The book of Romans is a book of freedom. In chapters one through three we see that we are free from the wrath of God. In Chapter four we are free from the guilt of sin and in chapter five we are free of condemnation. But the good news doesn’t just stop with the first five chapters. In chapter six we discover we are free from the dominion of sin and in chapter seven Paul assures us that we are free from the law as a method of salvation. And because of all the grace and love of God as revealed in the first seven chapters we discover in chapter, eight to our great joy, that we are free from death.
It is little wonder that Paul, in the very first chapter of Romans cries out, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (1:16)
Jesus reminded His listeners, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38 John Stott makes an interesting observation that because Jesus needed to warn His followers about being ashamed of Him it shows that He anticipated that they might be.
Many years ago, as a young pastor, I was invited to a man’s house to talk to him about the Gospel. When I arrived the yard was full of motorcycles and by the noise coming from inside the house there was a party in full swing. The home was an old farmhouse with a wooden closed in porch that I had to walk through to get to the kitchen door. I was already a little nervous about what I might be getting into when I saw all the bikes, but I wasn’t prepared for the party that greeted me when I opened the door.
But, before I walked through that door I set my bible on the arm of an old sofa that was sitting in the porch. As soon as I walked into the room the man I was there to see came over and introduced me as his pastor who was there to study the Bible with him and everyone was invited to stay. I have never seen rats abandon ship but it must look something like what it was like to see these guys clear out of the house.
The man I came to see was out in the yard for a few minutes saying good-by to his buddies as I waited for him in the kitchen. When he came back he was holding my Bible. He held the Bible up and asked me with absolute sobriety, “are you ashamed of this?”
I tried to make up an excuse and mumbled something about not wanting to embarrass him in front of his friends, but he and I both knew the truth. I felt embarrassed to be seen carrying a Bible into the party.
That experience is one of the defining moments for me regarding my commitment to Jesus. For days afterwards I was ashamed at my being ashamed of standing tall for Christ. The Scottish pastor James Stewart commenting on Romans 1:16 stating, “there’s no sense declaring that you’re not ashamed of something unless you’ve been tempted to feel ashamed of it.”
John Stott wrote, “And without doubt Paul knew the temptation (to be ashamed of the Gospel). He told the Corinthians that he came to them, ‘in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.’ (1 Cor. 2:3) He knew that the message of the cross was ‘foolishness’ to some and ‘a stumbling block to others,’ (1 Cor. 1:18, 23) because it undermines self-righteousness and challenges self-indulgence. So whenever the gospel is faithfully preached, it arouses opposition, often contempt and sometimes ridicule.” Romans p. 60
How did Paul get over this temptation to be ashamed of the Gospel? It was by remembering that “it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” And we know that this is true because it is true in our lives. When we believed the Gospel we experienced the power of God working within us through the Holy Spirit to transform us and renew us. Our hearts are overflowing with love for others because we have been loved unconditionally through the grace of God poured out at the cross.
You and I can’t save ourselves, redemption is the great gift of God and when we revel it in the unmerited goodness of God, it is impossible to be ashamed of the Gospel. The Gospel is the great leveler in the world. Notice, Paul said, “it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew then for the Gentile.” We are all saved the same way, by faith.
Paul was convicted by the Gospel and believed that if God could save him then He could save anyone. Notice what he writes next, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written, ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ “ (1:17) We will have a lot more to say on this text next post but for now it is enough for us to recognize that it is because of Paul’s faith in the righteousness of God that he has confidence and desire to share the Gospel and not be ashamed of it.
If you are shy about sharing your faith don’t think for a moment you are ashamed of the Gospel. We hesitate for all sorts of personal reasons and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up because we are not being super evangelists. Instead make sure that when you have the opportunity to speak you can tell them your story of what Jesus means to you. So often we confuse sharing the gospel with giving Bible studies and having to know all the doctrines of our particular church. Instead just relate how God saved you by grace and they will experience the joy of trusting in God flowing through you.
Dr. Douglas Moo sums up verses 16 and 17 wonderfully when he writes, “Paul’s pride in the gospel is the reason why he is so eager to preach the gospel in Rome (v. 15). This pride in turn, stems from the fact that the gospel contains, or mediates, God’s saving power for everyone who believes. Why the gospel brings salvation is explained in 17a: it manifests God’s righteousness, a righteousness based on faith.” The Epistle to the Romans p. 63, 64 And to that we can all say amen.
* Please remember in prayer those who are persecuted for their Christian faith. Go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates on persecution of Christians