Ashamed Of The Gospel?

A Brief  Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Base on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 3a of 83

16 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 Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written,  The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).

The book of Romans was written by the apostle Paul to the Roman Christians between A.D. 57-58. In our first two studies we saw the introductory parts of this letter. In this third exposition we are entering into the body of the letter. From here on, until very last chapter, we will have no hint that this book was written as a letter. In fact, it will look much more like a theological treatise than a letter.

As with all good theological treatises, Paul begins with a thesis statement. This is how we may look at verse 16-17.

But theology is not something that can be studied like biology or physics or computer science. It is something that immediately touches the heart. Therefore, even as the apostle states the theme of his treatise, he brings it across as an answer to why he felt indebted to preach the Gospel to the Greeks and Barbarian, to the wise and unwise, and to the Christians at Rome. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” he says.

The Lord helping us, we want to study this heartfelt thesis statement of the apostle Paul in two instalments. In the first instalment, we must consider what Paul mean by saying that he is not ashamed of the Gospel, and we must ask ourselves “Am I ashamed of the Gospel?” In the second instalment, we want to consider why Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel.

a. Paul & the Gospel

Paul was a proud man before his conversion. He was in his own words, “an Hebrew of the Hebrew.” He was circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin. He was an expert of the law. He kept the law meticulously and blamelessly. He was a Pharisee. And he was unashamedly zealous. He even persecuted the church (Phil 3:5-6). He was a man much respected by the Jews and feared by the Christians.

But all this changed in a sudden conversion along the road to Damascus. Suddenly, he ceased to be feared by the Christians; and he ceased to be respected by the Jews. For the sake of the Gospel, he was hated by the Jews and mocked by the Gentiles. He was stoned and left for dead at Lystra; he was imprisoned and flocked at Philippi; he was driven out of Thessalonica;, he had to be smuggled out of Berea; he was laughed at in Athens; and He was declared a blasphemer and lawbreaker in Jerusalem.

And moreover the message that Paul was bringing everywhere was an unpopular one. It was a message about a man who claimed to be God, who died a cursed death on the cross. The Jews considered it a stumbling block while the Greeks considered it foolishness. The Jews derided it as turning people away from the Law of God.

The Greeks poured scorn on it. They denounced it as atheism because the followers of the Way had no temple or idols. And they condemned it for cannibalism because they were said to eat the body and blood of a condemned criminal.

Everywhere in the ancient world, Christians who bear the Gospel were condemned for being disturbers of the public peace. They were people,—it was felt,—who were proud and presumptuous, who had separated themselves from the rest of mankind. The world was opposed to the Gospel, and those who believed it,—not to mention proclaimed it,—were ridiculed.

Paul, in other words, from a human perspective, did not have good reasons to be proud of the Gospel. Everything and everyone seemed to be conspiring to make him feel ashamed of his life’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel.

b. The Temptation to 
be Ashamed

Was Paul ever tempted to be ashamed of the Gospel? I believe, it is very likely that he was. We know that pastor Timothy certainly was, for Paul admonished him:

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God (2 Tim 1:8).

Have you ever been ashamed of the Gospel, beloved? I have, and I am ashamed to say so.

Have you not been ashamed of the Gospel before?

Were there not times when you have the opportunity speak a word for the Lord, but you did not?

Were there not times when you felt you should tell your colleague of his sin and his need for Christ, but hesitated because you wondered what your colleague will say?

Were there not times when you were having lunch in the hawker center, and you had to share a table with a stranger, and you hesitated to give thanks for your food before eating?

Are you not tempted to stay within the circle of the church, to talk only to believers? Why? Could it be that you know you should tell unbelievers the Gospel, but are too ashamed to say a word?

c. The Sin of Being Ashamed 
of the Gospel

Beloved, you are not alone if you ever feel ashamed of the Gospel. The great Scottish commentator, Robert Haldane warns us:

“Even they who have tasted of the grace of God, are liable to experience, and often to yield to, the deeply–rooted and sinful feeling of being ashamed of the things of God.”

Indeed, I believe Dr Lloyd-Jones is right when he says that if you have never been ashamed of the Gospel, it is unlikely because you are “an exceptionally good Christian,” but rather because “your understanding of the Christian message has never been clear.”

But make no mistake. I am not saying that it is right to be ashamed of the Gospel. We ought not to be ashamed of the Gospel. The apostle Paul might have been tempted to be ashamed of the Gospel, and might have fallen on occasions, but he would not allow the temptation to take root: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” He proclaims.

It is sinful to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is a sin that must be repented of, for the Lord Jesus Christ himself says:

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels (Mk 8:38).

But how can we be fortified against falling into the sin of being ashamed of the Gospel in this adulterous and sinful generation? Thank God that He does not leave us to struggle alone. Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us why he is not ashamed of the Gospel.…

… To be Continued Next Issue