Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 12, 1962
NUMBER 48, PAGE 4,12b-13a

"I Am Not Ashamed"


"For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Rom. 1:16) This bold assertion by the apostle Paul is one that many modern Christians need to ponder with deep searchings of the soul. There were many things in Paul's society, and in his own life, of which he was ashamed. And he should have been. The incredibly base moral structure of the Gentile world (described in some detail in this same chapter) was such as to bring shame to any decent and honorable man; the wickedness even of those who claimed to be God's own people, the Jews, was enough to humiliate anyone who had moral sensitivity; furthermore, the evil in the earlier days of his own life was something which Paul bitterly regretted for the rest of his days. Of all these things he might be ashamed. They were humiliating and distressing to know or to recall.

But there was one thing for which he felt no shame; which, on the contrary, was a constant source of joy and pride and thanksgiving — the gospel of Christ. There was no aspect of it, from the most trivial to the most momentous, for which Paul felt apology was needed. All of it was an expression of the wisdom and goodness of God; and of his love for sinful men. However contrary that gospel might be to the thinking of the wise, the mighty, the noble, it still reflected the glory of God. As such it was perfect and a thing of beauty. "For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory before God." (1 Cor. 1:26-29)

For one thing, consider the gospel's insistence that man is a sinful being. This is a truth which many men have tried to deny, or to ignore. Pride in human achievement, pride almost to the point of arrogance, has always characterized the human race. Man has been reluctant to acknowledge his unworthiness and his depravity. And, at times, has even refused to accept as "sin" that which God defines as such. Paul was not ashamed of this emphasis, for he recognized it as stark realism. When the gospel insists that man is a sinner, Paul realized (and could testify from his own personal experience ---Romans 7:14-25) that this is literal truth.

Paul was not ashamed of the simplicity of the gospel. It had none of the elaborate, complicated philosophical speculations so dear to the pagan philosopher (and so intriguing, indeed, to many modern theologians); but, on the contrary, it was set forth in the simplest of terms and the homeliest of illustrations. It was put within the mental grasp of the poor, the illiterate, and the mediocre. While there are profundities to stagger the powers of the most learned, still the practical aspects of the gospel are such as to be intelligible to the humblest and most poorly endowed of responsible men. Paul gloried in this simplicity, and warned the Colossians that they should "Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (Col. 2:8) Paul gloried in the gospel's appeal to the lower classes; he would have acknowledged without a moment's hesitation the truth of the charge made a generation or two after his time that Christianity made its strongest appeal to the poor, the down-trodden, the under-privileged "slaves, and convicts, and women"!

Paul was not ashamed of the "arbitrariness" of the gospel message. He felt no necessity at all of trying to trim his message, and polish off its strongest and most offensive features to make it acceptable to the suave and sophisticated intelligentsia of his day. Immersion in water was a natural and normal and glorious thing for a man to do — if God commanded it. Rejection of all human wisdom and philosophies, and stern adherence to even the most "narrow-minded" of religious tenets was something in which he rejoiced — if that particular tenet was from God. "For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God. For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling-block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Cor. 1:18-25)

Many in our day evidence a sense of "shame" and embarrassment over the very things in which Paul gloried. They want to be known as Christians, to be sure; but feel constantly called upon to explain and "interpret" and modify what they regard as the strong and unpalatable declarations of Christ and the apostles — statements on an eternal Hell, for example; or on the one true church; or on the simplicity and "narrowness" of the gospel message. There is an endless effort (obvious often even among some of our own brethren in Christ's church) to minimize, tone down, soften, and otherwise weaken the sharp and terrible line Christ drew between truth and error, between right and wrong, between the kingdom of God and the traditions of men. The epithets of derision from the worldly-wise and impious were to Paul a source of pride and satisfaction. He felt no humiliation at all in being branded as a "pestilent fellow," "a babbler," or one who had "turned the world upside down." If he had lived in a later age he would have accepted the jeering cries of "atheist" or "anti" with the same indifference. The very cross itself, a symbol of shame and degradation, became by its association with the greatest exhibition of love the world has ever known a thing in which Paul could "glory"!

There are things in twentieth-century America of which every one ought to be ashamed. But the gospel of Christ is not one of those things. It is that in which the right thinking man will glory and rejoice.

— F. Y. T.