The Power of the Gospel, the
Ground of the Apostle's Boast
William Nicholson, 1862
"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!" Romans 1:16
The efficacy of any scheme is proved by its effects — if it answers the end designed. If any plan of benevolence, in science, in medicine, etc., secures the happiness, health, and interest of mankind — then do we at once praise the scheme, and readily avail ourselves of its professed benefits.
So the Gospel designs . . .
to save fallen man,
to lift the needy from the dunghill,
to dry the tears of the mourner,
to ease the heavy heart,
to heal soul maladies,
— by restoring to communion with God, and by giving the hope of immortality.
Has this been done? It has! And the New Testament abounds with specimens of the Gospel's efficacy. Hence Paul's conversion; he was the stern advocate of the Jewish economy — gloried in his literary attainments, blamelessness in reference to the law — once a hater and persecutor of the adherents of the cross. Then he was ashamed of the Gospel, and labored to exterminate it. Behold the power of the Gospel in his case!
In this chapter, Paul states his ardent love to the brethren at Rome, and his willingness to preach to them the Gospel there. Rome was a splendid and populous city, and he well knew that he would there meet with much opposition, and even peril of life; yet he says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel!"
I. The Subject of the Apostle's Avowal."The Gospel of Christ." What is the Gospel?
It is not a mere history of the life, actions, and death of Christ, though the relation of all is replete with wonder and interest.
It is not merely the morality of the Gospel in the abstract, though that morality is the best and purest ever exhibited, and if generally practiced would make Heaven upon earth.
It is not merely an exhibition of the perfections of God, though they brilliantly shine in the Gospel of Christ. "He who was in the bosom of the Father has declared him;" in this sense, "he who has seen me, has seen the Father also."
The Gospel claims admiration also on account of its revelation of a future state, bringing life and immortality to light. In all these respects the Gospel is very interesting.
But all this does not fully express the real import of the Gospel. If the Apostle meant by the Gospel no more than . . .
the perfections of Deity,
the doctrine of Divine Providence,
the immutable and everlasting distinction between right and wrong,
the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards
— there would not have been that peculiar charm and beauty in his avowal, "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!"
The word "gospel," in the original, implies good news, or glad tidings. "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:15. Glad tidings of . . .
eyes to the spiritually blind,
feet to the spiritually lame,
health to the spiritually sick,
strength to the spiritually weak,
liberty to the spiritually captive,
life to the spiritually dead,
salvation to the spiritually lost,
Heaven for the spiritual outcast!
The Gospel must thus be considered as a message of mercy from God to sinners — as a declaration of his good-will to man. Though the Gospel, as a system, contains various parts — yet all its parts may be resolved into the one grand doctrine of redemption and salvation by the sacrifice of Christ.
1. That man greatly needed the Gospel.Man was fallen and ready to perish. In Adam we all fell — from him we derive a sinful nature.
Our minds are dark and benighted as to God, and the things which belong to our eternal peace. Our hearts are rebellious to God — we shun him, fly from him as Adam did when he had sinned. Our life is a life of rebellion against him. Our carnal minds are enmity against God, they are not subject to the law of God, and cannot be — until renewed by Divine grace. As transgressors of God's holy law, we are . . .
under the curse and penalty of it,
obnoxious to the Divine wrath, and
liable every moment to endless perdition!
No man can fully understand the nature and appreciate the value of the Gospel — until he sees and feels himself as thus lost and ruined.
2. In order to save man, Christ became incarnate— lived a holy and spotless life, proved his Messiahship by astonishing miracles of mercy, and by his wise and heavenly teaching, and at last submitted himself to the death of the cross — he satisfied the claims of Divine justice by enduring the penalty or curse for us. "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law." "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree."
3. That he rose again from the dead, for "our justification," and ascended to the right hand of God to be our Advocate with the Father. "He ever lives to make intercession for us."
4. That this Gospel of Christ is freely offered to all without money and without price."Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Isaiah 55:1. "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life!" Revelation 22:17
Is not this good news? So the Samaritan Christians thought. Philip "preached Christ" there, and there was great joy in that city. Acts 8:5. When the Galatians first heard the gospel preached, they received Paul as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus, and had it been possible, they would have plucked out their eyes and have given them to him; such was the blessedness they then enjoyed. So also the Jailer of Philippi, "rejoiced, believing in God," etc. So will all believers feel and say, "We rejoice in God, through whom we have now received the atonement!"
Only think of the . . .
the misery and wrath the believer is delivered from,
the immense price of suffering and death has been paid for his redemption,
the new creation of which it has made him the subject,
the holy feelings it has infused into his heart,
the spiritual privileges to which it has introduced him,
his prospective victory over death and the grave,
his everlasting inheritance in Heaven —
and it must be conceded that the Gospel is good news, glad tidings of mercy to the chief of sinners!
How different this Gospel from the representations of some men who tell us that God is merciful, and that if we are only just and honest, he will save us! They say Christ is merely a good man, who teaches by his life, how to live; and by his death, how to die. Such a system is diametrically opposed to the Gospel. If the Gospel had only a moral reference to man, Paul would not have said, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ." The Jewish doctors and the philosophers of Rome would have had no objections to it. It was the bloody sacrifice of Christ, which was so offensive to them, as it is to some men now.
This Gospel, however, must be preached in its purity and scriptural simplicity, fearless of men or devils. Hence Paul said, "If any man preaches any other Gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you — let him be accursed!" This leads to observe,
5. That the Gospel is not only glorious, but also characterized by the greatest simplicity.It is so plain, that "the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein."
Its great doctrines, though capable of exercising the most elevated minds — are adapted to the common understanding. Were they dark and abstruse, they might gratify a speculative mind, but would be lost upon the multitude, and be unprofitable to all, as doctrines of consolation. The mass of mankind never can be profound reasoners. Instruction to do them good, must be interesting, solemn, repeated, and plain. This is the gracious office of the Gospel. Its principal topics are few, they are constantly recurring in various connections; they come home to every man's condition; they have an interpreter in his bosom; they are enforced by motives which honesty can hardly mistake, and conscience will rarely dispute. Unlettered men, who love the Bible, seldom quarrel about the prominent articles of faith and duty.
The value of this simplicity is very apparent in the hour of trouble. Grief, whether in the learned or illiterate, is always simple. A man overwhelmed with grief wants nothing to do with that which is complex — he has no relish for investigation. Then, as his powers relax, his spiritual support must be without toil, or his spirit faints. The unlearned compose the bulk of Christians — the life of whose souls, springs from the substantial doctrines of the cross. Yes, and in the time of distress, even the careless open their ears to the voice of revelation. Precious, at all times, is the Gospel to believers, but it is doubly precious in the hour of sorrow.
These remarks will condemn the conduct of those Catholic priests who keep the Bible from the perusal of the laity, or ordinary Christians, alleging that none but those possessing a collegiate education, and consecrated to their office by superior ecclesiastics — have a right, or are qualified, to read and expound the scriptures.
Though learning, combined with good natural abilities for thinking and speaking, may be of the greatest service in explaining, illustrating, and defending the sublime truths of revelation — yet the way of salvation may, can, and has been understood and savingly felt, in innumerable instances, by persons devoid of those natural and acquired advantages; and that to assert the contrary, must be regarded as an effort to uphold a system which savors of man rather than of God.
6. Again, the Gospel bears the impress of truth.The text calls it the power of God, and it is frequently called the truth of God, the word of truth, and the wisdom of God, etc.
The man who dreams of happiness feels a new sting in his wretchedness, when he opens his eyes and finds the delusion fled. No real misery can be removed, nor any real benefit conferred, by doctrines which lack the seal of certainty. And were the Gospel of Christ a human invention, or checked by any rational supposition that it may turn out to be a fable — it might retain its brilliancy, its sublimity, and some portion of its interest — but the charm of its consolation would be gone. It would only add gall to bitterness, by fostering a hope which the next hour might laugh to scorn. But we may dismiss our fears, for there is no danger of such an outcome. Not only "grace," but "truth came by Jesus Christ." "The gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth," were the words of the "Amen, the faithful and true Witness;" and those words which he has written in his blessed book, are "pure words, as silver tried in the furnace, purified seven times."
It is this truth, which makes the Gospel "glad tidings" to perishing sinners. No fear of disappointment! No hope that shall make ashamed! Under the feet of evangelical faith, is a covenant promise, ordered in all things and sure; that promise is an everlasting rock. "I know," said one, whose testimony is corroborated by millions in both worlds, "I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day!"
It is of great importance to have the Gospel, more important to understand it, but still more important and advantageous to experience its blessed influence. He who so feels it, binds it to his heart as the chief good allotted to him on earth.
We dwell amid the blaze of Gospel glory. Ancient worthies had only a dim taper to guide their feet; we have the brightest sunbeams. They had only the green blade of the corn, we have the fullness of harvest. They had the shadow, we have the light. They had only a few drops by which to refresh themselves, we have the whole stream of God's mercy poured upon us. The day-spring from on high has visited us, the atonement for human guilt has been offered up — it has been accepted, and crowned with honor and glory in the salvation of millions of undying spirits. It is still the power of God unto salvation.
II. The Efficacy of the Gospel in the Salvation of Man
"The gospel is the power of God to salvation, to every one who believes."
The Thracians had a very striking emblem expressive of the Almighty power of God. It was a sun with three beams:
one beam shining on a sea of ice and melting it;
another beam shining upon a rock, and dissolving it; and
a third beam shining upon a dead man, and raising him to new and vigorous life.
This emblem beautifully harmonizes with the Gospel sun, shining upon a dark and frozen world. It is the power of God to melt the hardest heart into obedience to the Divine will, and to raise the dead in trespasses and sins to a life of righteousness! The Gospel will do more to moralize the world in a week — than has been done by all other systems from their first publication. When this power touches the heart, it breaks every link in the adamantine chain of sin and rebellion. The ancient systems, with all their divinities, sacrifices, charms, and oracles — could not reform a single village. But what converts has this Gospel made — changing the most wicked and abandoned, to holy men. Of all the names that are emblazoned in the annals of literature and science, where will names be found so illustrious as those of Christians? For . . .
zeal for truth;
solace in trials;
fortitude in suffering;
triumph in the hour of death —
in all these things the Gospel bears away the palm of glory.
"It is the power of God." What is this power? We shall answer,
(1.)Not the power of working miracles, thereby confirming the truth of the Gospel to those who heard it.
It was necessary immediately after the ascension of Christ, to accompany the preaching of the Gospel by miraculous power (Hebrews 2:4), to convince men of the Divine mission of Christ, and to remain a standing evidence of the same. The Apostle, however, speaks of a power promotive of salvation, "to every one who believes;" and every believer did not work miracles. A power altogether different, is therefore intended by the Apostle.
(2.)By "power" here is not meant civil power, as wielded by potentates or magistrates. Hence at several times, and especially during the Catholic Crusades, numerous armies have been mustered, and sent forth fully armed with guns and swords to force the nations into their views of Christianity. Hence persecutions, imprisonments, and martyrdoms, have been employed as a power to spread what they called religion, and they represented that power as the power of God.
"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ!" 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
The Gospel is spiritual, and its propagation requires spiritual means. Human force cannot do it.
(3.)By "power" is not meant the power of human eloquence merely, though sometimes productive of very strong impressions, and in many cases found to be almost irresistible.
Eloquence may be artificial — or natural. Artificial eloquence consists chiefly in a felicitous selection of terms, and an elegant construction of sentences, delivered with rhetorical effect. Paul declined such eloquence in his ministry to the cultured and voluptuous citizens of Corinth. See 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, and 1 Thessalonians 1:5.
There is also a natural eloquence which is the effect of an ardent mind, deeply impressed with the truth and importance of what is delivered. Such was Paul's address to Felix, and King Agrippa. They were unable to withstand the argumentative appeals, and the sincere tenderness of the speaker, though the impression was only superficial and transient.
But it is not in the power of eloquence, however enchanting, and though it may invest the doctrines of Christianity with all the charms, and with all the terrors of truth and righteousness, to bring one sinner to God.
Felix trembled and turned away. Agrippa was convinced, but not persuaded to become a Christian.
(4.)It is not merely the power of truth itself, though this often produces a strong effect. "By the power of truth we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." There is an omnipotence in truth which cannot he resisted — the consciences of men are made to echo to its supreme authority.
Though an unwelcome visitor, gospel truth sometimes. . .
shines into the conscience,
gains a temporary triumph,
producing confessions and humiliations.
These effects are frequently mistaken for sincere repentance, etc. Pharaoh could not deny the divinity of the mission of Moses and Aaron. Saul acknowledged that David was more righteous than himself — but both continued to persecute the godly!
Many of Christ's hearers were convinced of his Messiahship by witnessing his miracles — while enmity, and fear, and carnal policy prevented their devotedness to him. Many hear the Gospel, believe its truth and importance; but are like "a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like!" James 1:23-24
The power intended by the Apostle is the power of God accompanying truth. "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power!" 1 Corinthians 2:4-5. "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow!" 1 Corinthians 3:6. "For God made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ!" 2 Corinthians 4:6
Apostolic success was ascribed to "the hand of the Lord." It is the office of the Spirit to convince the world of sin, and to take of the things of Christ and show them to us. In short, it is that power which "quickens us when dead in trespasses and sins," which "calls out of darkness," etc. The Spirit . . .
makes us "new creatures in Christ Jesus,"
stamps the image of Christ upon the soul,
and seals us for the inheritance of Heaven.
God, knowing the weakness of man, promised and gave this glorious influence. It was promised as a covenant blessing. See Ezekiel 36:25, 27; Joel 2:28; Zech. 12:10; Isaiah 44:3. Christ promised it to his disciples; John 19:26, etc. etc. Therefore it accompanies the preaching of the Gospel to render it powerful.
Observe, "It is the power of God unto salvation." Salvation implies danger; and in a spiritual sense — exposure to everlasting punishment. Salvation implies deliverance, and the Gospel reveals the plan of deliverance, and the Spirit opens the eyes of the sinner to understand it, and inclines his heart to embrace it.
1.The gospel is the power of God to awaken and convert the sinner. When the gospel comes in power and the Holy Spirit, it chases away the darkness of the mind, and overcomes obstinacy and unbelief. "The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword!" It places the sinner before the bar of justice, where condemnation, tribulation, and anguish are denounced against him. He is there stripped of his self-righteousness. The gospel "sweeps away his refuge of lies," and shows him that death is "the wages of sin." He is alarmed, and cries, "What must I do to be saved!"
2.The gospel is the power of God in the pardon of sin, and justification from condemnation. It proclaims to the alarmed, desponding sinner, that however guilty he may be, there is now, through the death of Christ — forgiveness with God that he may be feared. It exhibits Christ to him as an able and willing Savior — able to save to the uttermost. Resting his soul on the sacrifice of the Savior, he is pardoned — freely justified from all charges — Christ has paid the penalty for him. He is therefore regarded by God as justified and innocent. See Romans 8:1; Acts 13:38, 39; Romans 8:33, 34.
The worst of men — the vilest of the vile have been saved, and still the blood of atonement retains its efficacy! "Therefore he is able to save to the uttermost, all who come to God by Him." Hebrews 7:25
3.The gospel is the power of God to renew the soul. It produces an entire change of heart, by which sin is hated, and holiness loved and pursued. The sinner is made "a new creature in Christ Jesus." See Ephesians 4:22-24. It was as much the design of Christ to save from the dominion of sin, as to save from the punishment everlasting perdition. Sufficient grace is given to enable us to walk as Christians, and to be like Christ.
4.The gospel is the power of God to adopt into his family. To give enjoyment of all the exalted privileges of the Christian dispensation — and especially communion with God himself. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1
5.The gospel is the power of God to inspire the redeemed with the hope of immortality and eternal life. Romans 15:4; Colossians 1:5, 27; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 6:18, 19; 1 Peter 1:3, 4. This hope cheers in trials, sufferings, and death!
6.The gospel is the power of God to conquer death. 1 Corinthians 15:55, 57. Hebrews 2:14,15. The weakest and the most timid Christians, who have been all their lifetime subject to bondage, have been so fortified and animated by the Gospel in their last moments of life, that they have then appeared as more than conqueror through Christ who has loved them.
7.The gospel is the power of God to give a glorious resurrection of the body from the grave, and to elevate both body and soul to the glories of Heaven. John 6:40; Philippians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 5:1,6-8; John 17:24; 14:1; etc.
Such is the power of the Gospel.
The experienced Christian can declare:
I have seen the Gospel hush into a calm, the tempest raised in the bosom by conscious guilt.
I have seen it melt down the most obdurate into tenderness and contrition.
I have seen it cheer up the broken-hearted, and bring the tear of gladness into eyes swollen with grief.
I have seen it save people as vile as Manasseh, Magdalene, Saul of Tarsus, the Corinthians, etc.
I have seen it produce and maintain serenity under evils which drive the worldly mad.
I have seen it reconcile the sufferer to his cross, and send the song of praise from lips quivering with agony.
I have seen it enable the most affectionate relatives to part in death; not without emotion, but without repining; and with a cordial surrender of all that they held most dear, to the disposal of their heavenly Father.
I have seen the fading eye brighten at the promise of Jesus, "Where I am, there shall my servant be also!"
I have seen the Christian welcome death, and heard him say, "Lord, now let you your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation!"
I have seen the spirit released from its clay, and mildly, and triumphantly, to enter into the joy of its Lord.
Yes, I have seen the Gospel the power of God unto salvation.
"The Cross! it takes our guilt away,
It holds the fainting spirit up;
It cheers with hope the gloomy day,
And sweetens every hitter cup.
It makes the coward spirit brave,
And nerves the feeble arm for light;
It takes all terrors from the grave,
And gilds the bed of death with light.
The balm of life, the cure of woe,
The measure and the pledge of love;
'Tis all that sinners need below,
'Tis all that angels know above."
Observe 1.Only those who truly believe, can enjoy this salvation: "to every one who believes." Not merely to those who hear it, admire it, or profess it. Faith regards and credits the testimony which God has given of his Son. Faith is the surrender of the soul to Christ, to be washed in his blood, etc., etc. Faith is sometimes called looking to him, beholding him, eating and drinking, coming to him, trusting in him, etc. Ephesians 1:12, 13.
All Gospel blessings are obtained by faith. Faith is the hand stretched forth to receive these blessings.
Observe 2.Its order and extent. "To the Jew first, and also to the Greek." This order was according to the will of Christ; "beginning first at Jerusalem." See Acts 13:46. It is the glory of the Gospel that it is not confined to any nation. "All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations" Matthew 28:18-19
PART III. The Avowal of The Apostle.
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!" Romans 1:16
The Apostle Paul was distinguished for humility, and ardent love to the Savior.
Humility was induced by the Spirit's influence in creating in his mind a constant recollection of his former state of enmity and persecution. "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" 1 Timothy 1:13.
Ardent love to the Savior was induced by the grace of God, which had been abundantly manifested in his conversion, and his elevation to the office of an Apostle.
He constantly manifested his ardent love . . .
by faithful and energetic preaching of the Cross of Christ,
by defending its doctrines against the cavils of adversaries,
by a willingness to exert himself to the utmost in order to spread the Gospel far and wide,
and also, if needful, to suffer and die for the name of the Lord Jesus.
In every place, and before all men, learned or illiterate, civil or barbarian, etc., he gloried in the cross of Christ. It was his experimental acquaintance with the sublime doctrines of the Gospel, that made Paul such an ardent Christian.
The cause of all the formality, apathy, and lukewarmness in the church, is the lack of a comprehensive knowledge of the doctrines of the cross, and of heartfelt experience of their vital and saving power! To be useful for God and man, we must imbibe the spirit of Paul. "Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction!" 1 Thessalonians 1:5
III. Justify and Illustrate the Avowal of the Apostle: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ!"
I do not disown it; I am not confused; it does not make me blush. In whatever company I am, I do not fear to bring it forward as the sublimest topic that can engage the powers of man, and which totally eclipses the supposed grandeur of all other subjects of conversation. Nay, this Gospel produces in me joy, and the joy of the Lord is my strength, so that whatever opposition and discouragement I meet with — I am not ashamed, I am not confounded.
The text is best illustrated by Isaiah 28:16; quoted Romans 10:11, "Whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed;" neither be confounded nor disappointed of their hope.
The Jews, by not believing on Christ as the promised Messiah, and expecting another — have been rejected and confounded to the present day. But those who have believed on Christ, have received all the blessings predicted by the prophets. Paul, as a Jew, believed on Christ, and enjoyed an abundance of grace, so that, being filled with that happiness which the Gospel produces, he could cheerfully say, "I am not ashamed of the gospel!"
Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel:
1. On account of the gospel's intrinsic excellency.In whatever light we regard it, it is "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God." So replete with interest and glory that earthly vocabularies cannot adequately express it. "God SO loved the world," etc. It is the wonder and glory of angels in Heaven — and shall a sinful worm of earth be ashamed of it?
I am not ashamed of its doctrines! Are they not wise, important, and instructive? Do they not suit my state as a sinner? Are they not of infinite importance to all mankind?
I am not ashamed of the precepts of the Gospel! No, they are holy, just, and good.
I am not ashamed of the ordinances of the Gospel. They may expose me to contempt. But "I shall not be ashamed when I have respect to all your commandments."
I am not ashamed of the threatenings of the Gospel. Though some say they are severe, they are all righteous; they are directed against sin — they promote holiness and happiness!
I am not ashamed of the privileges and promises of the Gospel. No! they are sweet, various, and very refreshing. I see, I feel Christ and Heaven in them. "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ." 2 Corinthians 1:20
Infidels may tell me that the Author of this Gospel was a base impostor. Nevertheless, I am not ashamed, for that which is holy, will ever be inimical to the carnal mind.
Though my Savior was basely born in Bethlehem,
though for him there was no room in the inn,
though his birth-place was in the manger of a stable,
though he was the son of a carpenter,
though during his ministry, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head,"
though he was despised and rejected by men,
though the noble of the world hid their faces from him,
though he was crucified as a malefactor, and hanged on a tree, and suffered and died —
I am not ashamed! He . . .
conquered when he fell,
rose again from the dead,
was declared to be the son of God with power,
ascended as the intercessor of His people, the Prince of Life, the King of Glory. "At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!" Philippians 2:10-11
Therefore I am not ashamed.
2. On account of the gospel's sovereign and unfailing efficacy."I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation!"
Shall I be ashamed of that gospel which . . .
opened my blind eyes,
softened my hard heart,
dissolved my adamantine chains,
opened my prison door,
and set me free?
Shall I be ashamed of that gospel which gave me . . .
light for darkness,
pardon for guilt,
joy for despair,
faith for doubt, etc. etc.
Shall I be ashamed of that efficacious medicine so admirably adapted for the health of my soul?
Shall I be ashamed of that mighty lever which is designed by God to elevate the world from the ruins of the fall, and produce glory over this world which has been scathed and withered by Satan and sin? No, I am not ashamed!
3. On account of the gospel's superiority over every other system.
The gospel is superior to every other system devised for the moral elevation of man.
Philosophy has promulgated its plans.
Legislators have enacted their laws.
Education and Science have put forth their schemes.
But physicians of no value have they been, when compared with the efficacious power of the Gospel.
None of the ancient philosophers ever gave any definite idea of a future state. But life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel.
The Gospel directs its remedy to the heart, where the disease of sin exists. All other systems have no concept of this. But it is the glory of the Gospel, that it strikes at the root of the moral and spiritual maladies of man, and brings to him Christ the Physician and the balm of his blood.
Paul had accounted the law of Moses the most glorious system, but how different his language subsequently! See his arguments, Philippians 3:4-11.
4. The gospel is worthy to engage the most lofty and elevated powers of man.The gospel was the grand subject of angelic ministration. It is the glorious subject of the Spirit's communication to the prophets, to Christ (Luke 4:18), and to the Apostles. The Gospel therefore must have been transcendently glorious, and fully accounts for Paul's avowal, "I am not ashamed of the gospel!"
The Apostle frequently asserts throughout his writings the grandeur of the Gospel, and his own unworthiness to proclaim it: "Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ!" Ephesians 3:8.
And yet Paul possessed great mental powers. But notwithstanding all his mental talents, learning, etc., he was not ashamed of the Gospel. The subject of his embassy was so glorious that, he was not ashamed to declare it at Rome — the imperial city, the seat of universal empire, the residence of statesmen, philosophers, renowned poets, orators, artists, historians, etc. Rome was also the seat of science and literature, etc. etc.
"He was not ashamed of the gospel" at Corinth, at Athens, when he stood on Mars hill. Neither was he ashamed of the gospel when he appeared before a splendid court, where Agrippa presided, and where Festus sat. Nor before Caesar himself!
5. The declaration implies that he was not only not ashamed of the gospel — but that he gloried in it, and was ready to suffer and die for it."I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace!" Acts 20:23-24.See Philippians 1:14, 20; Acts 20:24; 21:13; Philippians 2:17.
He gloried in it to that degree, that he was dead to all other things. "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world!" Galatians 6:14.
IV. But some are ashamed of the gospel of Christ.There are many of this description. Many profess great things, great love, great zeal, who, if tested by persecution, infidel cavils, association with the poor, etc. etc. — would be ashamed of the gospel.
1. Those are sure to be ashamed of the Gospel, who do not experience its saving power. Not only lost sinners, but some in the church are ashamed, because the root of the matter is not in them. "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Romans 10:11
2. Those are ashamed of the Gospel, who regard Christ's followers as too poor and unworthy for their association.
Thus the Pharisees objected, "Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on him?" The baseness of Christ's outward appearance, and that of his followers, was a stumbling-block to the Jews. But Christ tests the love of all, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." 1 Corinthians 1:27.
How different the estimate of God! "To the poor the Gospel is preached." Divine things "are revealed to babes." Christ "is not ashamed to call them brethren." Hebrews 2:11. And "God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." Hebrews 11:16.
3. Some are ashamed of the Gospel because, as they assert, it is mysterious and unreasonable. So it was accounted foolishness by the Greeks. "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." 1 Corinthians 2:14. They believe the mysteries of nature, but not the mysteries of grace.
4. The Gospel's doctrines and precepts enjoin upon the believer a holy life, therefore many are ashamed of it, and reject it. It requires the surrender of everything in competition with Christ. It requires the heart's devotion, repentance, self-denial, deadness to the world, etc.
5. Those are ashamed of the Gospel, who unite with it human inventions to suit the carnal taste of man. Hence if the Gospel will not attract — a pompous ritual, imposing ceremonies, gaudy robes, and other adornments, shall fascinate the people. Music shall yield its harmonious strains, and the tongue of eloquence shall captivate, etc. etc.
6. Those ministers are ashamed of the Gospel, who do not proclaim it fully. Some ministers trim and arrange the Gospel so as to suit the wishes of their hearers. Others hold back its most prominent doctrines, or conceal them by specious arguments; they preach not the law as that which condemns, nor the grace of the Gospel as that which saves. Before "ears polite," they dare not expose the nakedness, blindness, and wretchedness of the sinner.
Mark the fearlessness of Paul. See him before Felix, reasoning on righteousness, etc., until Felix "trembled."
When Latimer was called to preach before King Henry, he told him the truth. A court sycophant begged that Latimer might be sent to prison. Latimer, unmoved, said, "I came at the command of your majesty; but when I enter the pulpit, I have another monarch to serve, and Him I must obey!"
V. The Danger of Being Ashamed of Gospel of Christ.
1. It is an evidence of great foolishness and spiritual madness. The sinner is not ashamed of the phantoms and the bubbles of life which he pursues. In his practice, he shows the imbecility of a child, and sometimes the spirit of a demon — but he is not ashamed of his licentiousness his prodigality. He glories in his shame! Awful madness!
2. Shame, as it prevents belief, will deprive the soul of the blessings offered by the Gospel.
3. Those who are ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, shall meet with a similar return at last: "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels!" Luke 9:26
They have sown to the flesh, and of the flesh, etc. They have sown shame and they shall reap shame; "they shall awake to everlasting contempt." Daniel 12:2. While saints are received, honored, and glorified — they are rejected, confounded, and lost. Yes, when Christ shall come in all his divine glory, as King of kings, etc.; when he shall wear many crowns, and be accompanied by a splendid retinue of holy angels; when monarchs and princes shall deem it their highest honor to do him homage — He will be ashamed of those who will not confess him now.
"But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you — when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them!" Proverbs 1:24-32
1. Be thankful for the Gospel.
2. Be cheered by its simplicity, truth, and power.
3. Receive and believe it.
4. Those who despise and reject it, can have no other substantial hope of immortality.
5. Let us be sensible of our weakness and wretchedness, and praise God for the power of his Gospel.
6. From hence we learn to judge of our religious state. How do we hear the Gospel? Do we feel the working of enmity or love? A state of neutrality cannot exist; the Gospel is either a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death.
7. Let the convinced sinner believe and rejoice; it will be the power of God unto his salvation.
8. Be bold and valiant for Christ. For this purpose, study the life of Paul, and all who have been eminent for piety and usefulness.
9. Depart from all iniquity. Neither be ashamed of the Gospel — nor be a shame to it.
10. Christians will triumph at the last day, though they are now esteemed as the "scum and filth of the world."