For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first…
1. The apostle here gives his reason for the statement that he was willing to preach the gospel in Rome. In characterising the gospel as "the power of God," he showed his usual tact. It was his object to present the gospel to his readers in such an aspect as would commend it to their peculiar disposition as admirers of power. At Athens, on the other band, he was amongst a people who spent their time in telling or hearing some new thing. The apostle, therefore, observing an altar to "the unknown God," presents himself as one who had the key to this mystery. The effect upon men of such an inquisitive turn of mind may be easily conceived. The Corinthians, again, made great pretensions to wisdom; to them, therefore, the apostle represents the gospel as the highest wisdom — the wisdom of God. Whilst, however, representing the gospel as "power," to the Romans the apostle is careful to say that it was the "power of God," not that military and political power so much desiderated by them.
2. In the text we have three terms, salvation, gospel, and power. The gospel effects the salvation, and the power is the reason why.
(1) Salvation must be regarded in the light of the exposition of it given in this Epistle. Three words describe it — justification, sanctification, and glorification. The first is the soul's deliverance from the condemnation and penalty of sin (chaps. 1-5); the second, its emancipation from its dominion as a ruling principle (chaps. 6, 7); and the third, the bestowment upon it of everlasting happiness and glory (chap. 8).
(2) The gospel as a record embodies a scheme of truth based upon a series of transactions of transcendent glory, the incarnation of the Son of God, His life, death, resurrection, exaltation, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. As a message of mercy, the truths it records are presented for acceptance as a means for effecting salvation.
(3) The power of God. The gospel is —
I. THE PRODUCT OF DIVINE POWER. The transactions it records testify to the power of God in the same way that every author's power is revealed by his works. Power has three qualities, Moral, which indicates the motive, and has regard to the end in view; intellectual, which contrives, and has regard to the means; physical, which executes, i.e., applies the means devised to the end contemplated. Thus, power manifests itself in force, contrivance, and purpose. The Divine operations ever display these qualities. These qualities, however, in the gospel show different degrees of combination from those which obtain in creation — e.g., all physical objects are distinguished by some one particular colour, although all the other hues of light are there. In the light falling upon objects which appear blue, all the hues of light are present, but by the operation of a certain law, the blue alone presents itself to the eye. So in creation physical power prevails, at least to our senses. The multiplicity of its worlds and their vast magnitude divert the mind from the equally glorious, but less obtrusive, manifestations of intellect and beneficence. Now the gospel is a marvellous manifestation of power in its several phases. As the product of God's moral power it is defined as "the exceeding riches of His grace" (Ephesians 2:5). As an exhibition of His intellectual power it is represented as "making known the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:10). Its manifestations of physical power, instanced in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, are described as the working of His mighty power (Ephesians 1:19). But its moral power is its crown and glory. One characteristic will suffice to show this. Its pith and marrow is its provision for the forgiveness of sin, and this is the grandest exercise of moral power possible. "Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity?" So far was the idea of forgiveness from the hearts of men that when they came to create gods they never imagined gods possessed of the power to pardon sin. Does not this prove that the religion which presents this fact to us must be, as regards its conception, absolutely Divine?
II. AN INSTRUMENT OF DIVINE POWER. "The power of God unto salvation." The transactions it embodies were characterised by superlative condescension and self-sacrifice. As such they were replete with power in the two senses of legal merit and spiritual influence — the one frowning the ground of men's reconciliation with God, the other forming the instrumentality for weaning them from sin, for changing their disposition, subduing their passions, and kindling in their hearts the love of Christ. But this is not all. The gospel possesses instrumental fitness for securing justification and sanctification, but in order that these may become experimental realities men must, believingly, accept, as the ground and instrument of their salvation, the transactions it records. Hence powerful influences are necessary to overcome men's indifference and stubbornness. The gospel is the power of God to this end. The transactions it embodies are presented as messages of love. This message is instinct with the moral and Divine power of the transactions which form its theme. No wonder the gospel is called the "word of salvation" — the word which both reveals salvation and opens the heart, by conviction, to its reception.
(A. J. Parry.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.