In Romans 1:9 Paul says, “For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of His Son.” Many Christians think that the gospel is simply the good news of how Christ is the Savior who died that sinners may be forgiven and one day go to heaven. But the gospel is much richer and more profound than this. The gospel in 1:9 includes the whole book of Romans.
In the very first verse of Romans Paul says that as a slave of Christ and a called apostle, he was “separated to the gospel of God.” This indicates that Paul’s intention in this book is to write concerning the gospel; the gospel is the theme of this Epistle. The entire book unfolds the gospel, the glad tidings of God, in its fullest way.
In Romans Paul mentions the gospel much more than he does in any of his other Epistles. In 2:16 he says, “God shall judge the secrets of men according to my gospel by Jesus Christ.” According to the natural, religious concept, God will judge people according to the law. But here Paul says that God will judge them according to his gospel.
The gospel is to be not only believed, but also obeyed. This is proved in 10:16, where Paul says that “not all obeyed the gospel.” Those who do not obey the gospel may become enemies of the gospel (11:28). It is our attitude toward the gospel that determines whether we are obedient or disobedient and whether or not we are enemies.
The gospel that Paul proclaimed in Romans was to be preached not only to unbelievers, but also to the believers in the Lord. In 1:15 Paul says, “So, as far as depends on me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Furthermore, Paul believed that God would establish the saints according to his gospel: “Now to Him Who is of power to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ” (16:25).
Romans 15:16 says, “That I should be a minister of Christ Jesus to the nations, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that the offering of the nations might be acceptable, having been sanctified in the Holy Spirit.” For Paul, the preaching of the gospel was a priestly ministry, a priestly service. As priests, we all must serve God in the gospel of His Son.
Now we must ask a basic and fundamental question: What is the gospel? What Paul speaks regarding the gospel in the book of Romans is deep and profound. The word “gospel” means good news, or glad tidings. The gospel is news that gladdens those who hear it. It is good news from God, from the heavens. In 1:2 Paul says that the gospel of God was “promised before through His prophets in the holy scriptures.” This indicates that if we would understand the content of the gospel as the good news, we must know the Old Testament. The Old Testament is not merely a record of creation and history. In it are revealed some crucial elements pertaining to the gospel.
The first of these elements is found in Genesis 1:26, where we are told that man was created in the image of God. The image of God is part of the content of the gospel. How marvelous that we men of clay can bear the image of God! What good news this is! Whose heart would not be gladdened by such good news? If we truly saw what it means to be in the image of God, we would praise the Lord.
A second matter related to the gospel is found in Genesis 2. Here we see that the man created by God was placed in front of the tree of life. This indicates that not only do we have the image outwardly, but that we also may have the divine life inwardly.
In Genesis 3 the serpent came in to seduce man to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But this chapter also tells us good news. Verse 15 says that the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. Although the serpent has come in, this verse prophesies that the seed of the woman will come to deal with the serpent.
A fourth element is found in the next chapter. Genesis 4:4 says that Abel “brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering.” This indicates that by the proper offerings we, the fallen sinners, are accepted by God.
In chapter one of Genesis there are more aspects of the content of the gospel. Verse 9 says that the waters were gathered together into one place and that the dry land appeared. Verse 11 continues, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.” Many kinds of life—vegetable, animal, and even the human life—are related to this land, which typifies the all-inclusive Christ. This is part of God’s good news.
In Genesis 2:18 the Lord said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” Man in Genesis 2:18 is a type of Christ. To say that it is not good for man to be alone means that it is not good for Christ to be alone. As the Bridegroom, Christ is longing for a bride, someone to match Him. The matter of God’s producing a bride for Christ is also an element of the gospel promised in the Old Testament.
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