Romans 1:16 is central to the Book of Romans, central to the teaching of the New Testament, and central to the entirety of the Bible. Here we find the theme of Romans, the focal point of the Bible, and the fundamental foundation of Christianity.
The gospel, the good news of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for sinners, is the power of God for salvation. Further, the power of God in the gospel does not stop at the work of Christ, but even with the Holy Spirit taking this gospel and applying it to our hearts by sovereign grace through faith.
Now, since all of this is true, why would we be ashamed of the gospel as Paul says he is not in Romans 1:16?
It is because when we really understand the gospel, it is both offensive and foolish to a lost and dying world. The real temptation every generation of Christians face is to alter the gospel ever so slightly so as to find ourselves in better harmony with the world around us.
The impulse for many today is to nuance the gospel into oblivion. Remove the offense. Remove the foolishness. Winsome it into something more palatable. But if we do these things, we ultimately lose the gospel.
The real temptation every generation of Christians face is to alter the gospel ever so slightly so as to find ourselves in better harmony with the world around us.
Churches today must not be ashamed of the gospel. Here are four ways, then, every local church must respond to it:
The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Faith is not merely understanding the facts of the gospel and believing they are true. It is letting go of every work and it is turning from our sins, and it is trusting Christ personally as our only way to God. As the only means of the forgiveness of sins. As the only way to be counted righteous with a righteousness that is not our own but Christ’s imputed to us by grace through faith.
Pastors and church members must remember this is our only way to God. Your morals, your works, your politeness – none of these things will bring you salvation. None of these things will satisfy God’s holy justice. You must stake all that you are and all that you have and all that you do upon this bedrock foundation
Two reasons to remind us of this:
First, there is such a thing as unconverted church members and even pastors. My favorite story might be that Elias Keach the son of Benjamin Keach who was preaching one day in 1686 and suddenly became aware of his sin and was converted by his own preaching.
The Scriptures warn us repeatedly of false conversions (see Matthew 7:21-23). Anything else in this post about the gospel is superfluous if we do not first embrace it by faith.
The second reason I remind us about believing the gospel is to remind us that our churches do not need our power, but God’s. The power of the church is not in our creativity or in the public approval of the masses. The power of the church is the power of God in the gospel. Do you believe this? We are not the ones who make the gospel work. God is.
First response, then, believe it. 2nd response:
There are millions of false gospels in the world today. There is the false gospel of abortion that says the child must die so I can live how I want. My salvation is in my autonomy. There is the false gospel of the Roman Catholic Church or the false gospel of Jehovah Witnesses or Mormons, or the false religion of Islam or the list goes on and on and on and on.
Because the gospel is the power of the church, we must draw a hard line here in defending it. We must carefully guard the church from false gospels ranging from open and blatant heresy to the subtle idolatry of the age.
We must make sure that all we are doing from our worship to our outreach to our fellowship is centered around the gospel and not something else. We must be willing to cut out anything that is detracting from the gospel or anything that is seeking to replace the gospel or anything that is seeking to add to or take away from the gospel.
This also means we must care about church discipline because church discipline is dealing with people whose lives are not adorning the gospel. Caring about church discipline is defending the gospel. If we do not care about defending the gospel, our churches will eventually lose it.
The man who buys a car and puts thousands of dollars in the stereo system every year, neglecting the engine, will eventually have a loud car with no power. That’s what a church is that focuses on all the external things and neglects or distorts the gospel: A lot of noise with no power.
Believe it. Defend it. 3rdly:
Grow in it
Since the gospel is the power of God for salvation and the power of the local church, then I must give my life to growing in it. We serve one another by growing in the gospel together.
First, I mean growing in knowledge of the gospel. Don’t you long to know God more deeply? I must study the sound doctrine of the Bible. I must read the Bible daily. I must study the glories of Christ, the wretchedness of sin, the beauty of the church, the work of the Holy Spirit, the sovereignty of the Father, and so on and so forth.
Secondly, though, I also mean growing in the application of the gospel to my heart, mind, soul, and entire life. The power of God in the gospel is not only for our regeneration and justification, but also our sanctification.
Thus, I seek to apply the gospel to my life daily. I apply the gospel to my marriage. I lead through Christ. I repent before my wife and children when I sin. I apply the gospel to relationships in the church in cultivating patience in my heart like God is patient with me. I apply the gospel to prayer. I am weak and needy, but Christ is mediating for me, and the Spirit is groaning with me.
The point is, local churches desire to show the world that the gospel is not only these great truths of the Scripture but that these truths come to bear in our homes and in our jobs and in our worship and in our fellowship and in our lives.
Believe it. Defend it. Grow in it. And finally, every local church must respond to the gospel with a commitment to:
Now, in one sense church members preach the gospel to each other regularly in conversations and fellowship with one another. They also preach the gospel through the visible actions of the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
But I also mean here for the church to actually preach the gospel and encourage its pastors to faithfully preach the gospel. John Gill says those ashamed of the gospel are all those
“who hide and conceal it, who have abilities to preach it, and do not: or who preach, but not the Gospel; or who preach the Gospel only in part, who own…in private, [what] they will not preach in public, and use ambiguous words…to cover themselves; who blend the Gospel with their own inventions, seek to please men, and live upon popular applause, regard their own interest, and not Christ’s, and can’t bear the reproach of his Gospel.”
There are so many ways that we can be ashamed in preaching the gospel and some of the ways we might not even realize. We can preach the hope of heaven without the demands of repentance. We can minimize certain sins afraid of offending someone or a group of people. We can scale back on the sovereignty of God because someone might disagree with us. We can tolerate easy-believism because we are weary of fighting the battle over the biblical definition of a Christian.
But I am pleading with local churches to not only love the gospel but to hold pastors accountable to passionately, unambiguously, and courageously preach the Gospel. Preach the gospel, the whole gospel, and nothing but the gospel.
This doesn’t mean we don’t preach secondary issues. I’m a Baptist. Of course, I love secondary issues! But it means all that I preach flows out of and connects back to, the gospel.
For example, do you know why I believe in believer’s baptism by immersion? Yes, it is the biblical way to practice the ordinance, but this is because only believer’s baptism by immersion accurately and consistently adorns the gospel. Only believer’s baptism displays a proper sign and symbol of the work of Christ.
I’m simply saying here that all of our preaching must be saturated with the gospel. We’ve got nothing to preach without the gospel. And we must remember the power is not in the preaching in and of itself. If our hope was in our preaching, we would be miserable. But our hope is not in the power of preaching. We preach, and we preach powerfully and passionately, because our hope is in the power of God in the gospel.
Additionally, I also mean in this point that the church must proclaim the gospel verbally to a lost a dying world. We must go and we must proclaim the gospel to the masses. The Word of God is living and active and as we proclaim it extolling the victory of Christ over death, over sin, over the devil, over governments, over all, we can have supreme confidence that God is using it.
And there will be seasons of Whitefield preaching where people are coming to Christ in droves it seems. And there may be seasons of Judson preaching where you labor in the gospel for 7 years before even seeing 1 convert.
But whether our proclamation results in one or one million converts, we rejoice, because it is all about God’s power and for God’s glory. It is the power of God in the gospel that saves sinners. Therefore, I must preach it. I must share it. I must pass out tracts and have the tough conversations with coworkers or family members and stand my ground here.
Imagine a restaurant owner ashamed of the menu. How much worse a church ashamed of the gospel! A fish ashamed of the water or a dog ashamed of his bark is better than a local church ashamed of the gospel.
We must preach the gospel. When a church tries to do mission or outreach without actually proclaiming the gospel, we are exposing that we think we know a better strategy for reaching the world than God. We are saying that the power of our ingenuity or the power of our kindness is more central and more of a priority than the proclamation of the gospel.
The Word of God is living and active and as we proclaim it extolling the victory of Christ over death, over sin, over the devil, over governments, over all, we can have supreme confidence that God is using it..
I am communicating to us a very simple truth but one that can profoundly transform our churches and our communities. Do not be ashamed. Let us preach the gospel.
I’m not saying try to winsomely convince people to try out Jesus. I’m not saying attempt to influence people by how nice you are. I’m not saying preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.
No. I’m saying words are necessary. Extol the excellencies of King Jesus, all that He is, all that He has done, and all that He commands form the world. John Gill says, to be unashamed of the gospel is “to preach it…fully and faithfully, plainly and consistently, openly and publicly, and boldly, in the face of all opposition.”
Local churches, then, must preach the gospel this way. Preach the gospel unashamedly inside your church. Preach it boldly outside your church. And preach it all places in between. Preach it to your own soul. Preach it to your children. Preach it to your family. Preach it to the lost man serving you coffee. Preach it to the godless men and women God has placed in your town.
Preach, preach, preach, and preach and then: keep preaching. The ministry of the local church is gospel ministry. And true gospel ministry is local church ministry.
Let us take our stand here. Let the culture throw at us what it may. Let them do their worst. Let them laugh and scorn and get angry. They may be able to cancel us, but they cannot cancel the gospel.
Arrest us. Try us. Beat us. Kill us. But we aren’t stopping. We have a message to proclaim in the name of our King. And our King says, the gates of hell will not prevail against the church.
In the 7th-Century B.C. the city of Troy stood strong against Greek armies for a decade. The big city gates were impenetrable. But the Greeks got sneaky, deceived the Trojans into thinking they had left, and snuck in with a wooden horse.
But this is not the church’s practice with he gates of hell, which are far stronger than Troy’s gates. We don’t sneak in. We confidently announce we are coming in. We are charging right through, and you can’t do anything about it. We are rescuing sinners. We are snatching some form the very flames. And there is nothing you can do to stop us because of the power of God in the gospel.
Therefore, brethren, we will not soften the message. We will not skirt the issue. We will not tamper with the Word. We will not attempt to make it more palatable.
We will preach the gospel and rest in its power for our church. We are not interested in pragmatism. We are not interested in worldly ideas. We are not interested in adaptation. We are not interested in surrender or compromise in any way.
We are unashamed. Therefore, we will believe the gospel. We will defend the gospel. We will grow in the gospel. And we will preach the gospel.
Christ is King.