Romans - Lesson 5

Romans 1:16-17

Romans 1:16-17 introduces the Gospel's centrality, challenging Roman authority. It declares Jesus as hope and peace, surpassing Caesar's claims. Dr. Moo draws out how the Gospel intertwines personal salvation with God's reign, advocating for social justice. "Righteousness of God" reflects justice and faith's role in aligning with God's purposes, establishing believers anew.

Lesson 5
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Romans 1:16-17

I. The Meaning of The Gospel

A. Gospel Redefined

B. God is Establishing His Reign

C. The Gospel is Salvation and Social Justice

II. Preaching the Gospel

A. Distinction between Kerygma and Didache

B. Implications on Theological Views

III. The Good News: Revelation of God's Righteousness

A. Traditions in Understanding God's Righteousness

B. God is Establishing us Again

1. Old Testament Foundations

2. Isaiah's Prophecy

3. Translation Challenges

4. Righteousness by Faith

Class Resources
  • This lesson offers a deep dive into Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing its pastoral aims, Paul's intentions to visit Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome, and its relevance to early Christian dynamics and theological inquiries about the Law in Christ's time.
  • This lesson offers a fresh view of Paul's theology, focusing on Romans. It emphasizes the first-century context, highlighting Gentile inclusion and unity in Christ, challenging traditional views. Gain insights into Paul's message and its relevance today.
  • Explore the book of Romans for modern faith conflicts: balance tradition with contemporary practices, learn from history, and grasp Paul's ministry and Gospel's complexities.
  • Follow along with Dr. Moo as he begins a thorough review of Romans 1:2-5. You will learn how Paul emphasizes Jesus' earthly life, resurrection, and his appointment as the Son of God in power. This lesson examines the interconnectedness of faith and obedience, underscoring that while faith initiates salvation, genuine faith inherently entails obedience to Christ as Lord, maintaining a balanced Christian life.
  • By delving into Romans 1:16-17, you'll understand the Gospel extends beyond individual salvation, encompassing God's reign over creation and His establishment of justice. The Gospel challenges worldly powers, offering hope and transformation to all who embrace it.
  • Listen along as the class discusses questions and answers revolving around Romans 1:16-17.
  • In Romans 1:18-28, you learn that all people are held accountable by God, having knowledge of Him through natural revelation but some turn away. This passage highlights the manifestation of God's wrath against sin, the exchange of truth for falsehoods, and the absence of excuses for humanity's actions, ultimately emphasizing God's fair judgment.
  • Listen in as the class and Dr. Moo discuss aspects of Romans 1:18-28.
  • The lesson discusses Romans 2:1-11, it highlights the use of the diatribe device and the transition from focusing on Gentiles to Jews. It underscores the Jewish belief in their special status and their potential misunderstanding of God's judgment. The lesson reviews the focus of the text on key themes such as judgment, righteousness, and the relationship between faith and good deeds.
  • In this lesson, you'll review the significance of the Law, notably the Law of Moses, in God's judgment. Paul stresses that mere knowledge of the Law isn't sufficient for righteousness; obedience is key. The primary message is that salvation ultimately relies on God's grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as human efforts and consciences alone cannot secure salvation. This lesson highlights the importance of understanding these concepts in interactions with people of different religious beliefs.
  • The key takeaway in this lesson is that while being a Jew comes with a great heritage, it doesn't guarantee salvation. Obedience to God's law is crucial, and reliance on religious heritage or rituals won't save you. The lesson emphasizes the universal human condition of being under the power of sin, and people cannot be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law or by the works of the Law. Only through faith in Christ are we made righteous.
  • This lesson explores the New Perspective on Paul, emphasizing that the Law was for Jewish covenant status, not just salvation. It promotes a holistic faith view, balancing vertical and horizontal aspects, Spirit-led obedience, and 1st-century Judaism diversity, enriching Pauline teachings in the church.
  • In exploring Romans 3:21-26, you'll gain insights into the relationship between righteousness, faith, and salvation. Paul highlights God's righteousness, which is accessible to all through faith in Jesus Christ. By weaving together themes of righteousness, faith, and inclusivity, Paul challenges conventional Jewish and Gentile perspectives, emphasizing the continuity of God's salvation plan while underscoring the centrality of faith in Christ for all believers.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the potential challenge in translating Romans 3:23-24, particularly the term "all" and its connection to the debate on universalism in evangelicalism. Dr. Moo stresses the importance of coherence in biblical interpretation and explores the themes of God's righteousness, faith, and grace in justification. The lesson reviews the cultural background of redemption, drawing parallels with the Greco-Roman slave market and emphasizing the need to understand both the problem of sin and the Gospel solution.
  • Embarking on this lesson, you'll gain insight into the historical development and contemporary challenges surrounding the doctrine of justification. Through exploring classic Reformation principles and contemporary reassessments, you'll understand the tensions between Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives, particularly regarding the infusion of righteousness and the role of grace.
  • The lesson explores the intricate connection between faith and works, justification, and sanctification in contemporary theological discourse. It delineates divergent views on justification, with scholars like Piper advocating for the preservation of biblical distinctions amidst modern theological trends. The lesson examines key questions regarding the meaning, basis, time, and means of justification.
  • Students in Dr. Moo's class ask multiple questions about justification.
  • By studying Romans 3:27-4:25, you gain insight into Paul's theology, where faith, exemplified by Abraham's righteousness, transcends works and ethnicity, emphasizing the universal scope of salvation through Christ.
  • Hear the questions the students ask regarding Romans 3:27–4:25. And discover Dr. Moo's answers to the questions posed.
  • In Romans 5 – 8, you gain insights into profound theological concepts like justification, identity in Christ, and the tension between present reality and future hope, guiding you to embrace your changed identity and hope for future transformation amidst life's trials.
  • Students as deep questions about Romans 5-8. Hear what Dr. Moo presents as answers to their questions.
  • Through Romans 5:1-11, you'll review the contrast between the Old and New Realms, understanding the essence of living in grace, finding hope amid suffering, and experiencing the assurance of eternal security rooted in Christ's sacrifice and God's love poured into believers' hearts by the Holy Spirit.
  • In Romans 5:12-21, Paul contrasts Adam's sin with Christ's redemptive grace, emphasizing humanity's hope and victory over death through union with Christ, while various interpretations of original sin underscore the universal need for redemption and Christ's pivotal role in restoring humanity to God.
  • Listen to the thorough questions the students ask regarding Romans 5:12-21.
  • The students ask excellent questions of Dr. Moo in this insightful discussion on Romans 6:1-14.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain a deeper understanding of the theological implications of Christ's death and resurrection as explained in Romans 6. You will explore different interpretations of Paul's language regarding the old self and the new self, considering the implications for the Christian life. Ultimately, you will be challenged to recognize your identity in Christ and to actively live according to that identity, rejecting the slavery of sin and embracing servitude to God.
  • Hear the questions the students ask of Dr. Moo regarding Romans 6:1-23.
  • In diving into Romans 7, you'll explore the Law's role in Christian life. Paul's discourse clarifies the distinction between law and gospel, emphasizing the Torah's significance in understanding divine commandments.

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

Dr. Douglas Moo 
Romans 1:16-17  
Lesson Transcript


Romans 1:16-17 

‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.’ 

A. The Meaning of The Gospel:

Romans 1:16-17 is universally regarded as the theme statement of Romans. It creates a transition from the introduction of the letter to the body. Here are some fairly important words that I want to talk about that will come up again and again in Romans.

Note again first of all, that in terms of the theme of the letter, the word that comes first here is Gospel; I am not ashamed of the Gospel, the Good News.

There has been some redefinition going on regarding what the word Gospel means. Some of that redefinition in my view is appropriate while some of it goes too far.

Sometimes, we understand the Gospel to be a way of talking about the way people get saved. So, the Gospel is sort of equivalent to the traditional Campus Crusade Four Spiritual Laws. When you preach the Good News, you are explaining to people how they can be saved, what steps they need to go through to get into relationship with Christ.

People are now questioning that way of understanding the Gospel and I think they have a point but some of them are taking it too far. The point is this, the Good News as Paul has already identified it in verses 3-4 is not simply how we individually can be saved. The Gospel focuses on the person of Jesus as the Lord and talks not only about how a person is saved but also how God is establishing His reign over His created but rebellious world again.

The point is again made validly that we need to hear this word Gospel or Good News as how the first century Romans would have heard it.  Obviously, there is Old Testament background here. The Old Testament prophets talk about the day when there would be Good News, when God would come to establish His reign again. Paul quotes one of those texts later on as we’ll see in Romans 10, but even in the Old Testament the Good News is not simply about God making a way for people to be saved, the Good News is about God intervening to reestablish His people, to judge His enemies, and to reign over the earth again.

It is also very significant that the Greek word that we translate as Gospel or Good News had been used by the Romans. It had been co-opted for some of the Roman Imperial propaganda. When the Emperor Augustus, for instance, was reigning, people would say that the birth of Emperor Augustus was Good News for the world. So, there was this use of the language in the political discourse at that time. 

B. God is establishing His Reign:

The Roman Emperor in other words is the one who promises to establish peace on the earth, the famous Pax Romana. The emperor is the one who is bringing the good news of universal peace to humanity. So, put your hope in the government and in Caesar; he is the good news. When the early Christians came along, especially in Rome saying that the Good News is not Caesar Augustus, but the Good News comes through Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish Messiah who is now Lord of the earth, that was making a very definite claim vis-à-vis the Roman imperial power. Hope doesn’t come through the government; it doesn’t come through the Caesar or the legions, but hope comes in Jesus.

The point is this, when we have the word Gospel in Paul and the New Testament in general, it of course has application on how people can enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ and find peace with God. However, it talks about more than that; preaching the Gospel means proclaiming the Good News that in Jesus Christ, God is establishing His reign over the earth again. He is extending His rule, that is Good News. The proclamation of the Good News means not just telling people how to be saved; it is also announcing the establishment of God’s rule over the world. This has broader implications than simply the issue of human beings being saved. 

C. The Gospel is Salvation and Social Justice:

Preaching the Gospel involves not only calling people to respond to Jesus Christ in faith so that they might be saved, preaching the gospel also involves helping my people in the congregation to learn to get along with each other, to break down racial, social, and economic barriers. This is part of the Good News of the reign of God’s kingdom that He wants to establish over people.

Is social justice part of the Gospel? Yes, part of it, not just an extension of it, it is part of the Gospel. God is establishing His peaceful reign over the world and so my involvement in trying to bring justice to this world is a means of preaching good news that God wants to right wrongs in this world, not all of them, (that is never going to happen obviously), but nevertheless, to be involved in establishing this peaceful shalom, the reign of God over the earth.

Some people have taken this too far which is unfortunate; some have written books on this, almost to the point of saying that the Gospel is not this matter of how people get saved. Well, it is; the Gospel is still central to how God is establishing His reign and we must not neglect it. It is a matter again of a both/and, of expanding our horizons so that we don’t have to make these choices of whether we evangelize or engage in social justice? Do I bring people to Christ, or do I try to break down racial, social, and economic barriers in my community? The answer is yes, both; it is not either/or. We don’t have to feel guilty if we are involved in both of those as part of the kingdom of God, the Gospel of the Good News of Jesus Christ, and His lordship over the world.

In verse 15, he talks about “preaching the Gospel to you who are in Rome.” Is it possible to make the distinction between the Gospel kerygma and the Gospel didache?

Dr. Moo:
Yes, that is a great point; thanks for raising that on verse 15.  Why would Paul have to come to Roman Christians to preach the Gospel? If they are already Christians, why would he think that he needs to preach the Gospel there? Part of the answer, I think, is the broader sense of what the Gospel is. Kerygma and didache is not a bad way of thinking about the distinction; some of you will know that these are two Greek words that have often been used to distinguish between the initial proclamation of Jesus to unbelievers, going out and do evangelism,  that is our kerygma, our proclamation of Jesus. Then there is the didache, the teaching of what it means to be a Christian that comes afterwards. I think that distinction is fair one, and perhaps the Gospel involves a little of both.

Does this amplified understanding of the word Gospel have any impact on the Reformed faith that would say that substitutionary atonement is the way of explaining what happened in the atonement.  It sounds like if it’s amplified, we’re saying now that maybe a better model for the atonement would be something like recapitulation theory, or this more cosmic Christus victor view.

Dr. Moo:
I don’t there are necessary implications but those who have emphasized substitutionary atonement in regard to what happens at the cross is that Jesus died in our place to take our sins upon Himself, He was our substitute which is a view that is central. In the tradition, I don’t think very people want to hold that view to the exclusion of the others. I think the issue has been on how you balance them. Which one receives the priority?  Personally, as I read Paul and as we look at Romans 3, substitutionary atonement is very central, but not to the exclusion of the theme of Christ triumphing over the powers through His cross in Colossians 2, for instance, I think that is there also.

John Piper has objected to this broader view of the Gospel in one of his books.  He says, how is it good news to hear that Jesus Christ is Lord? That just seems like bad news. I think this view is too constricted in the sense that it is Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord. That means for those who bow the knee to Christ, they can be saved, but it also means that God is working in Christ to judge His enemies, and that is Good News, too. It is Good News that God hasn’t simply left this world to go on in its own way. It is Good News that God is even now working to establish justice and that one day He will establish ultimate justice, righting every wrong. That is Good News; it might not be good news for the persons who disobey, but in a broader sense, it is Good News that God has not abandoned His rebellious creation. In Jesus Christ, He is now working to bring that creation back under His lordship and ultimately, we know that will be fully accomplished with the return of Christ. That is Good News.

D. Why is There Good News:

We have talked about salvation to everyone, first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. The juxtaposition here of universality; everyone who believes with the specifics of Jew and Gentile is typical of Romans, as we are going to see. Why is there Good News?  Because, Paul says, the righteousness of God is revealed. This phrase, the righteousness of God, is a very significant phrase in Romans. Paul uses this phrase nine times altogether, and eight of the occurrences are in Romans.  Obviously, it is very important language for Romans itself.

Traditionally, you have three ways of understanding. I talk about this in the commentary and go into detail about some of the options.  It seems to me that it is the third that comes closest to what Paul means here.  I base that especially on the way that the phrase is used in the Old Testament.

(Shows a slide)

The “Righteousness of God”

(dikaisoynē theou)

“The Righteousness that belongs to God”

(His attribute of absolute justice)

“The Righteousness that comes from God”

(The righteous status that God gives us”)

“The Righteousness being established by God”

(His act of putting his people “in the right”)



When we are moving from Greek to English here, we have one of these challenges.  It’s why translation is so difficult.  Languages don’t match neatly; they create all kinds of problems when you move from one to another.  There is an old saying that people should watch neither sausage nor translations being made, and there is a lot of truth to that.  It’s a messy procedure; it’s a difficult procedure sometimes, a contentious one.   

But, here we have one of those issues where we have three Greek words, all coming from the same root:  dikaiosynē, dikaios, and dikaioō  where in English we have to represent them with different words. The point is then when we are reading them in our English Bibles we see words like righteousness, just, justified, these are all talking about the same basic concept. They are related ideas which is obvious in the Greek but not in English. For instance, when we look at the Old Testament passages about both righteousness and just or justice; these are all often the same idea.

Here are a couple of Old Testament texts where we read about God’s righteousness; this is when we are reading Paul where we need first the term.  If you are asking how is Paul using a particular word or phrase, you need to go to the Old Testament first; that is what formed Paul’s vocabulary as a Jew.

Let us look at Psalm 50:

"He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he might judge his people.
'Gather to me this consecrated people who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.'
The heavens proclaim his righteousness, for He is a God of justice."

I have paraphrased the idea here as faithfulness to God’s own character and purposes. The heavens proclaim His righteousness. There is vindication of the faithful and condemnation of the wicked in this context.

E. God is Establishing us Again:

Even more important are passages like this one in Isaiah.  We know that Isaiah was particularly important for Paul and in Romans 3:21 Paul specifically tells us that the righteousness of God is testified to by the Old Testament. This is a prophecy that Isaiah gives us in Isaiah 51:4-8;

“Listen to me, my people; hear me my nation: instruction will go out from me; justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; The heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants will  die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.”

Here Isaiah talks about a day to come when God’s righteousness will appear and somehow that righteousness is closely associated with salvation. Both verses have virtually a parallel between righteousness and salvation.

In these passages then, I think we have the basis to say that God’s righteousness involves His act of putting His people in the right. I work on the translation committee, CBT as it is called, the Committee on Bible Translation responsible for the NIV. One of the benefits I enjoy is working closely with colleagues from a variety of backgrounds and contexts. My Old Testament colleagues on the committee will often when they come to this language in the Old Testament use the word ‘vindication.’ In a passage like this in Isaiah, Isaiah is saying to Israel, remember Israel is in exile, Isaiah is saying to the people of Israel that God is going to be faithful to you. One day God is going to judge your enemies and vindicate you. He is going to establish you again in the right. He is going to make you His people. He is going to fill you with His Spirit.  So, when Paul picks up this phrase in Romans, he is saying that in the Good News the righteousness of God is being revealed, this coming of God to vindicate his people, to put them in the right.  What is key then for Paul is that this righteousness is no longer just for Israel anymore, it is for everybody who believes. This is the point that Paul makes again and again. It is again a righteousness that is by faith from first to las, a phrase difficult to translate. 

The emphasis is on faith as a means of achieving this righteousness that God is now revealing. Faith is something anybody can exercise, Jew and Gentile alike. God’s righteousness is not just for his people Israel; it is for anybody who has faith, Jew or Gentile.

Paul then concludes the verse by quoting Habakkuk 2:4, “The righteous shall live by faith.” This is obviously bringing the word righteousness and faith together which is very important for Paul. This is difficult to know how to translate because you can also translate this as the one who is righteous by faith will live. In other words, what does the phrase ‘by faith’ modify? Does it modify live or the word righteous? In Habakkuk it clearly modifies the verb (shall live), but Paul tends to put the language of righteousness and faith together a lot in Romans 1-4. This leads me to suspect that he may want to attach ‘by faith’ to righteous here. Here is one of those many places here where I lost the vote on the committee. Please understand me, anything you don’t like in the updated NIV, those are votes I lost; take that as a rule of thumb.  I would have preferred to translate this as ‘the one who is righteous by faith shall live’ but my colleagues weren’t convinced and voted the other way.