“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
We human beings like to talk about ourselves, but I have noticed that we do not like to talk about things that we are really ashamed of. We all have these secret sins that we keep hidden away in the darkest recesses of our being. We don’t bring them out for anyone; we seldom bring them out even for ourselves. It is almost like we are ashamed of being ashamed. But these things, these secret sins, do not just go away. They pop back into our minds every now and then, and we are ashamed all over again. We feel the old pain and confusion all over again.
Shame is sometimes unbearable. We may equate shame with feeling worthless, unlovable, unredeemable, or cut-off from humankind. Shame may evoke other painful feelings, rage at the one we feel shamed by or terror that we will be abandoned. Humiliation and mortification may be so painful that they may lead to violence or suicide.
If distress is the affect of suffering, shame is the affect of indignity, transgression, and alienation. We feel terror when we face death; we feel distress when we suffer; but shame that strikes deepest into our hearts. Shame is inner torment, a sickness of the soul. When we are humiliated, we feel naked, defeated, alienated, lacking in dignity and worth.
People who are ashamed may hide their eyes; lower their gaze; blush; bite their lips or tongue; present a forced smile; or fidget. Other responses may include annoyance, defensiveness, exaggeration, or denial. Because the affect of shame often interferes with our ability to think, we may appear confused, at a loss for words. When ashamed, our minds tend to go blank.
For some of us, shame is that inner, critical voice that judges our deeds and words as wrong, inferior, or worthless. Sometimes, this inner critical voice, or conscience, is repeating what was said to us by our parents, relatives, teachers, and friends. We may have been told that we were naughty, selfish, ugly, stupid. We may have been ostracized by peers at school, humiliated by teachers, treated with contempt by our parents.
Now granted some parents, teachers, “friends” are overbearing and expect too much, and overreact when we cannot deliver results that match their expectations. In that case, the shame we feel is undeserved. A lot of people spend a lot of time with a therapist trying to undo the effects of unjust and uncalled for criticism. Some authority figures are never satisfied with our efforts or performance, they are critical no matter what. And that has horrible effects on our personality.
But we don’t want to fall into the trap of supposing that all shame is false and undeserved. Sometimes when that inner critical voice of ours says to us, “You ought to feel bad, because you acted badly,” that inner voice is absolutely right.
So there is a real shame and there is a false shame. Some folks have been raised in such a harsh and unforgiving environment that they have come to believe that they cannot do anything right and they are ashamed of everything about themselves. As I said, they need a therapist.
On the other hand, when we do wrong, we ought to be ashamed. I bring this up, because sometimes this is a confusion factor in today’s society.
A well-meaning psychologist will say, this person committed murder because he had such a harsh childhood that he has feelings of worthlessness, and so he struck out and killed and we ought to understand where he is and help him work through his feelings of shame and worthlessness. Nonsense. He ought to be ashamed that he committed murder. He may have a false sense of shame from his childhood, but he ought to have a real sense of shame because he assaulted and murdered a person.
And we have to add here that most of us, all of us, have plenty in our lives to give us a real and well-deserved sense of shame. It is not other people imposing shame upon us that we are most worried about. It is the shame we feel about we know we did or did not do, the shame we feel about what we know we said, or did not say.
So what are you ashamed of today? Traditionally, Psalm 51 was written by King David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband. David is bitterly ashamed of what he has done. He says, “Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2). The Apostle Paul is also ashamed of himself. Later on in Romans, he says, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (7:24).
Paul is ashamed of his sins, failings, and transgressions. We all have been there. We are all Paul—wretched people that we are.
But notice one thing that Paul is not ashamed of. He is not ashamed of the gospel. Paul was brilliant, well-educated, a man of the world. A person like that could find much in the gospel to be ashamed of. The gospel is about a man who was hanged upon a tree, executed for crimes of treason and blasphemy. Most of the early Christians came from what some people call the “lower classes,” slaves and women and people on the margins of society. None of the movers and shakers favored this gospel, none of the philosophers, none of the wise, none of the authorities. It was an outcast religion for the outcasts of society.
But Paul was not ashamed of it and he announces his reasons in v16: “It is the power of God unto salvation.” If you look at the gospel with a worldly eye, with an earthly attitude, it is foolishness. But if you look at the gospel with a spiritual eye, with the discernment given to us by God’s own spirit, then we perceive that it has the power of God to bring salvation. The gospel is a deed, our deed to a heavenly mansion.
The gospel is the power of God, in Greek the “δύναμις Θεοῦ.” You know the Greek word for “power.” It is our English word “dynamite,” except that in Greek it is pronounced “δύναμις.” The gospel is the “dynamite of God,” which has the power to blow away all our shame and bring us the forgiveness of Christ.
But notice that this dynamite is not for everyone. “it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Believers receive this gospel salvation. To others it is so much nonsense.
I sometimes read books on religions of the world, and these books say that Christianity is an exclusive religion. By that, they mean that Christianity says that the gospel is the only way of salvation, the only way to God. All other ways, all other religions, are excluded. These books on world religions say this in disapproval, indicating that Christians should be more tolerant and accept that other religions might also offer a way to God. Well, Christianity does say that the gospel is the only way to God. This is not a doctrine that we invented. This is what God told us. The gospel is the only way of salvation. Now if that sounds intolerant, I am sorry. I am by nature a very laid back, easy going person, and I would not willingly offend anyone. But I have to say what the Bible says. Salvation is only through Jesus Christ. If you are going another way, you are not saved. You are not pleasing to God. You will never see heaven.
But let us return to our verse. Paul adds a historical note. “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” The first offer of the gospel was made by Christ and his apostles to the Jews, and later on to the Gentiles, so that now Jews and Gentiles stand on the same ground. We are all condemned sinners without Christ and we are all equally welcomed in Christ. Thus, Paul says in Colossians, “As a result, there is no longer any distinction between Gentiles and Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarians, savages, slaves, and free, but Christ is all, Christ is in all” (Col 3:11 GNB).
Thus, the gospel is Good News. The word “gospel” means “good news.” Why then should we be ashamed to proclaim it? I can understand why anyone would not want to proclaim bad news.
I remember many years ago when a man died. It was about 2 in the morning and the family was totally exhausted. I told them that I would do anything I could to help them, and they asked me to go tell the man’s brother that he had passed on. That was hard. I knew both the deceased and his brother very well, and the last thing that I wanted to do was to go out to a friend’s house in the middle of the night and tell him that his brother was dead. It had to be done, and I did it, but it was certainly not news that I wanted to proclaim.
But the gospel is not like this. The gospel is the opposite. Instead of being bad news, it is good news. It is good news about what God has done for us in Jesus. It is the best news that we could ever imagine.
The Gospel Is about salvation, and not just any salvation. It is about my salvation. The gospel begins with bad news about me. I am guilty of breaking God’s law. I stand condemned by God’s law. I am ashamed of that, and I ought to be. I am on a path of increasing frustration and despair, and, at the end, I must face God’s just wrath and the final execution of his sentence against me. I am a prisoner under the sentence of death.
But there is good news! God has intervened to pay the penalty for sin and transgression through the work of his divine Son, Jesus. Jesus paid the penalty for all of my sin, past, present and future. He took the entire record of my transgressions and stamped across it “Paid in Full.” Therefore, as Paul says in Romans 8: “There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” He says, if you belong to Jesus, you will not face punishment for your sins. You are walking a different way now. You have a different life now.
But let us return to our verse. Notice that this gospel is from God. It is the power of God, the dynamite of God. This is God’s way of salvation, not man’s way of salvation. Humankind over the centuries has developed countless schemes for salvation--religions, philosophies, self-help programs. None of these work.
When human beings invent religion, they usually invent something that makes them feel self-righteous. For example, suppose that you are a Hindu Brahman. You feel really good about that, because you have been reincarnated many times to achieve Brahman status. You have worked your way up the ladder of caste and you are proud of it, and you look down on the rest of humankind because it is composed mostly of untouchables. But that is just human pride. The Hindu caste system based on reincarnation and karma is just works salvation by another name. It is all arrogance and conceit. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.
The gospel is an altogether different dimension. There is no room for human pride or boasting, because the gospel is not about anything that I have done in any way. The gospel is about what God has done in Christ. The gospel is not sinners reaching out to seize God. The gospel is God reaching out to seize us and save us.
We began today by talking about shame. There is a false shame that sometimes gets imposed upon us by other people. We are sometimes ashamed of things we ought not to be ashamed of. Then there is the shame we feel because we know we have done wrong. The false shame we can leave the therapists to deal with. But what about the real shame? Because I have really done wrong. I am the sinner that the Bible is talking about. I ought to be punished, I ought to be ashamed of myself, but I can celebrate the gospel, I can love the gospel because it is the answer to my shame. I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the δύναμις Θεου, the dynamite of God, that blows away all my sin and shame. Praise Jesus.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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