I Am Not Ashamed
Pastor KC Liu / Romans 1:16 / Jan 17, 2016
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
Last week, we looked at a really important question: why did Paul write to the church in Rome? There are a few theories out there, and I argued that the primary reason that Paul was writing to the church in Rome was to bring reconciliation to the Jewish and Gentile believers. They were probably fighting over the leadership of the church. And they now were split into two major denominations, the Gentile church and the Jewish Church. It was a major church split, and a major crisis! What happens in Rome will for sure spread to the rest of the country. Paul couldn’t just simply say, “Hey guys, don’t fight with one another! Be nice! Get along with each other alright!” No, it’s not that simple. If is was that simple, the letter would be quite short. The problem of the tension goes much deeper than common courtesy. At the root of it was a controversial theological problem.
The burning question was: who are God’s chosen people at this hour in history? Jews or Gentile? Who should be in charge of the church of Jesus Christ? Jews or Gentile? Jews are saying, “you need to be circumcised! You need to keep Sabbath on this day! You need to eat Kosher or else you are not saved!” Gentiles are like, “What?! No way! Are you crazy! We have freedom in Christ!”
Paul has to answer these questions with solid theological answers. That’s why the letter had to be super long. His theme all throughout Romans is that both Jews and Gentiles are on an equal spiritual footing. Paul is saying to them: “My friends, don’t fight, both of you are equal in the eyes of God. There are no preferential treatment. God doesn’t play favoritism, and I will tell you why…”
And that is what we will be doing for this entire year.
Today we enter into this gigantic verse: Romans 1:16. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." Did you know that this is the theme verse for our church as a whole this year? It is also the thesis statement of the entire book of Romans. There is so much to unpack here. Every word is important in this verse. The little word, “for” occurs 3 times, and it means the same thing as “because”.
In fact, these two verses are a series of statements explaining something that Paul has said immediately beforehand. In verse 15, Paul said, “I am eager to preach the gospel among you in Rome.” You may ask: Why?? “Because I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Why? Because it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. You say: Why everyone? I thought God has a new chosen people. No, the Gospel is for the Jews first, then for the Greeks, the gentiles. Both of you get it. Therefore, get along and put away your theological differences. Truly learn to love one another.
The word “gospel” is very interesting. The original Greek word is “euangelion” which translates to, “proclaiming the good news to someone, a story of something that has happened that is wonderfully received by the people to whom you tell it."
For example, when a messenger brought news from a war in the ancient world, that the decisive battle had been fought and won, this was called “euongelion”, or the “evangel” – the good news. When Paul said “I am not ashamed of the Gospel” , he means, “I am not ashamed of the good news of God’s story, which is a tremendous announcement, a earth shattering victory, which will be thrilling to those who really believe it.”
Why does Paul say “I am not ashamed of the gospel”? Because a lot of people ARE ashamed of the gospel! And Paul is saying, “I am not!” because it is very easy to be ashamed of the gospel. But why should anyone be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ? I think there are at least 4 reasons.
First, the Gospel sounds like a fairy tale. I mean, seriously, just think about this, literally. Our story is about God, creator of the universe, sending his Son who turned into a little helpless baby in a manger. To an unbeliever, that could sound like a fairy tale, like Greek mythology. As if you are talking about Zeus and Hercules. It’s so ridiculous that you might be ashamed to tell it. People may say to you, “You don’t really honestly believe that in a scientific world do you?! It’s just a fable, don’t take it literally!” So you may be ashamed of the gospel.
The second reason why people are ashamed of the gospel is because it seems irrelevant. People say, “I just don’t know. You are always answering questions nobody’s asking. What has all this Bible study got to do with my life? I’ve got to make enough money, and I’ve got to provide for my family with food and shelter. I want to enjoy my life. What has the gospel got to do with all this?” Some people treat the bible like an encyclopedia, it just sits there on the shelf. For the youth here, have you ever seen a real encyclopedia? It’s like Wikipedia, but really big and bulky.
The third reason that you can be ashamed of the gospel is that it seems insignificant. Look how few people in school who really accept the gospel. In high schools across America, out of every 100 students, only 4 students believe in the Gospel. Statistics in liberal universities aren’t much better. The cool crowd is out there partying, getting drunk and doing foolish things. And in the youth group next door there’s only four students doing a bible study. So you can be ashamed because there are so few who truly are Christians. When you are a minority, you’re usually embarrassed to admit that you are one of those odd people.
The fourth reason why you can be ashamed of the gospel is that the gospel can be insulting. It says to those who feel they are high up: “you are lost and condemned if you don’t believe the truth.” You may be ashamed to tell people this. It treats everybody alike, rich and poor, wise and simple, good and bad, and says “you’re all sinners, and you’re all heading for hell, and you need a Savior.” You can be ashamed to tell somebody who is rich and respectable and clever. Now Paul is saying, “I am not ashamed of the gospel. Others may be; you may be in Rome, but I am not ashamed of the gospel.” When you think about what Paul was up against in Rome, it was a great miracle that he was not ashamed of it.
Frist, Paul was up against the wisdom, culture and philosophy of Greece. A nation that gave birth to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. He was standing in magnificent temples like the Parthenon, conversing with the most brilliant people of his day. Greece built the centers of learning and wisdom, the university of the ancient world. And here is Paul, speaking of a gospel about a Jewish carpenter who was put to death on a cross. Many educated people thought Paul was a fool, an idiot. It was a miracle he wasn’t ashamed.
Think about Paul going up against the Roman Empire. The power of the empire that had conquered the world brought the Pax Romana, or Roman Peace to the Mediterranean world. Everywhere you looked you could see the might of Rome in its statues and its armies. Paul preached the gospel which he said was more powerful than all the Roman might. Again, it was a miracle Paul wasn’t ashamed.
Paul was also up against Jewish religious leaders and those who dedicated their lives to keeping the laws and the commandments. These were deeply religious people. And Paul said to them, “Trust me, I’ve tried to keep the 613 laws as a Pharisee, but that won’t help you one bit.”
So Paul was up against Greek philosophy, Roman might, and Jewish religion, and Paul said that he was NOT ashamed of the Good News.
So is it possible for US to be ashamed? Does Jesus have anything to say about that? Yes he does.
In Mark 8:38 Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.” God knows we can be ashamed of him. Sometimes when others ask us what we believe and which church we go to and what is our faith, we are like, "ummm…..well, I kinda go to that church sometimes… and they believe that…." and we say it in sort of a semi-apologetic way. As if we are sorry for what we believe. And we would feel embarrassed for talking about our faith. I have to confess to you, I did that for many years. I was embarrassed to talk about God. I know what it’s like to get really nervous and then back off. But Paul says, I am not ashamed. He had great confidence in the gospel.
The thing is, if you are ashamed of the gospel, you are reluctant to share it. If you are not ashamed, you are eager to share it. You can test yourself: are you eager to tell your friends about Jesus? If so, you are not ashamed of the gospel. If you are reluctant to share to them, then you are ashamed. It’s as simple as that.
Why isn’t Paul ashamed of the Gospel?
Well, the answer comes in the next phrase: because it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. This should make you not only not ashamed, but actually proud and eager to tell others about Jesus! Paul used a word here that was the Roman god. The Romans worshiped power; the might of their armies conquered many nations, like never seen before. The Romans worshiped the god of power. In fact, still to this day we talk about Roman might. Americans are fascinated with them and Hollywood-made films like the Gladiator, the Eagle, Rome, and Spartacus. Why are they all blockbuster hits? Because people love power. People love watching power in action. Unto this, Paul says, “I’ve got a POWER that you don’t have!!”
If you are ashamed, it may be that you are ashamed of weakness, but you would not be ashamed of power. If the Gospel were a weak thing, Paul would be ashamed, but because it is power, he is proud to preach it! We live in an age of power that worships power – whether financial power, military power, nuclear power, the power of technology. But Psalm 62 tells us that “power belongs to God!” It is God who made the atom, and in it carries the seed of atomic power, in which we can harness unlimited energy and power. God made it! Power belongs to God! A man could have no power unless God allows it! Pontius Pilate said to Jesus, “Don’t you know that I have the power to kill you?” What did Jesus say in return?“You could have no power against me unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:11) The power of God is packed in the Gospel. That’s why Paul is not ashamed of it. It really works.
The Gospel, when truly preached and truly believed, has more power in it than anything else in the whole world. It has power to do things for people that nothing else and no one else can do. What can it do? It is the power of God for salvation! Salvation means receiving the gift of eternal life in God’s presence. Do you know that there is no other power in the world that can do that for man or woman? The power of politics can’t do it. The power of science can’t do it. The power of education can’t do it. The power of money can’t do it. I could have all the money in the world. I could have won that $1.5 billion Powerball in Chino Hills, and I can’t save a single soul with that money. I can’t even save my own soul with it. Indeed, it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than it is for a man with no money.
When a person receives salvation, that means he is saved from something, and for something. If I tell you that yesterday, Michael saved Emmanuel, you would be wondering, from what? Near car accident? Drinking poison? Drowning? In our salvation, we are saved from sin and for holiness, from death and for life, from the curse and for blessing, from guilt and for goodness, from slavery and for freedom. It is having been saved from the penalty of past sin, being saved from the power of sin, and in the future being saved from the presence of sin.
Just because we have been Christians for a long time does not mean that we don’t need the Gospel anymore. We desperately do! Because many Christians are still trapped in habitual sins that we can’t break on our own strength. We need the power of the gospel now to break from the power of sin! I know I am speaking to many of us in this room. We need a new level of faith in the power of the Gospel!
Again, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." Everyone who has faith, is the same as one who believes. It very important to understand that Salvation is only for those who have faith. That means not everyone will be saved. Some universalists will say that all religions lead to heaven. Not according to Paul! He will say it’s nonsense! You must have faith in the Gospel of Christ to be saved!
Let me illustrate this. Imagine that this medicine bottle is to cure your sickness. You must take the medicine in order to get well. It’s no good to get this bottle from the doctor and then let it sit by your bedside, saying to yourself, “I am going to get better now.” Of course that sounds ridiculous. But many people treat the Gospel this way. They say. “What’s wrong with my life? Why do I feel so empty? Why am I miserable? Why am I going crazy?” They hear people say that they need the gospel, so they come and listen to it. They stand the bottle there in their mind and they say, “I hope to get better now.” Hearing the gospel doesn’t help you, reading it doesn’t help you, listening to it being preached doesn’t save you. So what does it mean that “Salvation is for everyone who has faith?”
Well, if there is a bottle of medicine, how do I get it? My hand reaches out and pours it into a spoon and puts it in my mouth. Then it is going to do something for me. Then and only then. My hand grips the medicine and brings it into me. Faith is the hand of the heart, reaching up to God.
In conclusion, I want to ask you this question: do you need a new level of faith for the Power of the Gospel today? Perhaps the Gospel has been sitting at your bedside for many years. You’ve heard it, read it, studied it, and might have even touched it. But today, you need faith to take it in, and truly believe it, and swallow it in to the depth of your soul.
With all heads bowed in a posture of prayer, I want to invite you to take that step right now. If that is you, the gospel has been near you for years, and today, you choose to truly believe. You who choose to act in faith, would you raise your hand and I will pray for you.
My second invitation is for those who desire greater confidence in the Gospel. Paul says I am not ashamed of the gospel. For some of us, our lack of desire to share the gospel is a sign that we are ashamed and embarrassed of the gospel.
Today, it is time to raise your faith in the power of the gospel. It is not weak, but contains the power of God! Be confident in sharing this power to your friends and family! I admit that I need an upgrade on my level of faith as well. How many of you would like a greater confidence and boldness in the Gospel - raise your hand, I want to pray for you.
“Lord, let Faith be released in this place like never before….”