By Ministry Intern Dr Dominic Kuek
A new year always invites reflection, and for good reason. Alongside the usual New Year’s resolutions, the particular experiences and lessons learnt from 2020 invite us to re-examine our unchallenged priorities. For some, 2020 has taught us to slow down, to treasure the small things. I, for one, have been reminded of the joys of fellowship that I had taken for granted, and so I’m intending to meet my small group regularly in person. But as we make plans for 2021, let us also be thinking about how God’s Word should also be shaping our priorities, and our time in Romans 1 is a good opportunity for us to do so.
For Paul, his overriding life priority is clear – it is to proclaim the gospel and work for gospel advancement. Partly, it is because of his unique commission as an apostle (v.1). But more than that, it is because he is sure that the gospel is good news for the world, which he then excitedly unpacks: Firstly, the gospel is God’s promises of salvation being fulfilled (v.2) – the wait is over, and the world needs to know! Secondly, the gospel is the proclamation that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has been raised and crowned as Lord (vv.3-4), and the world needs to be brought to obedience under their true King (v.5). But lastly, it is because this gospel is for all the nations, including Gentile Romans (vv.5-6). In fact, Paul highlights this last point when explaining his obligation to them (vv.14-17). Paul says he’s eager to preach to the Romans, not because of his unique commission, but because he is “not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (v.16). Gospel advancement isn’t Paul’s priority because it’s his job, it’s his priority because he is convinced that the gospel is God’s promised good news of salvation for the world.
And Paul wants gospel advancement to be our priority too. Paul’s letter is a thorough defense of this gospel, so that his readers will be equally enraptured by God’s good news to the nations and make gospel advancement their priority too. This, then, is a simple yet challenging invitation for us in the new year: Are we equally delighted in Jesus’ death and resurrection that we would make gospel advancement our obligation in 2021? It might look like reaching out to a non-Christian relative, or even turning down a promotion to serve more regularly in church. It’ll almost certainly be costly, but let us be prayerfully consider how the gospel should shape our priorities for 2021, and may God strengthen us as we do so (Rom. 16:25-27).