The Gospel from "Geneva" to Rome

The other day, I downloaded, in pdf form, a copy of the Book of Romans from a new edition of the 1599 Geneva Bible by Tolle Lege Publihers. As I began reading, I was reminded just what a minefield of redemptive expository preaching the New Testament is.

I didn’t get eleven verses in before I was shown how that Paul desired to visit the church of Rome (who are believers) so that he may preach the gospel to them (the believing church of Rome). The way Paul lead up to that was by detailing what all he desired to see and experience as a result of his preaching the gospel of Christ to the believers in the church of Rome:

For I long to see you,

that I might bestow among you some spiritual gift,

that you might be strengthened:

that is, that i might be comforted together with you,

through our mutual faith,

both yours and mine.

Now my brethren,

I would that ye should not be ignorant,

how that I have oftentimes purposed to come unto you

(but have been let hitherto)

that I might have some fruit also among you,

as I have among the other Gentiles.

I am a debtor both to the Grecians,

and to the Barbarians,

both to the wise men and to the unwise.

Therefore, as much as in me is,

I am ready to preach the Gospel to you also that are at Rome.

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ:

for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth,

to the Jew first, and also to the Grecian.

Romans 1:11-16 1599 Geneva Bible

Tolle Lege Publishers

Now, what is it that Paul is writing to the Romans?

Paul wants to:

  • “bestow some spiritual gift” among them that they might be strengthened (v. 11), therefore, he is ready to preach the gospel to the Roman believers (v. 15).
  • receive comfort (v. 12; cf. ESV, “encouragement”) by the fellowship of his and their faith (Romans 10:17; Ephesians 2:8-9), therefore, Paul is ready to preach the gospel to Roman believers (v. 15).
  • have fruit among the Roman believers (v. 13). Does this mean he intends to see the fruit (see James 2:14-26; Matthew 7:16, 20) of their faith in Christ which comes from the gospel preached?
  • make it clear that he owes it to those who are wise (wise in the gospel? 2 Timothy 3:15–which would include Roman believers) as well as those who are unwise (again, unwise in the gospel?) to preach the gospel to them.

So, from this passage it seems to me that the benefits of preaching the gospel to believers is stronger faith (v. 11), comfort or encouragement (v. 12) and the fruit of faith: christian living (v. 13). So, as by so many other New Testament passages (some of which may be seen elsewhere on this blog) I am persuaded that believers will become stronger and more courageous (Joshua 1) and increase in bearing the fruit by which their faith is evidenced before others, not by an exclusive diet of “application” (Law/imperative), but by the gospel preached as foundational to any application made to believers in the pew.

I fear this goal has been lost by too many Evangelical preachers. I believe this is tantamount to sinning against their Lord by neglecting to feed the sheep what they need to be fed (John 21:17). So, to those preachers who believe and have sinned in such a way, may I remind you that Christ preached faithfully on your behalf because you couldn’t and haven’t and he then suffered the penalty of death which your unfaithful preaching has incurred, and then he rose from death to vindicate all the claims he ever made (his deity, messiahship and power to bestow forgiveness of sins, among other things). Therefore, it is my privilege to declare to those of you who confess this sin that God forgives you because of the obedient life and vicarious death and resurrection of Christ. . .

. . . now go and sin no more!


4 responses

  1. John,
    Your musings are always interesting. There are a couple of things that I think are important in this matter.

    One – perhaps a larger definition of the word Gospel is useful. I am
    convinced that the Apostle Paul used it for two associated yet distinct things. First, obviously, of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and all the attendant understandings about original sin, grace, faith, baptism, and salvation, redemption, new birth, etc., associated with the imputation of justification. It is also used by Paul to proclaim a lifestyle
    which mirrored our “calling” and produced a llove for others which
    ultimately transformed us into the image of Christ (see Ephesians 4-6 for a concrete example of this proclamation of the Gospel).

    Two – I believe there is a natural and important division in Romans 1:11-16 that occurs at the end of verse 13. He is stating in the preceding verses that he is rejoicing in the fact that their faith “is spoken of throughout the whole world.” He is anxious to come and “minister” to them as they
    (mutually) share gifts and strengthen each other. He then launches into (verse 13) his statement of his longtime desire and goal to come to Rome, proclaim the Gospel, and gather some fruit (used here for initial response to the Gospel) among the Romans just as he had in other parts of the world. He continues speaking regarding the depravity of Rome,
    then men in general, until perhaps he returns to some edification of the believers in Chapter 12.

    I can’t help but wonder why there is such myriad, even repetitive insight revealed in the NT beyond the “Gospel” (in the limited sense of death,burial and resurrection) if indeed it were not “in addition to” while remaining “part of” the Gospel.

    Just some quick thinking, a bit of reading(R. C. H. Lenski)and my personal
    prejudices revealed.


  2. John D. Chitty | Reply

    Thanks, Pastor!

    As you know, the perspective which my musings represent is the perspective of the Reformation, in which those pioneer Evangelicals (back when the word “evangelical” identified one’s stand on justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone)recovered the Gospel of the Grace of God from a Roman Gospel of Grace plus Faith plus Works plus sacrament. The hermeneutic which Luther pioneered is called the “Law/Gospel” hermeneutic. A simple definition is that everything that commands and shows what we ought to do is Law (whether we are pre- or post-conversion) and anything in Scripture, in either Testament, which promises grace, blessing, hope, and glory is Gospel. Thus, on either side of the cross, what God commands is Law, what God does is Gospel.

    I find it interesting that you point out the last half of the book of Ephesians to portray this second concept to associate with the term, gospel. A frequent pattern in the Pauline epistles is to begin with theology, or gospel (which is what is contained in Ephesians 1-3) and to then build on the foundation of the Gospel-centered theology with Law; we call it “application” today. That’s what is represented by Ephesians 4-6.

    Please notice that my point is never to talk only about the Gospel, for it is dangerous to preach the Gospel to those who aren’t convicted of their sin. There is much room for exposition of Law in every sermon, unbelievers need to have their sin exposed so that those who become convicted of their sin may properly flee to Christ for justification when they hear the Gospel proclaimed; furthermore, it is likewise important that the Law be allowed to convict believing sinners of their sins as well that they may return to the cross and renew their repentance and faith. Then (and only then) is it time to begin advising Christians how to live (again, this is Law/imperative, not Gospel/indicative)in grateful response to the forgiveness that is theirs in Jesus.

    I don’t know why it is that people think that proponents of the Law/Gospel hermeneutic and redemptive expository preaching only want to hear the sole fact that Jesus died for sinners. Even after extended explanations such as this people seem to think that’s all we want. The disconnect seems to be explained in a fact pointed out by Luther regarding the difficulty of distinguishing Law from Gospel in the Bible. He once said (or wrote) words to this effect: “He who learns how to properly identify the Law and the Gospel in Scripture truly deserves the scholar’s cap.”

    It boils down to the fact that preaching that majors on what we are to do and minors on what God did in Christ is to preach Law, not Gospel. The danger of it is that to major on Law is to inadvertantly teach the hearers to try to earn the blessings of the Gospel by all our striving after the Law. Now, notice, when I speak in terms of majoring and minoring on things, I do not mean only talk about one and never talk about the other, however, those unfamiliar with this approach always direct our attention, in your own words, “beyond the ‘Gospel.'”

    There is no broader sense of the Gospel which is in addition to, or “beyond the Gospel.” To look for such is to confuse Gospel with Law, to preach Law as Gospel and to preach Gospel as Law. The Gospel is “good NEWS” not good advice; likewise, the Law is good advice, not good news. Everyone, and I mean everyone, who attempts to “follow the good advice” will fail, and thus we need to hear the “good news” and thus find forgiveness to look back to the good advice to guide us in showing our gratitude for that which Christ did as proclaimed by the good news. I call this the “Law/Gospel Cycle.”

    To arrange these categories in any other way is tantamount to preaching works for salvation, whether one means to or not.

    To supplement my remarks, may I recommend a website that goes into detail on this brand of preaching? It may be found at

    You are a Southern Baptist Calvinist. Even though you are a Calvinist, that does not mean you should only emulate the preaching of semi-pelagin Southern Baptists. There are plenty of good Calvinist Southern Baptists ( to glean from. Were you to read Calvinist homiletical material, you’d begin to see your homiletical priorities transformed! And thus, I submit, will you see even greater transformation among your congregation. And don’t forget, that transformation does not mean dropping all application and teaching on Christian living. It’s about learning Christ-centered application and Christ-centered Christian living!!! What more could we ever desire?

  3. Just so the is no misunderstanding. . .when I said “insight revealed in the N.T. beyond the Gospel”, I was speaking of “past” or that which one hears after one has come to faith. I agree, and thought I had clearly stated, that there is nothing “beyond the Gospel” for indeed the Good News includes all the revelation of God.

  4. John D. Chitty | Reply

    Then you agree that we are to preach “all the revelation” (Law and Gospel) by basing all “insight revealed… beyond the Gospel” (Law) on the Gospel explicitly.

    We have to be reminded of the foundation of the application when we hear the application or we begin to look at it from a man-centered perspective.

    Hearing the Gospel in the hymns or at the altar individually is not what I’m talking about.

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