For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16 ESV).
The word “gospel” is a beautiful word. It’s very meaning is filled with hope and goodness. It’s the good news of God. And Paul explains that he is “not ashamed” of the Gospel…he is not embarrassed by the good news. The word “ashamed”means to bring shame on oneself. Shame, according to one definition, is a painful feeling of humiliation. And to be ashamed is to be embarrassed about something. When we speak of being ashamed of something we are saying that we are embarrassed or humiliated by something. So the natural question is: Why would anyone be ashamed or embarrassed by the Gospel?
The Scriptures tell us that the Gospel (i.e. “the word of the cross”) is folly to those who do not believe. The Gospel consists of a message that is completely foreign to human wisdom. It is founded upon the claims of a Jewish-born man who claimed to be God in the flesh. This man never founded an earthly government, led an earthly army, held political office, built a school or other center, or did anything that (on a human level) was considered to be worthy of any accolades. And even when He did amazing things, the people around Him eventually called for His death. Worse yet, He died as a homeless criminal. He suffered the most shameful kind of death as He was suspended on a cross where He would hang in absolute pain and naked humiliation. The Gospel is built on the fact that this God-man not only died a sacrificial death, in which He actually paid for the sins of others, but that He was buried and three days later bodily rose again from the grave. Furthermore, He ascended into heaven in order to be seated at the right hand of God the Father and will return to earth again as the Judge of all the earth. The Gospel says that if you believe this truth so much so that you actually repent of your sins, you will be saved or rescued from the wrath of God to come. Besides all of this, the Gospel is about the total inability of man to do anything to earn any points with God or even to cooperate with God to effect his salvation. The Gospel says that you must come without any claim to any righteousness of your own and that, in utter humility, you must rely on another to do for you what you could never do for yourself.
That is absolute folly; it is sheer lunacy. And that is why someone might conceivably be ashamed of the Gospel. In fact, to some the servants of the Gospel were considered to be the scum of earth (1 Cor. 4:13). Yet Paul says, “I am not ashamed”. And there are three reasons for that contained in just one verse in Romans 1:16. There are three reasons not to be ashamed of the Gospel, and those reasons are summed up in three words: power, purpose, promise.
The Power of the Gospel
Paul says that the Gospel “is the power of God”. Of course, you’ve heard before that this word “power” in the Greek language is the word dunamis–it sounds like our word dynamite. There is great reason to not be ashamed of the Gospel because it is the explosive power of God! It is by the very Gospel itself that the Holy Spirit breaths life into the unbeliever. It is by the Gospel that the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus explodes on the spiritually dead heart of a sinner thereby causing or enabling faith to begin. That is power. And that’s why we shouldn’t be ashamed.
The Purpose of the Gospel
Paul is not ashamed because of the purpose of the Gospel. We read that “it is the power of God unto salvation”. That’s the purpose of the Gospel! Salvation. Rescue. Rescue from what? Rescue not simply “from sin”, but more specifically rescue from the wrath of God that is revealed from heaven against ALL ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (1:18ff). And God gave the Gospel in order to rescue men from this wrath. That is why, according to Romans 10:11ff, if anyone is going to be saved, they must HEAR the message of the Gospel. Being ashamed of the Gospel is as hare-brained as a drowning man being ashamed of the rescue efforts of the selfless life guard.
The Promise of the Gospel
The Gospel is a promise to all those who would believe the truth. It is the promise of God’s salvation, certain and guaranteed to “everyone who believes”. And the opposite is equally emphasized so that everyone who does not believe faces certain and guaranteed judgment. The Gospel is God’s promise. In his commentary on Romans, John Calvin writes with clarity and conviction:
The gospel is indeed offered to all for their salvation, but the power of it appears not everywhere: and that it is the savor of death to the ungodly, does not proceed from what it is, but from their own wickedness. By setting forth but one Salvation he cuts off every other trust. When men withdraw themselves from this one salvation, they find in the gospel a sure proof of their own ruin. Since then the gospel invites all to partake of salvation without any difference, it is rightly called the doctrine of salvation: for Christ is there offered, whose peculiar office is to save that which was lost; and those who refuse to be saved by him, shall find him a Judge (Calvin’s Commentaries).
Faith to Faith
Are you ashamed? This question goes much deeper than asking how long it’s been since you purposefully preached the gospel to an unbelieving sinner. It goes to the very core of your being. Are you ashamed to admit that Jesus is YOUR Savior? Is there shame for you when you think of your total inability to contribute anything positively to the work of your rescue? Do you sense shame when you consider that you actually did NOTHING? Are you embarrassed? Or are you rejoicing in the Gospel? Rejoicing because in it “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith”?