Summary: Unless the gospel is my gospel it is really no gospel at all.
Unless the gospel is my gospel it is really no gospel at all
That is the theme of the passage from Romans that we’ll be studying together this morning. So obviously the question that all of us must answer as we’re confronted with that truth is whether or not the gospel is personally ours. So my goal is to do two things with the message this morning:
• First, I want to show, from God’s Word, why it is necessary that each one of us respond personally to the gospel.
• Second, I want to help all of us make an evaluation of whether we have personally made the gospel ours, not based on our feelings, but based on the criteria that God lays out for us in His Word.
In order to do that we must once again make sure that we keep our passage in its proper context. Hopefully by now you know that we are in a section of Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome that extends from chapter 1, verse 18 all the way through chapter 3, verse 20. So just to see if you’ve been paying attention for the past several weeks I’ve given you some space on your bulletin insert to write down, in your own words, the overall theme of this section. So take a minute or two to write down what you think is the main idea in that section.
The main theme of Romans 1:18-3:20 is:
[Let people write down answers and ask them to share]
You’ve done a great job of describing the purpose of this section. Paul is not describing how to obtain salvation here, but rather why we all need that salvation that comes through the gospel. So with that in mind, follow along as I read our passage which begins in Romans 2, verse 12:
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
(Romans 2:12-16 ESV)
As I read and studied this passage this week, the one phrase that continually grabbed my attention was the phrase “my gospel” in verse 16. It is the same phrase that Paul will repeat again at the very end of his letter that we are studying and he also uses it in his second letter to Timothy. So I spent a lot of time thinking about what Paul meant when he used those words. I also read quite a few commentaries and sermons to see what others had to say about that particular phrase. And while those other sources were helpful, it seems to me that Paul’s use of those words actually has a much simpler explanation than some of those long and detailed treatments might lead one to believe. I’m convinced that the point Paul is making here is that he has personally appropriated that gospel into his own life. It is no longer just “the gospel” that applies in a general sense to all mankind but rather it is his gospel because he has made it his own personally.
I saw a great illustration of the distinction between “the gospel” and “my gospel” in my own life this week. I was officiating a volleyball match with another official who I really admire in many ways. From everything I know about him, he is a moral man. He is a successful business owner who treats his employees well. He takes excellent care of himself physically. He is faithful to his wife. And over the years as we’ve had several conversations, it is also apparent that he has a pretty good understanding of the gospel. He clearly understands ideas like sin, grace, judgment and repentance. But the problem is that even though he seems to understand the gospel, he apparently doesn’t seem to believe that he needs to respond to it personally.
So as I worked on the message this week, I couldn’t help but think that this is exactly the kind of person Paul was writing to in this section. The religious Jews that Paul is addressing in this section seemed to think that they didn’t really need the gospel personally. They understood the reason the pagan Gentiles might need it, but it never entered their minds that they needed it, too.