I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel – Part 2

Written on: May 1, 2024

Article by: Dave Knutson

(A discussion of the contents of the Gospel)

Text.: Romans 1:16-23

In our first article, we discussed some reasons that a Christian might be tempted to be ashamed of the Gospel. After all, the gospel of Jesus Christ is objective in nature, antithetical in function and absolute in scope and permanence.

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  • It corresponds to reality whether we know it or not.
  • It is true in the sense that its opposite is false, exhausting all other possibilities
  • And it is unchanging in nature and universally true for it is anchored in our God who does not change and remains divinely sovereign.

It is a ‘hard sell’ to those accustomed to:

  • Truth that is relative, where each person has their own
  • A kind of truth that affirms both a thing and its opposite
  • And truth that is as fluid as the non-absolute absolute of an evolving creation instead of the creator.

So a salvation message that says…this is the only way to be saved and there is no other…leaves a lot of people shaking their heads. But like it or not, that is what the Bible says. Some have gone so far as to call the gospel, “cultural genocide” or “religious imperialism”. And actually, that last part is not far from the mark, for the gospel does proclaim the universal rule of Jesus Christ.

In an effort to gain acceptance, some have traded the Gospel of salvation…for a social gospel. It is a feel-good gospel that feeds the body while neglecting the soul. Now to be clear, the apostle Paul – who was not ashamed of the gospel, spent years raising money to feed the poor. But all that time, he never stopped preaching and teaching.

So the nature of the Gospel is fixed by the nature of God…and not by us. Our job is to preach it and practice it.

Exploring the content of the Gospel:

There were two things that the apostle Paul was not ashamed of.

  1. He was not ashamed of the one of a kind (the exclusive nature) gospel that he preached,
  2. And he was also not ashamed of the fundamental message or the content of the Gospel

In our chosen text Paul suggests two categories into which the facts of that message might be divided.

He says:

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

For in it (ie. in the Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith”.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them (Vs.16-19)

The gospel reveals two things….really just two sides of the same coin. Both of these things had been partially revealed in the past, but they are fully revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Quite simply, the gospel reveals:

1. The righteousness of God (vs. 17)

2. The wrath of God (vs. 18ff)

Paul mentions the righteousness of God first, and then his wrath. But he discusses the wrath of God first before returning to God’s righteousness. This reverse order is known as a chiasm. The apostle first explains how it is and why, that the whole world is lost in sin… before turning to God’s solution. This article will focus on the first of these and article three returns to the matter of God’s Righteousness

The gospel is all about good news. It is the good news of what God has done to solve the problem of sin. But since the good news is a solution, it is necessary first to understand what the problem is and how it came about. The good news is not really good until we hear the bad news.

Now according to the Gospel, there is eternal reward for those who “live by faith” and are righteous, and there is eternal punishment for those who neither believe nor obey.

God has always punished sin. The fact that you and I will eventually die, is itself a divine penalty for sin. God wiped out the population of the ancient world except for Noah and his family, sparing them because Noah was righteous. What happened to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah became common knowledge in the ancient near east. When God drowned Pharaoh’s chariot corp in the sea, people were still talking about it hundreds of years later.

And when God’s own people turned away from him, he made them an object lesson for other nations. They became “hiss and a byword”. If you wanted to call down a curse on someone’s head, you asked God to make them like Israel and Judah

The wrath of God is etched in human history. God has punished unrighteousness, from the first day that it appeared. We have every reason to believe that God is doing the same thing today.

But the Gospel of Jesus Christ goes one step further. It opens our eyes to what lies ahead, at the end of time. The wrath of God is not exhausted in time and space. Judgment and punishment lie ahead for those who hate God and who by virtue of sin are already dead. Perhaps is comes as no surprise that Jesus talked about Hell more often and in greater detail than anyone else in scripture.

No wonder then that Paul says – the wrath of God is revealed, ‘from heaven’. The Gospel of salvation in Jesus, is God’s revelation from heaven. What God only hinted at in the flood and at Sodom has been more fully revealed in the words and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

I don’t like to think about the wrath of God or the fact that I deserve it. But that’s where Paul starts. Romans 1:18-32 introduces us to the mindset that rejects God. It rejects truth from God and truth about God. And for that reason, God’s wrath is directed toward every form of ungodliness and unrighteousness.

Sinful living is all about denying the truth. It starts out – denying that God is God. It replaces him with a designer version, the kind of God who agrees with me and lets me have my way.

Paul says that there is no excuse for this. There’s no excuse…because the God who exists has revealed Himself within history. The person and nature of God is imprinted upon all over creation. You don’t need the bible to know that.

A finite universe must have come from an infinite creator. Matter did not create itself nor did people rip themselves out of the rocks.

Men and women are made in the image of God. We transcend the flow of cause and effect by choosing freely. We measure things that have no physical substance according to their moral weight. We function as persons, for our creator is a person who is fully transcendent and the standard of all that is good and right.

People the world over have a sense of spiritual awareness. Every society reflects the conviction that there is more to us than just our bodies. Only a God who is spirit can account for who we are.

We find ourselves at the very top of the created order, yet are inclined to worship. Our nature demands a God who is worthy of worship, a God who is above us in a way that matter in motion can never be.

So Paul says that historically, people have known these things. And since this knowledge of God was common there is no excuse for remaining ignorant.

However, the problem did not begin with ignorance. It began with rebellion, and as we might expect, that rebellion led to ignorance.

Paul says

‘for even though they knew God, they did not honour Him as God, or give thanks’.

The downward path from rebellion to ignorance was steep and men fell headlong into the foolishness of self deception.

Our science texts begin with the assumption that “matter can neither be created or destroyed”. In other words, matter is eternal.

The theory is that when eternal matter was flung about in the blender of ‘blind chance’, this world is the result…even inevitably so. Matter is God and there is no ultimate distinction between its personal and impersonal forms.

This is foolishness on a colossal scale and appears in the Bible as idolatry. When people worship created things or bow down to the ‘whole of creation’, there remains no distinction between what is and what ought to be. And in a world where is and ought are the same thing…anything goes.

By way of illustration, Paul gives us a “short list” of immoral behaviour – when anything goes. It includes fornication, homosexuality lesbianism, and along with those he implies all other forms of sexual perversion.

All of this flows from a single “lie” or as some versions put it “the lie”. The lie is, that God does not exist, that the personal infinite God of the bible does not exist.

More importantly, the lie implies, that you and I are not under the wrath of God.

That we are free to do whatever we want, without divine consequence.

According to Paul, even those who have actually come to believe in the lie know or have the innate sense that that is not really true. They were lying to themselves and deep down inside, they know it. At the very end of that process all safeguards fall away; the heart is hardened, leaving no desire to go back.

As people walked away from God and God’s truth, they found themselves dishonoured and debased, used and abused.

And then Paul talks about the “due penalty of their error” which they receive in their own persons. 2000 years later, there is a world-wide epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases decimating lives and hollowing out populations.

Science has not stopped the spread of diseases which simple obedience to God would eliminate.

Ungodly living is a form of pagan worship. Its a denial, that the being who is ultimate is also good. It is a denial that the God who is worthy of worship is a morally good God.

The pursuit of evil is a powerful form of promotion that is alive and well. The folly of the past has not remained in the past nor have people chosen to learn from it. Therefore, God gave them up…he gave them over to a ‘depraved mind’. He let them experience the lives that they had chosen for themselves.

Life guided by a ‘depraved mind” (Verses 28-32)

Cut loose from God, this is what every society degenerates into. Read those verses with Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal in mind. Sodom is back, in the streets and homes of the cites that we love.

Now, those who are not at peace with God are also not at peace with themselves or others. It all starts when men become hateful toward God” or “haters of God’.

Paul explains that one of the ways that God punishes sin in every age… is that he does not rescue us from it’s immediate consequences. He allows us to go from bad to worse. As society deteriorates, sin struts its stuff. It dances in the streets, proud of shameful things. What we are seeing then is the wrath of God on display. He does not rescue us from the sinful world of our own making.

Paul says of them:

“… and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” vs.32

Those who hate God, say that God is not the boss and that there is no such thing as sin – to be saved from. They are evangelistic. Turn on your radio, your TV, your iPad or smartphone. They are everywhere. It’s a fellowship of sinners, an echo-chamber of Satan, who seriously and religiously, practice what they preach.

They are not ashamed of their gospel. They are not ashamed immorality and ungodliness…it is the new-normal. Actually, there is no new sin under the sun, only the same old same old stuff, recycled and rebranded for an ever more gullible marketplace.

What is new, given our recent past…is the absence of shame. They are not ashamed to deny God and cram immorality down every child’s throat.

Why then should we be ashamed to stand up for the God of all creation?

To stand for goodness and righteousness?

To preach the rule of God and to worship Him as God?

To proclaim the deity of God by the way that we live?

How will you and I stand before God in the day when He judges the whole world, if we have been ashamed of Him?