“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1.1). This text has for long ages been called the thesis statement of the book of Romans.
As such, this statement that Paul puts forth in advance of argument is one which captures the essence of his entire book to the believers in Rome. There are no wasted words in it. It is concise and entirely relevant. That being the case, we will stop to examine why Paul and the Holy Spirit thought it necessary to affirm that he was not ashamed of the gospel. Surely that was an obvious fact from his manner of life and his dedication to preaching the gospel everywhere and at every opportunity afforded him. As today’s message, we simply pose the question, “Why did Paul think it necessary to affirm he was not ashamed of the gospel?”
First, it might prove interesting to note what Jesus said about being ashamed of Him and/or His words. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8.38). In a related passage, Jesus said, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10.32-33). To be ashamed of Jesus is to deny Him before men; to deny Jesus before men is to be denied before the Father in heaven. Were there significant consequences of being ashamed of the gospel? Jesus taught that there was no more serious offense in all that man might do!
The culture in which Paul lived and to which he preached was a diverse and broad-minded culture. They embraced almost any philosophy that human words could convey. As an example of the inclusive worldview that many held, all one needs to do is consider Paul’s visit to Mars Hill. Luke stated that the philosophers there did nothing all day long but exercise themselves in the hope of hearing some new thing (Acts 17.21). Society in Corinth during the first century was more wicked than most would ever think imaginable. They were so licentious that the word Corinthian is synonymous with loose and amoral living. So the culture in which Paul lived was a culture which diametrically opposed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their ways were evil and they wanted nothing to interfere with their lifestyles!
Why would Paul find it necessary to state that he was not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Perhaps it was because the world itself, at least that part of the world that was considered progressive and up to date, deemed the idea of the God that Paul preached as a threat to their freedoms. Their minds were broad, but they were not broad enough to admit the truthfulness of the message that Paul preached. They could embrace almost any philosophy or religion, any one that is, except the one that Jesus Himself proclaimed when He was resurrected from the dead.
We will have more to say on this subject tomorrow.
1. What are the three “I Am” statements by Paul in Romans 1.14-16?
2. What did Jesus say about being ashamed of Him? How would that attitude manifest itself among men?
3. What was the attitude of the Athenians regarding religions and gods?
4. What was the moral state of the culture in and around Corinth.?
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