By Rony Kozman, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, Samford University
The church finds its life and identity in the gospel. Before the noun gospel came to identify the type of literature that we have in the four New Testament Gospels — which are biographies of the life of Jesus — gospel meant an oral proclamation of good news. This is the sense in which Paul uses the noun gospel (Rom. 1:1–4). It is also what Jesus announced (Mark 1:14–15). The gospel is the good news that was preached by Jesus and by the apostles. But what is the message that Jesus and the apostles announced?
The gospel message is centered on the resurrection and lordship of Christ. (8b–10)
The word gospel has royal overtones. It is the announcement of the arrival of God’s kingdom, and it is about the arrival of an enthroned king — Jesus, the promised Messiah (i.e., King of Israel). The message of the gospel is that this King came down from heaven (v. 7), and that this Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3). But the gospel does not end there, for the death and defeat of the King is not good news (1 Cor. 15:14). The gospel climaxes in the resurrection of the King and the enthronement of Jesus as Lord and King (vv. 7–9, see also 1:4). In the crucifixion of Christ the King is the defeat of two other kings — sin and death (8:2–3). Christ’s resurrection shows that He is the victorious King who reigns over heaven and earth.
The gospel message offers salvation to all people. (11–13)
This message that Jesus is the enthroned King is for all people — for both Jews and Gentiles. Even though Jesus is the promised descendant of David, the King of Israel, He is Lord of both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus will save everyone who confesses that “Jesus is Lord” and believes that “God raised him from the dead” (v. 9). The gospel calls all the nations to confess that Jesus is Lord, and God’s salvation has come. Paul tells us that he was appointed as an apostle to take this message — that Jesus is the enthroned King — to the nations (Rom. 1:1, 5–6). And this gospel message requires a response. The proper response is repentance and faith.
The gospel message should be communicated to others. (14–17)
The gospel message has spread throughout the world. It has gone out to the Gentiles. Paul himself was appointed an apostle to take the gospel of Christ’s resurrection and enthronement to the Gentiles, and his apostolic call was “to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles” (Rom. 1:1, 4–5). This is also the call of the Great Commission, to take the gospel to all the nations and to instruct the nations in the Messiah’s commands (Matt. 28:18–20).
As Paul indicates, people cannot be saved unless they believe in Christ. People cannot believe in Christ unless the gospel is preached, and they cannot hear the message unless people are sent to preach the gospel.
In the context of Romans 10, Paul is discussing why the Gentiles have believed the gospel while his fellow Jews have largely rejected the message (9:2–3; 10:1–3). The problem is not that Israel has not heard the gospel. In verse 18, Paul quotes Psalm 19:4, “their voice [i.e., the voice of creation] goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” For Paul, the voice and words that sound throughout all the earth indicates that the message of the gospel has gone out to both Jews and Gentiles, and Israel’s unbelief is not for lack of hearing the gospel of Christ.
If we want people to believe that Jesus is Lord, we have to ensure they have heard the gospel, the announcement that Jesus is the crucified, resurrected and enthroned King of Israel. All who want to enter Christ’s kingdom must turn from their sins and believe and confess that Jesus is Lord.