By Kyle D. Rapinchuk
In Paul’s initial words to the Roman church in the Epistle to the Romans, he says that the gospel is at the center of his ministry and calling, and it is at the center of our calling as well. He therefore clarifies in part what he means by the gospel. He doesn’t mean, Jesus died for my sins so I can go to heaven. The gospel for Paul is bigger than any one individual person’s salvation. Rather, the gospel, according to Paul, is the message of the Old Testament prophets that the Messiah of Israel is the Lord and Savior of all nations, and Jesus was marked out powerfully as that Messiah by his resurrection.
This is good news because it means that sin has been paid for and death is defeated. Satan’s greatest weapon against us is to tell us we are guilty before God because of our sin and that we deserve death. But the good news is that this fate is not inevitable; if we receive God’s good news by faith then Jesus’ resurrection serves as a pattern for our own resurrection. We, too, will be raised, and so sin is erased AND death is not ultimately victorious. This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15.
For Paul, then, (as well as the rest of the NT apostles) the gospel is the story of Jesus as the resolution of the story of Israel and the whole world. In Adam, sin entered the world, but God promised that one from the offspring of Eve would strike the head of the adversary (Gen 3:15). Then God made a covenant with Abraham that he would make of him a great nation (Israel) and in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen 12:3). But though Israel was chosen by God to become a kingdom of priests (Exod 19), his representatives to the nations, they became a kingdom with priests who became like the other nations. Israel failed again and again, yet God promised David that his son would be to him a son and he would establish with him an everlasting kingdom (2 Sam 7). This coming king was the anointed one, the Messiah, and the prophets go on to speak of him often, anticipating the day when God would fulfill his promises to Israel.
But not until the New Testament and the arrival of Jesus do we see these promises fulfilled. It is Jesus, the Son of David, Son of Abraham as Matthew 1:1 declares, that we see the Messiah finally come. And this Messiah comes first not as the conquering king of Psalm 2 but as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. Though he is Lord and Messiah, he is crucified. Though he dies, after three days he lives. Jesus’ story—his life, death, resurrection, and ascension—are thus the fulfillment and resolution of Israel’s story. The promises to Eve, Abraham, Judah, Moses, David, and the prophets all find their yes and amen in Jesus of Nazareth, the long-awaited Messiah of Israel and Lord of ALL NATIONS! In Jesus, we too may live, provided we put our faith in him. That is Paul’s gospel.
- “Called to the Gospel”–Romans 1:1-7 (Kyle Rapinchuk)
- “Unashamed of the Greatest Story Ever Told”–Romans 1:8-17 (Kyle Rapinchuk)