Paul's Passing Thoughts

Paul’s Gospel Treatise to the Romans: Intelligent Evangelism

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 21, 2012


“To separate law and gospel is to separate our ability as believers to love the Lord. Any gospel that separates law and gospel is a gospel written by the scribes of hell.”

This is our fourth study in the book of Romans, and we now begin to delve into what Paul stated he was eager to do: preach the gospel to those in Rome. Note 1:14,

I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Paul then launches into the gospel in the next verse:

16 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.

It’s amazing in our day; I constantly find myself in conversations with others discussing whether or not the gospel is “more than the death, burial, and resurrection.” Is the gospel all about the cross, or does it include a wider body of God’s truth? How amazing it is to consider the confusion in our day regarding this fundamental question. Two thousand years later, most Christians are not sure what the gospel is. No wonder evangelism is lacking.

In regard to this question, you be the judge: Paul’s gospel treatise spans from Romans 1:16 – 15:21, and obviously includes many issues other than the cross. This treatise is a major centerpiece of God’s world view. In sharing this treatise with the Romans by letter, Paul becomes overwhelmed by its wisdom and states:

Romans 11:33

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Yes, let us take careful note as we proceed. This is where we will learn God’s “riches,” “wisdom,” “knowledge,” “judgments,” and “ways” that are essential for living.  Why, and how God brings things about are certainly beyond knowing in many cases, but what we learn about Him and His ways attests to the greatness behind it. Amazement always has an element of definitive understanding. Sometimes, even humans do things that provokes a, “How did you do that?!” Or, “How did you come up with such a great idea?” With God, these are often mysteries that belong to Him alone.

Funny, Christians wonder why the world is not wowed by the simplistic. Sure, we all like to push the easy button, but people usually have enough common sense to know that deep problems are not solved by clichés, truisms, and mantras. New Christians persevere for a time with the blank-stare response to canned gospel presentations, but eventually stop bringing it up. The fact is, we share what we are excited about, and for some reason we aren’t excited about getting people saved. Why is that? Simple: the gospel hasn’t exactly created any fireworks in our own life.

Furthermore, it hasn’t changed our own life to the point where it would make us feel guilty in not sharing it. Case in point:

2 Kings 7:3 – Now there were four men who were lepers at the entrance to the gate. And they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? 4 If we say, ‘Let us enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die.”

5 So they arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians. But when they came to the edge of the camp of the Syrians, behold, there was no one there. 6 For the Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, “Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come against us.”

7 So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives. 8 And when these lepers came to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent and ate and drank, and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried off things from it and went and hid them.

9 Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” 10 So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city and told them, “We came to the camp of the Syrians, and behold, there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied and the donkeys tied and the tents as they were.” 11 Then the gatekeepers called out, and it was told within the king’s household.

The find by the lepers, notably called “good news,” had such a positive impact on their lives that they were compelled to share it with those who were perishing, even to the point of fearing retribution by God for depraved indifference. Do contemporary Christians view their silence in regard to the good news as depraved indifference?

Well, yes. In fact, we are taught in our day that the saved are still totally depraved. One would assume that being ok with depraved indifference would be part and parcel with that.  The idea that we can have “life, and have it more abundantly” is even deemed as “more bad news” because we have to “know more, do more, and try harder.” Apparently, our own supposed total depravity is good news.

Paul was not ashamed of the gospel. Why? Because he experienced the power of it. Where is the power of it in our day? Never in the history of the church has the cross been lifted higher via John Piper’s gospel in one sentence, CJ Mahaney’s five-word gospel, and Paul Washer’s gospel in five minutes. Where’s the revival? Does Paul begin here to share the knowledge that energized his soul to be zealous for the gospel? Yes, I think that is the case.

From my preparation for this series, I have concluded that most Christians, including myself, hold to a dumbed-down gospel. Paul begins his gospel treatise by stating that the gospel is the power of God to everyone who “believes.”  As we saw in our previous studies, “believe” in biblical terms is absolutely synonymous with obedience. A call to salvation is a call to “obey the gospel,” “obey the truth,” “love the truth,” and “obey the word.”

In one way or the other, this is given lip service, and even if we do present the gospel, belief in the works of Christ is presented as a mere mental ascent to the facts of the gospel. Others exclude repentance and obedience believing that the mental ascent will naturally lead to obedience, and the recipient of the gospel is the last to know that since Jesus is going to be obeying for them anyways. Supposedly.

It’s not that we are saved by obeying, but we are saved by believing which carries the idea of repentance. Repentance is a change of mind and a determined decision to take one’s life in a different direction. In fact, the first century church was known as “the Way”:

Acts 9:2

and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Acts 19:9

But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.

Acts 19:23

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.

Acts 22:4

I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women,

Acts 24:14

But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets,

Acts 24:22

But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.”

It’s not the perfection; it’s the direction, though of course perfection is the goal. All house framers, lost or saved, know that the houses they frame are not going to be perfect by virtue of the fact that no 2×4 piece of lumber is perfect to begin with. But is perfection the goal? I hope so. An attitude that strives for perfection is a prerequisite to getting the contract. Christ’s indictment of the Pharisees in the Sermon on the Mount was a “relaxing of the least of one of these commandments.”

Many, many in our day teach that Christ’s call to be perfect in that sermon is a standard of justification that must be retained in order to keep our just standing before God, and gee whiz, since we can’t be perfect, Jesus must have been calling us to a gospel where He actively maintains the law for us until we get to heaven. This can do no other than result in what Christ warned against in the same context: a relaxing of the law. Christ created us and certainly knows how to communicate with us. Why would He play word games on this most urgent question? If the maintaining of salvation requires Him to obey for us, why wouldn’t  He simply say so?

No, our role in salvation is a decision to take our life in a different “Way”—a decision to obey Christ when He said, “follow me.” And this is the way it has always been. Old Testament saints were not saved any differently. This goes hand in hand with the fact that believers prior to the cross were empowered to live faithfully through the new birth. Before Christ went to the cross, he told Nicodemus: “You must be born again.” In Romans 1:17, Paul quotes the obscure book of Habakkuk as an authority for his point: “The righteous shall live by faith” (2:4), but this doesn’t mean that we live by faith alone—the whole theme of the book of James was written to refute that idea.

Works don’t save us; it is just simply what faith has determined to do from the beginning. It is an exercise of the will that God has given us. Just because God has given us the will does not mean that we have no striving in the new Way. Habakkuk used the word emunah translated “faith” in the English. It means “faithfully.” Even in the Old Testament, saints were declared righteous and lived “faithfully.” The word also has the idea of “truth” and moral fidelity. This is what Paul had in mind when he cited Hab. 2:4. The gospel is the power of God for a new Way.

But is God’s power demonstrated through a misrepresentation of what faith is? I think not.

And just as it has always been, faith is a decision to obey the gospel (2Thess. 1:8). It is a decision to obey truth. The saved heart has been infused with a love for the truth (2Thess. 2:10). It is a continuous striving to “obey the gospel” because the gospel is a body of truth that includes the cross, but is not the summation thereof. When the cross is the summation of all gospel, we have the contemporary gospel of “intelligent repentance.” I will address the difference in the conclusion.

The Hebrew writer notes the same gospel that was preached to the Israelites during the exodus is now preached to us (Hebrews 4:2). This is an astounding text, and its sting is removed in many English translations by removing the definitive “the” gospel and replacing it with, “For good news came to us just as it did them.” And in the same context, the following verse is absolutely stunning:

Heb. 3:16 – For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Again, we see the correlation between obedience and belief as illustrated by the Hebrew writer via the antithesis. But what is it that they did not obey?

Heb. 4:1 – Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

“Therefore” is a conjunction that takes us back to the previous point in 3:16-19. We enter the rest by obeying the gospel. We enter the rest by agreeing to follow the whole counsel of God’s truth. A different Way. The Way. The truth, and the life, and life more abundant.

But when did Moses preach the gospel to the Israelites that he led out of Egypt? The apostle Peter alludes to it in:

1 Peter 1:2

according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

What sprinkling of blood is Peter talking about? This is a truth that decimates a massive body of theology that would separate law and gospel. Peter is speaking to the issuing of the law on Mount Sinai. In response to the people committing to obey, Moses sprinkled them with the blood:

Exodus 24:3 – Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar.

7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Peter attributes that same commitment at Mount Sinai to the same gospel of our day. There is no difference. Neither did the Israelites assume their commitment would result in perfect obedience. If we love Christ, we will strive to keep His commandments. Our own efforts and help from the Spirit is our God given ability to show our love to the Lord. Christ does not love Himself for us, it is our own love toward Him. It most certainly is not our love if it isn’t our own effort. Those who warn against a gospel that obeys the Lord in “our own efforts” deny that we love the Lord with our own sincere obedience—His empowerment notwithstanding, but enabling and encouraging with all blessings.

Much will be learned in our study, Lord willing, about the relationship of law and gospel. There is a very important difference in the relationship of the law in regard to the lost verses the saved. The lost cannot love the Lord by keeping the law, but the saved most certainly can, and not only that, such defines the very reality of their true salvation—it is a new WAY. Even regarding the saints of old, a commitment to the law resulted in the sprinkling of the righteous blood of Christ. It answered God’s call to:

Deuteronomy 11:1

You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.

To separate law and gospel is to separate our ability as believers to love the Lord. Any gospel that separates law and gospel is a gospel written by the scribes of hell. It beckons mankind to ignore a call to paint the doorpost and header with the blood of the lamb that the death angel would pass by. Obedience and Christ’s saving blood  cannot be separated.

Obedience to the gospel justified us, and the same obedience to the gospel sanctifies us, but justification and sanctification are not the same.

Evangelism in our day has no power because it doesn’t even understand what biblical believing is, and moreover, doesn’t understand the difference between justification and sanctification. The power of the gospel is revealed “faith to faith” and exhibited by the righteousness of God in us.

But it must be a faith based on the truth. This is our opportunity to be taught that truth by the apostle Paul. His words speak from the grave. Let us come and see as free Bereans.

We will learn more about the differences between justification and sanctification as we progress. Also, the relationship of law and gospel will be articulated by the apostle. But how valuable is our understanding of mankind in regard to presenting the gospel? Is an in-depth knowledge of mankind invaluable to our gospel presentation? One would think. Is our gospel presentations without power because of an ineffective view and understanding of mankind?

Paul addresses this issue next. The truth about what believing faith is, the gospel’s relationship to the law, and the difference between justification and sanctification are just a few of the critical issues regarding the gospel that we will be learning about.

2 Responses

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on October 21, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.


  2. Nelvan Evans said, on October 22, 2012 at 2:32 AM

    I’ve come to view the gospel as a part A. Savior and part B. Lord. We the vessels are cleansed and forgiven by God’s Grace activity on our (the believers) behalf and are indwelt by a new Master(Lord). It appears to me that if we don’t have His internal Life then we don’t have Eternal life. Gal 2:20, Col 1:26,27 Ro 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.


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