For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).
Paul’s bold declaration in Romans 1:16 has been popular among Christians for generations. His message is a rallying cry for faith and the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Its message also represents a significant challenge: Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel, but what about us?
Few are those who would directly admit that they are ashamed of the Gospel. We know that we should not directly contradict an Apostle! Our attitudes and actions, however, may tell a different story.
Our confidence and strength in the Gospel message is not tested among Christians in the assembly but out in the world. When we are in a group of people and spiritual matters are brought up, do we take the opportunity to speak of the truth or do we remain quiet? If we are around people who do not believe and are hostile to the truth, and they want to know if we are Christians and what we believe, do we boldly confess Jesus or do we make excuses? In our relationships with people of the world, do we ever find opportunities to talk about their spiritual condition, or are we too afraid that we are going to offend or cause discomfort?
Paul can declare that he is not ashamed of the Gospel because he attests to all the antagonism and violence he suffered on account of its message:
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I more; in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from my countrymen, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are without, there is that which presseth upon me daily, anxiety for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
He stood in the midst of hostile unbelievers and proclaimed the Gospel anyway. He endured beatings and imprisonments because of the message of the Gospel, and he proclaimed the Gospel anyway. Odds are that none of us will experience the kind of persecution that Paul endured; will that lead us to boldness in proclaiming the Gospel or will we become complacent?
Do we really believe that the Gospel is God’s power of salvation to everyone? If we make excuses and justify our fears and do not proclaim the message, we prove that we are ashamed of the message of Jesus Christ.
Consider: what if, during the night, you discover the cure for cancer? You know possess the knowledge that can lead to the end of suffering and death for millions of people around the world! What would you do with that knowledge? Would you keep it to yourself and not be a bother, or would you go out and proclaim it everywhere?
Let us say, for the sake of argument, that you kept it to yourself. What kind of person does such a thing? What would people think of you if they knew that you had, in your possession, the knowledge that would lead to the relief of thousands of people, and yet you did nothing with it? At best, you would be considered heartless and cruel. At worst, you are no better than a murderer!
While it is unlikely that you will discover the cure for cancer, if you are a Christian, you have in your possession the knowledge of how to overcome the most potent illness that has caused the most pain and misery in human history: the problem of sin (Romans 3:23, 6:23). You have the message of the Gospel, the message that can lead to the relief of billions of souls from the pain and slavery of sin and death (cf. Romans 1:16, 8:1-2). What kind of person are you if you keep that message to yourself?
Proclaiming the Gospel message involves personal risk. It will no doubt be uncomfortable at times. It may lead to rejection, insults, or mockery. In some cases, it could lead to physical punishment or even death. Nevertheless, the Gospel message remains the most important message that can be proclaimed, and God seeks people who are not ashamed of that message to send it out to every creature (cf. Mark 16:15-16). While the dangers are great, the rewards are far greater (cf. Romans 8:17-18). Let us boldly affirm and proclaim the Gospel of Christ, and lead those with whom we come into contact to the God who can deliver them!
Ethan R. Longhenry