“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
WHEN PAUL WROTE THIS TO THE CHRISTIANS IN ROME, HE HAD NEVER BEEN THERE. And his critics seem to have been saying that he didn’t have enough courage to leave the hinterlands and come preach the gospel in Rome, the most powerful and sophisticated city in the world. But Paul was no less ready to preach there than anywhere else. “I am not ashamed of the gospel,” he said.
Paul said the gospel is powerful, and that’s an important point in itself. If it is “the power of God,” we should expect that power to be great. But it is salvation that this power of God is for. Whatever secondary blessings may flow from Christ, His mission was to save us from our sins. We will not understand Jesus Christ until we see that sin is the problem He came to correct. Speaking of Himself as the Christ (or Messiah), He said to His apostles, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46-48).
But while the Jewish people were privileged to be the first recipients of the gospel, it would ultimately be a universal gospel, a message of forgiveness “to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” If salvation had been limited to those under the Law of Moses, that would have restricted it to the Jews and Jewish proselytes. But all have sinned, both Jew and Gentile, and all need salvation. The gospel is God’s power to save anyone and everyone, the condition being faith and not race or ethnicity.
Since it is about sin, the gospel is not the kind of message the world wants to hear. But we dare not change it to make it attractive to those who have no interest in the forgiveness of their sins. Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel. Are we? Would we go into the halls of power and prestige today and declare the gospel clearly — not the modernized, culturally filtered message being presented as “Christianity,” but the gospel of repentance and obedience as it was proclaimed by Jesus and His apostles?
“Humble and self-forgetting we must be always, but diffident and apologetic about the gospel, never” (James S. Stewart).