Summary: An exposition of Romans 1:16-17.
“I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel”
Preached at St. Andrew’s, Ft. Worth, February 10, 2002
The Rev’d Quintin Morrow
16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17For therein is the righteous- ness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Rom. 1:16-17).
In 1988 the bishops and archbishops of the Anglican Communion converged on Lambeth Palace, as they do every decade, for the Lambeth Conference. One of the resolutions coming out of the 1988 Lambeth Conference was the declaration of the bishops and archbishops that the decade of the 1990s would be the Decade of Evangelism. It was their intention that the various national churches of the Anglican Communion should band together in deliberate mission and common vision to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.
In 1998 the bishops and the archbishops of the Anglican Communion again descended upon Lambeth Palace for the Lambeth Conference, and the report card on the Decade of Evangelism was in. It was an embarrassing failure. During the Decade of Evangelism church attendance continued to drop in England, continental Europe remained predominantly secular, and the Episcopal Church in the United States was still divided, strangulated by bickering and in-fighting, and unable or unwilling to stop the hemorrhage of people leaving its doors.
But I must qualify my verdict on the Decade of Evangelism. In the Western world it was a failure. In the second- and third-world it was an unbelievable success. There is a revival going on in Africa unabated and undeterred, which began in the 1930s. In Uganda alone, 80% of the population are baptized and active Anglicans. In most African countries there are more people than church buildings and more church buildings than pastors. In most African countries people walk for miles to attend church and church lasts all day. There is an evangelism explosion in Africa, Asia and Central and South America that resembles the one which accompanied the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost recorded in Acts chapter 2.
Why is it, then, that only in the Western world did the Decade of Evangelism underwhelm the visionary intentions of the bishops of the 1988 Lambeth Conference? I’ll tell you why. Because the Africans have got a Gospel and we don’t. More particularly, the Africans have a burning boldness about “the” Gospel, and we do not.
In his letter to the Church in Rome, St. Paul the Apostle was writing to a group of believers he had never visited. He wrote them from the city of Corinth. In the opening of his epistle he says that he has prayed for them, and has wanted to visit them but has here- tofore been hindered from doing so. He says in chapter 1 verse 15: So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
And what follows in two short verses is a threefold explication of the Gospel from the pen of the Apostle. Paul shares with the Romans firstly, his enthusiasm, or excitement, about the Gospel, secondly, the effect of the Gospel, or what the Gospel message faithfully proclaimed brings about, and thirdly, the explanation, or the content, of the Gospel. And each one of Paul’s threefold revelations of the Gospel he lived and proclaimed begin with the Greek word gar, and is translated into our English Bibles with the word “for.” Thus, St. Paul is sharing with the Romans in chapter 1 of his letter, and with believers and unbelievers alike down through the ages, the Gospel of which he was not ashamed, which he preached and for which he ultimately surrendered his life in martyrdom. The Apostle here is giving us the 3 most important “fors” of the Gospel.
Notice, firstly, Paul’s excitement about the Gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” the Apostle declares in the beginning of chapter 1 verse 16.
The word Paul uses for our English word “Gospel” is the Greek word euangelion, which simply means “good news.” This is the same word from which we get our English words “evangel- ism,” and “evangelical.” This is the same word the angel of the Lord used to calm the fears of the shepherds at his announcement of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy—I pro-claim a gospel to you—which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).