Exposition of Romans 1:16 — Faith entrusts our souls to Jesus

Lock and load! For those of you who do not have a military background, the phrase lock and load means to engage your weapon’s safety and load the weapon with ammunition in preparation for imminent battle.

Starting with today’s verse, Paul begins his extended exposition of the good news of Jesus Christ. In striving to understand what he says, you will be following in the steps of the greatest Christians of the last twenty centuries!

(ESV) Romans 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

In the previous verse (1:15), Paul has spoken of his eagerness to preach the gospel, and now he tells why. To our ears it seems odd for Paul to say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (1:16). Why would he begin in this manner? Why does shame enter the picture? It is possible that some claimed Paul had not come to Rome because he was ashamed to proclaim in the Roman capital the name of Jesus Christ, who had been executed for treason against Rome.

NT scholar David deSilva sheds light on the matter: “The form of execution called crucifixion was calculated to leave the victim utterly stripped of dignity and worth in the eyes of the world. . . . A shameful death was the most feared of evils among many ancients since it left one with no opportunity to regain one’s honor.”[1] Shame and honor were top concerns in the Roman world.

The Roman capital was designed to impress and overawe all who visited the center of the empire. It will be instructive to visit the gallery of images created by the Universities of California and Virginia to model ancient Rome: http://www.RomeReborn.virginia.edu/gallery.php
Compared to the glory of Rome, the gospel had nothing obvious to show.

Paul is undaunted by these obstacles because he says the gospel offers something unique and irreplaceable: “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (1:16). NT scholar C.K. Barrett says concerning “salvation”: “The word itself, even when the cognate verb ‘to save’ is included in the reckoning, is not one of the most common in Paul, but it is certainly central to his thought. Salvation itself lies in the future (e.g. 13:11), and means man’s eventual safe passage through human trials and divine judgment to eternal bliss.”[2] We might call that final salvation.

Yet the blessings of salvation are not confined to the distant future at judgment. Moo points out, “Characteristic, however, of Paul’s (and the NT’s) outlook is the conviction that these eschatological [end-times] blessings are, to some extent, enjoyed by anyone the moment he or she trusts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.”[3] You may hear the phrase “already — not yet” as a shorthand method of saying that we enjoy many blessings of salvation now (“already”), but the final, crucial manifestation of God’s grace in Christ will not be evident until judgment (“not yet”).

Our remarkable verse tells not only about the power of salvation, but it also connects the means of receiving that salvation from God: “to everyone who believes” (1:16b). The Greek verb pisteu? (“believe”[4]) is critical to Christian faith. Osborne says, “The act of belief involves surrender to God, mental assent and the commitment of the will [see 4:18 and 10:9]. The call to faith and the power to achieve it come from God; the surrender of the will to him is our part.”[5] Paul makes it plain in the rest of Romans that this believing is not a human work in which we may boast (Rom. 3:27-28; 4:1-8; Eph. 2:8-9).

Jews who had trusted in Jesus as their Messiah would be unlikely to embrace Paul saying that the offer of salvation is “to everyone who believes” (1:16b). Their whole heritage, as they understood it, said that only the children of Abraham would receive blessing from God. Paul’s closing phrase — “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (1:16b) — acknowledges Jewish primacy in the history of salvation but presses the NT’s reminder that the non-Jewish world had always been included in Abraham’s eventual blessings (Gen. 12:3; Acts 10:34-11:18). The mention of Jew and Greek is simply another way of saying everyone who believes will be saved.

Everyone who believes

It is unfortunately easy to become accustomed to the idea that God has made salvation possible for “everyone who believes” in his resurrected Son. Do not ever take God’s kindness and mercy for granted!

1. How does the fact that God’s powerful salvation is available to “everyone who believes” affect you in light of the life you have led? Are there any exceptions to the offer? Explain.

2. Since the power of salvation is available to “everyone who believes,” how should this affect your attitude toward those who still need to believe? How do they need to respond to the salvation they desperately need?

Many in our world doubt salvation exists, or, if they accept its existence, they believe salvation is only for the best of us. But God has not crafted his salvation for the rich, the powerful or the connected; instead he freely offers it to “everyone who believes,” to everyone who entrusts their soul to his resurrected Son.

 Copyright © 2012 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials developed for Christ Fellowship (McKinney, Texas), by permission.


[1] David A. deSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000) 432.

[2] C.K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans (New York: Harper & Row, 1957) 27.

[3] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 67.

[4] BDAG-3, pisteu?, believe, q.v.

[5] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 40.