COLEMAN: Not ashamed

By Rev. Landon Coleman

Pastor, Immanuel

“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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17)

When Paul said he was not “ashamed” of the gospel, he meant that he was not embarrassed by the gospel message, nor was he offended by the gospel message. This may seem like an obvious statement coming from an apostle, but rest assured, many people in first century Rome would have been embarrassed by the gospel or offended by the gospel. Christians would have been tempted to be embarrassed about the counter-cultural nature of the gospel message, and unbelievers would have easily taken offense at the counter-cultural nature of Paul’s gospel.

Our context today is remarkably similar to Paul’s. Whereas Paul lived in a pre-Christian, pagan society, we live in a post-Christian, neo-pagan society. In light of the cultural similarities, we ought to take courage at Paul’s insistence that he was not “ashamed” of the gospel. We dare not take offense at the gospel Paul details in Romans, nor should we be embarrassed to embrace such a counter-cultural message. Simply put, the believer must not be ashamed of the gospel!

Tragically, there are many professing Christians who are offended by and/or embarrassed by parts of the gospel message contained in the book of Romans. For starters, some are offended by what Paul said about the depravity of human beings. Paul’s summary conclusion is that there is none righteous – no, not one (Romans 3:10). While we tend to talk about “good” people and “nice” people, Paul only knew one kind of person – sinful. This surely goes against the gain of our therapeutic, affirming culture. To make matters worse, Paul presented the church in Rome with a sexual ethic that did not “fit” with Roman sensibilities any more than it now “fits” with 21st century sensibilities.

Additionally, some are offended by the exclusivity of the gospel presented in Romans. Paul’s view (Romans 10) was that anyone who believed the gospel would certainly be saved. However, in order to believe the gospel, another human being had to share the gospel. Apart from verbal proclamation of the gospel message, and apart from saving faith, none will be saved. This, of course, was rooted in Paul’s understanding of human depravity. Without question, Paul’s exclusivist view of salvation offends many in pluralistic, postmodern America.

Still others are offended by Paul’s comments about the certainty of sanctification in the life of a Christian. Again, our therapeutic and affirming culture encourages us to embrace who we are on the inside. We are called to follow our hearts and be the best version of ourselves. Paul had a different view of how the gospel impacted our lives. Paul’s view (Romans 6-7), was that those who were justified by God’s grace would also be sanctified by God’s grace. Paul’s view (Romans 8), was that God’s eternal goal in the life of a Christian was to conform each of us to the image of Christ – not just to let us embrace our inner selves.

In summary, Christians today need the same resolve Paul had 2,000 years ago. In a world that holds to an anti-Bible, anti-Christian, anti-God worldview, we must have the resolve to say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel!”