Ligonier National Conference - Steven Lawson - (II)
Dr. Steven J. Lawson gave his second and final message entitled “The Saving Power of God.” Noting that this is the central theme of Romans, Lawson took his text from Rom. 1:1-18.
That all power belongs to God is clearly taught in the Bible. We call this the doctrine of divine omnipotence. Lawson quoted numerous passages which describe the boundless power of God. All creation is under the sway of God’s power. But greater than God’s work in physical creation is His redeeming work in spiritual re-creation. Greater than God’s moving mountains is God’s moving the stone of sin from human hearts. The cross is the pinnacle of God’s saving, redeeming work. Only a God who is All-Powerful can accomplish such a great salvation.
THE SOURCE OF THE GOSPEL
In verse 1, we see this phrase “gospel of God.” The term “gospel” is a subjective genitive; it refers to a gospel that is generated by God. The gospel contains God’s authority and it flows out of God’s gracious disposition. As stewards we are to share it with others exactly as God has entrusted it to us.
THE STABILITY OF THE GOSPEL
We can trace the gospel back through the Old Testament, from its earliest root in Gen. 3:15 (a passage many call the protoevangelion, the first declaration of the good news). Later in Moses, in the prophets, and in Psalms, we see passage after passage that points to the coming of Christ, whom God would set forth to save His people from their sins.
THE SUBJECT OF THE GOSPEL
The content of the gospel is the message of God’s own Son, His person and His work. You cannot preach the gospel without speaking of Christ and His death, burial and resurrection. Notice the reference to his humanity in verse 3. In his humanity he lived a life of perfect, active obedience. Jesus needed to be fully man and fully God in order to represent both parties. But then we see a reference to His deity in verse 4. Jesus was declared to be 100% God via the resurrection from the dead.
We read of His mediatorial work in verse 5. Christ is the mediator whereby God’s saving grace flows to us. The perfect sacrifice was a once-for-all sacrifice.
THE SUCCESS OF THE GOSPEL
The gospel will triumph in the lives of people. We saw this in Dr. Lawson’s previous message, and we see it here again in verse 6. The term called in this verse refers to God’s effectual call. This is the call that arrests human hearts. It is our job to go and proclaim. As we do so, God will draw to Himself those whom he has chosen for Himself.
THE SERVICE OF THE GOSPEL
The gospel call demands and secures unwavering allegiance and loyalty. We see in verse 8 that the saints in Rome were so transformed by the gospel that reports had spread throughout the civilized world. Consequently, Paul is eager to promote the gospel among the pantheon of religious views in Rome. Paul’s eagerness is rooted in his commitment to the gospel, and his recognition of what it is able to accomplish in the lives of men and women.
THE STRENGTH OF THE GOSPEL
Paul is not ashamed of the gospel. Why not? Because it is a message that is so powerful that even the chief of sinners melts in its sway. Paul is saying that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. God Himself is accomplishing salvation via the proclamation of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul need neither be ashamed nor afraid, since God’s authority stands behind the message.
Note in verse 17 that the righteousness of God is revealed. It is neither earned nor deserved. It belongs to God and is given by God. The perfect obedience of Christ’s life is reckoned to us as if we ourselves had lived it.
The phrase “from faith to faith” in verse 17 has been variously interpreted. Lawson thinks a contrast is intended between “faith + something” and “faith + faith” (the latter meaning “faith and faith alone”).
SAVED FROM WHAT?
What does the gospel save us from? The answer in verse 18 and following is clear: we are saved from the wrath of Almighty God, not loneliness, or even a misspent life. Neither loneliness nor a lack of direction in life represent our chief problem. Our true dilemma is the fact that God is angry with the wicked every day. Our actions are storing up wrath against the Day of Wrath, when God will render to each person according to His deeds.
The power of God is that he can take wicked sinners and save them. There is only one path through which to enter into salvation. Namely, repentance of sin and belief in Jesus Christ, whereby we receive His free gift of righteousness.