Summary: In this sermon we notice eight reasons why we should not be ashamed of the gospel.
"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. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ’The righteous will live by faith’" (Romans 1:16-17).
At first glance it is an extraordinary thing that Paul should say that he is not ashamed of the gospel. For when we read that statement we ask, “Why would the apostle ever think that something so grand might be shameful?” That question is not very deep, since we have all been ashamed of the gospel at one time or another.
The reason we are ashamed of the gospel is that the world is opposed to the gospel and ridicules it, and we are all far more attuned to the world than we imagine. Today’s culture endures a veneer of religious tolerance, so that people are careful not to scorn Christians openly. But the world is still the world, and hostility to God is always present.
If you have never been ashamed of the gospel, the probable reason, as Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones suggests, is not that you are “an exceptionally good Christian,” but rather that “your understanding of the Christian message has never been clear.”
Was Paul tempted to shame, as we are? Probably. We know that Timothy was, since Paul wrote him to tell him not to be (in 2 Timothy 1:8). However, in our text Paul writes that he was “not ashamed of the gospel,” and the reason is that “it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”
In our study of Romans 1:16-17 today, following the treatment of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I want to suggest eight reasons why we should not be ashamed of the gospel.
I. The Gospel Is “Good News”
First, we should not be ashamed of the gospel because the gospel is “good news.” The word “gospel” means “good news,” and no rational person should be ashamed of the proclamation of good news.
We can understand why one might hesitate to convey bad news, of course. Imagine a policeman who must tell a father that his son has been arrested for burglary. We can understand how he might be distressed at having to communicate this sad message. Or again, imagine how a doctor might be dismayed at having to tell a patient that tests have come out badly and that she has incurable cancer.
When I was a young pastor I served as an overnight hospital chaplain once a month at the local community hospital. One night at about 3 o’clock in the morning I was called to a patient’s room. The family had been summoned because the patient had taken a turn for the worse and did not have long to live. When I entered the room there were about ten or twelve family members already there. They had already received the bad news about their loved one’s imminent death. I did what I could to comfort and console them in their grief.
But the gospel is not like this. It is the opposite. Instead of being bad news, it is good news. It is good news about what God has done for us in Jesus. It is the best news imaginable.
II. The Gospel Is about Salvation
Second, we should not be ashamed of the gospel because the gospel is about salvation. And not just any salvation. It is about our salvation.
The background for this side of the good news is that, left to ourselves, we are in desperate trouble. We are in trouble now because we are all guilty of breaking God’s law. We presently stand condemned by God’s law. We are also in trouble with regard to our future; we are on a path of increasing frustration and despair, and at the end we must face God’s just wrath and condemnation and the final execution of his sentence against us for our transgression of his law. We are like prisoners under the sentence of death.
Some years ago I visited a teenager in prison. He turned eighteen years old later that week. He was in prison for twenty years for armed robbery. I talked to him about the gospel and told him that every person in the world is already under the sentence of eternal death. It is not as if people are somehow “innocent” now. No! That is a most unbiblical truth perpetrated by the Liar himself, Satan. Every single person in the world is already under the condemnation of eternal death. That young teenager in prison had been convicted and sentenced to jail for a certain crime, and therefore he had a record. I told him that all people have a record in the court of heaven. God has a file against every single individual with every sin ever committed against his holy law.