Sunday, September 07, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel"

“I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel”
All Roads Lead to Romans
September 7, 2014 :: Romans 1:8-17 

Last week, we started our new sermon series which I’m calling, “All Roads Lead to Romans” because Romans is a nexus, a crossroads, a touchstone for understanding so much of our Bibles.

As we saw last week, Romans is about the gospel about God’s Son. And in some ways, it is the fullest explanation of that gospel in the whole New Testament.

It’s not all there is to say about the gospel, but it sure says a lot!

And yet Romans is not just a theological treatise. We stressed last week that Romans was a LETTER written by a real man, Paul, to a real set of Christians in a real city, Rome–the capital of the world[!] at that time.

And though we don’t know all of the details, we understand that there was friction in the Roman church between the Jews and the Gentiles.  The Gentiles had apparently come to outnumber the Jews, though the church had probably been started by Jewish Christians. And there was friction between them. Potential conflict.

And we saw last week, in verse 7 that Paul wrote to ALL in Rome who were believers. Not just to some but to all and to bring them all together and keep them there together in the gospel.

He said (v.7), “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.” All. Not just some, but all.

But we also noticed what was true of all of them. They were all called to be holy (saints, not super Christians but holy people). And they were all loved by God.

Did you talk into your mirror this week?

“I Am Loved by God.”

Did you do it?

Did you think that I was joking that that was your homework?

If you didn’t do it, then it’s your homework again this week.

And if you did, you might want to do it again anyway...

Because it’s true. Because, if you are in Christ, then it’s true. And it makes all of the difference.

Now, the title of this message comes from the incredibly powerful and familiar and beloved verse 16 which together with verse 17 lays out the theme of the book, which is the gospel.

Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

We’re going to make that our new Hide the Word verse for September and October.

And if we can’t say it yet truthfully with confidence, we can make it our prayer.

“Lord, help me to not be ashamed of your gospel.”

But that’s not where our text begins. We begin in verse 8 where Paul is telling the Roman Christians how thankful he is for them and how much he longs to be with them.

These are verses that we often jump over in our zeal to get to the good stuff. But we won’t jump over them today.

In fact, I was tempted to preach a whole message on just verse 8!  But I didn’t want to scare you into thinking that we were on the 10 year plan for making it through Romans.

Remember, this is a letter. Don’t get lost in the theology and miss the people. Let’s read verse 8.

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.”

The first thing that Paul wants to say to them is that he is thankful for them.

He’s not met them, at least most of them, but he’s heard about them. He has heard that these Roman Christians truly BELIEVE.

And as the apostle to the Gentiles, that really encourages him.

Their faith is being reported all over the world.

As your pastor, I’d love for that to be true of Lanse Free Church, as well. Not that you would be famous, necessarily, for your classic cars, your wild game dishes, or your pastor’s books. But that word would spread that there is this bunch of Christians in Central Pennsylvania who really trust God. They really believe the gospel.

I’d love for you to be famous for that.

It filled Paul with gratitude, and he responded with prayer for them. V.9

“God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son [notice, again, how important that gospel is!], is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times [and what’s he pray?] and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you.”

What’s he saying?

Paul wants very badly to come visit these folks.

He prays for it over and over again.

Why? What does he want out of this visit? V.11

“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong–that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.”

Paul is so relational. We think of him as theological (which he is, we’ll see that again and again this year), but he’s very social, very relational. He cares about these people.

And he wants to give them, in person, a spiritual gift.

Now, that’s probably not what we tend to mean by spiritual gift or even what Paul means by it in Romans 12 or 1 Corinthians 12-14.

He says here that this gift will make them strong and that they will be encouraged in their faith.

He’s probably talking about his own explanation and application of the gospel, in person, with them.

“I want to be with you to encourage your faith in the gospel. So that you are strong, established, strengthened.”

It’s a longing for gospel fellowship.

A longing for spiritual encouragement.

And this verse leads to our first application question for today.

I’ve got three for you this morning, and they are all three diagnostic.


Are you encouraging others in their faith?

Are you in relationships with other believers where you are the one encouraging the others in their faith?

Do you see where I get that? From verses 11 and 12?

Paul longs to be with them to encourage them with a spiritual gift to make them strong. V.12

“...that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.”

Paul doesn’t expect to just go one direction.

Yes, he’s an apostle. Yes, he wants to preach to them. We’ll see that in a second.

But he fully expects to be encouraged back.

He’s already been encouraged by their faith from afar, just from hearing about it.

But he wants to get up close and get encouraged by them.

Paul want them to encourage him!

Are you encouraging others in their faith?

Or is it just flowing one way?

Here’s one of the reasons why we have these things called Link Groups. Tonight is the first night for ours to form, 6:30 at our place.

I don’t teach there like I do here for 45 minutes. No, instead we encourage each other in our faith for two hours. I lead it, but it’s mutual.

Being a part of a Link Group is one of the things I love best about Lanse Free Church.

It’s mutual encouragement.

I almost worded this question as “Are you mutually encouraging?”  But that didn’t make sense.

But that’s the question. Are you encouraging others in their faith and allowing others into your life to encourage your faith?  Are you living in biblical community?

It doesn’t just happen in Link Groups. There are tons of ways of getting into mutual encouragement.  Our Prayer Meeting is like that.  Our current set-up in Sunday School is like that.

And it happens here over the back of the pew and in that great big beautiful foyer with the new carpet. And lots of other places.

The question is, are you committed to it? Are you encouraging others? Are you in their lives.

Notice that Paul couldn’t do this just by letter.  If he could, he’d just send more letters. You can’t do this just by social media. You’ve got to get more personal and be with people.

Are you encouraging others?

Hey, kids. This isn’t just for grown-ups. If you believe in Jesus, then you can encourage other believers in Jesus, too. Don’t wait to grow up to do mutual encouragement.

Now, it wasn’t just for the believers in Rome that Paul wanted to visit Rome. He also wanted to reap a gospel harvest. V.13

“I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.”

Whom does he want to preach to?

Just about everybody, right?

He’s wanted to come many times but circumstances (which God controls) have kept him back so far.

But he knows that Rome is full of people who need the gospel. Both those who already believe it and those who don’t yet.

I think it’s interesting that he says that he wants to preach the gospel to the believers. Because believers never stop needing the gospel!

The gospel is bigger than just starting the Christian life. It’s not just the ABC’s of Christianity, it’s the A to Z’s of Christianity. [Tim Keller, Paul's Letter to the Galatians: Living in Line with the Truth of the Gospel]

And Paul knows that if they really grasp the gospel, it will solve the problems that they are experiencing–including the ones between Jews and Gentiles.

But Paul also wants to preach the gospel to those who have not heard it yet. He’s a missionary at heart, as well. He is called to it. That’s why he says in verse 14, “I am obligated” [he’s got a obligation to God] both to Greek speakers and to non-Greek speakers (literally, barbarians), both to the sophisticated and to the simple. [Ray Ortlund, A Passion for God]

He’s called to Gentiles whether or not they’re smart and cultured or stupid and uncouth.

And he’s got the same message for all of them.  It’s called “the gospel.” V.15 again.

“That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.”

Diagnostic Application Question #2.


Paul was eager. In fact, he couldn’t have said it stronger. V.16

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

Are you eager to share the gospel or ashamed?

Why might Paul have been ashamed?

Is there anything shameful about the gospel?

Well, there is this crucifixion in it.

And there is weakness in it. Jesus died. Bloody, messy, painfully.

It’s a gospel that the world wouldn’t come up with. It starts with such bad news.

The gospel about God’s Son emphasizes Jesus and not us.

It’s not about earning favor with God. It’s not about good works.

For some of the Jews, the gospel of Jesus was probably not enough about the Torah, the Law.

For some of the Gentiles, it was probably not sophisticated enough.

For others it was probably not exclusive enough. The gospel gets offered to everyone, not just a special group over here.

And for others, it’s too exclusive. Yes, all are invited, but what if I don’t believe? Your “gospel” says that I must believe in Jesus to be saved. I think that’s shameful.

Did you hear this week that the student ministry InterVarsity has been de-recognized in all state schools in California?  It’s because they require their leaders (leaders!) to believe in Christian teachings.

So they can’t be recognized as official student groups on campus with the opportunities that come with that.

In an environment like that, it could be easy to slip into being ashamed of the gospel.

When the gospel is popular, like it is in this room, then it’s easy to say verse 16.

But what if you go out there, where it is increasingly unpopular?

Are you eager to share or ashamed of the gospel?

It’s a lot easier for me to preach the gospel in this pulpit than it is for me to share the gospel with my unbelieving friends, neighbors, and loved ones.

How about you?

Paul was not ashamed. And he gives one big reason. V.16

“I am not ashamed of the gospel [the good news], because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes...”

The good news is power, the power of God.

The power of salvation.

That’s not just talk, that’s everything.

Saved from sin, from Satan, and most importantly, from the very righteous wrath of God!

What can save us?

The gospel is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes.

Why would we be ashamed of that?

Notice the everyone again. The “all?”

It’s a gospel that has power for everyone who believes.

So, don’t write people off so easily.

Be eager to share the gospel with haters.

Be eager to share the gospel with sinners. That’s who needs it!

Sometimes, I think we invite people to things like the Durocher’s Family Concert or the Good News Cruise, and we just invite Christians because we think they’d like it.

Or we invite nice people. Moral people. Good people.

But the gospel powerful for everyone who believes.

... Including our enemies.

Including people who are different from us.

Paul says to“first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

Now, that doesn’t mean that God loves the Jews best. It means that the gospel came to the Jews first, and Paul still evangelized like that when he hit a new town. Jews first as beachhead, then on to the Gentiles.

But it’s for everyone.

And even Jews and Gentiles are now ONE in that gospel.

All of us in this room are ONE in that gospel if we believe. We are saved and then we are connected into one another.

And the gospel does that.

Are you and I eager to share the gospel like Paul was or are we ashamed?

What does our lives say?

If you can look into the mirror and say, “I am loved by God,” then you can look into the face of a lost person and say, “Let me tell you about the love of God. Let me tell you about the gospel.”

Last diagnostic question for today.


Because you won’t share it unless you believe it. won’t be saved unless you believe it.

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

Are you believing the gospel? Are you trusting in the good news about Jesus?

Or are you trusting in your own righteousness?

Paul explains how that power of salvation comes to believers in verse 17 and he’s going to spend at least 5 chapters explaining it, and then 6 chapters defending it and then 5 more chapter teasing out its implications for life. V.17

“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

Now a more literal translation of verse 17 would say, “For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed by faith for faith.” Or “out of faith into faith.”

But the NIV has tried to smooth that into English that is easier to grasp.

Paul is saying that we have a righteousness problem and we need a righteousness solution. [See Martin Luther's testimony here.]

We’ll see next week just how bad our righteousness problem is.

But verse 17 says that God provides the righteousness solution.

Notice that verse 17 doesn’t say that in the gospel “the love of God is revealed.”

Is it?  Of course it is. And in the gospel you know the love of God. He’s going to get back to that by chapter 8.

But Paul says that in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed.

What’s that?

You know it’s hard to define.

I spent most of yesterday reading about it and trying to nail it down.

And I didn’t, really.

It’s definitely moral. It’s about being right, as opposed to wrong.

It’s the rightness of God. The moral perfection of God.

But it’s more than that.

It’s rooted in God’s unswerving commitment to His own glory.

It’s God’s faithfulness to His covenant, His promises.

And it’s more than that, too, I think.

It’s about God’s rightness in making sinners right with Him.

It’s His justice, yes, but His justness in justifying sinners.

We’re going to get into that in the next few weeks and months.

And the original NIV was onto something when it translated it “a righteousness from God.”

Because we aren’t going to be righteous on our own. We’re going to need some help.

The righteousness of God is our problem!

God’s justice, God’s righteousness? That could be our damnation.

Because we are unrighteous as we will see in the next verse next week.

But Paul says that the gospel of God’s Son reveals a righteousness that saves us!

And here’s the point. It’s righteousness that comes to those who BELIEVE.


From first to last. From beginning to end. On our part, it’s all about faith.

Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4, “The righteous will live by faith.”

Do you have faith?

Are you believing the gospel?

Or are you trusting in your own righteousness?

Those are really the only two options in life.

Worship at the Lord’s Table

The Lord’s Supper is all about believing the gospel.

A gospel that begins with bad news about unrighteous sinners who deserve the wrath of God.

But also a gospel about God’s Son. Who came in the flesh to die for those unrighteous sinners to get them right with God.

So that everyone who believes this gospel experiences the power of God for salvation.

Are you believing this gospel?

If you are, then you are invited to eat and drink this commemorative meal with us.

If you are not yet believing this gospel or you’re not sure or your life screams that you don’t believe it, then please don’t eat and drink with us, you would be drink condemnation on your head.

Instead, use this time to get right with God. Repent of your sins and put your FAITH in God’s gospel.  No matter who you are.

You need God’s righteousness. You need what Christ did for you.

You need to believe.

Christians, ask yourself those first two questions as you receive the bread and the cup today.

Am I encouraging others?  Is there mutual encouragement in my life? Who am I encouraging in their faith? Who have I opened up my life to to encourage me?

And am I eager to share the gospel or am I ashamed?

If eager, then thank God and pray for opportunities.

If ashamed, then repent and ask God for boldness.

Because the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all everyone who believes.


Messages in this Series

01. All Roads Lead to Romans