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Sermon Notes

Please note that these are only notes, not transcripts, and as such are not identical to the recorded sermons. They also contain frequent abbreviations.

Introduction

    1. When Paul wrote Romans he had already completed two missionary journeys.

      1. After these journeys many men would have been tempted to give up.

        1. He had been stoned and left for dead in Lystra.

        2. He had been beaten and thrown into prison in Philippi and then almost killed by a mob in Thessalonica.

        3. And he had suffered the ridicule of unbelieving philosophers in Athens.

      2. And yet, despite all these trials he declares in verse 14 that he must continue to preach Christ to Greek, Barbarian, wise and unwise.

        1. The work was difficult, the conditions poor and the dangers many, but Paul expressed a desire to preach in Rome also.

        2. He wanted Christ to be known in the capital of the then known world, so that he might have some fruit among the Romans too.

        3. And nothing, not even persecution or death, could deter him.

    2. The explanation of this zeal was the Gospel he was called to preach.

      1. Paul was a man whose life had been transformed by the Gospel.

      2. Christ had arrested Paul on the Damascus road, when, as a blind Pharisee, he was seeking salvation in his own works, and had called him to be an apostle.

      3. Christ had given Paul a new message, something radically different from his delusions as a Pharisee, the Gospel of God.

      4. Now Paul declares that he has been separated unto that Gospel and that he is not ashamed to preach it. Consider …

 

NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST” 

I. The Meaning

II. The Reason

III. The Fruit

 

  1. THE MEANING

    1. Paul declares that he is not ashamed of the Gospel. Why might he or why might we be tempted to be ashamed of the Gospel?

      1. Remember that the Gospel which the Apostles preached was “everywhere spoken against.”

        1. It was so in Paul’s day by the four main groups of people in society.

          1. The Jews, who prided themselves in their law, said that the gospel was lawless and scandalous, and that the gospel promoted licentious living.

          2. The Greeks, who gloried in wisdom and philosophy, derided the gospel as nonsense.

          3. The pagans or Barbarians, who lived in abominable idolatry, decried the gospel as intolerant and divisive.

          4. And the Romans, who boasted in their strength, laughed at the gospel as a message of weakness, a Jewish man dying on a Roman cross!

          5. In fact, there was no message more likely to stir up the hatred, anger and scorn of men than the gospel!

        2. Nothing has changed: the gospel is as offensive to the natural man today as it was in Paul’s day.

          1. Intellectuals today still laugh the gospel to scorn: no-one who is educated and intelligent will believe such a message today, we are told.

          2. Religious men oppose the gospel because it strips them of every scrap of self-righteousness and dignity before God: the gospel declares to men that they are utterly lost, guilty, slaves to sin, polluted and unclean and under God’s wrath.

          3. The gospel attacks the pride of man: it robs him of his self-sufficiency, his independence and his every attempt to forge a religion where he can contribute something to salvation.

          4. And, probably, most offensive about the gospel to today’s society is its exclusivity; it is the ONLY way of salvation, and man hates to hear that.

      2. Despite all of this – you could say, despite everything which seemed to make the gospel inglorious and shameful in the eyes of men – Paul can say that he is not ashamed of it!

        1. To be ashamed of something is to be unwilling to be associated with it because it might make one appear to be foolish.

          1. Shame is a very powerful and painful emotion: shame makes a person want to hide from other people lest they see him and make fun of him.

          2. If a person is ashamed of the gospel he is embarrassed by it, by the doctrines of which it consists, and by the Christ it proclaims; he therefore does not want people to know that he believes it, or be associated with the church which proclaims it.

          3. This is a powerful temptation for the Christian: do I really want people to know that I am a Christian, that I believe what the Bible teaches, especially in a hostile environment? Will it not make me the butt of jokes?

          4. The devil knows that we want to avoid shame and embarrassment, so he specializes in scorn and ridicule for the one who faithfully confesses Christ.

        2. To be ashamed of the gospel of Christ means that one is tempted to corrupt the message to make it less offensive to other people.

          1. Remember that the gospel itself, as God has revealed it, is offensive: we do not make it offensive and we are not called to be offensive and obnoxious people. We proclaim the message in as pleasant a manner as we can without corrupting its contents.

          2. The temptation we face is to present a more popular gospel, one which does not mention the really offensive aspects of the truth, but when we do this we are ashamed of the gospel. We are saying, in effect, if only the gospel was not so … [fill in the blank].

          3. This is an acid test: does the gospel which you believe and which the LRF preaches stir up the hatred of men, so that that they greet it with ridicule, contempt and opposition? If it does not, is it really the gospel of Christ?

        3. But since Paul is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ he is not afraid of the hatred, scorn, ridicule, contempt and opposition of men.

          1. Although the gospel will make Paul the laughing stock of the world he still is willing to be associated with it, and is not embarrassed by it.

          2. Indeed, when Paul writes that he is not ashamed of the Gospel he expresses in negative language a positive truth: I am not ashamed, I glory in, I boast in, I am thrilled by and excited by the gospel of Christ.

          3. The gospel of Christ is for Paul the most glorious message of all time, and Paul wants everyone to know it.

    2. But what is this Gospel concerning which Paul says that he is not ashamed?

      1. This Gospel is not another human philosophy but a divine message (“of God”).

        1. The world of Paul’s day (as our world today) was full of competing human philosophies.

          1. Some said that the greatest of all things is pleasure (the Epicureans); others insisted that to be happy you needed to subject passions to reason and live in harmony with nature (Stoics).

          2. Many believed that men were at the mercy of fickle gods and goddesses who had to be appeased by religious devotion in the many temples.

          3. Today we find the pleasure-seekers on the one hand, and the intellectuals on the other (men who pride themselves in learning), and in between the religious who seek to win God’s favor by their own works.

        2. If Paul had come with another human philosophy, he would have pleased men.; they would have listened to him with favor.

          1. If Paul had announced that Jesus is another great moral teacher who presents men with the example of righteous living they would have applauded him.

          2. If Paul had presented Jesus as a man who has the secret of happiness, so that by following his philosophy man could achieve contentment, men would have added Jesus to their list of helpers.

          3. But, instead, Paul declared that Jesus alone is the Christ, the Son of God and the only Savior from sin, and that offends men.

      2. This Gospel is not a call for sinners to do something in order to save themselves or to “get saved”: the Gospel is not law.

        1. This is the confused idea of many today who claim that they are preaching the Gospel.

          1. The Gospel today has become “4 spiritual laws” or some other trite formula to get people to accept Jesus as their own and personal Savior.

          2. The Gospel has become, “You must be born again,” or “You must ask Jesus into your heart,” or even “You must repent and believe in Jesus.”

          3. But if the Gospel becomes, “Do this and you shall live” (whatever the “this” might be) it is not Gospel, it is law.

        2. In fact, the Gospel cannot be law, or a list of instructions on how to get saved, because the Gospel proclaims to men that they cannot do anything.

          1. The Bible describes men as dead in trespasses and sins, unable to do anything good, wholly incapable of any positive spiritual activity in God’s sight. Given that reality, instructions to a spiritual corpse are worthless.

          2. If all you have to proclaim in the Gospel is what man must do, then you might as well go to the graveyard and exhort the corpses there to arise and walk.

          3. Repent, believe, be baptized, do good works, pray: none of these things is the Gospel.

      3. Against the background of the bad news that man can do nothing, the Gospel is the good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ.

        1. The Gospel is good news about God and about Christ, good news of which God is the author and Christ is the grand subject.

          1. The world needs to hear good news: the news of this world is depressing because it is God’s judgment upon men, but the Gospel proclaims God.

          2. That is how Paul begins the book of Romans (“separated unto the gospel of God” [1:1] … “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” [1:3]).

          3. The Gospel is not about man, it is about God, and God’s greatest work is to glorify Himself in His Son Jesus Christ in the salvation of a people, the church.

        2. The Gospel is the Gospel of Christ: it is about Him, who He is, and what He has done for the salvation of sinners.

          1. Jesus is the appointed and anointed Savior, the Eternal Son of God, who became flesh to deliver His people from sin, its guilt, its enslaving power and its pollution and vileness.

          2. Jesus is the crucified Savior who died the shameful death of the cross under the curse of God in order to satisfy God’s justice for His people.

          3. And Jesus is the Risen and exalted Savior who rose triumphant on the third day having accomplished eternal salvation for His people.

          4. That’s the Gospel: the message of the incarnate, crucified, risen and exalted Jesus Christ!

  2. THE REASON

    1. The reason Paul is not ashamed or embarrassed by the Gospel of Christ, indeed the reason Paul boasts and glories in this Gospel, is that it is the power of God (“…for”).

      1. The word “power” means almighty, irresistible and effective force; we derive our words “dynamo,” “dynamism” or even “dynamite” from this word.

        1. Since the Gospel is the power of God Paul need not, indeed must not, be ashamed of it.

          1. If a man has a powerful weapon in his pocket he can walk into any situation with confidence; he feels invincible; Paul is armed with the power of the Gospel.

          2. The power of the Gospel is spiritual dynamite: it is power as potent as the power of God in creation and resurrection.

          3. No wonder if Paul is confident of that power that he is not ashamed of the G.

        2. It is the power of God unto salvation: this means that the Gospel is the effective means whereby God accomplishes the salvation of sinners.

          1. The Lord uses the message of the Gospel as it is preached by the church through weak and sinful men to work faith in the hearts of sinners.

          2. The Spirit of Christ takes the Gospel, the message of Christ crucified, and applies it to the hearts of men, so that they are convicted of sin, they see they have no righteousness of their own, and they come to Christ.

          3. By this power the Spirit overcomes the greatest spiritual powers of sin, the devil, death and the curse and brings men into fellowship with God Himself.

        3. This means that the Gospel is not a weak and ineffective offer, God does not plead and beg sinners to allow Him to save them; He exerts almighty power.

          1. If the Gospel depends on man – on his works, on his freewill choice to accept Jesus or anything else – it is not the power of God.

          2. If the Gospel depends on the preacher – on his eloquence, on his persuasive skill – it is not the power of God.

          3. If I may use the figure, in the Gospel Jesus does not knock helplessly on the door of sinners’ hearts, he blows the door in with spiritual dynamite, so that the sinner cannot resist.

      2. Specifically, it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.

        1. The Gospel is not the power of God to end social ills, to make this world a better place.

          1. If that had been God’s great project, He did not need to send His Son to die on the cross to accomplish it. The social gospel has no use for the cross.

          2. If that had been the calling of Paul – to end hunger, to abolish slavery, to elevate the poor – he would have been greeted as an angel from heaven, and would not have had the slightest temptation to be ashamed.

          3. But if the Gospel only ends social ills, we are still lost, undone and damned for our sins.

        2. But the good news is this – by the Gospel of Christ and through faith alone God saves sinners, both Jews and Greeks, from sin.

          1. The law was weak through the flesh: it could condemn a man, it could show a man his sin, it could command a man to obey and live, but no man could obey it perfectly and so no man could be saved by the law.

          2. All human powers (brute force, pure reason, religious devotion, superstition, philosophy, culture or whatever) failed to find a way whereby man can be forgiven his sins and declared righteous in the sight of God.

          3. But now Paul brings the Gospel, and it is the power, the only power of salvation: by it sinners are forgiven and receive a righteousness which enables them to stand before the searching eye of the Holy God.

        3. The Gospel, however, is only good news to believers because it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.

          1. This does not mean that God depends on man’s faith in order to exercise His power in salvation: faith is not a condition of salvation, or man’s contribution to salvation.

          2. Faith is the means whereby the sinner is engrafted into Christ and takes hold of the merits of the crucified and risen Savior.

          3. But faith itself – as Scripture everywhere teaches (Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29) is the gift of God, and part of salvation itself.

    2. Often, though, it does not seem that the Gospel is powerful, and when we doubt its power, we begin to be ashamed of it.

      1. Outwardly, everything seems to be more powerful than the Gospel, and certainly, if you tell someone that the Gospel is the greatest power the world has ever known they will laugh you to scorn.

        1. But this is the church’s mighty weapon and with it God builds His kingdom, and destroys the kingdom of darkness.

          1. A weak man opens the Scriptures and sets forth Christ in all His glory and beauty; there are no sparks, there are no bangs, but God is at work.

          2. Do not be fooled by outward appearances: spiritual forces are unleashed where the Gospel is preached.

          3. Sinners are brought to repentance and salvation, and believers and their seed are built up and grow into Jesus Christ wherever the Gospel is preached.

        2. But can the Gospel really accomplish anything today, in Limerick?

          1. If the Gospel could save the self-righteous Jew who was Saul of Tarsus and make him a preacher of righteousness it can save the most stubborn self-righteous religious devotee of Limerick.

          2. If the Gospel could save the dregs of Roman society, the depraved and debauched pagans of the Greco-Roman world it can save the chief of sinners of Limerick.

          3. And if the Gospel could save you and me and make us part of the LRF it can save anyone (“everyone that believeth”).

          4. All we have to do is to preach the Gospel, rely on God’s power alone, and watch God work.

        3. This does not mean that God’s all-powerful Gospel will save all men, nor is God’s power to save to be measured in numbers.

          1. Some believe that the Gospel is not the power of God b/c it seems to save so few, a handful here, a handful there, but seldom many, and never all.

          2. It is true that the Gospel does not save all men, but not because it cannot, not because it finds some men too wicked to be saved, but because it is not God’s will or purpose to save all.

          3. God’s purpose is to save some from the Jews and some from the Gentiles, the two main categories of the human race.

      2. This tendency to underestimate the power of the Gospel is the reason why preaching has fallen on hard times.

        1. The gospel which saves is the preached gospel, but men do not believe in its power so they try to add something to make the gospel work.

        2. Perhaps if we got a powerful speaker to work on men’s emotions, or a band, or a drama group, perhaps then the Gospel would save people.

        3. No, the Gospel itself IS the power of God unto salvation: it does not need our additions, in fact, anything we add corrupts the Gospel.

  3. THE FRUIT

    1. Are you – am I – ashamed of the Gospel? If we are, it will bear evil fruit in our lives.

      1. The fruit of shame is cowardice and an unwillingness to be associated with the Gospel.

        1. Turn to II Tim 1. Three times Paul uses the verb “ashamed” in II Tim. 1 in the sense of being ashamed to be associated with someone or something.

          1. Even Timothy himself had to be admonished not to be ashamed of the testimony of Jesus (II Tim. 1:8).

          2. Paul was not ashamed of the testimony of Christ although he had to suffer b/c of it (v. 12).

          3. And Paul commends Onesiphorus who was not ashamed to be associated with him although he bore the chains of a prisoner on account of the Gospel of Christ.

          4. Others, however, were afraid to be associated with the despised Christians b/c they were ashamed of the Gospel itself.

        2. Shame for the Gospel will also mean that a person is unwilling to be associated with the church where that Gospel is preached. The church is small and unpopular; are you willing to be associated with it?

          1. In the early church it was unthinkable that believers would embrace the Gospel but not be associated with the gathering of believers, the church.

          2. Today, many believers refuse to be associated with the church which preaches the Gospel; either they cling to groups which do not preach the Gospel, or they are lone ranger Christians who are content to read their Bible at home.

          3. But not being ashamed of the Gospel includes not being ashamed of belonging to the church which preaches the Gospel faithfully.

          4. Let us encourage one another in that calling and let us pray for one another that we will not be ashamed when opposition comes.

      2. Cowardice concerning the Gospel will be seen in every part of our lives if we are ashamed of it.

        1. When people ask us about our weekend we will be reluctant and embarrassed to tell them that we were in church on Sunday, and that we did not get drunk and do the things others do.

        2. When we pray in a restaurant before our meal we will be embarrassed and hope no-one sees.

        3. Fear of man will make us ashamed of the Gospel unless we believe in its power.

    2. But a firm conviction that the Gospel is the power of God will lead to us not being ashamed of it and will produce courage to confess it.

      1. You might ask Paul, “Why are you prepared to preach the Gospel in Rome also?”

        1. That is the importance of the little word “for” at the beginning of the text.

        2. I am ready and willing to preach the Gospel in Rome, and this is why, [for] I am not ashamed of it, and this is why, [for] it is the power of God unto salvation.

        3. O, I know that Rome is a great city, the capital of the world, and I know that my message will be met with scorn, but I know that God can save the worst of sinners by this message.

        4. And so I am prepared to preach to the Jews, the Greeks, the barbarians, the wise and the unwise, indeed, I must do so.

      2. Paul was convinced that the Gospel of Christ could accomplish great things in Rome, just as it had done so on his other missionary journeys, and so he wanted to come to Rome.

        1. Paul was ready to come to Rome not in his own strength, but armed with the Gospel of Christ.

          1. Armed with such almighty power Paul does not fear the philosophers, the intellectuals, the barbarians or the unruly mobs of Rome or any city.

          2. Armed with such almighty power Paul is not afraid to stand before kings and emperors, nor is he afraid to arrive in Rome as a prisoner.

          3. Armed with such almighty power Paul is not afraid that the church will not be gathered, built up and saved.

        2. Paul encourages the Romans not to be ashamed of but to glory in this gospel.

          1. That is why he writes this long letter: he wants to come to preach the gospel to them in Rome but he fears that he may be prevented so he does the next best thing: he writes to them a detailed explanation of the Gospel of Christ.

          2. This epistle bore good fruit in Rome: through faith in the Gospel set forth here the Roman Christians were given power to live and even to die for this Gospel.

          3. Remember that many of the Christians in Rome were martyred by the Emperor Nero; if they had been ashamed of the Gospel they would never have died for their faith as they did.

        3. That’s our confidence too, beloved, as by the grace of God we preach the Gospel in Limerick.

          1. We do not have the confidence that the people of Limerick are susceptible to the gospel; they are not, they are just as depraved as the people of Rome, Athens or Corinth.

          2. We do not have the confidence that our preaching will be persuasive or eloquent and convince men; it won’t, only the HS will.

          3. But we have this confidence: the Gospel has lost none of its power, God’s church shall be saved, and God will be glorified, and therefore we will not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. Amen!