Monday, October 09, 2006

Romans 1:16

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.

Paul is NOT ashamed of the gospel. Paul is certain of its truth. Paul is eager to share it, because he is loyal to it and confident in it. And why shouldn’t he be? See 2 Corinthians 11:23-26. He was convicted like no other, literally blinded by Christ’s light and softly spoken to by Christ Himself. Rome may have thought the believers within its limits were shameful, pathetic, pitiable fools, and if the resurrection of Christ did not happen, then they were right. But Paul, along with hundreds of other eye-witnesses, knew that Christ was resurrected, so the contrary was true. It is the unbelievers who are fools; it is the unbelievers who should be pitied. But believers are not to be ashamed. There is no shame in the gospel, no matter how foolish it may be in the eyes of the world.

Sometimes Christians are ashamed of the gospel because they want things that are different than the things that God wants for them. I often think myself ashamed of the gospel. At work, I struggle to speak it. I’m just afraid to let co-workers know how much the Lord Jesus and the gospel means to me, because I might be rejected. Not that I act like a pagan, but why can’t I be bold, unashamed, like Paul? I always justify my lack of boldness by turning to 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” One of the early church fathers, Apollinaris of Laodicea, said, “The Son of God bore the shame of the cross on our behalf. It could not be but out of place for us to be ashamed of His suffering for us.” If I really believe that God’s Son died for me, bore my shame, how could I possibly be ashamed of Him around anyone for any reason? While Polycarp, an early church bishop, was being roped to the stake to be burned at age 86, they gave him one last chance to renounce his faith in Christ. He said, “Eighty-six years I have served Jesus Christ, and He has never done me wrong. How could I do Him wrong now?” Lord, make me unashamed of your power for salvation. Make me like Christ, who despised the shame of the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

The gospel is the power of God. The gospel, according to 1 Corinthians 1:18, “is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” What is the gospel? It starts first of all with understanding the bad news. Mankind was created by God and in a covenant with Him; we owe loyalty to Him, but we rebelled against Him. As we rebelled against Him, we were plunged into a state of sin and misery.
There’s nothing we could do to help ourselves in that state. Thus, God in His providence from the very time of Genesis 3:15 set a plan in motion to redeem His people. He promised in the old covenant that He was going to send a redeemer. Jesus is that redeemer. Jesus is the incarnate Son of God who lived and died in our place that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Jesus not only lived and died; He was raised again from the dead as a pledge of our hope and resurrection and redemption. Jesus is now exalted, and He will come again to judge. So the gospel is all about what God has done for our predicament. But, in all the presentations of the gospel in the New Testament, it doesn’t stop there. Repentance and faith are demanded. What’s the response to the gospel? Believe, trust in Christ, and repent of your sins. This is the power of God revealed in Scripture, and however it’s presented, this gospel, the power of God, is very offensive to people in our culture today.

What is it about the gospel that is offensive? (1) The claim to absolute Truth, with a capital T. Today’s culture doesn’t mind if everybody has their own truth with a little t, but a capital T is dangerous, scary. (2) The claim that Christ is the only way to God. We want to believe that Christ is just one of the spokes on the wheel of faith that leads to the hub, where God is seated. Today’s culture thinks Christianity is arrogant, biased, narrow-minded, and even bigoted. They think it leads to persecution, intolerance, etc.

The gospel saves. The gospel message is the God-appointed means for salvation. It’s the instrument that God chose to save people from sin. What is salvation? By salvation, Paul means at least two things. Negatively, Paul means that salvation is God’s rescue of us from guilt, slavery to sin, the penalty of sin, alienation and eternal separation from God, and the wrath of God. Positively, the gospel is a bringing of us into a new relationship, a righteous relationship with God, whereby when we stand before God, we can be confident before Him. We’re accepted! But the gospel not only brings us into acceptance by God, it brings us into a state in which we are actually made holy. The Holy Spirit begins to work in us the life of heaven, so that we love the things that God loves, we hate the things that He hates, and we begin to even live like the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel brings freedom. Though we may have thought we were free when we were doing what we wanted to, we’re really not free until we’re doing what God wants us to do. In salvation, He brings us into an experience of true freedom, not freedom from obedience, but freedom to obedience. Salvation brings us to fellowship with God, into the presence of God.

The gospel saves all kinds of people. It is regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or cultural background. There is one way to be saved for all people. The Jews are the historic chosen people of God. They are the guardians of God’s special revelation, the Old Testament Scriptures. The Messiah and Savior, Jesus, came to the world as a Jew to Jews. Salvation is from the Jews, since everyone who is saved is saved by being connected to the covenant with Abraham by faith. The Jews were evangelized first when the gospel penetrated a new region. Regardless of Old Testament or New Testament, Jews could be saved only by grace through faith in the promised redeemer. Now, just because the Jews have first access to the gospel does not mean they deserve it more. On the contrary, neither Jew nor gentile deserves the gospel. It is a gospel of grace! And praise God that it truly is for ALL who believe; literally, this phrase would read, “everyone who continues to believe.” And who is it that believes? Why does one person believe and not another. If the difference is anything in man, then there is a problem.

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