I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. . . .
God’s power is revealed in various and mysterious ways. The power of God in food maintains our lives. The power of God in love offers us joyous relationships. And the power of God in the gospel gives us salvation.
The apostle Paul knew well the transformative power of God in the gospel. It so changed his heart that after his conversion he spent the rest of his life proclaiming this gospel to Jews and Gentiles alike. In his letter to the fledgling church in Rome, Paul asserts that God’s power in the gospel is more than his authority, jurisdiction, or control; the gospel is (in the Greek New Testament) God’s dunamis, that is, his potency, energy, strength, and dynamic ability to do what he decides. Of this gospel, Paul says he is unashamed.
Since the earliest days of the church, the gospel has been unashamedly proclaimed to be the record of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit inspired interpretations of Christ’s person and work that are found in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Today, if we believe what the whole Bible reveals about the gospel, then we understand that its essence—the person and ministry of Jesus Christ—is the only means for eternal salvation.
The Bible says that when people believe this gospel is true, God grants them new life, so that they are no longer merely humans created in the image of God and guilty sinners in the eyes of God, but they are now beloved children of their Creator, heirs of his promises, and rightful citizens of the kingdom of God. Of this gospel, so filled with grace and hope and power that it changes lives, we, too, can be unashamed.
While the church throughout history has been shamed by the world for believing such a gospel, Christians still stand courageously; affirming that in this proclamation about Jesus Christ is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes it.
These days our belief in Jesus Christ as the only power for eternal salvation is often misunderstood by non-Christians as arrogance. In truth, the gospel of Christ is a humbling message, for it offers us nothing in which to boast of our own strength, will, or goodness; instead, it gives all authority and power to God as the only source of our salvation. So despite humiliating ridicule by some people in this world, Christians have urgent and good reasons to stand unashamed of this gospel. And we do, most of the time.
But, admittedly, sometimes when we do evangelism, we find ourselves seeking more the acceptance of people than the approval of God. When challenged about the exclusivity, the narrow-gatedness of this gospel, we sometimes inhibit the power of God through our timidity. Feeling criticized by the people we most want to befriend, we can equivocate about the demands of the gospel, so that we do not have to endure people’s disapproval and our feelings of embarrassment or rejection.
But at such times, our weak articulation of the gospel can be the very reason why we do not bring more people to Christ. In our desire to make Jesus popular and his demands palatable, we short-circuit the power of the gospel, and the result is a flickering and dim light in a witnessing community.
The gospel demonstrates the power of God. When we articulate this gospel fully to people, we show that we are confident of its promises and unashamed of its demands, thus demonstrating by our courage that the gospel of Jesus Christ is truly the power of God for salvation.
Jonathan Rice is an editor and writer at InterVarsity’s National Service Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Romans 1:16 is the theme verse for InterVarsity’s Staff Conference, which will be held January 2-6, 2008, in St. Louis.