Not 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 3b of 83


[We are continuing with our brief study of the book of Romans; and are into the third sermon wherein Romans 1:16-17 is expounded under 2 heads: (1) Paul was not Ashamed of the Gospel; (2) Why was Paul not Ashamed? This is our second and final instalment of this study]

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one 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).

This is a magnificent confession. It is perhaps one of the most important confessional statements ever written.

Here Paul gives us five reasons why he was not ashamed of the Gospel. These are five reasons we must understand very well.

a. The Gospel is the Way of Salvation

First, Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel because it is God’s way of salvation

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation” says Paul. The Gospel is God’s way of salvation for mankind.

What is salvation? What is it to be saved? To be saved is to be delivered or to be rescued from a dangerous situation.  Man by nature is in a dangerous situation. Man has fallen into sin, and is helpless to come out of it. He is like a man fallen into a miry pit of quicksand. He is stuck and cannot help himself. Indeed, the more he struggles, the deeper he sinks.

He is bound as a slave to Satan and to Sin. By nature he cannot do anything but sin; and he is under the grip of Satan from which he cannot escape. And to add to his troubles, since He rebels against God daily, the wrath of God hangs over his head. He is like a spider hanging over the pit of hell, ready to plunge into it forever at any moment. Man cannot deliver himself from his guilt and damnation. He is spiritually dead, and physical and eternal death awaits him.

The Gospel is the only way which God has appointed for man’s salvation. The Gospel,—which proclaims Christ crucified to reconcile sinners unto God,—is the only means which God has appointed to deliver sinners out of bondage to sin, to Satan, to the world and to the wrath to come. It is the only means to bring fallen man into loving fellowship with God, for which man is created.

Paul therefore is not ashamed of the Gospel.

b. It is the Power of God

Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel, secondly, because the Gospel is the power of God

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation” says Paul.

The word rendered “power” comes from the Greek word from which the English word “dynamite” comes from. The Gospel, or more specifically, the preaching of the Gospel, as Calvin insists,—is “the power of God unto salvation.”

·       It is not simply about the power of God, it is the power of God.

·       It is not simply the channel through which the power of God operates, it is the power of God.

The Gospel, or more specifically, the Gospel preached, is powerful. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. In other words, the preaching of the Gospel is a means of grace. When the preaching of the Gospel is attended with the working of the Holy Spirit, hearts are changed, salvation is wrought.

Think of it this way: A sinner is like a prisoner kept in bondage with a great big chain. This chain is held together by a great padlock that can only be opened when two special keys are inserted and applied at the same time. One of these keys is the Holy Spirit key. But the other key is the Gospel key. When the Gospel and the Holy Spirit works together, the sinner is released from bondage. In other words, when the Holy Spirit is working in the heart, the Gospel preached has power to convert. In our salvation, the Holy Spirit works immediately and directly in the heart of believers, but He works by and with the Gospel preached.

Too many of us have too low a view of Gospel preaching. Most of us think of Gospel preaching as a presentation of Gospel facts or Bible truths. We think of Gospel preaching much like a national day speech by the prime minister. It tells the people what to do, and stirs the people to action. And moreover, it is something to be enjoyed or criticised. Paul teaches us something else. The Gospel preached is not just a presentation of facts or even a motivational speech; it is the power of God unto salvation.

The Gospel,—that is the word of God, especially when it is preached,—is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two–edged sword. Both Peter and James remind us that by the Gospel, men are begotten by the will of God (Jas 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23) and are through the faith of the Gospel kept by God’s power unto salvation (1 Pet 1:5).

Elsewhere, the exceeding greatness of the power of God,—exerted in the Gospel toward those who believe,—is compared to God’s mighty power which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand (Eph 1:19). Thus, while the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, to those who are saved it is the power of God.

The apostle Paul is therefore not ashamed of the Gospel. He is not ashamed because it is the means of God’s mighty working. When the Gospel is preached, God is not simply telling us about his work of redemption for us, He is actually working in our hearts, to save us. He is working through the Gospel. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.


c. It Brings Salvation to Everyone 
who Believes


 
Thirdly, Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel because the Gospel brings salvation to everyone who believes.

“…for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Everyone and anyone who believes in the Christ of the Gospel will be saved. Whether they are Jew or Greek, they will be saved. Paul says: “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek,” not because the Jews have priority, but because the Gospel came to the Jews first, and the church begun with the Jews. This was what the Lord meant when He told the Samaritan woman, “salvation is of the Jews” (Jn 4:22). Salvation first came to the Jews, but now it is offered to the world without distinction. Jews or Gentiles, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.

This truth is taught everywhere in the New Testament. For example:

·       The Lord himself declares in the Gospel of John:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16).

·       The apostle Peter declares at his inaugural sermon:

“…whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21)

·       The apostle John writes in Revelation:

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17)

Paul is not ashamed to preach the Gospel to everyone, whether Jews, cultured Greek or uncivilised Barbarians, young or old, male or female, bond or free, for the Gospel is for everyone.

Whoever you may be, and whatever condition you are in,—whether male or female, rich or poor, single or married, young or old, intellectual or simple, employer or employee, Filipino or Indonesian, Singaporean or Welsh, American or Iraqi, you need the Gospel and the Gospel can save you.

The Gospel gives hope for the hopeless, vilest and most desperate. It gives hope to those who are outwardly powerful and contented, but inwardly miserable and wretched. It gives hope to everyone in this sin darkened world who believes. How can anyone be ashamed to preach the Gospel? Paul was not ashamed!

d. It Concerns the Righteousness 
of God

Fourthly, Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel because the Gospel concerns the righteousness of God.


I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ … For therein is the righteousness of God revealed” says Paul. By the phrase “righteousness of God,” Paul is speaking of the righteousness that is from God. Paul knew that only such a righteousness is acceptable to God.

This righteousness of God was first purposed it in God’s eternal decrees, then God promised it after the fall, and now it is actually revealed in the Gospel.

Why is the righteousness of God important? It is important because, man,—as Paul will show later,—is totally and radically depraved. In God’s eyes man by nature is wicked and abominable because of sin. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags” says the prophet Isaiah (Isa 64:6). Even our good deed and though are filthy in God’s sight.

You see, man by nature is wicked in God’s sight. And because we are wicked, everything that we do is tainted with sin and abominable to God. In the 15th chapter of Proverbs, Solomon declares this 3 times in no uncertain terms: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD” (Prov 15:8); “The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD” (Prov 15:9); “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD” (Prov 15:26). Children, do you know what is it to be an abomination? Have you ever smelled cat poo? You know sometimes, you run in the park and you step on this mushy blob on the ground, and then you smell like a skunk for the rest of the day? Can you imagine what it will be like if you take some of that and put in on your plate of food? It’s disgusting isn’t it? Well, to be abominable is to be disgusting. Our sin and unrighteousness make us abominable and disgusting in God’s sight.

How then can we have any relationship with God? The fact is that unless God gives us his righteousness we cannot have fellowship with God; for as the prophet Habakkuk puts it, “[God is] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab 1:13).

It is clear that if we are to have any relationship with God, we must have the righteousness of God. This is why Paul begins his exposition of the Gospel of salvation in chapter 3 with the words: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets” (Rom 3:21).

Paul knew that without the righteousness of God, there will be no salvation. And the righteousness of God is revealed in the preaching of the Gospel. Therefore Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel. How can he be?

e. It is about Faith not Works

But finally, Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel, for the Gospel is about faith and not works.

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith,” declares Paul.

The phrase “from faith to faith” has been given many different interpretations by various commentators.

·       Some speak of Old Testament faith to New Testament faith;

·       Some speak of weak faith to strong faith;

·       Some say it is faith of the Jews to faith of the Gentiles;

·       Some say it simply means faith alone;

·       Yet others say Paul is speaking about how the doctrine of “the righteousness of God by faith” is being believed. (cf. Rom 3:22).

·       Still others speak of Paul referring to “the faithfulness of God revealing to the faith of man receiving.”

·       Personally, I prefer the view that Paul is speaking about how our salvation begins with faith, continues with faith and ends with faith. Faith, in other words, is the necessary instrument of our salvation from beginning to end.

Paul knew that there was no other way of obtaining righteousness except by faith. Paul was quoting from the prophet Habakkuk when he says, “it is written, The just shall live by faith” (cf. Hab 2:4). The just is the righteous. The just will live for he will have fellowship with God, but how can fallen man be just when even his righteousness are as filthy rags in God’s sight.

He can be just only through faith receiving the righteousness of God. Faith is like the hand to receive the righteousness of God. It is like a pipe that channels the grace of God to us.

All human righteousness is useless. Only the righteousness of God can save us. And the righteousness of God must be received by faith. Thus Paul declares in his letter to the Philippians:

8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil 3:8-9).

Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel because the Gospel is the power of God to work faith in the hearts of dead sinners in order that they may receive the righteousness of God that is in Christ Jesus.

These then are the 5 reasons why the apostle Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel:

a.   The Gospel is God’s way of salvation. Man is in desperate need of salvation, and he cannot help himself. The Gospel provides the way.

b.   The Gospel is the power of God. The Gospel is not just a presentation which leaves people to decide what to do to save themselves. The Gospel saves.

c.   The Gospel brings salvation to everyone who believes. The Gospel does not distinguish between Jews or Gentile, rich or poor, wise or unwise, young or old. Everyone who believes will find salvation.

d.   The Gospel concerns the righteousness of God. The Gospel does not teach man how to be righteous, for that is impossible. The Gospel reveals God’s righteousness and brings it to sinners.

e.   The Gospel is about faith and not works. The Gospel frees us from the burden of working for our salvation. It invites us to receive the free gift of God’s righteousness prepared for us in Christ.

 These are the 5 reasons that makes the Gospel, the Good News.

Conclusion

What shall we say to all these things? There are so many things I don’t know where to begin to wrap up. We have merely touch on the introduction to Paul’s thesis, which he will develop throughout this whole book. We shall as such be revisiting many of the things we said, in greater depth.

But let us nevertheless remind ourselves of three things:

·       First, let us not allow Satan the victory when he tempts us to be ashamed of the Gospel. Let us be reminded again that we have every reason to be thankful to God for the Gospel and to desire others to receive the Gospel. We have no reason to feel ashamed and to keep silent. Rather let us be fools for Christ’s sake by speaking unabashedly of the Gospel.

·       Secondly, let us be thrilled by the greatness and power of the Gospel. Let us thank God for every opportunity to come under the power of the Gospel preached. Let us not doubt God’s power nor think that we are sufficient in ourselves.

·       Finally, let us be filled with gratitude and praises unto the Lord for the freedom that Christ brings through the Gospel. Let us thank God that the just shall live by his faith. Were it not for Romans 1:17, we shall all be still in the shackles of Rome seeking to work our own righteousness by works tainted with sin.

Romans 1:17 was Martin Luther’s verse. Romans 1:17 was the touchstone of the Reformation. Martin Luther was a monk in the Roman Catholic Church. But even as a monk living away from the temptations of the world, Luther was burdened by a sense of guilt because of his own sin. He found no relief while trying to establish his own righteousness. But thank God he finally found relief when he finally understood what Paul meant when he says, “The just shall live by faith.”

This is what Luther said:

I was seized with the conviction that I must understand [Paul’s] letter to the Romans ... but to that moment one phrase in chapter 1 stood in my way. I hated the idea, “in it the righteousness of God is revealed.” ... I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners ...

At last, meditating day and night and by the mercy of God, I ... began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. ... Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through gates that had been flung open.

Thank God for Martin Luther. But thank God especially for the Gospel of Christ and the dictum: the just shall live by faith. Thank God that the gates of heaven have been flung open by the Gospel, and everyone who believes by God’s grace may enter in and enjoy God in Christ today and forever.

Amen.

JJ Lim