by Barry Newton
Eyes dart away. Feet furtively flee in the opposite direction. Body language yells, “I don’t know you.” Perhaps we have all seen a preteen treating his or her parents like Kryptonite.
Like a young person mortified at the thought of peers realizing “so this is your mom,” might some Christians prefer to avoid standing too close to Jesus?
Unlike timid Christians, the apostle Paul unabashedly proclaimed the gospel to every audience be it hostile, educated or powerful. What did Paul value so highly that it triumphed all embarrassment?
Biblically literate students will immediately recall Romans 1:16. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because through it God’s power was released to save humanity. By trusting in Christ, people gain a new life. Certainly this is a powerful reason to be proud of the gospel.
While such a paraphrase of the gospel Paul proclaimed is accurate, does this capture everything Paul intended to communicate about why he was not ashamed?
The thematic parallels between Romans 1:16-17 and Romans 3:21-22 as well as the content of the intervening context suggest Paul’s unbridled boldness should also be attributed to the gospel revealing that our God is righteous.
But how does the gospel reveal God’s justness? Paul describes two different avenues. God is the sterling hero unsullied by corruption or favoritism in both judging and justifying!
Although we might recoil at the thought of judgment being a part of the gospel, Paul not only claimed it was part of his gospel message (Romans 2:16) but he also outlined how God was extremely fair in judgement (Romans 2:5-12).
What could be more fair than judging people based upon how they lived in view of what they knew (Romans 2:5-12)? Furthermore, neither Jew nor Gentile would receive a free pass nor experience preferential treatment.
Having hammered away at the plight of both Jew and Gentile under God’s just judgment, Paul asserted that the gospel also reveals God is eminently righteous by how God offers salvation to the world (Romans 1:16; 3:21-26).
God chose the person of Christ, his faith, his life, his death as the foundation for our salvation, a salvation offered equally to both Jew and Gentile. Thus everyone who trusts in Christ, the one who was trustworthy, can live. Such a path of justification avoids rooting its base upon the efforts of our sin-stained lives and imperfect faith.
Certainly in America, where we profess “all men are created equal,” we too ought to be excited about a God who remains exquisitely fair whether acting in judgment or extending salvation. No insider sleazy access. No unfair social advantages. Just a righteous God in action.
Could you get excited about a message announcing not only God’s power capable of saving everyone, but also a message revealing God achieves this while remaining exquisitely righteous in his methods? Apparently Paul did.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, ‘The righteous by faith will live'” (Romans 1:16-17 NET).
“But now apart from the law (that is, through the gospel) the righteousness of God … has been disclosed – namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-24).
“This was to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness” (Romans 3:26).