“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.”
The degree to which we are ashamed of the gospel is the degree to which our heart depends upon our own efforts to qualify us. Our shame is parallel to our dependence upon our own works to prove our acceptance, and believe that it is our righteousness that saves us.
The central facet of the gospel is the exchange of righteousness for unrighteousness – between the righteous God and unrighteous humans. The primary truth that is communicated in the gospel is that we are sinners who can do nothing to earn God’s favor and acceptance, and thereby we are unrighteous and so are deserving of God’s anger, wrath and judgment. But in the gospel we learn that God has made a way to take away our unrighteousness (atonement) and give us the righteousness that we need in order to be accepted in his sight (justification).
But here, we deal with shame and fear. We are filled with these emotions when it comes to sharing with others this very central truth. Shame comes when we do not think and believe what we say and claim to be true, to actually to be so. We are ashamed because inside we are not truly confident in its truth. We waver in the truth that the righteousness that we so desperately need to have and the unrighteousness that we so desperately need to be removed is provided by someone else. Deep down, behind all the layers of fear, is the most central element of fear – the undoing of our own efforts to make us acceptable. This fear at its core rejects that righteousness is provided by someone else, namely, Christ, and believes that we, in our own power and strength, can provide this.
The reason Paul was not ashamed of the gospel is because he most assuredly believe that the gospel, and the gospel alone, is the power of God for salvation. Paul was not ashamed because he saw his utter and total inability to provide for himself the righteousness that he so desperately needed. There was no shame for Paul because he actually believe the gospel to be so. Paul clearly saw and believed that it is God’s power alone that saves. There is nothing that Paul can do whatsoever to save himself. It is God’s power set against my own power to save myself.
So it appears that shame for the gospel comes when you fundamentally see that your salvation depends upon your own power to provide the righteousness that you need. Underneath all of the fear and shame that occurs in the heart is a heart that says, “I am ashamed of this message because I don’t really believe it – at least there are parts of me that don’t really believe it. I have not yet come to own this with ‘all my heart, all my soul, and all my strength’. There are parts of me that thinks that if I try hard enough I can actually remove my own unrighteousness and provide my own righteousness.” That’s why the heart fears – it is afraid of sharing a message that contradicts its most fundamental belief – its own power.
As was said, the central facet upon which all this turns is righteousness. Understanding righteousness is crucial for understanding, confronting and overcoming shame. What is righteousness? It is that quality that makes you acceptable in God’s sight. Righteousness is that quality that allows you to stand before God and Him not cast you out or consume you. And it is in the gospel that we see that this righteousness – that quality that we so desperately need – provided.
In the gospel we encounter Jesus Christ, the one who provides this righteousness. He provides this righteousness by living righteously, in obedience to God where we have failed, and by taking our unrighteousness upon him in his death. The gospel shows us that what makes us acceptable before God is not our own power to do what we think makes us acceptable or even do what the bible demands (the Law) to make us acceptable. Instead, it is our coming to Jesus and finding there perfect righteousness, trusting that he has lived as we ought to have lived, and seeing our unrighteousness being laid upon him and judged. We must grasp that the reason we can stand before God is because Christ stands before God. The perfect man stands in the place of imperfect men. The perfect righteousness stands in the place of unrighteousness. As this truth is rightly and truly grasped, shame in increasing degree will be dispelled from our hearts.
End Part 1