ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL?
When I was in high school, there was a new kid, whom I liked, but my friends didn’t. I don’t remember why they didn’t like him. Perhaps they, like many kids, didn’t need a reason to not like the new kid.
They committed all sorts of mean practical jokes against him, and I caught in the middle, participated with them. We superglued the dial on his combination padlock that he had on his locker, we used a magnet to erase his computer disks, and things like that.
One day, he caught me in the Industrial Arts classroom and said, “I thought you were my friend.” Never were more convicting words spoken. I was and still am ashamed of the things I helped do against him.
What does it mean to be ashamed of something? It is to be guilty or embarrassed because of something you did. We can be ashamed of actions, of words, attitudes, or even who we are.
In Romans 1:16-17, Paul wrote that he was not ashamed of his association with the Gospel—of his relationship with Jesus Christ.
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)
What does it mean to be ashamed of the Gospel? Being ashamed of the Gospel means being ashamed of Christ. It’s watering down your faith out of fear of offending someone. It’s not speaking about Jesus when you should.
By the way, the Gospel is not the same as a certain kind of politics. Some Christians are very loud about talking about politics, but they suddenly get quiet when speaking about the actual Gospel.
Perhaps the most infamous example of being ashamed of Christ is Peter’s denial of Christ:
69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. 70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. 71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. 72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. 73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee. 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. (Matthew 26:69–74)
We’re hard on Peter, but would we have done any better?
It’s easy for us to be ashamed of the Gospel. We’re driven to be ashamed of the Gospel by a culture that wants us to be quiet. We are told that we’re arrogant if we teach Christ is the only way to Heaven. We’re told that we’re anti-intellectual if we believe in a supernatural deity that came and died for our supposed sins.
Jesus and His Gospel has always been a problem for people. Paul, when he wrote to the Corinthian church, said:
18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
People don’t like to be told that there is one way to be saved. They don’t like to hear the preaching of the Cross. And they go out of their way sometimes to make a believer feel ashamed.
In Romans 1:16-17, Paul gives two reasons not to be ashamed of the Gospel. In verse 16, he says it is because it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. In verse 17, he says that he is not ashamed because the Gospel reveals the righteousness of God by faith.
DON’T BE ASHAMED—THE GOSPEL IS POWER FOR SALVATION
Romans 1:16 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.
1. The Power Of God
Roughly forty years ago, Bible scholar Alva McClain wrote:
We are told the church has no power today. The…experts are running around in circles trying to find what is the matter and discover a remedy so that the church may recover its lost power. They tell us that all the churches must unite; that they must hold the young people; that they must get into politics…that they must cease preaching the theological dogmas of the Bible. All these are mere quack remedies. If the church has lost its power, it is because it has lost the gospel, because the gospel is the power (Alva J. McClain, Romans, 57).
McClain was on to something there. A lot of what passes for church today is really just being ashamed of the bare-bones Gospel. We think that the church has to compete with the entertainment industry, so we try to find things that we think would be effective in reaching people. We try to run the church on human wisdom and power.
In an article about what is missing in modern worship, Tim Challies laments that many churches have dropped scripture reading, long prayers, confession, expository preaching, and even congregational singing (in favor of listening to a group sing on stage). He concludes:
Instead of searching God’s Word to determine what elements should or must be present in a worship service, leaders are judging elements by whether or not they work (according to their own standard of what works). (http://www.challies.com/articles/the-missing-elements-of-modern-worship)
I am not saying that it’s wrong to use new ways of communicating and reaching out to each new generation. It’s not wrong to sing a new song, the Bible tells us to do so a dozen times. It’s not wrong to use Powerpoint and Bibles on smartphones. That’s not what I’m saying.
What I’m saying is that, when we adopt new methods, we cannot be ashamed of the Gospel and try to bury it under the new method.
The Gospel is that we have rebelled against God and He has made reconciliation between us and Him possible by sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins. This Son, Jesus, has risen from the dead, and whoever believes in Him will have eternal life!
That’s the real power. We don’t need to be ashamed of that.
Ever wonder how Noah felt during the 120 years he built the ark? There he was—building an ark and preaching about a coming flood. I am sure he pleaded with people to get on the ark, but no one believed him.
Maybe at times Noah felt like giving up, maybe he was tempted to felt ashamed…but he didn’t give up even though the whole world told him that he was crazy. This was God’s program and he was going to do it God’s way. If we’re doing things God’s way, then we never need to be ashamed.
We must present the Gospel as clearly and enthusiastically as we can. Then win, lose, or draw, we have nothing to be ashamed about because we have used the real power of God.
We cannot be ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God and the Gospel is also…
2. The Power to Produce Salvation
The Gospel is “salvation to everyone that believeth.” It can produce salvation in the heart of anyone, Jew or Greek. The words of the Gospel are powerful enough to convict and convert the sinner who listens—because they are God’s Words.
12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
George Whitefield, the great 18th-century evangelist, was hounded by a group of men that called themselves the “The Hell-Fire Club.” One day they gathered in a tavern to take turns mocking Whitefield in, what today we would call, Saturday Night Live skits.
Among the most virulent of his opposers was a Mr. Thorpe, who, with three of his associates, agreed for a wager to mimic the preacher. It was concluded that each should open the Bible, and hold forth from the first text that should present itself to his eye. Accordingly three in their turn mounted the table, and thus profanely entertained their wicked companions…
Mr. Thorpe, when the Bible was handed to him, had not the slightest preconception what part of the Scripture he should make the subject of his banter. However, by the guidance of an unerring Providence, it opened at that remarkable passage, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3.
No sooner had he uttered the words than his mind was affected in a very extraordinary manner. The sharpest pangs of conviction now seized him, and conscience denounced tremendous vengeance upon his soul. In a moment he was favored with a clear view of his subject…
The impression that the subject made upon his mind had such an effect upon his manner that the most ignorant and profane could not but perceive that what he had spoken was with the greatest sincerity. The unexpected solemnity and pertinency of his address, instead of entertaining the company, first spread a visible depression, and afterward a deep gloom, upon every countenance…No one appeared disposed to interrupt him; but, on the contrary, their attention was deeply engaged with the pointedness of his remark…On his getting down from the table not a syllable was uttered concerning the wager, a profound silence pervading the entire company.
Mr. Thorpe immediately withdrew, without taking the least notice of any person present, and returned home with very painful reflections, and in the deepest distress imaginable…and from that hour the connection between him and his former companions was entirely dissolved. The result was his conversion to God, and his entrance into the Christian ministry…He became Pastor of the Church in Masborough, Yorkshire, was a laborious and successful minister, beloved in life, lamented in death. He died in 1776, after a ministry of thirteen years. (J. B. Wakeley, The Prince of Pulpit Orators: A Portraiture of Rev. George Whitefield [New York: Carlton & Lanahan, 1871], 158–160)
The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation—we never need be ashamed of that! You can share the Gospel with a single verse of the Bible. Perhaps the greatest verse to explain the Gospel is John 3:16. Do you know why it is the greatest? Break the verse down, and you can see—
“God”…The greatest Lover
“So loved”…The greatest degree
“The world”…The greatest number
“That He gave”..The greatest act
“His only begotten Son”.The greatest gift
“That whosoever”..The greatest invitation
“Believeth”…The greatest simplicity
“In Him”…The greatest Person
“Should not perish”..The greatest deliverance
“But”….The greatest difference
“Have”….The greatest certainty
“Everlasting Life”..The greatest possession (https://bible.org/illustration/john-316)
Have you believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins? That’s all there is to being saved. No Christian should ever be ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power God unto salvation to everyone that believes.
DON’T BE ASHAMED—THE GOSPEL IS GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS REVEALED
Romans 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
How is the righteousness of God revealed?
1. God’s Righteousness Is Revealed In Jesus Christ
18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18)
How is God’s righteousness declared or revealed in Jesus Christ? During His time on earth, Jesus faced the same temptations that we do. For example, as a child, He may have been bullied. But He never disobeyed His Father or His earthly parents. He was perfect in every action and attitude.
So now we can look through the Gospels and see what a perfectly righteous man is like by looking at Jesus. God’s righteousness is revealed in Jesus. This is why we never need to be ashamed of Jesus. He is totally righteous, never doing anything that we need to be ashamed of.
The Gospel reveals what the righteousness of God looks like in Jesus Christ and…
2. God’s Righteousness Shows How We Fail To Measure Up
In Romans 1:18, we find that it is the unrighteousness of man that is the reason for God’s wrath being revealed. And the reason that God’s wrath must be revealed against man’s unrighteousness is because God’s righteousness cannot see unrighteousness go unpunished…right?
This is what the Bible says is the human problem: we are unrighteous and deserve God’s punishment. To escape God’s righteous punishment, no less than perfect righteousness is necessary, but no one even comes close to being perfect.
Although people do good works and many could be called a “good man or woman,” the fact is, they will never be perfectly good and righteous. Not without God’s help. When we compare our broken righteousness with God’s perfect righteousness, we should be ashamed. But we can also rejoice because the Gospel teaches us that…
3. God’s Righteousness Can Be Our Righteousness Through Christ
Imagine that, to go to Heaven, you need a ticket that says, “Perfect Righteousness” on it. Do any of us have such a ticket? Have you lied? Have you been unkind? Have you stole something? Have you hated someone else? Have you coveted your neighbor’s wife or possessions? We’ve done all those things and more. We don’t have a ticket that says, “Perfect Righteousness.” Instead our ticket says, “Sinner.”
Jesus is the only person who has never sinned. He has the ticket that says, “Perfect Righteousness.” When a person believes in Jesus Christ, a great exchange is made. Jesus takes our ticket, and He gives us His ticket.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
That is why Romans 1:17 says, “The just shall live by faith.” That doesn’t mean that if you are just (or righteous), then you’ll have faith. It means that when you live by faith, God will treat you as just—as righteous.
When we believe in Jesus, what does He take from us? Sin! When we believe in Jesus, what does He give us? Perfect righteousness! That’s how we can enter Heaven. You need to be perfect to enter Heaven. When you have Christ’s perfect righteousness transferred to you, then, in God’s eyes, even though you still sin here on earth, you are perfect.
We should be ashamed when we sin, but when we stand before God, we will not have to be ashamed because when God looks at us, He won’t see our filthy rags, but He will see the clean clothes of Jesus.
When Satan or some unbeliever points out our sins, we can claim Jesus’s righteousness as our own. We don’t need to live in shame—we can repent and receive God’s forgiveness. But we know, that despite our imperfections, God has given us Jesus’s perfect righteousness by faith. We can say—
16 …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)