Sermon from October 29th, 2017. For Full Audio visit our sermons page.
Romans 1:16-17 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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (ESV)
On Tuesday, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. That’s the day that Martin Luther had 95 Theses nailed to the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. That’s the catalytic event, but much like we date the American Revolution on July 4, 1776 there were many other things that led up to that day. There were people in Prague and England and France and Switzerland that were seeing the same things Luther was and even for Luther, it wasn’t just the days or weeks before October 31st, 1517, it was years before that. Like the 4th of July is important, Oct. 31 1517 is important, but I think there was a more important day sometime before that.
Martin Luther was a monk, and a scholar, and a professor of theology. There is some debate on the date and the sequence of things—some historians even suggest this happened after the 95 Theses, but what seems to emerge is that sometime in 1516, Luther began lecturing through Romans at the university where he taught. At the very same time, a man named Erasmus compiled and released a copy of the New Testament in its original Greek language. Luther knew Greek, but the majority of his study was done in Latin, the language of the Roman Church, so having this New Testament in the original language began to open up all kinds of discoveries to Luther. The one that rocked him the most, the one he never really got over was when he read Romans 1:17:
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Last week, we spent almost 40 minutes in Romans 1:16. That was like an introduction to this morning. In Romans 1:16, Paul says, “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.” Here is what we said about shame and the Gospel: To be unashamed of the Gospel is to acknowledge and embrace your own limitations and weaknesses, believing that all you need to be saved and to persevere in the Christian life, God will provide. Furthermore, we said that being saved, here in Romans, is not just a one-time event that takes place in the past, but it is an ongoing experience. That’s a lot to throw at you, so let me break that down a little bit—not as much as last week, just a little—and then give you some applications for it.
Being unashamed of the Gospel is acknowledging and embracing your own limitations and weaknesses. That’s the opposite of how we naturally handle shame. Usually, in our shame we hide, or we minimize, or we put up fronts, or we posture to downplay our weakness and we run from our shame, we don’t embrace it. Being unashamed of the Gospel is the opposite of that. Even saying that though, is probably confusing to some of us. Let me back up one step further.
The Gospel is the good news that we have been saved as an act of God’s mercy, through believing that the death and resurrection of Jesus are credited to us. Let me just say that again—The Gospel is the good news that we have been saved as an act of God’s mercy, through believing that the death and resurrection of Jesus are credited to us. I’ll define the first part of that now and spend the rest of our time on the second half.
Gospel means good news, specifically the good news that we have been saved. Saved from what? In verse 17 it says the righteous live by faith. What’s the opposite of righteous? Unrighteous. If the righteous liver by faith, what happens to the unrighteous? To answer that, look at verse 18. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” So, the unrighteous experience the wrath of God where the righteous are saved from the wrath of God. Very simply, that’s what we mean when we say saved. We mean saved from the punishment of the wrath of God.
And being saved isn’t just something that happens once, it’s something that keeps happening. It’s a present reality and future promise from God to Christians. Living according to that promise, the way Paul puts it, living unashamed of the Gospel means the ultimate admission that you can’t save yourself from the wrath of God, only God can do that through Jesus Christ. So living unashamed of the Gospel is foundationally asking Jesus to save you and learning to walk in the salvation He offers every day and in every circumstance of life. That might sound easy, when you put it that way, there’s wrath and there’s death or there’s salvation and there’s life, who wouldn’t want to be saved, who would be ashamed of that?
The trouble is we all are. We all live at various points ashamed of the Gospel. Being ashamed of the Gospel doesn’t only mean we are not as vocal or forward about our faith in Christ as we ought to be, it means that we will often in our flesh treat the Gospel the same way we treat other things we’re ashamed of. I know a man who is in his 80’s now. He grew up in a small town in Iowa and his parents were the only couple in town to get a divorce. He got picked on, ostracized, and even beat up because his parents were divorced. In his shame, he learned to hide his family story and even deny his association with his parents. He wouldn’t realize it until years later, but he was subconsciously making choices simply based on doing the opposite of what his parents did.
When we’re ashamed of the Gospel, it’s not just that we’re not bold in our faith, it’s that we fail to acknowledge our own weakness. Even though we may have been saved by grace, we continue to try to clean ourselves up in our own strength. When there is a problem, we believe that our best bet is applying our own thought-power to arrive at a solution. When our finances get tight, we don’t trust God, we narrow our generosity or stop giving all together. When our marriage starts falling apart, we refuse counseling saying everything is fine or when we are heartbroken because our kids haven’t embraced our faith, we pretend we’re ok because they got into good schools and have good jobs. That’s what it looks like to be ashamed of the Gospel.