I Am Not Ashamed

Jan 26, 2014Tom Ellsworth

In writing to the Christians in Rome, Paul concludes the introduction to his letter with these verses (Romans 1:16-17 NIV): 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. 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."

I mentioned in Sunday’s sermon that verse 17 is responsible for the Protestant Reformation. Monk Martin Luther was struggling to find spiritual answers to the questions that plagued him about his inability to be good enough for God. As he studied this passage he became like a prisoner set free from his shackles. For the first time he realized that being good enough was never going to be good enough. The righteousness of God was not earned but was freely offered to us through faith in Jesus Christ. It not only changed Luther’s life, it changed church history. It is wonderful to know that God made salvation possible through his goodness and sacrifice, not ours!

From that hopeful note Paul launches into a discourse on the destructive power of sin and he addresses the Gentile world first. After all he is writing to Gentile believers in Rome. While the grace of God extends to us through faith, the wrath of God is leveled against all wickedness. There are two kinds of law – the general law of God and the specific law of God given through Moses. All humans will be held responsible for how they responded to the general law of God. What is his general law? Romans 1:20 (NIV) 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

In other words, God placed some knowledge about him in every human heart. There is a spiritual longing in us; we are drawn to the spiritual matters of life because our spirits long for God. Sometimes people don’t even realize it’s God they long for. They search in vain because they look in all the wrong places to find something to fill this God-shaped vacuum in their souls. Paul says that although they knew God they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him…They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. Consequently, humanity is without excuse before God. That’s what makes his grace so amazing. We gave up on him but he never gave up on us. I’m glad that being good enough isn’t good enough and that God has extended to us his grace and mercy through faith in Jesus Christ. No wonder that truth changed Luther’s life and ours!