So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith. Romans 1:15–17
Jesus came to rescue and restore His fallen creation. He came to live, die, and be resurrected—for us. The good news of the gospel declares that His mission was accomplished. His victory is ours. Jesus is Lord and offers redemption to sinners.
Paul couldn’t wait to get to Rome and make that announcement. He was eager, unashamed, chomping at the bit. Why? Surely a message about a crucified and resurrected Jewish carpenter would fall flat in the power center of the world. So on what basis was Paul willing to expose himself to shame, slander, and even death?
The answer is the theme for the rest of the letter. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. The Greek word for power is dunamis. Some preachers love to make the connection to our English word, dynamite and say something like, “The gospel is explosive!” It’s a great sound bite, but can also be misleading. The gospel packs restorative power. Those are not the same. A better English connection is the word dynamic. Paul wasn’t carrying a bomb into Rome. He was bringing a cure.
But here’s the strange and sad reality. Something so powerful is not readily welcomed by people in need. In fact, it’s downright insulting. The word “ashamed” in Romans 1:16 can also be translated offensive. Why is the gospel so offensive? Here are five reasons:
It calls our bluff: In the West, we thrive on being okay. But beneath a busy life and weak smile, we often hide an empty, guilty, and weary heart. The Gospel serves us notice. We’re not okay. We’re dead in sin, captive to Satan, helpless to change, and ripe for judgment. We think, “I know I’m rough on the outside, but inside is a tender, kind, honest, and loving heart. When I follow it, I’m fine.” But deep down, we know the truth: underneath the layers we don’t find a noble heart. We discover a fugitive, running, hiding, suppressing truth, seeking autonomy and stealing glory.
The gospel pulls back the curtain and crushes the facade. It exposes the truth that “The heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things, who can know it?” It reminds us that following our heart is what enslaved us.
It puts salvation out of our hands: Sinning and suffering are in our nature. It’s inseparable from who we are as fallen humans. We’re helpless to change. We’re humans. We sin. We can’t change on our own. And truth be known, we don’t want to change—at least not in conforming to someone else’s agenda. The gospel reminds us that change will not come through heroic self will. We need outside help.
The gospel exposes our spiritual bankruptcy. It shows our best accomplishments as worthless in God’s eyes and reveals our deepest need that only God can meet.
It features death, weakness, and suffering: We don’t like that list. We want to conquer and destroy, not to be conquered. We want to rule, not to serve. But salvation comes through suffering, weakness, humiliation, death and resurrection. Jesus was the lamb of God, not a tiger. Who would think to hoist up a slaughtered lamb for a mascot? Of course, God’s Lamb didn’t stay dead, He achieved victory. But the suffering of the Cross is repulsive and offensive. We think it’s beneath us. It’s humiliating.
It confronts our Autonomy and Independence: We declare ourselves captains of our own souls and masters of our own fate. We love autonomy and authority. We’re a front seat kind of people. The gospel humbles us. It tells us we are not our own, that we belong to another. Jesus promises to deliver us from our captivity to sin and Satan. But that rescue includes deliverance from ourselves. But who wants to deny himself when Rome is saying “be true to thyself.” Pretty sure that slogan is still around…
It confronts our pride and ego: Human wisdom and ingenuity are useless when it comes to salvation. They are liabilities, not assets. Obstacles to be removed, not allies to be leveraged. Paul told the Corinthians that the world through wisdom did not know God. He chose instead to save us through a weak, foolish message. Jews seek a supernatural sign. Greeks seek wisdom. Paul preached the Cross and scorned both.
If the gospel is that offensive, how can Paul walk into the Jaws of proud Rome and unashamedly preach it? The answer is simple. The Gospel alone can transform us.
When we hear it, ponder it, and believe it, we change. What did Paul mean by salvation? The term means being complete and whole. Another way to say it is comprehensive rescue or complete freedom. But from what? Three things:
The Penalty of Sin. That’s justification. Forgiveness of sins. Removal of guilt. In time sense, we have been saved.
The Power of Sin. That’s sanctification. Growing in Christlikeness. Christian renewal and obedience. In time sense, we are being saved.
The Presence of Sin. That’s glorification. Perfection. Global restoration. The Gospel will bring us all the way home. This is future salvation. In time sense, we will be saved.
The gospel tells us what God has done for us, is doing in us now, and will complete when Jesus returns. That’s comprehensive rescue—past, present, and future. Jesus will bring us to God, keep us there, and secure our future. That’s why Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel. And it’s why we don’t have to be either.
Jen Wilkins says, “Be assured of your justification. It was. One day, you were freed fully from the penalty of sin. Be patient with your sanctification. It is. Each day, you are being freed increasingly from the power of sin. Be eager for your glorification. It is to come. One day, you will be freed finally from the presence of sin.”
That’s good news you don’t need to be ashamed of. We believe it. We possess it. We enjoy it. The world needs it. So be unashamed. Jesus is unashamed of us (Hebrews 2:11). That’s the glory and wonder of what Christ has accomplished.