“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”

These words were penned by the Apostle Paul in his only known letter to the church in Rome. Though short, this powerful statement not only summarizes the central theme in the book of Romans but, perhaps, Paul’s entire ministry. However, unless we grasp the historical context in which Paul wrote this letter, Romans 1:16 will have little significance to us today.

In a Roman culture pride was everything. Men took pride in their strength. Rome took pride in its power, and the citizens took pride in their stature. Therefore, shame was something the Romans despised. To be ashamed of anything—family positon, social class, or economic status—was extremely degrading to the Romans. They wanted their lives, and the things that filled them, to be marked by a sense of pride and accomplishment.

So for Paul to say, in this Roman context, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel” means a great deal. When Jews and non-Jews alike were repulsed by Paul’s message (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25) of a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth was actually God-incarnate, and that He (Jesus) was crucified on a cross to save a sinful people, Paul stood his ground and said “I am not ashamed” of this message.

The question is, are you?

Are you ashamed of the Gospel in this day and age when it is becoming increasingly unpopular not only to preach, but even to believe? As it was in Paul’s era, everything about the Gospel is vehemently opposed by our culture because of its great offense. The Gospel offends religious pride when it says there is only one way of salvation (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). The Gospel tears down man’s morality when it says we are dreadfully wicked and in desperate need for a savior (Romans 6:23). These two facets alone cause most people to turn away from Christianity entirely. The world fires back, “How dare you tell me my religion is wrong or that I am sinful and forgiveness. My beliefs are fine, and my life is good. I don’t need your primitive, irrelevant religion.”

So then, you can see why it is tempting, particularly for churches, to be ashamed. In trying to attract a crowd, it is easy to water down our message and do things to make the Gospel less offensive. “Don’t talk so much about sin and repentance” they say. “Leave out the parts about judgment and God’s justice. Eliminate the bloody cross and grueling sacrifice. Make it more about God’s free love and acceptance. Talk more about His grace. Emphasize His kindness, but check that other stuff at the door or people won’t like our religion.”

But, when you lose God’s justice against sin and remove Christ’s substitutionary, atoning death for lawbreakers, you have lost the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “The Gospel” Paul says, “is the power of God to save.” The Gospel declares God’s holiness and righteousness. It unveils man’s depravity and God’s right to punish sin. But, the Gospel also declares God’s unending love in sending Jesus Christ to pay for man’s sin upon the cross. It opens Heaven’s door for all those who repent and trust in Christ as God’s provision of man’s salvation.

Friends, do not be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the message that saved you (1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Titus 3:3-7), and it is also “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”