Some people are ashamed of their parents. Some parents are ashamed of their children. Some are ashamed of their family, or where they came from, and some are ashamed of their church. Some people are ashamed of the place they live or their income or their job, or lack of a job. Some people are ashamed of their education, or lack of one. There are those who are ashamed of their voice or their appearance, their face or their skin or their hair or their clothes. Some people are ashamed of things they have done, or things they have left undone. Sometimes, it is right to feel ashamed, especially of bad behavior and failures, as part of a process of correction and redirection (Romans 6:21). However, sometimes shame is really not appropriate, especially of things one has no choice about or power over, or things that are passing fashions or unimportant; and then again there is always one thing that no Christian should be ashamed of, no matter what the circumstances or the pressure.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).
The author of that statement, Paul, showed that he meant what he said as over and over again he conscientiously proclaimed redemption from sins through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, no matter what hardships or oppression that preaching aroused. Paul preached the cross of Christ as the one answer to humanity’s biggest problem, the problem of sin and death. He said that Christ sent him “to preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:17) and even amplified that the preaching was not a matter of clever words that appeal to human taste or wisdom or dignity, but that the “word of the cross” is “the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:17-18). Because of that whole hearted conviction Paul would not only say that he himself was “not ashamed of the gospel,” despite being arrested and charged with a capital crime for preaching, but would also emphasize to his fellow believers and coworkers, “do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me, his prisoner” (2 Timothy 1:8). Peter in turn echoed Paul’s urging to not be ashamed of the gospel when he wrote:
But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he should not be ashamed, but should glorify God with that name (1 Peter 4:16).
People who are ashamed of things in their lives may try to hide the truth, or may try to disown or disguise those things that embarrass them. That happens not only in personal matters, but in religion and churches as well. People may go to a church that they are in some ways ashamed of, and be hindered from sharing their faith because of it. Remember though, Paul didn’t believe or teach that the power of God for salvation was in an exhilarating church music program or a high tech evangelistic program, or an eloquent speaker on a Sunday morning, or just the right set of handouts or the right program or person of any sort at all. Those things really are all stuff that Paul disavowed in terms of weak “wisdom” and “clever speech” (1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5) which were not a part of the gospel, not the power of God, but of the world. It is the gospel, the proclamation of the cross of Christ, the truth that Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead and ascended to the throne of God, that is the power of God for salvation. It is the gospel that Christians today, like Paul and Timothy and Peter long ago, need to uphold unashamed and testify to, and that everyone needs to believe. There is no substitute for the gospel, no useful augmentation of it, no power for salvation apart from it. Say it together with Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes.”