We have probably all done things of which we are (or should be) ashamed. We’ve all had times when we haven’t treated other people right; times when we’ve put ourselves and our own interests before others; times when we’ve looked longingly at things which belong to someone else; or simply times when we’ve been ungrateful, when we’ve not been satisfied with the things that we have.
Furthermore, there may well be things that we are holding back from doing right now. Like calling someone we have neglected for too long; like not helping someone we know, who we know is in need of help; and like giving a hand to someone who is selflessly caring for others.
There are probably also things that we know we should do but are too unsure of ourselves or too embarrassed to get involved. Maybe we lack courage, or maybe we are scared about what others might think.
It’s very refreshing then to hear some words of Paul. Words which reflect the idea that whilst he had done many things of which he was ashamed—and persecuting Christians was one of those things of which he was not proud—the one thing that he was not ashamed of (having become a Christian) was to stand up and proudly tell others about his faith.
Indeed the words of Paul from his letter to the Romans: “I am not ashamed of the good news, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes—the Jew first, then the Greek. For from the beginning of faith to the end, the righteousness of God is revealed in it. And as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Now when I say that Paul was proud of being a Christian and proud to share his faith, I don’t mean that in a negative way. He wasn’t pushing his own barrow. Rather, I mean that Paul had something to be excited about, and he consequently wanted to tell all and sundry what Jesus had done, and what the gospel meant.
B. TWO REASONS WHY PAUL WAS NOT ASHAMED
So what is it that made Paul stand proudly and proclaim the gospel, whilst others were tempted to hold back? Well, I’m going to tell you that it had nothing to do with his gifts and abilities. Because it wasn’t that he was a particularly good speaker. On the contrary he was criticised for not being one. And as for his letter writing . . . Well even though his letters are quite strong at times, he does have the reputation for getting side-tracked and losing the thread of his argument. So what was it that motivated Paul to proudly proclaim the gospel? Well, as far as Paul was concerned there were two things:
1. A Message of Salvation (verse 16)
And the first was that the gospel was a message of salvation—of which they are at least three aspects:
a). Saved from the Wrath God
The first aspect is that people are being given the opportunity to be saved from the wrath of God. It is about the opportunity for people to be guided through all the human trials and divine judgement and come out the end to receive eternal bliss.
Now this salvation may have something to do with hope for the future. (Because salvation can only be completed when the Messiah returned in glory). But guidance through human trials now, is very much an everyday reality too. Consequently the salvation message is very much a current day reality as well as a hope of things to come.
b). Only God has the Power to Save
The second aspect is that God uses his power to give people the opportunity to be saved, which only God has the power to do. It is about the opportunity for people to have a solution to sin, where all human solutions fail.
But yet again this salvation is not merely an announcement of the fact that salvation will take place at some future time, but it is the announcement of the operation of God’s power working towards salvation. Power that is evident in the here and now.
It is a work begun in the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. And subsequently it is work that continues on, daily, through the work of the Holy Spirit.
c). For All Who Have Faith
And the third aspect is that people are being given the freedom to choose whether to be saved or not. It is the opportunity for people to choose for God and receive salvation, or to choose against God and receive eternal damnation.
In other words, everyone (without exception) is given the choice. But the salvation of the future and the salvation of every day, is only given to those who choose it.
God’s gift of salvation, whilst open for anyone to choose, is effective for only those who have faith. It is only effective for those who accept the power of God, and therefore submit themselves to him, trusting themselves wholly to his grace and wisdom.
Now this gospel may have been delivered to the Jew first, but it is shared amongst the gentiles too, as was intended. And the reason for that, is to illustrate the inability for anyone to keep the Old Testament law. It is to illustrate the nature of sin and the consequent need for divine intervention.
2. God’s Righteousness Revealed (verse 17)
So the first reason that Paul was proud and not ashamed of the gospel was because of the relevance and importance of the salvation message to every single person that has ever lived. Without it, people are condemned. With it, people have the opportunity to be saved.
However Paul’s second reason why he was not embarrassed about the gospel, takes the whole thing a little further. Because as far as Paul was concerned the gospel revealed something of the nature of God too. And again it comes in three aspects:
a). God is a Righteousness God
The first aspect is that God is a righteous God; that God is perfect and needs to deal with all the things that are not perfect around him.
On God’s side, the whole concept of the need for salvation means the operation of his righteousness. And that isn’t just an attribute of God, it is something that he does. It is part of his whole being. And consequently for people to meet God’s standards, they need to be found righteous too.
Consequently before salvation can be received by anyone, they have to face God—the righteous judge—in court. And in this court, that person has to secure the verdict: righteous.
b) God is a Caring God
The second aspect is that God cares for his creation. Indeed he cares and loves his creation so much that he has found a way to secure that righteous verdict. And this is only possible because God sent his Messiah to suffer humiliation and death.
A verdict of righteous, therefore, is available, but only through faith in Jesus. Faith being the only human attitude corresponding to God’s grace.
c). God Honours Freewill
The third aspect is that God cares so much for his creation, that he respects people’s freedom to choose. That even after having given the opportunity for people to be accepted as righteous, he is not prepared to impose himself on those who are unwilling to trust him or accept him.
Consequently only those who live by faith will live. A state which doesn’t just talk about future salvation but relates to life in the here and now as well.
There are two reasons, therefore, why Paul was confident and was not ashamed to tell others of the gospel, and they have nothing to do with either his ability to speak in public—about which he was criticised—or about his letter writing ability either.
Rather, it had to do with the content—the good news—of the message of salvation, and the need for all to hear it. And it had to do with the fact that in that salvation message, God had revealed much about himself.
Now, as I said earlier, Paul had, himself, done many things of which he would have been ashamed. Not least of which was the persecution of early Christians. However, once he had become a Christian, once he had faith, all that changed. He too became bold and went out and shared his faith; he was proud to be stand up and call himself a Christian; and he was proud that he had been given the responsibility by God to tell others about what he believed.
And in this, is a challenge to us all. Because if we are Christians, if we have really received the salvation message ourselves—whether we are good speakers or good writers or not—we too should be proud enough to stand up and proclaim the gospel.
And how we can do that is by remembering three simple things.
1. Needing God’s Help
Firstly, to remember that we all need God’s help—and people everywhere need to be told that they need his help too.
If God is a righteous God, then he needs to deal with sin; with all our mistakes and failings; with all the things we’ve done wrong; and with all the things that we’ve failed to do. The one thing we can guarantee is that no-one is exempt from needing God’s help. It doesn’t matter what people do or how people try, anyone who has even made one mistake needs God’s help. And that help is available because of the death and resurrection of God’s son. Because come judgement day, we will be judged based on every single thing that we have done wrong. And even if we have only done one thing wrong—no matter how small it was—we will still deserve eternal damnation, not eternal life.
The only way for us to avoid that sentence is for someone else to pay the penalty for us. And in order for that person to be able to do that, they must have lived a sin free life. Now only Jesus—God’s son—could do that. And consequently only by putting our total trust in Jesus can we be saved.
2. Righteous Living Now
The second thing that we need to remember is that whilst the full effect of salvation still lies in the future, salvation is also something that should be embraced in the here and now. Our future salvation should be life changing in the here and now. And people need to realise that too.
Because even if we have accepted God’s message of salvation, it still matters how we live life now. If we are prepared to accept God’s judgement as “righteous” in the future, righteousness in the present should be our way of life now.
Righteousness isn’t just another attribute of God, it’s the way that he lives—it exudes out of every part of his being. Therefore to be faithful to God, it should be part of our very being too.
3. The Need to Choose Faith
And, the third thing we need to remember is that only those who respond positively to God will receive salvation. As a consequence, we have a responsibility to make sure that others around us are aware of God’s love and are aware of the choices that he brings.
Now, obviously, not everyone will accept the salvation message. Some might object most strongly; some might sit on the fence; and many will have the totally wrong idea about what the Christian faith is all about. But regardless of that, only those who choose salvation will inherit eternal life. And if we have been recipients of God’s message and his grace, then we have an obligation to share the choices that we all have when it comes to salvation too.
Now as I said at the beginning: We have probably all done things of which we are (or should be) ashamed. We may even have things that we are holding back from doing right now. And sharing the gospel may be one of those things. But we need to remember that Paul had also done things of which he was not proud. And yet in this passage he was proud to stand up and share his faith.
And why? Because he knew the seriousness of the issue; he knew that people would be lost unless they had an opportunity to respond to the gospel, and he wanted people to have the chance to respond positively to God. But more than that, he also wanted people to understand something of the nature of God, and the depths God was prepared to go to save his creation—you and me.
Now Paul wasn’t a great speaker, he wasn’t a great writer either, but he did have a concern for others. He was willing to have a go. The question is, do we have that same pride in the gospel? And are we concerned for the spiritual welfare of others as well?
Posted 7th August 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis