In Romans 1:16 Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek”. Paul is not ashamed of the gospel and one reason he is not ashamed is because of the commodity the gospel conveys: salvation. It’s the gospel and only the gospel of Jesus Christ that brings and conveys salvation to every lost and hell deserving sinner who by God’s grace believes.
But have you noticed in this passage that for Paul the gospel is not only for lost sinners. It’s for believers. It’s clear this is included in Paul’s thought here and is, perhaps, the main idea because he is especially and specifically speaking in this context about his eagerness to preach the gospel to people who were already Christians. It’s easy to miss this but notice the connection with v.15. “So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome”. To whom? To you very folks to whom I’m writing this letter; to people he described up in vv.6-7 as the called of Jesus Christ, beloved of God, called saints. In other words, Paul was not only eager to preach the gospel to unbelievers in Rome so that they might be converted (no doubt he was eager to do that) but he also wanted to preach the gospel to those there who were already believers. I am eager to preach the gospel to you. Why? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”
The verb is in the present tense and could be translated, “for everyone who is believing. “ It is a gospel that conveys salvation, not only initially in conversion, but it continues to be the means through which God’s power works to bring about the continuing and the final salvation of all who believe this gospel. It is the primary means by which God preserves his people and brings them safely all the way to glory.
Now this perspective on the gospel is very important. This reminds us that the gospel is not only for the lost. It’s for believers. It reminds us that we never get beyond the need to hear the gospel and to exercise faith in the gospel. It is the gospel that is God’s power, not only to bring us to initial faith and justification, but it is the gospel through which God continues to work in our hearts to sanctify us and to preserve us in a state of grace until the very end. It is the gospel continually heard and continually believed and increasingly appreciated and understood in all its fullness that is the power of God by which we as God’s people are enabled to triumph over every obstacle and every foe that would seek to destroy us and are enabled to make it safely all the way to heaven.
There’s an attitude I’ve sometimes sensed in some professing Christians that the gospel is something specifically for the lost. We Christians don’t really need the gospel. We need to get beyond that to other more important things. We need practical how-to teaching. The gospel is for the lost. Well it’s true that the lost need to hear the gospel. It’s also true that as Christians we need to grow and mature and be exposed to the whole counsel of God. It’s true we need practical teaching about the living of the Christian life. But it’s not true that we no longer need the gospel. The gospel is not just for so-called evangelistic services. The gospel is for Christians.
If somehow I could know, or it was revealed to me, that every person who attends the services of the church I serve as a pastor is already converted, I would still preach the gospel there. It wouldn’t matter. I would still on a regular basis preach what you might call, in one sense, evangelistic sermons, sermons that contain and proclaim the evangel. Why? Because it’s the gospel, the good news of God’s free unmerited grace to sinners through the person and work of Jesus Christ, that not only arouses and produces faith, but sustains and maintains our faith. It’s the gospel that strengthens our faith and enables our faith to triumph in all of the conflict of the Christian life. And it’s the gospel of God’s grace to sinners in the person and work of His Son that motivates us and inspires us to a life of holiness and devotion to Him and His glory
We never get beyond the need to hear the old, old story of Jesus and his love. I don’t know about you, but I need the gospel every day. I need it every time when, in the painful consciousness of my past and present sins, I go to God in prayer and seek to draw near to Him with any degree of confidence. It’s the gospel that keeps me from giving up in despair in all the daily conflict with remaining sin and in all of the trials of this life. It’s the gospel that is the power of God by which I am continuing to be saved and will finally be saved in the end. Therefore, I need to know more and more about it. I need to see more of its glory. I need to understand more fully all that Christ is for me and all that Christ has done for me and all that He continues to do for me. I need to go back to the very basics of the gospel over and over again and learn to rest my faith more confidently upon Him.
Yes, the gospel is for Christians, just as much as it is for the lost. Remember, to whom did Paul write this letter; a letter that gives the fullest exposition and explanation of the gospel in all of the scriptures? He wrote it to Christians, to believers in Rome. So brothers and sisters, let us never think that we are beyond the need of hearing and learning more about the gospel. We need to hear it all the time and to be constantly growing in our understanding and appreciation of all that it is and all that it means.
For more on this topic I recommend three sermons by John Piper entitled How Does God Save Believers? (http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/by-scripture/romans/) Also consider reading for your own devotions the excellent, simply-written, paperback commentary on Romans by Stuart Olyott entitled The Gospel as it Really Is. Another book that addresses the ongoing place and power of the gospel in the life of the believer is The Gospel For Real Life, subtitled Turn To The Liberating Power Of The Cross…Every Day by Jerry Bridges. Of course, most of all feed on the truths of the gospel directly from the fountain of God’s Word itself.