The Gospel: An Obligation without Shame
The Gospel: An Obligation Without Shame (Romans 1:14-17)
To many of us, the word gospel has a cozy, familiar ring. We believe the gospel, preach it, and sing it. Yet, many of us have "overheard" the gospel. That is, we have heard the very term "gospel" so many times that it has become a vague term without definite content. The gospel ought to be a precise thing that informs us and motivates our lives. The gospel places us under an obligation when we understand the power of God it reveals.
The Gospel Places Us Under an Obligation
Even before the definition of the gospel, we encounter the obligation of the gospel. Before Paul tells us what the gospel is, he tells us of the duty, debt, and obligation of those who know the gospel. To know the gospel is to have, by that fact, an inescapable duty. That duty is personal, informational, and vocational. The duty is personal because Jesus Christ lays the duty on us. The duty is informational because the gospel represents the information which must be shared by its very nature. (If I know a building is on fire, I have informational responsibility to share the knowledge.) That duty is vocational for those called to the ministry.
That duty is not only inescapable, but also inclusive. I do not have the right to qualify the people with whom I share the gospel. "Greeks and non-Greeks," means those who belong to the prevalent culture and those who do not. We have an equal debt to share the gospel with those who have intelligence and education, and those who do not. We are not to exclude anyone in our proclamation of the gospel.
The Obligation Requires that We Overcome the Shame
By the very nature of the gospel, Christians will constantly be tempted to shame concerning the gospel. Paul recognized this as a sober inevitability. Jesus Himself warned of shame concerning the gospel in awesome language (Mark 8:38). Paul had to admonish Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel (2 Tim. 1:7-8). Peter's well-known denial underscores the intense possibility of shame.
Why are Christians ashamed of the gospel? First, the hostility of the world toward God as He really is intimidates the Christian. The world hates the real God of biblical revelation. Second, the gospel appears unimpressive, weak, foolish, and irrelevant to the world. It is preposterous to the world that one man nailed to a stick of wood, bleeding to death, saves for eternity. Because of this, Christian are personally, socially, vocationally, and intellectually ashamed of the gospel. There really is a stigma to believing the gospel in our world.
Paul refused to be ashamed of the gospel in the hardest place to tell it, Rome. We should not be ashamed in our city either.
We Overcome the Shame When We Understand the Power
The simple telling of the gospel itself possesses the omnipotent power of God. Paul himself admitted freely that the whole method and message of the gospel was foolishness (1 Cor. 1:21). To go around telling people that a man who bled to death outside the wall of ancient Jerusalem can revolutionize their life is apparently foolish. Yet in telling that story, the inherent omnipotence of an almighty God finds release. The preaching of the cross is power (v. 18). The Word proclaimed is living and active (Heb. 4:12). The very telling to the story removes sin and death, and positively makes life whole. The gospel creates the very belief or faith that make our appropriation possible. Belief is the crater that remains after the gospel has exploded on us. Tell it, and let it do the rest. The gospel is the power of God.