In His Letter to the Romans (continued)
The Range of the Term "The Gospel"
Now as to our present method in the pages which follow. I would ask you to follow me carefully, and to grasp what I am trying to say by way of the foundation of this word. We are going to pursue what I am going to call the "resultant" method: that is, to elicit and conclusion of the whole matter, rather than the particular aspect of any one portion of the New Testament.
Let me illustrate. Take, for instance, the Letter to the Romans, which we are going to consider in a moment. We all know that that letter is the grand treatise on justification by faith. But justification by faith is shown to be something infinitely greater than most of us have yet grasped or understood, and justification by faith has a very wide connotation and relationship. All that is contained in this letter to the Romans resolves itself into just one glorious issue, and that is why it begins with the statement that what it contains is "the gospel." "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God ... concerning His Son." Now all that follows is "the gospel" - but what a tremendous gospel is there! And we have somehow to sum it all up in one conclusion. We have to ask ourselves: 'After all, what does result from our reading and our consideration of this wonderful letter?' You see, justification is not the beginning of things, neither is it the end of things. Justification is the meeting point of a vast beginning and a vast end. That is, it is the point at which all the past eternity and all the future eternity are focused. That is what this letter reveals.
The God of Hope
Let us now look at it a little more closely in that particular light. What is the issue, what is the result? That result is gathered up into one word only. It is a great thing when you can get hold of a big document like this and put it into one word. What is the word? Well, you will find it if you turn to the end of the letter. It is significant that it comes at the point where the Apostle is summing up. He has written his letter, and he is now about to close. Here it is:
"Now the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope" (Romans 15:13).
If your margin is a good one, it will give you references to other occurrences of that word in this same letter. You will find it as early as chapter five, verse 4; you find it again in chapter eight, verses twenty-four and twenty-five; again in chapter twelve, verse twelve; and then in the fifteenth chapter - first in verse four, and finally here in our passage, verse thirteen. "The God of hope". That is the word into which the Apostle gathers the whole of this wonderful letter. This, then, is the gospel of the God of hope; more literally, the good news", or the "good tidings", of the God of hope. So that what is really in view in this letter from start to finish is "HOPE".
Now, quite obviously, hope has no meaning and makes no sense except in the light of the contrary - except as the contrary exists. The Divine method in this letter, therefore, in the first instance, is to set the good tidings over against a hopeless situation, in order to give clear relief to this great word - this ultimate issue, this conclusion, this result. A very, very hopeless situation is set forth. Look at the Divine method in this. The situation is set forth in two connections -
(continued with # 4 - (a. In the Matter of Heredity)