Romans 1:16-17 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Romans 1:16
  • Romans 1:17

Paul boldly preaches the gospel because it is the power of God for all who believe. Initially, faith saves us from hell, but for the believer, faith continues to allow us to live righteous lives through the resurrection power of Christ.

Paul makes clear that he is bold in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus. Why? Because the good news of Jesus contains the power for “salvation.” The Greek word translated “salvation” is “soteria.” Soteria appears in Romans five times. Romans 13:11 says it is high time we wake up because “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed”. This is helpful in understanding what Paul means by “salvation” or “save.” Many think of “save” as being limited to the moment when a believer first trusts in Jesus to save him or her from their sin, and the penalty of eternal separation from God, the moment when we are born anew of the Spirit. But Romans 13:11 says that every day we live, every day we get further away from the point of our initial salvation we are getting closer to salvation. What is going on here? What does Paul mean?

The answer is simple and profound for understanding Romans. “Salvation” is not a technical term. The “salvation” we Christians are getting closer to every day is the salvation from our sin-filled earthly bodies when they are replaced with new resurrected bodies. “Salvation” or “save” simply means “something is being delivered from something” and the context determines “what is being delivered from what.”

In Romans, Paul’s primary concern is for these Roman believers (who have already received deliverance from the eternal penalty of sin) to also learn to walk each day in the power of the resurrection of Jesus by faith, and in doing so be delivered from the power of sin to bring defeat and loss to us. Paul will soon make clear that the consequences of sin are profoundly negative, they lead to death and self-destruction, and Paul desperately wants us to avail ourselves of the resurrection power within us to experience life instead.

Verses 16 and 17 are, appropriately, often considered the theme or thesis statement of the book of Romans.

The “it” referred to here is the good news or gospel of Jesus (see verse 16). The good news is much, much more than just the reality that by simple trust in the work of Jesus on our behalf of bearing our sins on the cross, we can be delivered forever from the penalty of sin. The great news is also that we can experience the resurrected power of the life of Jesus in daily living through walking by faith. That is what this book is mainly about: how to experience a life where Jesus’ resurrection power defines who we are and how we live.

From faith to faith” is a key phrase. Our new life in Jesus begins when we trust in His finished work on the cross as our only hope of heaven. But that is just the beginning. The rest of our life is to be marked by faith as well, for that is how we appropriate the resurrection power of the risen Jesus for daily living.

As it is written,” refers to what we call the “Old Testament” which at this time was most of the Holy Scriptures referred to in 1:2 since the New Testament had not yet been completed. This quote is from Habakkuk 2:4. In chapters 1 and 2 Habakkuk asks God why He is allowing injustice to go unpunished in Israel, and God answers that He plans to bring the Babylonians to descend on Israel in order to chastise them. “How is that just?” wonders Habakkuk “when the Babylonians are even worse?” God answers that there are two ways to live, one is by human pride, faith in self and mankind. The other is by faith in the true and living God. That is where real justice comes from when we trust God and walk in obedience to Him. “The righteous man shall live by faith.”

What we will learn in Romans is how to walk in faith in order that our lives are truly just. To be able to walk in faith we must first receive the free gift of God’s grace by faith. That is the beginning faith in the phrase “from faith to faith.” But while that initial faith is what brings us the gift of a resurrected life, our opportunity to experience that gift worked out in our daily existence requires a living faith each day. This is the second faith in the phrase “from faith to faith” and that is the faith Paul will primarily teach about in this book. This makes sense, given that the audience here is a group of believers whose faith is spoken of throughout the entire world (1:8).

Biblical Text:

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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

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