This article on Romans 1:16 shows how the gospel was and is foolishness in our world, but something of which we are not ashamed.

Source: Clarion, 2009. 2 pages.

Romans 1 – No Shame

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.

Romans 1:16

Romans 1:16 is a verse that has long been cherished by Christians, and for good reason. While it’s a beautiful statement about the gospel, this is much more than a beloved Christian slogan. Paul has already explained that he’s eager to preach in Rome and now he provides the reason for this eagerness.

He begins by saying, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” When someone says he’s not ashamed of something, that means there is good cause for why he might actually be ashamed of it. In Paul’s time, non-Christians had every reason to try to shame believers. In 1 Corinthians 1:23 Paul had written,

We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.

The Gentile world saw the gospel as foolishness, because in essence the gospel message is this: there was this carpenter’s son, born in a barn. He grew up in the little village of Nazareth, in a backwater place in the Roman Empire. This man was executed by his own countrymen for being a heretic and a blasphemer. But this man, this failure, was actually the Son of God, God in human flesh. This man rose from the dead, He ascended into heaven, He poured out his Spirit on his people, and He now sits at the right hand of God. This man is to be worshipped and adored and He offers eternal life to everyone who puts his trust in Him.

How is this foolishness to the Greeks? A better question would be: how is this not foolishness to the Greeks? First, the idea of God becoming human was absurd to the Greek mind. God would never lower Himself by entering the physical world. Secondly, why would God choose this backwards part of the Roman Empire to do his work? If God were actually to act in this way, wouldn’t He do it in Rome, or in Athens, in one of the great world centres? This smalltime preacher and miracle worker dying on the eastern borders of the Empire had nothing on the glory and might of Caesar and Rome!

And not only was the gospel foolishness to the Greeks, it was also a stumbling block to the Jews. Deuteronomy 21:23 says it clearly: anyone hung on a tree faced God’s curse. The Messiah surely couldn’t be someone cursed by hanging! The Messiah was supposed to be the mighty king who would deliver his people in power and glory. Where was the power? Where was the glory?

If ever anyone had good reason to shut his mouth to avoid facing hatred and ridicule, it was Paul. His gospel message contradicted everything that the world understood to be right and true and good. And more often than not, Paul was rejected, scorned, and despised for the message that he proclaimed.

But Paul proudly says that he is not ashamed of this gospel. Why? Because this gospel message is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile! Paul attributes a tremendous power to the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ. This is a message that carries within itself a great power, the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today we live in an era that isn’t much different from that of the Apostle. Things haven’t changed: the message of the cross is still foolishness. And no amount of trying to avoid the difficult issues is going to change that. Nothing we do is going to make this message palatable to people who refuse to believe. No changes to our message to make it sound nicer are going to move people from hating Jesus to loving Him. Only one thing has transformed us from being God-haters to being God-fearers and that is the true, unadulterated message of Christ. Marketing and church growth techniques will not change a person’s heart; only the true gospel can accomplish this miracle. Because this gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!

In Mark 8:38, our Lord told his disciples that if anyone was ashamed of Him and his words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man would be ashamed of him when He came in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. So while there may be many ways in which our society tries to shame us for holding to this gospel, let us, like Paul, glory in the gospel. Let us not be ashamed of our Lord and his words, because our Lord’s message is the powerful message of the great and righteous God, and nothing less.

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