The Gospel of God: Power for Salvation, Not Cause of Shame (Romans Sermon 4 of 120)
January 23, 2000 | Andy Davis
The French and Swiss reformer John Calvin said that a proper understanding of the Book of Romans opened a door to the treasure into all of Scripture. In other words, if you understand Romans properly, you get it. You get what Scripture has to offer. Another scholar said that these two verses, verses 16-17, are the thesis statement of the entire Book of Romans. So therefore, if those two ideas are true, then we're looking at two of the most significant verses you can find in all of Scripture, Romans 1:16-17. Paul says, "I'm 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. For in the Gospel, 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." That is a summary of everything that Paul wants to say in the Book of Romans.
I. The Powerful Weapon of Shame, More Powerful Gospel of God
And Paul begins by talking about the issue of shame. In verse 16 he says, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel." Have you ever felt ashamed of the Gospel before? Have you ever been in a situation where you're witnessing or you wanted to express to somebody, a relative, a friend, who you really were in Christ and you felt something kind of grabbing hold of you and you couldn't tell them, couldn't speak the way you wanted to? Well, I think it's good for us as Christians to try to understand what's going on at that moment, but what is this shame that we feel? Recently the Southern Baptist Convention has put out a number of prayer guides. I don't know if you've heard anything about that. They've become very much the topic of conversation. There was a prayer guide for Muslims, prayer guide for Hindus, prayer guide for Jews as well. Recently, the representative Jim McDermott, who is a congressman from the 7th district of the state of Washington got hold of the prayer guide in regard to the Hindus and he was outraged by it and he took a piece of congressional stationary and wrote an open letter to all the other representatives, congressmen, in regard to this prayer guide.
And this is what he said. In an October 28th "Dear Colleague" letter, sent to all 434 of his fellow House members, McDermott charged that the Southern Baptists had an "Aggressive intolerant approach. An intolerant view that has inflamed Hindu communities worldwide." And he called on the Southern Baptists to, "End your conversion campaign directed to members of the Hindu faith." He went on to write, "We cannot understand how men and women raised and educated in the world's bastion of religious freedom and tolerance can characterize another religion as spiritually dark and false. The lack of respect that this statement shows for the basic rights of an individual to believe in whatever faith they choose, is perhaps the most disturbing." Well, I suppose that depends on your perspective. To me, what's disturbing is that an elected representative of our government would attack conversion efforts in the name of Christ. He doesn't know history very well. He doesn't know for example that the framers of the constitution were influenced in a major way by Baptists to put in religious freedom, not just tolerance but religious freedom. But yet those Baptists were active in preaching the Gospel and seeking to reach out to people through Jesus Christ.
But you see what's going on in our culture today. What's going on is that tolerance has become the major ethic of our day. And if you show any intolerance at all, you have committed the sin there is to commit, and it takes a great deal of courage to stand for Christ these days in that circumstance. Now I don't know what the future holds. I don't know when the Lord will return. But if you take this attitude, this elected official taking a piece of paper and writing on it that we should not seek to convert people to faith in Jesus Christ, where will we be in 50 years? Not one of us is afraid that government officials are going to break down the doors right now and come in and stop us from worshipping. But how do we know what'll happen in the next generation or the one that follows? It's fascinating. But either way, understand that in church history, Christians have been called on to stand firm and to show courage despite prevailing attitudes in their culture.
We have to some degree been lulled into a false sense of security, a feeling that we should kind of get along with the world around us, and that's just because of the unique place of America in the flow of world history. For the most part, Christians have taken their very lives in their hands when they stood firm for Christ. And there is a temptation in all of this to be ashamed, isn't there? To be ashamed of the Gospel like there's something wrong with it. Now these prayer guides put out by the International Mission Board are just informational guides on how you can pray for people of the Hindu faith, Muslim faith and how they can come to personal faith in Christ. Now what you think about that probably depends on what you think is the basic status of a human being apart from Christ. If they're basically okay, if people are basically alright and if religion just comes and helps us in our lives, then maybe there might be a reason to be inflamed or angry about one group that seemed to have the truth when there really is no truth available. Maybe that would be true, but if you believe what Romans says, that apart from God, apart from Christ, we're under wrath and under judgment and that only Jesus Christ and His death on the cross can atone for our sins, then everything changes. And further more, if Jesus is Lord and commands us to go and preach the Gospel, everything changes as well.
So I think we as Christians need to come face to face with this history of shame and try to understand what it is and how much of a powerful weapon it is in the hands of Satan to stop us from doing our duty, to stop us from preaching the Gospel. Now when you think of being ashamed, of feeling shame, what pops in your mind? Suppose for example you took out a friend to lunch and you said, "Listen, I want you to get anything you want. This one's on me. I want you to enjoy yourself, have whatever you want." It's a nice restaurant, expensive restaurant, and so he said, "I don't feel right about this." You say, "Go ahead, listen, I just want to... It's my way of saying thank you." Just to help him out, you order the most expensive thing on the menu yourself, etcetera. Time comes to pay and you can't find your wallet anywhere. What do you think you'll feel at that moment? Shame. And also a bit of anxiety about how many dishes you're going to have to wash to get out of that restaurant that day. Shame.
Well how about this, suppose... Picture a 12-year old boy who's the best basketball player in his class and he's used to boasting about it. And suppose a new kid comes in from out of state and he starts talking and begins boasting over this other new guy. And so the other guy says, "Well, I like to play basketball. Why don't we get together and play?" And so the braggart sends word around, everybody shows up and this new kid in a very humble way, wipes up the court with him. How do you think that that 12-year old is going to feel? He's going to feel a sense of shame. Or how about this, suppose you're the lead in a play. And the time comes for you to step out, it's your first real play and the flood lights are on and you open your mouth and nothing comes out, nothing. Your mind is blank. And you know that you should be saying something because everyone's looking at you kind of funny. And they know you should be saying something too. What are you going to feel at that moment? I'd feel a sense of shame.
Or how about if a family member gets arrested for a crime and the family name is dragged through the mud. And you are shown on TV standing near this person, maybe a father or mother, child, son or daughter, feel a sense of shame. Now what's the common denominator in all those four cases? I think it's the audience, isn't it? It's someone watching. And not only that, but they're assessing, they're weighing you. And from childhood, even from infancy, you have a sense of that audience, don't you? A sense of people around you who are assessing your behavior, assessing what you're saying. And when we start to feel shame when certain things come on us, we decide we don't like that feeling, we hate the feeling of shame. And so we begin to work in a kind of a coping mechanism way. And what is it? It's to never put ourselves in a position to be ashamed. We're never going to say something that isn't pleasing. We're never going to fail to satisfy. We're always going to please the audience. Well in many cases, that's just being socially adept. There's nothing wrong with that. Except when it comes to this issue of the Gospel. And so we need to understand how it is that Satan uses this sense of shame to hold us back.
I think as we read the Scriptures, the greatest occasion for shame is not the preaching of the Gospel, this power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, it's not that at all. It's Judgment Day. When everything we've ever said and done, when the secrets of the heart will be exposed and revealed before a just and holy God. Now imagine that as an audience. Imagine the Holy of Holies, the holiest place, and all of God's holy angels standing there, and Jesus Christ in His righteousness, opening the books. Imagine that. Now it says in Romans 6:21, that all of our sin now is cause for shame even now. It says in Romans 6:21, "What benefit did you reap at that time from those things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death." Now that we've been trained by the Gospel, we understand sin properly and it makes us feel ashamed. It's the very same thing that Adam and Eve felt when they were caught in their sin and wanted to hide from God, a sense of shame connected with sin. But how about this one, in Mark 8:38, Jesus spoke in this way, "If anyone is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His Father's glory with all His holy angels."
In other words, if you're ashamed of Me, I'll be ashamed of you. Very plain, Jesus speaking very plainly. We are not to be ashamed of Him in this corrupt world, we're not to be ashamed of Him and His words, for He is holy and He is righteous. And he has brought, a Gospel message of salvation to the world. I think there's an exhortation in 1 John 2:28, which I know the college and career class had the chance to look at earlier. 1 John 2:28 says, "And now dear children, continue in Him so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed of His appearing." Confident and unashamed. So we're supposed to walk with Jesus step by step, so that we will not feel ashamed when Jesus returns. But the best part of all is the fact that the Gospel, this power of salvation, removes all of our shame. Isn't that marvelous? Romans 9:33 says, "See I lay a stone in Zion that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. But he who trusts in Him will never be put to shame." Isn't that beautiful? Trust in Jesus Christ means you'll never be put to shame. And that includes on Judgment Day, when the Lord returns. Jesus Christ is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to those who do not believe. But for us He is precious, isn't He?
He is that which removes all of our shame. And the most, perhaps, shocking aspect of this whole thing is in Hebrews 2:11, that Jesus Christ, it says here, "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers." Isn't that amazing that Jesus isn't ashamed to call you by name? Say "I know him. I know her. They're adopted into My family, not ashamed of them." Isn't that marvelous? Now, He would have every reason to be ashamed of us in Holy Heaven, but He's not because of the atoning sacrifice which He gave. But in this present world, that Jesus, in all of His perfection and power and all of His love, is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.
Now last week, I talked about Paul's obligation, remember? Paul had a sense of indebtedness. He felt himself indebted, not to God. Not to God in that verse. Remember that if we try to work out our debt, we are actually paying off our salvation on mortgage, we can't do that. We can't earn our salvation either beforehand or afterwards, either way. But he felt an obligation or debt to gentiles of all different kinds, both the wise and the foolish, the cultured and the un-cultured, and the debt of obligation was the Gospel message. He wanted to give them the Gospel so that they might be saved. But the fascinating thing is, as he goes in here and describes in verse 16, that he's not ashamed. He knows very well that not everyone to whom he owes the Gospel, is going to be very appreciative when he discharges his debt. They're actually going to heap shame and abuse on him. They're going to seek to shame him. Shaming behavior is part of a sinful response to the Gospel and it's something that you have to be ready for. Now Paul knew very well. He said, "We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks." Not everyone's going to respond well. Not everybody is going to be enjoying this Gospel message.
Some of them will even persecute him openly. They'll take that shaming behavior and try to pour it on him in terms of persecution. In Acts 16:22 and following, it says “The crowd joined the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten.” The shame to be stripped and beaten in front of everybody. “After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.” Were Paul and Silas ashamed? Oh, they were shamed, but they were not ashamed, because that very night, they were singing praise and worship songs to God in that Philippian jail. They didn't have any sense of shame inside their hearts. There were external shames being heaped on them, but it didn't take root inside them. They were not ashamed. Paul says, "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for salvation." But understand that shaming behavior is intrinsic to the rejection of the Gospel.
When you take this Gospel message out there, try to share it with your friends, with your relatives, with non-Christians all around you, they're going to try to heap abuse on you. They're going to try to shame you. It's their defense mechanism. Why? Because the Gospel message makes them feel guilty. The conviction comes and they need to shift the blame, they need to move it to someone else and they heap it on you. They bring that shame and they bring it down to you. In the cultural revolution in China in the 1960s, Christians were made to wear dunce caps and wear these humiliating signs and they were paraded through the streets. And the crowds were whipped into frenzy because there were communists, young communists, in the crowds and basically observing everybody who wouldn't heap abuse and shame on the Christians. And if you were included with them, you were pushed out and you had a dunce cap pretty soon. So just out of fear, they would heap abuse. Can you imagine what it would feel like to walk through the streets with that kind of shame being heaped on you?
But Paul says, even if that happens to you, you don't need to be ashamed. You don't need to feel the shame within. They will heap the abuse on you, but you don't have to feel the shame. I remember when I was just... On a biographical note. When I was a unbeliever, my junior year at MIT, there was a guy who was trying to lead me to faith in Christ, and his name was Steve, and Steve was a faithful witness. Invited me to a number of Campus Crusade for Christ activities, a number of things. And as he did, I grew more and more... I didn't like him, I guess more and more as time went on. And finally the time came when he would come to sit near me at a meal and I would get up and move my plate to another place, and I'd come back and get my silverware and move that and I'd get my glass and move it. It took three trips. I wanted it to take five or six. I was trying to shame him. I wanted him to feel badly. Why? Because of my own guilt before God. Steve bore it so patiently. Ultimately he led me to Christ. It's just intrinsic to non-Christians to take that feeling they have and to heap abuse and shame on those who seek to lead them to Christ.
But how do we triumph over it? Well, we triumph over it by understanding what it is we're about. Understanding the Gospel. I'm not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. Preaching the Gospel creates shaming opportunities, but it does not create shame on the part of the one who brings it, because the Gospel gives freedom from shame. The Gospel gives freedom from our own shame and guilt, but it also helps us to understand what that person is going through. It helps us to understand where they're at spiritually and how much they need the Gospel message. The best example of all is Jesus Christ. In Hebrews chapter 12 verse 2, he says, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven." It's very interesting. Jesus received the shaming behavior, didn't He? They sought to heap shame on Him.
Think of all the things He went through. He went through a mockery of a trial in which His own people disowned Him, said, "We will not have this man rule over us." And they chose Barabbas instead of Him. They wove a crown of thorns and put it on His head. They put a cheap robe on Him and the Romans played their usual game of setting up, as they believe, a dunce to be an emperor and they would mock worship Him. They were mocking Him. They were trying to shame Him. They beat Him. Ultimately He was, just like the Chinese Christians many centuries later, led through the streets and mocked and shamed and ultimately crucified. A sense of shame being poured on Him, but was He ashamed? No, He was not. It says in this verse that, "Jesus for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and sat down at the right hand of God." So He looked beyond the cross, He looked beyond all the shame to what He was achieving, what He was accomplishing. The joy set before Him. And you know the joy? It was His joy in your joy. That's what it was. It was His joy in your salvation. His joy in the look that will be on your face when you're welcomed into Heaven, forgiven of all your sins. It was worth it to Him. And so therefore it says that He despised the shame.
Now the word 'despise' is interesting. You can take it this way. He hated the shame. You can say, "I despise this, or I despise that. I despise this certain kind of food," means you hate it. You have a strong negative aversion to it. Well, it's possible that that's what it means there in Hebrews. That Jesus, to some degree, was looking at shame as a messenger from Satan, looking at shame as an instrument of the devil to keep Him from fulfilling His mission on the cross.
But I think actually it's... We take the word despise a little bit differently there. To despise could also mean to think little of. To look at and say, "I just think very little, I think lightly of you. I think lightly of this issue." To despise means to think in a light way, to assess it away and say, "It's light, it's not even worth considering." Not even worth weighing compared to what's going on here. I think that's what Jesus did, He looked at the shame and He thought little of it for the joy that was set before Him, He was willing to bear under it. That's the secret to overcoming shame. You are going to bring the Gospel to people who will try to shame you. You don't need to be ashamed, it's a glorious Gospel. It's the power of God for salvation. You understand why they're heaping shame on you, you may have done the very same thing. You may have done the same thing when somebody tried to lead you to Christ, you understand it. You look beyond it for the joy set before you that you might see someone come to faith in Christ. And it gives you the courage to continue preaching the Gospel.
Back in the '60s, Alistair Begg, preacher in Cleveland area, said that the shaming behavior ran like this, in the '60s it was something like this. "I can't believe you think this is really true. I can't believe you think this is true." And so back then, Christians spent a lot of time on what we call apologetics. You know, learning ways to defend the Bible, the resurrection, all the evidence, Josh McDowell was big in this. And that's all still true and valid. But we're not saying that anymore, that's not the shaming behavior of the '90s. Now it's, "I can't believe you think there is truth. I can't believe you are so arrogant to think you have the truth." That you are some kind of intolerant bigot if you really claim that you have the truth. That's the shaming behavior of the '90s now into the year 2000. We have to understand that. The world around us is going to try to do that, we have to get past it in that same way that Jesus did.
II. How is the Gospel the Power of God for Salvation?
Well now we have to understand in what way is the Gospel the power of God for salvation. It says, "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel because it's the power of God for salvation." Well, first we have to ask, what is the salvation that Paul has in mind here? Many of us, even Evangelicals, tend to think of salvation as equal to justification. The moment that we are converted, the moment we become Christians, we're born again, that is salvation. So we have a kind of static view of salvation. In other words, once saved, always saved. We go up to somebody and say, "Are you saved, brother?" this kind of thing. And instead we neglect the fact that there's a dynamic aspect to salvation. Justification is once for all time. There's a moment that we give our lives to Jesus and all of our sins, the guilt for all of our sins, the record of all of our sins, is thrown into the deepest ocean, gone forever. If you're a Christian today, all of the guilt of your sins is taken away forever. Praise God! But that's not all there is to salvation. There's more to salvation, there's something after it. Sanctification, walking with Jesus, growing in holiness. And so it says in Philippians 2:12 that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us. What is He working in us? To finish salvation, it's not done yet. If you're alive now on earth, it's not done yet.
And as a matter of fact, for every human being that ever lived, it's not done yet because you don't have your resurrection body yet. Salvation takes you from dead in transgressions and sins, through justification, through growth and holiness and sanctification on into perfection, in Heaven, with a resurrection body. That's salvation. I quoted a verse earlier, which I love, "Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." Doesn't that show you that there's still yet some salvation to come? And that salvation will be fully revealed to you on Judgment Day when you see Him face to face. Well, does all this take power? In what sense does it take power? Well we use the word power as a creative force. We think of God saying, "Let there be light!" And there was light. That takes power, doesn't it? Did God show His power when He created the universe? Oh yes He did, you can't even imagine. We've only begun to unlock the power even just of the atom, for example. There's tremendous power in creation, but there's also power in redemption, in the salvation that God has given us. Power. Power, we use that word as something which affects a change which transforms a situation.
And that's exactly what salvation is. Now what was our situation? Well, this brings us back to the prayer guides. If we're basically okay, if we're basically good, then it doesn't really take much power. But if Ephesians, for example, 2:1 is true, that we are dead in our transgressions and sins in which we used to live as we followed the ways of the world, and the ruler of the kingdom of the air. If that's who we were, dead in transgressions and sins while we lived, living dead spiritually, then you can see the power it takes for salvation. The best picture of salvation, I think, that I've ever found in the Bible is the resurrection of Lazarus in John Chapter 11. The resurrection of a dead man, dead four days, no hope, without hope. He's dead. And yet Jesus comes and now he's alive. That's power.
And I'm telling you, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, all those Mesopotamian cultures, through the Romans and the Greeks, all the cultures that have ever been in history have no power over death and the grave, do they? They have been shown singularly powerless before the grave but one man has shown power over the grave and that's Jesus Christ. And so in Ephesians 1 and 2, there's a picture of power, just as Jesus was raised from the dead and now went through the heavens and sits at the right hand of God. So also you, united with Christ, raised from the dead spiritually, moving through life inexorably, unstoppably, you are going to be moved on through sanctification, into glorification, and that takes power. And according to Romans 1:16 the power comes from the Gospel message.
As you hear the Gospel message even as a believer, as you hear the Gospel message you are moved along in your salvation and you continue. If you're dead in your transgressions and sins, just like Spurgeon, you hear and you believe and you're saved, that's power. It says in 1 Corinthians 15 this is what you have to look forward to. If you're a believer in Christ, listen to these verses, this is your future. 1 Corinthians 15:42-43, "So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, the body that is raised is incorruptible." Isn't that great. It is sown in dishonor, no matter what we try to do at a graveside service there's a sense of dishonor. There's mud there and sometimes it rains and there's grief, there's a sense of emptiness and dishonor. But it's sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in what? Power.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ that's the power of the Gospel. It's going to get you up out of the grave. Now that's a powerful message. How can we be ashamed of that message, we're going to people who are dead in their transgressions and sins and we're offering them eternal life in the name of Jesus Christ. Power. Well, there's a second way to understand power and that is authority. For example a magistrate has the power to do this, a senator has the power to do that, a king or dictator has all power in his land, etcetera. All right, well how is salvation or the Gospel a declaration of God's authority and power? Well, He is the judge is He not? He is the one who's going to sit on Judgment Day. And He's the only one who matters. If He says that you're righteous, you're righteous. And if He says that you're holy, you're holy. And if He declares you to be a child of God, you're a child of God. He has the authority to do that. And Jesus uses the word power in this way in Mark's Gospel, he says "The Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins." That's authority. He has the right to say, "Your sins are forgiven." And that's the Gospel message. So we go out with a authoritative message. "You believe this message, I have the authority given to me by Jesus Christ to declare that your sins, all of them, are forgiven."
That's a powerful message, the Gospel is the power of God for salvation. Well, who is it a power for? It's a power for salvation to those who believe, and actually the Greek should be translated better, it's the power of God for the salvation of everyone who is believing. Is believing. It's a better translation. In other words ongoing faith is the condition for the salvation. Faith comes by the hearing of the Gospel message. As I stand and speak the Gospel message to you, faith is strengthened. Faith comes from hearing the Gospel. And as you hear this Gospel message and the faith comes, it comes as a gift from God, doesn't it? Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are you saved through faith and the faith is not of yourselves it, namely the faith, is a gift of God. Not by works so that no one can boast." So the faith comes and it comes through hearing the message. So you Christians, you keep listening to the Gospel message and what happens, your faith gets stronger. You say, "Wow, I want to fight sin, I want to get out there and fight, I'm ready to go. Let me go." That's why I wanted you to come today. I couldn't cancel this. You've got a week full of temptation ahead of you, do you understand what temptations are going to face you this week? Are you ready? Are you ready?
This message gets you ready. You need to fight and stand firm and say no to sin. And as you listen to the Gospel message you get ready, you are prepared, faith is strengthened. That's why Paul says in verse 15, "That's why I'm eager to preach the Gospel to you who are at Rome." Eager to do it. Even if it is a blizzard, a North Carolina blizzard, I'm eager to preach. I'm eager that you might have the faith to stand firm and to grow in your salvation. A faith that starts but doesn't finish is vain, it's a vain faith. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, "Now brothers I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you have received and on which you have taken your stand, by this Gospel you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you, otherwise you have believed in vain." A faith that starts but doesn't finish isn't from God. It's not that Ephesians 2:8-9 faith that is the gift of God. That faith finishes 'cause it's from God. The faith that starts and doesn't finish is not from God. It's a vain faith. We need to keep believing, and what keeps us believing is a hearing of the Gospel.
III. The Priority of the Jews: What It Means, What It Doesn’t Mean
And who is it for? It's for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and then for the Greek or the Gentiles, for everyone it's not just for Jews, it's for us too. Amen? You're not Jews and yet here you are hearing about this Gospel message, it's for you. It's for everyone who believes. Barbarians, Scythians, slave or free, doesn't matter. Male or female that doesn't... No category is excluded, but there's people... There will be people represented from every tribe and language and people and nation, believing the same Gospel message. It's for everyone who believes, everyone. Now what does Paul mean by, "First for the Jew, then for the Gentile"? What is this priority of the Jews. Well there's a different sense in which the Jews are first, first of all they were the chosen people of God, you've heard of that before. Deuteronomy 14:2, "You are a people holy to the Lord. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth the Lord has chosen you to be His treasured possession." Deuteronomy 7:7, "I did not choose you because you were the most numerous people on earth." Well we could add, "Nor the most godly, or the most attractive, or any of that. But I chose you because I loved you. Sovereign love, I just set my love on you, that's why I chose you." And then it says, and I love this in Amos 3:2, "You only have I chosen of all the families on the earth." They're His chosen people.
One of those Prayer Guides was for the Jews, have you heard about that one? Yeah. Maybe you have. Recently the president of Southern Seminary, Albert Mohler was on Larry King Live. Last week I think it was. And he had to answer certain charges that he was preaching the Gospel to the Jews. Yes he was. He was guilty as charged. So is the Apostle Paul. To the Jew first and also the Gentile. "I preach the Gospel to Jews," says Paul, they need it. And this is what Dr. Mohler said and he was facing some incredible antagonism, even hatred, shame shall I say, heaped, with millions of observers. "Are you saying that, Dr. Mohler, that if everybody doesn't believe exactly what you believe, they're going to burn in hell forever and ever?" And how would you as a Christian answer that one? Knowing... "Yes sir, that's what I believe." What he said was... And he's just able to communicate so well. He said, "First of all, we did not make up this Gospel. We have come to believe it. It was given to us and we believed it and we're preaching it in obedience." That's a good answer. But the fact of the matter is that shaming behavior comes even in relation to preaching to the Jews. But what Dr. Mohler said is we are not saying that the Jews are more needful of the Gospel than any other group, just not less needful either.
You see, they need the Gospel just like we do, we all need it. To the Jew first and then to the Gentile. And the Jews are also guardians of the Old Testament Scripture. In Romans 3:1 it says "What advantage then is there in being a Jew or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way. First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God." What are the very words of God in Romans 3:1? The Old Testament. They were given the prophets, they were given Moses, they were given Jeremiah and Isaiah. They were entrusted and they took care of them, didn't they? They copied letter by letter. They guarded the scriptures, they just didn't understand them, they weren't ready for the Messiah that came but they were entrusted with the scriptures. And it also is true that the Gospel came first to them chronologically because they had the message of the prophets, they received this message first, chronologically. And Jesus himself said in John 4:22, "Salvation is from the Jews." He's speaking to the Samaritan woman, remember. He said salvation is from the Jews. In other words, the Messiah for the world, the Savior for the world is Jewish, He's Jewish. Jesus Christ was a descendant of David, descendant of Abraham.
He kept the law in Galatians 4. He was Jewish and so salvation is from the Jews. First from the Jews and therefore the Gentiles, you Gentiles are seen to be grafted into a Jewish olive tree. We'll get to that in Romans 11. You grafted in, grafted in as a wild olive shoot into a Jewish olive tree. You are saved by a Jewish faith. The fulfillment of the Jewish faith. To the Jews first. And then strategically the Jews... I mean the apostle Paul began in Jerusalem, started in a Jewish land and moved out, and everywhere that Paul went as an apostle in every community, where did he go first? He went first to the synagogue, right? To the Jew first and when they rejected, he says in Acts 13, "It was necessary for us to speak the Word of God to you first. But since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life we now turn to the Gentiles." But their strategy was always go to Jews first, to the Jews first. And then finally, there's a priority of the Jews on Judgment Day for both blessings and curses. They get it first, whatever they're going to get.
This is very interesting. In Romans chapter two verse nine and 10 it says, "There'll be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. But glory, honor and peace for everyone who does right." First for the Jew, then for the Gentile." Priority on Judgment Day, either way, whether for blessings or curses they get it first. "To him who has been given much, much is expected," says God. They get it first, either way. In what way do the Jews not have priority? First of all, there is no priority in merit before God. Romans 3:9, "What shall we conclude then, are we any better we Jews, are we any better? Not at all. We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin." That's what Romans 3:23 says. Romans 3:22 says, "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
There is no difference between what and what? Between Jew and Gentile. We're all under sin. Secondly there's no priority in how they were saved. Is God the God of Jews only? Romans 3:29 and 30, "Is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too. Since there's only one God who will justify the Jews, the circumcised by faith and the non-Jews through that same faith." We get saved the same way. We get saved the same way, Romans 10:12-13,"For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for everyone, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
So there's no difference in terms of how they're saved, no difference in sinfulness, no difference in how they get out of their sinfulness, same way. And finally no difference in terms of covenant blessings now. There's been a dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile, it's removed. There were distinctions before, they're gone now. And so it says in Ephesians 3:6,"This mystery is that through the Gospel, the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and shares together in the promise in Christ Jesus." There's no difference in the blessings either, we all get the same, isn't that great? So we've explained, to the Jew first and also the Gentile, in what sense are they first and what sense are they not first.
IV. Summary and Application
So far as we've looked at Romans 1:16, we've seen, number one, that we are not to be ashamed of the Gospel. The Gospel produces shaming behavior in those who will not believe its message. Be ready for it, understand what's going on and realize that on the other side of it, there's joy, on the other side of it, is salvation.
Despise the shame, think nothing of it. Pay the price and see people saved as we preach the Gospel. The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of believers, the Gospel alone has power to present you holy before God on Judgment Day. Salvation is not just conversion, but it's a whole journey that takes you from the spiritual grave to the spiritual heights of reigning with Christ. It has power to change you, the Gospel has power to transform you and the Gospel has authority to declare you righteous on Judgment Day. And therefore believers are to continue believing its message, they're to feed on the message daily, they're to take it in, they're to come to church, hear the message preached and be strengthened by it so that they can continue growing in their salvation. And we've also come to understand what the Jew first means, priority of the Jews, they're a chosen people of God, guardians of Scripture. Chronologically they were first. Salvation is from the Jews, announced first to the world by Jewish apostles and then ultimately Jews will be first on Judgment Day for receiving both blessings and curses.
We've also seen what it does not mean. It does not mean that they are first in righteousness before God for all have sinned. It doesn't make a difference in terms of how they are saved, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. And it has no difference in terms of covenant blessings, for we all get the same blessings in Christ. Now how do we apply this to ourselves? At first is to ask yourself a question, "Are you now or have you ever been ashamed of the Gospel? Have you ever been ashamed of the Gospel?" Immerse yourself in this message, understand what a glorious message this is. And by faith, with a vision past this moment, past this uncomfortable interaction with a boss or coworker or relative, past and see Judgment Day and see the glory that waits anyone who believes the message that gets you past the shame.
Are you feeding on the Gospel daily? Are you feeling your strength, through faith growing, so you can put sin to death. Ultimately have you come to faith in Christ yourself? Have you given your life to Him? He died on the cross. As I said at the beginning, "Look to Him and be saved all you ends of the earth." Put your trust in Him and realize that the Jews and the Hindus and the Muslims, no one group, has any less need for a salvation through the same Gospel message than anyone else. Stand firm for that. Understand there is no other name under heaven given to man by which must be saved. Let's close in prayer.