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Romans 1:1-17

NO SHAME
 
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg


Romans 1:1-17 (NIV)  Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God  the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David,  and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.  Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.  And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:  
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.  God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you  in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you. 
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong   that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.  I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. 
I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.  That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. 
I am 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 a 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." 

The most embarrassing moments, each of us has a few, one or two that stand out, we cringe at them when we remember them and the reason why we cringe is because we would like to have others see us in a better light, we would like others to see our unflawed side, our best profile.  We would like to keep our most embarrassing moments private - after all, we are ashamed of them.

I'm sure too illustrations will suffice, I am also sure that most of us can add equally embarrassing moments from our own stories.  These two have to do with church services, I suspect, sitting in those pews, they might hit home the best.

In excess of 10 years ago, my wife and I were attending a worship service.  The preacher was well into his sermon, points were being highlighted, our focus and serious attention were on his wise words.  Behind us, a man sneezed, and believe it or not, the green goo flew over my wife's shoulder onto the back of the bench in front of us, and for the remainder of the sermon, we could hardly contain ourselves as the goo slowly drooled its way down the back of the pew.  From the point on, we knew the absolute necessity of Judy having a good supply of Cleanex in her purse.  Telling the story, I still want to hide it for the sake of the poor guy who sneezed.

But that was not the worst, the most embarrassing moment happened to me on the pulpit - in Saskatoon, it was a morning service.  I had a serious sinuous infection, but I choose to lead the service anyways, I could tolerate the headache.  One of our children was sick, so Judy was not at the service.  What happened in the middle of my sermon, I say with trepidation.  One of my sinuses which had a lot of pressure in it suddenly decided to explode sending mucous shooting from my nose, in front of an entire congregation.  I had no Cleanex.  And Judy's purse was not in church!  You know how embarrassing it is to have to ask a congregation for not a few Cleanexes!  That is irreversible embarrassment, permanent shame.  To say the least, I now know the absolute necessity of either having cleanex in the pulpit or in my bible.  Just in case.

Now if you used to have a high opinion of me, I have probably taken that down a notch or two.  I can tell you more embarrassing stories, but my ego can only take so much beating in one day.  I'm as human as the person sitting in your skin, and like you, there are some things I would like to hide and I too need all the help I can get, and I have received some good help for my sinuses from one of the doctors here in Thunder Bay, Dr. Turner.

Now consider this.  If I had the pretense of being better than the rest of us here, it would have been stupid to admit my failings, and it would have been stupid to admit to the help I have received.  I should have been more interested in maintaining my good image.  I think by now I have thrown pretense to the wind.  You might say I have no shame!

Paul also had no shame.  He said in verse 16 "I am 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 a righteousness from God is revealed."

Why is it that Paul had no shame about the gospel?  He gives two reasons in our text - first - because it is the power of God for salvation, and second, because in it, a righteousness from God is revealed.  In both of these reasons, Paul is speaking of the cure, the solution to a prior condition, he is telling us that help can be received for a prior problem.  And the reason Paul is not ashamed of the cure is because when it comes to the problem, Paul has no shame either.  If you have your bibles open, notice the very next verse, verse 18 - "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wicked of men who suppress the truth by the wickedness."  Understand that when Paul talks about godlessness and wickedness, he is talking about himself as much as he is talking about anyone else.  In fact, in the rest of chapter 1, all of chapter 2, and then chapter 3, Paul is describing in the most embarrassing detail the human condition, his condition, my condition, your condition.  Regarding our wickedness, Paul has no shame.  Listen to his no shame analysis of himself, and you, and me from Romans 3:

"There is no one righteous, not even one; 
11 there is no one who understands, 
no one who seeks God. 
12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; 
there is no one who does good, not even one." 
13 "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." 
"The poison of vipers is on their lips." 
14 "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." 
15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; 
16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 
17 and the way of peace they do not know." 
18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes." 

That's a no shame description of me and you and Paul - but the problem with the condition is that its consequence is the wrath of God!   The soul that sins shall die.  The consequence of our condition is wrath driven separation from the life giving presence of God.  The consequence of our depraved condition is the curse, which when it is fulfilled brings death and hell.  It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.  Now I know that there are many people, probably some people here today to, who feel that God should not be angry at them, after all, they have not been that bad!  Paul's no shame analysis of our condition is that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, with no exceptions, himself included.  He called himself, boasted that he was the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  This description applied to him.  No shame, no embarrassment!  Paul, like all of us here needed to be saved from the wrath of God.

It was because he was not ashamed of the condition that he was not ashamed of the cure.

All of us know this intuitively.  Let's say that we have a sickness that is embarrassing, maybe a mental difficulty, or a plumbing problem.  First of all we are reluctant to tell others about it.  And when we receive help that cures us, we are reluctant to tell others of the help we received because in doing so we are admitting the problem.  If we are without shame about the problem, we will be without shame about the cure.

I am 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 a righteousness from God is revealed.

The gospel, the good news is God's power to save us from the wrath of God.  Of this power, don't have a weak picture in your mind.  The word that Paul uses is the word "dunamis," from which we get the word dynamite.  The gospel has the power to blow away the wrath of God.  It removes it from the picture all together.  And for Paul, our pride in the gospel is because it is the only good news that has the power to deal with the wrath of God.

Oh yes there are other religions, there is Judaism which boasts a relationship with God based on the promises God gave to Abraham.  But throughout the scripture, we see repeatedly the wrath of God burn against them, we see judgement role.  Their relationship does not save them from the wrath of God.

There is Buddhism which celebrates moderation, and yes it can help some people become nice, well rounded individuals - it doesn't deal with the wrath of God. 

There is Hinduism which honors self negation, and we might honour those like Gandhi who denied themselves from great human causes, but Hinduism doesn't deal with the wrath of God. 

There is Islam which honors law and purity, it makes for the better part law abiding people, but it does not deal with the wrath of God against our sin.  The Islamic faith believes that every person has two angels, one recording the things that we do wrong and the other recording the things that we do right, and our eternal destination will be determined by who has the longest list.  But nowhere does it deal with the wrath of God.  And Paul's point is that we need to be saved from the wrath of God.  And he knew the only good news that had the power to blow the wrath of God away from us!

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:

Paul had no shame about his sinful condition, he had no shame about the wrath of God, he had no shame about the gospel which has the power to save us from the wrath of God - but now the question is, how does the gospel save us from the wrath of God?  Paul gives the answer in verse 17:

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed.

This righteousness is the only righteousness that pleases God.  Yes we are good people, but the righteousness that God is looking for is flawless.  We might think that the good in us far outweighs the bad, but the righteousness that God is looking for has no hint of sin in it.  God is a Holy, Holy, Holy, and he will have nothing to do with that which is unholy.  God and even a pinch of sin do not mix.  Paul, who one time calls himself the worst of sinners, also says in Philippians 3 that with regard to being a good person, he was the best.  Listen to these words

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;  6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. 
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ  9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

This righteousness deals with the wrath of God.  It is perfect, it is flawless, in it God is well pleased.  Our eternal destination is determined by whether or not we have this righteousness.

How is it then that we come to have this righteousness that saves us from the wrath of God?

By believing in Jesus Christ, by placing our faith, our trust in Jesus alone for our salvation.  There is a very simple reason for that  - you might remember the words of the Father at Jesus baptism and at the transfiguration - these words - "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased."  Jesus, in his life, even through death on a cross was perfectly obedient to his Father in heaven.  There was no flaw in his righteousness.  The wrath of God was not on him - and yet, he died, he bore the curse of the wrath of God on the tree, but if not for him, then who?  The answer is Paul, and me, and you.  Jesus, in whom God is well pleased, without sin, took upon himself the wrath of God, so that we would not be consumed by the wrath of God.  And what belongs to Jesus becomes ours, and what is ours becomes Jesus' by faith.  Something like marriage, when two become one, their debts and assets belong to both.  That's why faith involves commitment to Jesus.  When we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, our wrongs, our unrighteousness, our sins become his, and he bore the wrath of God for them on the cross.  When we believe in the Lord Jesus, his righteousness becomes ours, given freely, and because of that righteousness, the Father now says - behold my children, in whom I am well pleased.  

Romans 5:9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!  10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Romans 1:16 I am 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.  17 For in the gospel a 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." 
 

So today, I call you to faith - believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.  

There are some here today who don't understand that call.  Maybe you're one of them.  Coming to church is part of living a good wholesome life style or a system of beliefs that upholds a good strong moral lifestyle.  Maybe the moral lessons learned in Sunday School will be good for your kids.  Maybe coming to church is part of a learned behavior that has little meaning besides social relationships.   But if these are the reason you come to church, the wrath of God still burns white hot against you, you are destined for hell.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.

I appeal to you, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!  Let me say that without shame!  There is no other way to be saved.  Your goodness and righteousness will not do.  Consider your goodness, your moral equity, your theological correctness garbage for the sake of knowing Christ, and recieving from him, and being joined to him, being in Christ, a righteousness that is by faith, from first to last.  Those who are going to heaven live by faith.   


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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