Are you ashamed of the gospel? Are you ashamed to be a Christian? Are you ashamed to admit that you are a Christian? Even if you are, please don’t be ashamed of the fact that you are ashamed; even as we were told not to be. If you find yourself ashamed of the gospel, as bad as that may seem to be, the first step to take to stop being ashamed is to admit that you are. All throughout history many Christians have been placed in circumstances where they have been pressured by society to be ashamed of their faith. Even as I say this now, I judge not, because I still remember very clearly the days when I have been ashamed to admit my Christian identity when I was an art student in the midst of an art history lesson, listening to atheist professors condemn my religion (through very disturbing paintings depicting the not so godly antics of the Church, eg the Crusade) and agnostic classmates scoff at the folly of Christianity. Looking back, they probably didn’t know what and who they were laughing at, but at that point, I wanted nothing more than to dig a hole and hide.
This may be a long verse, but this post will be a rather detailed study that draws links to other verses of Paul and Jesus in order to justify why we really have no reason to be ashamed of the gospel. The historical context of Romans Chapter 1, as the beginning of the book of Romans, shed us some light as to why Paul was talking about this. Back then in Rome, under the rule of Claudius, Jews were exiled from the city because of riots instigated by a man called Christus. The church of Rome was thus a purely Gentile one. A few years later, upon the death of Claudius, many Jews returned to city, and joined the Church, making the church and the city a culturally awkward place as both the Jews and the Gentiles had to live with each other. In the Hellenistic world, there were a lot of perverted crimes and immoral rituals that were taken for granted by the mass public. It was difficult to live a Christian lifestyle. Even if you believed and had faith, it was often easier to deny your faith.
Analysis: What are we ashamed of?
1. Romans 1:16 says ‘the gospel’.
But what is the gospel, in our understanding of it today? The gospel of Christ, namely the message of the life of Jesus especially as recorded in the 4 books of gospel with emphasis on his three and a half years of ministry? What is the crux of the gospel? The Greek word of gospel generally means ‘good news’, and in 1 Cor 15 Paul explains:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
4 points of note here:
- Christ died for us
- Christ was buried (verification of His death)
- Christ rose again
- Christ appeared to many (verification of His resurrection)
From here, in a nutshell, the gospel of Christ is most importantly, although not only, the death and resurrection of Christ. In many other scriptures we see more kinds of good news, but since the book of Romans was also written by Paul, this ought to be a reasonable definition of what Paul meant by the gospel at this point.
So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. [2 Timothy 1:8]
2. 2 Timothy 1:8 says ‘to testify about our Lord‘.
3. 2 Timothy 1:8 says ‘me (Paul) his prisoner‘
We will not go too deeply into 2 Tim 1:8 in this post, there will come a day when I will write exclusively on it, for the focus today is on Romans 1:16, but are we ashamed to speak out for our Lord? (Well, I can’t say I’ve never been ashamed of that!) Are we ashamed of being persecuted by others because of our testimony for the Lord?
That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. [2 Timothy 1:12]
4. 2 Timothy 1:12 says ‘suffering‘.
Skimming through this verse, are we conflicted and confused when we are suffering, or when people around us are suffering? Are you ashamed to be poor, to be sick, to be the victim of an unfortunate accident or disaster?
5. Mark 8:38 says ‘me (Jesus) and my words‘.
Are you ashamed of the Lord? Are you ashamed of the Bible? When atheists and the world present to you ‘facts’ and numbers to theorize against the words of the Bible, are you cowering in fear? Note that I personally believe that there is no fault in being ashamed of false teaching, though we probably have no reason to be ashamed of others as well. More on that when we go into a relevant verse.
Analysis: Reasons not to be ashamed
1. Because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16)
God has granted everyone who believes salvation – this is His promise [Romans 10:9]. ‘Everyone’ who believes will be saved, no matter his race, his status, his wealth, his age, his nationality etc. It is not something we earn or work hard for – it is the power of God, it is God who grants it. God is the only one who can determine if you are saved or not. Not the accusers, not the persecutors, not your enemies. The gospel leads to salvation, because if you confess that Jesus is Lord (identity of Christ) and believe that God raised him from the dead (resurrection of Christ), you will be saved.
2. Because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. (2 Timothy 1:12)
By faith, based on our knowledge on the Lord’s character via the Bible and via past experiences, we believe and are convinced that the Lord will protect us.
3. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Tim 1:7)
Be courageous, for God never gave us a spirit of timidity. In God we are strong and we are empowered to defeat our vicious enemies.
4. God is not ashamed of us. (Mark 8:38)
Mark 8:38 says that if we are ashamed of him and his word (Jesus), then the Lord will be ashamed of us too. In other words, our Lord is not ashamed of us, so why should we be ashamed of Him? Our Lord is perfect and almighty, holy and glorious. We are sinners. If the Lord is not ashamed of us, on what grounds really, are we ashamed of Him? No, our relationship with the Lord cannot be based on shame, instead, it ought to be based on faith, love and hope.
Analysis: The Jews and the Gentiles
Briefly, the Jews were of course, the chosen people; and salvation was first granted to them exclusively. They were the privileged ones, the gospel was always first preached to them – apostles then were Jews, preaching to the Jews. Jesus was a Jew. The gospel was right at their doorstep. But they rejected it; and though salvation was never taken from them, their exclusive right to it was removed. Even after the gospel was ordered to be taken to the ends of the world, opened to the Gentiles, the Jews would still always be the first to it. The good news spread through the Gentiles, with much work from the apostles and having much success – there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him [Romans 10:12].
I am not ashamed of the gospel – this declaration is not one to be made when everything is going smoothly and you have your life delivered on a silver plate. This is a declaration of faith in difficult and trying times. When you are down, defeated and disillusioned, it is perhaps easier to climb a mountain than to say this. It takes more self-discipline, more love and more strength to say this. It takes faith, which is built upon a long-lasting intimate relationship with the Lord. I am embarrassed to admit that there have been times when I was ashamed – of the gospel, of my identity as a Christian, of the past of the Church – Romans 1:16 is a daily reminder. Let us take pride in the gospel.