Paul boldly spoke of "my gospel" (Rom 2:16). In Romans he laid out the Gospel according to Paul. And since he was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, his gospel is the real gospel. Which raises the question: is our gospel the same as Paul's gospel?

As he thought about the Gospel he was presenting in Romans, Paul was convinced that it was "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (1:16). If our gospel differs from Paul's gospel, that power will inevitably be diminished. So looking at our gospel and Paul's makes an interesting comparison.

When we survey the evangelical scene today, it would seem that our gospel begins with the love of God and end with life in heaven. If we look at Paul's gospel as it unfolds in Romans 1-8, we notice a bit of a contrast.

In Romans, the gospel starts with the wrath of God, not the love of God. Strangely, in comparison with modern presentations of the Gospel, the love of God gets a brief mention in Paul's introductory greetings, but doesn't really appear in the story until chapter five.

The end of the story is a bit different too. Heaven hardly gets a mention. In the first reference (1:18), heaven is described as the place from which the wrath of God is coming, rather than the place to which we are going as our final resting place. And in the other reference (10:6) we are told, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven'" We are told not to go there in our thinking for the motivation in the heart of such a person is to go there to drag Christ down. No, continues Paul, "The word is near you - in your mouth and heart". So keep your feet on the ground.

In Paul's gospel, the end of the story is not heaven but a new creation. We stand in a resurrection body on a new earth under a new heaven.  Paul skips from justification to sanctification to glorification, dashing past heaven as if it doesn't exist. Of course he is not saying that heaven is unimportant, but he is powerfully making the point that it is not the goal of the gospel. It is the temporary resting place of those who have died in the Lord, but at the second coming we will all be raised - and, according to Paul's gospel, that which we "eagerly await" is "the redemption of our bodies" (8:23). The whole Bible ends in the same place: down here, not up there.

Could it be that in the contrast between our gospel and Paul's we might find one of the reasons for its lack of power? Surely the start and end of a story are the most significant elements determining the nature of the story. Get the start and finish right and everything else will fall into place. The power is in the beginning and the end. There is power in a proclamation calling people to turn to Christ if they see their need for him in the prospect of the wrath of God. There is power in a proclamation calling people to live for Christ if their goal is not to escape from a body in a fallen world but to see God glorified in physical form on a renewed earth.