Do you ever wonder why we all scroll mindlessly through social media? I think I know. We’re all just trying to find some good news. Among the doom and gloom and virtual fist fights over politics, there are occasionally stories that are good and inspiring and pure. Stories that are worth the scroll.
Early Christians might have felt the same way about their world, especially the Romans. The church in Rome had people who were asking questions and starting to follow Jesus from all kinds of different backgrounds. There are Romans, Greeks, Jews, Gentiles, the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated. They were looking for stories that were worth the scroll — stories that could strengthen their new faith.
Paul, an early church leader, wrote dozens of letters to the early church meant to encourage, correct, and teach the good news. In the book of Romans, Paul is writing to encourage new followers of Jesus to grow in faith and maturity, and take next steps in their faith journey. Paul’s goal was unity, which was a tall order for a church as diverse as this one in Rome.
You know what I think is the coolest thing about the book of Romans? This part of Rome is reminiscent of Gainesville; this particular church reminds me of Shift. I bet the Church at Rome coined the phrase “Church for the Rest of Us” and “No perfect people allowed”. Sorry we took it. #SorryNotSorry
Paul is writing to bring clarity to the Christian faith. He is encouraging those early Christians to be different, but have unity and that salvation is by faith, not by works but because of the Grace and Love of God, Christians should live a life of Love to honor God.
I say it this way, God loves us extravagantly, so we can extravagantly love others! God went all out for you so you can go all out for others. Let’s dive in to Romans Chapter 1!
What’s the Good News?
“Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news…”
Let me stop there.
Now, I grew up in the church and heard about this “good news” all the time. I was always like, “What’s that all about? Do we get Krispy Kreme Donuts Hot Now today? Did someone just win the lottery and then give me all the winnings?”
“Hey, if this is good news, what’s in it for me?”
If we don’t understand the Good News, we can’t move on! So, what is it?
First, the word gospel means good news. So, in scripture we see good news and gospel interchangeably. What does Gospel or Good News mean?
The good news is in what Jesus did for us. Let’s start with scripture and then unpack this a little more. In John’s recording of Jesus’ life and ministry he writes this in John chapter 3,
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17)
And then Paul in another letter to the church at Corinth, he wrote this,
For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time; (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)
But I like to simplify things. Good News = God Gave, Jesus Came, Jesus Died, Jesus Rose: For Everyone.
The good news, the gospel, is found in that God made a way — through Jesus’ Life, death and resurrection — for us to have salvation and reconciliation through Jesus! It’s a free gift from God. For God so loved you that He gave His Son!
That’s good news!
The Good News is…
Paul goes into further detail of explaining exactly what the Good News is in Romans chapter 1 verse 16,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith. (Romans 1:16-17)
Paul then lays out a list of 5 things that the Good News Is. Because lists are awesome.
+ First, Paul says that The Good News is Powerful. …because it’s God’s power for salvation.
I remember the first time I ever came to the realization that the gospel of Jesus Christ was powerful. I was in high school and on a summer mission trip to Jamaica. There was a lady that came by the church that we were staying late one night in hysterics — yelling, crying, screaming for help.
The pastor greeted her and invited her in, and then asked us to pray with her son, who had fallen ill. We prayed for hours. We prayed one of those prayers where you look around and see if it’s almost finished. But soon, you could feel something powerful happening in that room. We all hugged. She left in a much calmer mood.
The next day…she walked in with her son to our Vacation Bible School. The night before, his life was in danger. Today, he was walking, talking, playing, laughing. She kept saying that it was a miracle, and it’s because it is. The Good news is powerful because it’s from a powerful God that saves.
+ Next up, Paul says that the Good News is Bold.
Paul said, “For I am not ashamed to proclaim the gospel. If Christ is in us, then we should be bold in our faith for Him.”
Why would Paul tell the Church that he’s not ashamed of the gospel? This might seem a like a strange message, but culturally, it makes sense.
Paul is writing this to address the facts of the gospel — that Jesus, a man, was God, the Hebrew God, died at the hand of the Romans — had different implications for different groups, all who were unifying here in this new Roman Church.
Gentiles would see it as foolish because it’s another God-man, like the hundreds that came before. The Jews would feel it was a stumbling block because the God of the Jews would never die. A crucified Jew seemed hilarious to the Romans, because they despised the Jews, and anyone crucified was the lowest in society.
When Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel”, he’s saying it as a Jewish man and a Roman citizen. His declaration was a bold move, but Paul was confident so confident that people are saved by faith, and the cause of salvation is the grace and will of God that he stood up for that truth. So, Be Bold!
+ The next thing Paul communicates, is that The Good News is A Gift from God! It’s by God’s grace, and not by how good you are or how much you give or how much you do, that you are saved. The Good News comes free of charge. It’s the grace of God.
If you’re like me, I’m skeptical when someone gives me something. I wasn’t always like that; skepticism is a learned trait. Like, when I was five at my super awesome Star Wars birthday party, I was so glad to accept gifts of Legos, super soakers, and lawn darts. (Because the 80s were awesome!)
But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started feeling the full weight of receiving gifts. Uncle Bob gave me this baseball cap last Christmas, so, this year, I’ve got to get them something. Or, last time we had the neighbors over for dinner, they brought a bottle of wine. We should bring them one when we go over there. A better one.
The Good News is a gift from God that you can never, ever pay back. Go back in your mind — channel your inner 5 year old — and remember what it was like to accept a free gift. It’s just by God’s grace that we can choose to accept this gift from God.
+ Paul make it clear that The Good News is Received by Faith when he says “For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith.”
Faith is a common theme throughout this letter to the Church at Rome. The journey of following Jesus is laid out one step of faith at a time. When Paul says “faith to faith” he is emphasizing that this journey starts and ends with faith.
Every single time in my life, a season of growth happened after a leap of faith. It was a step of faith for our family to move to Gainesville. It was a step of faith to launch Shift Church. It was a step of faith to move from one service to two services.
It is by faith that we take the Good News to the rest of us because there are too many of us out there.
What is God stirring in you right now? What is it that God is asking you to do to step out in faith? Who is it that God has been prompting you to invite? Invite into a relationship with you, invite into a relationship with Him? When you step out for God, God will always step in to you!
+ This last one is my favorite of all that Paul says, The Good News is For Everyone!
Look at verse 16 again,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.
Paul, is doing something incredibly freeing for the church in Rome. Remember who lives in Rome? There are Romans, Greeks, Jews, Gentiles, the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated. Paul is emphasizing here that the Good News is for all these people and more. No one is unqualified to accept the Good News.
It’s for this reason that we here at Shift Church say we’re the Church for the Rest of Us. We know and act upon the fact that the Good News is for everyone.
Not just people that look like you. Not just people that act like you. Not just people that agree with you. And — spoiler alert — not just people that vote like you. The Good News is for Everyone!
God loves us extravagantly, so we can extravagantly love others. The Good news is Powerful, the good news is bold, the good news is a gift, the good news is by faith through faith, and it is FOR EVERYONE!
This is the message Paul is writing to a culture and a church a lot like ours. The Good News is God Gave, Jesus Came, Jesus Died, Jesus Rose: For Everyone — and that’s an equation that will never, ever be wrong.