just advice for people who feel guilty about their faith. It’s a call for everyone to look for true goodness from God. This goodness isn’t something we can lose, like a trophy or a title. It comes from being forgiven and accepted by God because of Jesus.
3. The impact of the gospel
The gospel is powerful. It leads us to be saved by God. But we can only tap into its power when we understand what it means and truly believe it. Some people might think it’s too simple, especially in traditional societies. But that’s because it’s so powerful, it can turn everything upside down. Look at Joy, for example. She’s a woman who chose to accept God’s grace, even though her life was tough. Her story shows how the gospel can shake things up and make us see the world differently.
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