Summary: The gospel is about mroe than just making converts - its primary purpose is to help believers keep trusting in God
What is the purpose of the gospel?
Take a moment to think about that and then write down your thoughts in the space I’ve given you at the top of your sermon outline this morning.
[Give people a chance to write down their answers]
Would anyone like to share what you’ve written down?
[Let people share]
I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with anything you’ve shared, but this morning I think we’re going to find that the primary purpose of the gospel according to Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome is this:
The Gospel Keeps Believers Believing
As we continue our journey through that letter, we will come to the key passage in the entire book. In verses 16 and 17, we find the central theme of the book, one that Paul will expand upon in the rest of his letter. But in order to put those two verses in context this morning we need to read the two verses that bookend this crucial passage. So we’ll start reading in verse 15 and go through verse 18. Since this is such a short passage, let’s read it out loud together.
So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
(Romans 1:15-18 ESV)
Because this is such a pivotal passage, it’s probably going to take us a little longer than normal to get through it. Not quite as long as Pastor John Piper who preached six complete sermons on these two verses, but maybe an extra 5 or 10 minutes. And because, like Paul, I am not ashamed of the gospel that I’ll be preaching this morning, I am certainly not going to apologize for whatever additional time it is going to take to understand this important passage.
Before we dig in here, let me ask you another question. What do you think is the key word in this passage? Ryan and Jon, you can’t answer this since we talked about it on Monday morning. [Wait for answers].
All those words – gospel, power, salvation, believes, faith – are certainly important. But I would suggest to you that the key word that unlocks our understanding of these verses is the little three letter word “for.” Paul uses that word to indicate a reason for something he is claiming. In fact, it would certainly be appropriate to substitute the word “because” for the word “for”. It’s helpful to diagram this passage like this:
So I am eager to preach the gospel…
For [because] I am not ashamed of the gospel,
For [because] it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…
For [because] in it the righteousness of God is revealed…
For [because] the wrath of God is revealed…
So in broad terms, here is what Paul is saying:
• I’m eager to preach the gospel to you believers in Rome.
• The reason I’m eager to preach is that I’m not ashamed of the gospel.
• The reason I’m not ashamed of the gospel is because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.
• The reason the gospel is the power of God for salvation is because it reveals the righteousness of God
• And finally, the reason it is important that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God is because the wrath of God is revealed.
In the limited time we have this morning I’m going to do my best to demonstrate to you that when we view verses 16 and 17 in this context they reveal what I would contend is the main purpose of the gospel…
The Gospel Keeps Believers Believing
As we discovered earlier with some of your answers, I think it is fair to say that most Christ followers would say that the primary purpose of the gospel is to bring about the conversion of unbelievers. And until studying this passage in context this week, I would have also said that was the main idea in verses 16 and 17. While I am confident that Paul wouldn’t disagree at all that the gospel certainly does result in the conversion of unbelievers, I’m also confident that I’ll be able to show this morning that Paul has something else in mind here.
Hopefully you’ll remember that last week, we saw that, while Paul was a debtor to those who had not yet accepted the gift of the gospel, his main focus was on serving the needs of the believers in Rome by preaching the gospel to them. We discovered that therefore the purpose of the gospel cannot be merely the conversion of unbelievers. As we look at verses 16-17 in some more detail this morning that is going to be even more evident.