Abridged from J. W. H. Nichols.
There are two expressions in Romans which indicate the special character of the apostle Paul's ministry. "The gospel of God" (Rom. 1:1-17) clearly points to the source of the gospel; while "My gospel" (Rom. 16:25), introduced in a sort of doxology, speaks of a blessed revelation, though not developed, which distinguished the apostle's teaching from that of the other apostles. It would be difficult to estimate our loss if we fail to grasp these two important truths. We live in a day when the faith of God's people is sorely tried! Many are perplexed by the condition of things both in the political and religious world. This, doubtless, is the result of the soul not being established in the truth, often due to wrong teaching as to the scope and purpose of the gospel. "Has Christianity failed in its mission?" is a question raised on wrong premises; it could never be asked were the natural man's condition and the purpose of God in the gospel understood. In the minds of many an idea exists that God has sent the gospel to improve the world, to make it a more congenial place for men to live in. To find the world more hopelessly evil than ever, after strenuously preaching its improvement, has dismayed many a "20th century" preacher, and thrown his listeners into confusion and despondency as to the outcome of what they thought was the gospel. Scripture has been misapplied to support the teaching that gradually the gospel preached must permeate the world and result in the establishment of the millennium which, however, is entirely foreign to the teaching of the word.
Nowhere do we find the apostleship of Paul placed on more positive ground than in Romans. He had not yet been at Rome, but, as the apostle of the Gentiles, he would fulfil his mission, which he had received from the Lord Himself for the Gentiles (Acts 26:17-18). According to God's administrative order, Peter was specially commissioned to the circumcision (Hebrews); Paul to the nations or Gentiles (Gal. 2:7-8). As recorded in the Acts Peter preached forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, but did not associate with this the truth of justification; while Paul in his first recorded sermon, added this blessed truth (Acts 13:38-39). The gospel (or good news) was not about man though it was sent to man; there was nothing joyous to say about him — in heathenism, wantonly corrupt; in philosophy, hypocritical; under law, a transgressor: every mouth was stopped and all the world was shown to be guilty before God" (Romans 3:1). Man conclusively proved himself unable to bring forth righteousness for God. God's Son is the blessed theme of the gospel; the glad tidings are concerning Him. He is presented in a twofold way: (1) in connection with the promises, "Seed of David according to the flesh," and (2) "Son of God with power" by resurrection of the dead (plural equals dead ones). The gospel of God had been announced by the prophets in the O.T.; it had been promised before it came; thus every possible objection which might be raised should be silenced before the unfolding of what God's gospel is. In the person of the Son, God has found One able to accomplish all His purposes, and make known all His thoughts of love for men. He alone could solve the problem that man raised centuries before, and could not settle - of good and evil — and settle it to God's eternal glory. What marvellous grace that He should enter the dark domain of death where man lay in ruin and exposed to eternal wrath, taking upon Himself all the weakness of man, once and for ever rob the enemy of his spoils, and completely triumph in resurrection over all the enemy's power.
The new life received by the believer is a life given and founded on the eternal value of what has been accomplished by the Son of God. In this blessed gospel God reveals a righteousness for man who has none; but a righteousness God — is revealed to, and on the principle of faith. This is the grand theme of the epistle. In Romans the believer is looked at as justified, righteousness being imputed to him through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, that he may walk here in this world in the power of the risen life of Christ, having the glory in view. This epistle and that to the Ephesians, are the only two written by the apostle to the saints which are not corrective; the others had in view certain existing conditions to correct. In these two epistles we have the unfolding of positive truth: the former laying the sure foundation, and the latter giving the blessed structure built thereon.