‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel,” (Romans 1:16a) Paul writing to these Roman Christians, hoping to encourage them, to impart some spiritual gift.
Roman believers. Roman Coliseums. You get the picture. A small band of believers. And they are living amongst the largest and most powerful nation in the world. It might be real easy for them to be ashamed of the gospel. Can you imagine being thrown into the coliseum to fight lions or being burned at the stake for show while thousands watched on in enjoyment. Yes friends, we don’t understand much of the hardship of being a Christian where we are at. Maybe that’s a good thing. But even in our day we can get ashamed. But why? What is so shameful about the gospel?
Well, in human standards. If you think about it. There is nothing appealing. The gospel literally goes against everything, we as people are naturally inclined to.
The gospel tells us that we are such spiritual failures that the only way to gain salvation is for it to be given to us.
This is offensive to people who want to pat themselves or to think their decency somehow gives them an advantage. Yet, it goes a step further, not only are we such spiritual failures that salvation had to be given to us, but the only way it could be given to us, is that the Son of God had to die for us.
This is offensive to our self-worth and the idea that man somehow has this spark of good in him. No my friends, in and of ourselves, we have no spark of good in us. Think about it, the only hope for our salvation is the death of the only begotten son of God.
This is also offensive to the idea that somehow any nice person anywhere can find God in his or her own way. We don’t like losing our ability to make our own decisions and do things our way. The gospel tells us you cant do things your own way, there is only one way, and that is through Jesus Christ. We don’t like our freedom to be limited. We want there to be many saviors. We want to be our own savior. We want to be the captains of our own fate and the masters of our own destiny. And the gospel comes along and says too bad, you can’t be. You want to go your own way, you will not be a master of anything. But instead will be a slave to your own sinful desires. Carried about by your passions, not in control of anything.
The gospel also tells us that our salvation was accomplished by Jesus’ suffering and serving not by his conquering and destroying, and that following him means to serve with him. Who in our day wants to follow a servant. Or worse yet, be a servant. Even we who are Christians often like the idea of being more than conquerers but don’t so often like the idea of how we are to conquer. “In all these things we are more than conquerers through him who loved us” says Romans 8:37. In all the things mentioned in verses 35 and 36. Through tribulation, distress, persecution. famine, nakedness, danger or sword, “As it is written: “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” Oh how we like the idea of being children of God but don’t so much like what all that entails. We might like the idea of having a savior who was crucified for us. We like being adopted into the family of God.
Maybe it hasn’t hit us so hard that we are in and of ourselves morally bankrupt but more look at it as, wow, look how amazing I am that Jesus thought it was worthwhile to die for me.
I am not saying you are not amazing. But if first and foremost you look at that way. Yeah. I am all that. Of course Jesus died for me. How could he not? You don’t know what grace is. I am telling you, there is nothing you can point to in yourself for the reason that God loves you. The reason is an extension of who he is, not who you are. But despite all that. That’s for you to wrestle with. Many of us get the idea of Jesus being crucified for us and suffering the wrath of God in our place. But we don’t like the idea of following a crucified savior. Because where does that take you. It takes you to a place of suffering with him. It takes you to place of denying yourself. It takes you to a place that this world and this life you are living right now is not supposed to be all about you. Your comforts, your safety, your fun. We too often think about things like - how is this going to benefit me. Instead of how is this going to benefit God’s mission? There is a modern christian song I just love, though I have never heard it on the radio before for some reason, called. If you want an easy life, don’t follow Jesus. And it’s true. Where do you see in the Bible that Jesus called anyone anywhere to the easy life? Oh the abundant life and one filled with joy. But not because it is easy. Or because it is filled with stuff we would naturally want anyway if we were not christians And this is what I am getting at. We like the first part. But sooner or later those who have identified with Christ are going to suffer, not just because we live in a fallen world filled with sin, though that is true, suffering is just part of this world. But sooner or later you are going to suffer specifically because you are following Jesus. Sooner or later your identity in Christ is going to bump up against the identity of the world. And you will suffer. And you will conquer. The gospel will have victory. If you are a Christian you will prevail. But it will cost you. We follow a crucified savior. A suffering servant. Therefore we must serve. And we must suffer. We can’t always take the path of least resistance or always choose the better of two evils. Sometimes we have to say, come what may, we are going to be faithful to God and if that means suffering and hardship than so be it.
That is offensive. And it could be something to be easily ashamed of.
But Paul says, he is not ashamed of the gospel. What say you? Are you ashamed of the gospel? v 16 says ”it is the power of God unto salvation”. It is words with Power, filled with lots of implications.
Paul is saying that the gospel is not merely an idea. In the gospel, words and power come together. Ten chapter later, vs. 17 of chapter 10, Paul goes on to talk about how gospel power is transferred. He says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing... and hearing by the words of Jesus.
The message of the gospel is what God has done and will do for us. Paul says that the gospel is therefore a power. He doesn’t say it brings power or has power, but that it actually is power.
The gospel message is actually the power of God.
When it is outlined and explained, or reflected upon, its power is released. Maybe a poor illustration but an illustration it is, If you think about a chili pepper or a jalapeño, outwardly it seems to be cold ... I mean if you touch the pepper, it is cold, not hot to the touch but once you crunch it with your teeth, you experience the sensation of burning fire. It’s full of sensational power. The burning might even bring tears to your eyes.
In the same way, the gospel can appear at first like an interesting idea. But if we take it in personally, and chew on it, meditate on it, we find it is full of power.
As the Psalmist says “oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man that takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8) Don’t lose this. Don’t just be after all the beautifully mundane things of life. Live your life with the very thing that made you a child of God as the center.
Jesus once told a story of a rich man who had all kinds of wealth, so he built up bigger barns in which to store it all. And that night he died and was told his soul was required of him. Oh how stupid it is, to gain the whole world and lose your soul. Why do you think Solomon talked like he did in the book of Ecclesiastes. Because without knowing God through Jesus Christ, everything is useless and vain. We must fear putting anything else in your life, in a more important place than him. Because of the gospel, we are free to not live inward focused lives that rob and destroy and cheat and suck the life out of us. But rather because we have everything. In Jesus Christ all the godhead fully dwells. We have all riches. We are set in heavenly places. We have eternal life. We are pardoned and forgiven forever. Because of all that and so much more. We have everything. Therefore we are free to risk it all. Because we can’t lose any of it. And if we do. Jesus says we will get back whatever we have given up in way larger quantities. Mark 10:29, “Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” You want to make a good investment. Risk it all for the sake of the gospel.
The gospel is so powerful because it can do what no other power on earth can do. The biggest problem that anybody has, is not that they need to be more educated, or just need a hand up, or need more money or need more friends. If you educate people better without the gospel. You got better educated sinners on their way to hell. If you get people more money without the gospel. You got more powerful sinners on their way to hell. The biggest problem that mankind has is that we are sinners who are enemies with God. When that one central problem is taken care of, it changes everything. It changes people.
It changes families. It changes societies. It changes the course of history. The gospel changes everything.
The gospel is the power of God for salvation to “everyone who believes” (v 16) Do you believe this? Do you really believe this?