Good news is welcome wherever you are. Families love to receive good news whether it is an accomplishment by their children or grandchildren or the news that a new child is on the way. It is intriguing that God chose the simple word for good news to describe the message about Jesus Christ. At the very beginning of Mark’s gospel he described his story of Jesus ministry on earth as gospel and he closed that gospel account by recording Jesus telling his followers to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel (good news) to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. He who does not believe shall be condemned.”
There are tons of stories one can hear that are good news. But the good news of Jesus Christ is completely unique. In Romans 1:14-17 Paul declared that he was in debt to Greeks, barbarians, to wise and unwise, ‘so as much as is in me I am ready to preach the gospel (good news) to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith. As it is written the righteous shall live by faith.” Notice throughout this segment God doesn’t have the writer to talk about “good news” but “the good news”. There is no other good news comparable to the good news about Jesus. It is good news for all people in all places in all time.
What makes the story of Jesus Christ such amazing good news that it stands out as “the gospel?” Paul’s first answer in the Book of Romans is that it is such great news because of the sinfulness of humanity. No matter who we are, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). We need a savior, a substitute and a redeemer and Jesus came to be all of these for us. In Romans 3:24-26 he said, “and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as a propituation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” A perfect savior took on him the sins of all and was punished for the sins of the world. The result is we can be justified by God.
The means by which we take advantage of the justification is faith in Jesus. It is a faith like Abraham had when he obeyed God even when it didn’t seem reasonable. This faith leads to obedience to God and submitting to his will in all aspects of life.
In Romans 7 Paul explains that it isn’t possible for us to save ourselves or live up to standards given by God. Even when we determine to do right, we fail. When we pledge to quit the wrong life, we fail again. Romans 8 explains that we aren’t left on our own to find our own way or try to earn our way to heaven. God gives us the Holy Spirit to live within us and help our weaknesses so we can live as he calls us to live. He promised that “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). In chapters 9-11 Paul tracks how God planned all through the years to save man through the descendants of Abraham. He was working out his plan all through the years that man couldn’t have figured out on his own. He concluded that whole segment of Romans by saying, “O the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)
With the completion of the most thorough presentation of the doctrine of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit ever given he concluded by pleading for all who follow Christ to present their bodies a living sacrifice unto God as our spiritual worship. Don’t be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.
He applied the idea of such a living sacrifice to the fact we all have different spiritual gifts but whatever our gift might be we are to serve God by using that gift to serve the Lord. He noted the fact that presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice means we show love, concern and help to one another. When we are mistreated we aren’t to mistreat others but treat them with love and respect.
Living a life as a living sacrifice means we are good citizens and submit to the laws of the land. We aren’t to owe others debts we can’t repay.
One of the great lessons of Romans is when Paul reaches chapters 14 and 15. In the classic book of doctrine, he tells us not everything is doctrinal. Some things we can believe differently about and still both be right with God. He illustrated the point by noting that some believe it is right to eat anything and others think that a disciple of Christ should only eat vegetables. He also talked about some observing days religiously and while others see all days the same. But such things should not be matters of fellowship between brethren. Instead one should follow his own conscience in such matter and think of what is a good influence on others.
How do we decide which is doctrine on which all must agree to be right with God and what is a matter of conscience on which we may hold a variety of opinions and still be right with God? True doctrinal matters always have a practical application to life through which we obey God and act upon our faith. Such an obedient faith is based on the word of God. Matters of opinion have to do with things the Bible has not specifically revealed as the one way to live and act. There is a big difference between the faith built on the word of God and personal faith based on how we understand or see particular matters.
To turn a matter of personal faith into a matter of the faith is wrong and to turn a matter of the faith into a matter of personal faith is wrong. It is vital to keep both in their place so we can follow the values given by God. “The kingdom of God isn’t about food and drink but about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:17-19)