our topic at hand we will see three things in particular today: 1)
Edifying each other in the church; 2) What does it mean to not be
ashamed of the gospel of God; and 3) What does it mean when Paul writes
that "The just shall live by faith"?
Still in Paul’s introduction, we start to see the basis for his
letter and yet also the great care he takes in executing the letter to
the Roman believers. We’ll see this great care repeated in the final
chapter, but for now we see the amount of praise and love he has for
the Roman brethren in that their faith is being proclaimed (1:8)
throughout the whole world. Indeed, the fire of the gospel, which was
sparked in Jerusalem , burned outward at such a tremendous rate that
the entire world was set ablaze with the message of good news from God.
Elsewhere Paul mentions that the report of the Roman obedience to the
gospel has reached all ears and this is where he finds great rejoicing
over these brethren?and yet he wrote to them so that they would be wise
in what is good and innocent in what is evil (16:19).
Paul’s great love is exhibited in the very fact that he makes mention
of these people in his prayers (1:9, 10) and also for his very great
desire to come to Rome ( 1:10 ). As we stated earlier, Paul was
carrying a gift southwards to the Jerusalem saints, a relief gift (
15:26 -27) for the tough conditions which were being faced there. He
would have liked to have journeyed to Rome ( 1:13 ) but he had things
that prevented him (which he later goes into further detail on in
He wished to cultivate fruit (1:11-13) among the Roman brethren so
that they may be edified in the faith and that he would be encouraged
together with them?each of them feeding off of each other’s faith.
It is actually quite a tremendous thing that the use of a spiritual
gift to impart edification to other believers results in a mutual
strengthening. If you momentarily take a look at Ephesians 4:16 where
Paul goes into an explanation of the body is being fitted and held
together by what every joint supplies. The edification of the body
isn’t reliant on any single member or a council of members, but on each
individual member using the gift supplied by the very Lord Jesus
Himself on His exalted throne.
Not Ashamed of the Gospel…?
But that, after all, is an aside from the topic at hand, for in the
following verses he begins the ground work of why this Jew is writing
to these Gentiles. He is, after all, a believer like they are
believers, in the truest sense of the word…but His calling was
different than other believers. As a Jew, He was called by the very
Lord Jesus Himself, an act of tremendous mercy and grace for the
purpose of making Paul into a walking advertisement of mercy and grace.
It is for this reason that Paul was called out to the Gentiles as this
very public example that if the Lord could take a proud man such as
Saul of Tarsus, a man who stood like Pharoah in his stubborn resolve,
and show such mercy on him, how much more mercy would he show the
Gentiles who have never heard of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The slave Paul, called to do the work of apostle, this ambassador work,
is a debtor to Greeks and barbarians?rather people who speak some
foreign non-understood language. Both to the wise (such as the
philosophers) and the foolish he was willing to preach to.
Here lies the foundational step to understanding verses 16 and 17.
Paul underscores how he is eager to preach the gospel to them in Rome
and then goes onto say that he is not ashamed of the gospel, this good
Is he saying that he is not afraid of persecution from men? After
all, Paul was a walking example of a person who just wouldn’t give up.
One need only look at that long list of accomplishments, as it were, in
the name of the Lord (2 Cor 11:23 -33).
Or could it be that he is saying that he has a reason to have shame
towards the gospel because it’s so unsophisticated in a sophisticated
world? How often have we heard this verse used to engender in us some
odd version of faith. "Go preach the gospel to your atheistic friends,"
they may say "You have faith and you are not to be ashamed of this
gospel…the just shall live by Faith!"
Let’s not have a weak understanding of this gospel, brethren. Paul
is not here stating either of those aforementioned things. He was
speaking to the very capitol of the world where philosophers ran in
circles and scientists, if you will, argued their thesis daily. There
were theologians aplenty in Rome , be it for different religions and
there was acceptance of each others practices. Ancient Rome had many
similarities to Modern Day Europe and America . They would decry any
belief system that proclaimed itself to be the only true way as
foolishness and complete nonsense. They perhaps would hear of this
resurrected Jesus and point out the foolishness of such a statement and
arguing that there may be a historical Jesus, but He surely didn’t
resurrect?merely a wise philosopher or moralist.
Paul was pointing out that he was eager to do this preaching because
this gospel was from God Himself (as we have already established a
contrast to the Human Government in Rome ) and this gospel makes sense!
This isn’t some idea or belief system based on some blind faith but
based on witnesses and proofs. This wasn’t some contrived philosophical
argument but made sense to the level that Paul could stand with the
wise and the foolish both apologetically defend the gospel!
This gospel is the very power of God for salvation to everyone who
believes to the Jew first and also to the Greek! Paul doesn’t have any
shame at all for this gospel but is completely confident in this gospel
for it is the means and power of God unto saving men.
"The Just Shall Live by Faith"?what does THAT mean?
This is why Paul quotes a certain verse from Habakkuk when he points
out that the very righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith
in that "The Just shall live by Faith"
People take this entire portion to support this idea of faith as if
relying on something blindly, but this is not how Paul is using it at
all. We are inevitably drawn to look into the book of Habakkuk under
Paul’s own encouragement later on in the book of Romans that the things
of the past are given for our own instruction (15:4).
Therefore, we turn to the book of Habakkuk and note the context of
the verse. Habakkuk the prophet stands in the City and notes the
violence and wickedness all about him. He cries out to the Lord
wondering why the law is ignored and justice never upheld. He cries out
that Justice is being perverted (Hab 1:1-4).
The Lord then answers Habakkuk that He is raising up a people, the
Chaldeans no less, who will do things that even if the prophet were
explicitly told, He would not believe. These people will swoop into the
very homes of the children of Israel and seize the places that are not
theirs, collecting captives like sand. They mock kings and laugh at
fortresses and rely on their own laws. In effect, this horrendous
calamity about to overtake the people was raised up by God, the role
given to a people who were just as bad as the offending children of
Israel . (Hab. 1:5-11)
The prophet finds himself confused and upset, pointing out to God
that he is eternal and too good to approve evil. How is it, he wonders,
that the Lord brings unrighteous men to judge the people of God? How is
it that wicked men are being allowed to do such a thing to those who
are less wicked than them? (Hab 1:12-17).
As Habakuk waits for an answer (and also for chastisement?2:1) God
tells him to get stone tablets so that others may be warned. He points
out that this horrendous event is for a future date, an appointed time
(2:3) but though it hasn’t happened as of yet, wait…it most definitely
will. He then gives Habakkuk tremendous words of comfort that the proud
man, His soul not being right, but the righteous man will survive this
calamity by his faith in God. God then goes onto expand on this sifting
by means of highlighting the wicked man and proclaiming woe to the
those who have wicked gain in their house for they are sinning against
themselves and not placing themselves so high as to escape the oncoming
calamity (2:9-10). This oncoming calamity will befall the wicked like a
wave and the Earth will fall silent before Him. ( 2:20 ).
This subsequently leads to Habakkuk’s prayer where he asks that the
Lord revive His work and also that the Lord trampled the nations and
went for the salvation of His people ( 3:12 ,13). Habakkuk has been
comforted in such a way that his prayer is in the past tense although
the events have not yet happened!
So when Paul makes reference in verse 17 of chapter 1 to the just
living by faith, he is not referring to some daily walk that is
confident on God (although the thought may definitely be included as an
outworking). He is referring to the fact of judgment and how the just
shall survive the calamity of great and furious judgment. It is by no
means, but their faith in the eternal God.
It is therefore not surprising that the subject delves into the very wrath of God in the following verses and chapter.