Daily Devotional 6-18-16

NO MAN TO BE ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

Rom. 1:16. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.

THE Epistle to the Romans, though first in order, is by no means first in point of time; several having, in fact, been written before it. But in respect of importance, it justly deserves to take the lead of all the others. There is no other that is so full and comprehensive on the great subject of a sinner’s justification before God; no other so orderly in its arrangement, or so argumentative in its statement; and perhaps no other that is, on the whole, so instructive. It was written to the Church at Rome, which, though not planted by St. Paul, had a distinguished place in his regard. He had long wished to visit that Church, but had been prevented, by a variety of circumstances, from carrying his purpose into execution. Now however he announced his intention of going to them the first opportunity, being desirous of “having some fruit among them even as he had had among other Gentiles.” He had reason indeed to expect, that, in that opulent city, the abode of so many great and learned men, his ministrations would excite no small measure of contempt: but “he was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ;” nor did he think he had any occasion to be ashamed of it; since “it was, and would be, the power of God to the salvation of all who received it in faith.” It were well if all who profess to believe the Gospel, were likeminded with him in this particular: but there are multitudes who, notwithstanding they call themselves Christians, are in reality ashamed of the Gospel. That we may assist such persons in discovering their own character, and induce them to walk worthy of their holy profession, we shall shew,

I. When we may be said to be ashamed of the Gospel—

Few perhaps imagine that any such evil is imputable to them: but they, in fact, are guilty of it, who, through fear of that disgrace which attaches to the Gospel, are deterred,

1. From seeking instruction in it—

[Many, from what they have seen and heard of the effects of the Gospel, have a secret conviction that it has an excellence far beyond any they have hitherto discovered: and they would be glad to be better instructed in it: but they dare not go where it is more fully and plainly set forth, because of the odium to which they will expose themselves. They are aware that the very circumstance of attending upon the ministry of one who is stigmatized as evangelical, will tend to fix a stigma on their names also, and to produce an apprehension in the minds of their friends, that they are beginning to favour these obnoxious tenets. If the same doctrines were delivered in a church, where they might attend without suspicion, they would gladly avail themselves of the opportunity to hear them: but, if any sacrifice of character is to be made in order to get instruction, they will rather lose the benefit, than purchase it at such a price. Even a religious book, should it happen to be in their hands when a friend unexpectedly calls in upon them, is put away in haste, lest it should draw down a measure of disgrace upon them. Even the Bible itself they would be afraid to have seen upon their table, if they were supposed to be reading it with a view to the welfare of their souls. I ask then, Whence does all this proceed? and what does it argue, but that they are ashamed of the Gospel of Christ? They have none of these feelings in reference to other places of worship, or to other books, no, not even to plays and novels: it is plain therefore that the Gospel is that which creates the offence; and that the dread of the odium attached to it diverts them from prosecuting the knowledge of it. Such persons may obtain mercy of the Lord, even as did Nicodemus, whose children they are; yea, they may, like him, become distinguished ornaments of the Gospel: but they are in great danger lest God give them over to their unworthy fears, and leave them to “perish for lack of knowledge.”]

2. From making an open profession of it—

[After that men have attained the knowledge of the truth, the same evil principle frequently operates in their hearts, to make them ashamed of confessing it. They see that the followers of Christ are still at this day, no less than in the Apostolic age, “a sect that is everywhere spoken against;” and they cannot bring their minds to participate their reproach. They would partake of the blessings of the Gospel, without “partaking of its affliction:” they would enjoy their Lord’s crown, but not bear his cross. But such cowardice is expressly designated as a being “ashamed of the Gospelb;” and it will assuredly rob them of all the advantages which they desire to possess. If they would be Christ’s disciples indeed, they must “deny themselves, and take up their cross daily, and follow Christ.” Like Moses, they must “choose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures in Egypt;” they must not be contented with honouring Christ in secret, but must “follow him without the camp bearing his reproache.” Indeed it is not reputation merely that they must be willing to sacrifice, but life also, for Christ’s sake: and, if they stop short of this, they “lose their souls” for ever. In some respects these are in a worse state than they of whom we have before spoken; because they sin against greater light and knowledge, and are guilty of infinitely greater ingratitude towards their Lord, whose love and mercy they inwardly acknowledge, and from whom they expect all the blessings of grace and glory. To these therefore our Lord speaks in very awful terms, and warns them, that as they are ashamed of him, and deny him, “he will be ashamed of them, and deny them, in the presence of his Father and his holy angels.” “The fearful, no less than the unbelieving,” will have their portion in the lake of fire at the last dayh. “If we will not suffer with Christ, we cannot reign with him.” “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; but with the mouth confession is made, and must be made, unto salvationk.”]

3. From walking worthy of it—

[Whilst the principles of the Gospel are by the world at large accounted “foolishness,” the practice enjoined by it is no less offensive to them, on account of its contrariety to all the desires and habits of the carnal mind. Hence they who profess the Gospel are often led into compliances which are unsuitable to their high calling, and dishonourable to their profession. Under the idea of “becoming all things to all men” they belie their consciences, and betray the cause which they are pledged to serve. They forget that Paul’s compliances were to save others; whilst theirs are only to screen themselves. But this is “to put their light under a bushel,” when their duty is “to make it shine before men.” They are “not to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to reprove themo,” and, like Noah, to “condemn that world” which sets itself against the Majesty of heaven. Instead of “following a multitude to do evil,” the Christian is to consider himself as set by God to be “a light in the world,” that he may “hold forth to others, in the whole of his spirit and conduct, the word of lifeq.” And all who are kept by fear from thus adorning the Gospel, will be numbered amongst hypocrites and dissemblers with God. If a den of lions were to be the recompence of our fidelity to God, we are not to be intimidated; we are not to be ashameds. The Lord Jesus Christ “endured the cross, and despised the shame” for us; and we must brave contempt and death in their most terrific forms for him.]

Thus all who are deterred from “following the Lord fully,” are, in fact, “ashamed of Christ.” But how unreasonable this conduct is, will appear, whilst we shew,

II. Why we should not be so—

Certainly, if any one might reasonably give way to shame, Paul might, when he contemplated the preaching of the Gospel at Rome. For as Rome was the seat of wealth and science, the preaching of the cross was likely to be peculiarly offensive to them, inasmuch as it poured contempt on all that was valued there, and required that they should place all their hopes for time and eternity on a poor despised Jew, who had suffered the most ignominious of all deaths from the hands of his own countrymen. But Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel; nor had he any real reason to be so: for,

1. It is a revelation of God’s grace to man—

[A wonderful mystery it is; a mystery which all “the angels of heaven desire to look into,” and which, as an expression of God’s good-will to man, brings the highest possible glory to God himself. In it a way of salvation is provided for fallen man; a way exactly suited to man’s necessities, and at the same time displaying in perfect harmony all the perfections of the Godhead. It exhibits the Father sending his only dear Son to take upon him our nature, and to “bear our sins in his own body on the tree.” It represents the co-equal, co-eternal Son of God actually fulfilling that very office, and “reconciling us to God by his own blood.” It sets forth also the Holy Spirit, the third Person in the ever blessed Trinity, undertaking to apply that salvation to the souls of men, and by his almighty power to render them “meet for the inheritance” prepared for them.

Now I would ask, What is here to be ashamed of? Is that, in which all “the wisdom of God, and the power of God,” are concentrated and displayed, an object which we should blush to acknowledge and confess? Is that, which is the one theme of adoration and thanksgiving to all the hosts of heaven, fit to be disowned by man on earth, so that the very mention of it shall suffuse his face with shame? Shall sin, in all its varied forms, stalk abroad with unblushing effrontery, and this glorious mystery be veiled for fear of man’s reproach? Abhorred be the thought! Let the man that has ever been ashamed of the Gospel, be ashamed of his own extreme folly and impiety: and let that which is so glorious in the eyes of all the heavenly hosts, be henceforth glorious in our eyes; and let us “count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of itx.”]

2. It is God’s instrument for the salvation of a ruined world—

[Look back, and see what it is that has been the means of saving so many myriads of our fellow-creatures, when of the fallen angels not so much as one has ever been saved? What saved Adam, but the Gospel, which promised that “the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head?” What saved Abraham, but the Gospel, which was preached to him in these words; “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed?” Could you go up to the third heavens, and hear, as Paul did, the songs of the whole heavenly choir, you would hear but one note amongst them all, ascribing “salvation to God and to the Lamb for ever.” Is this then a subject for us to be ashamed of? Shall we be ashamed of that, which alone has put a difference between us and devils? of that, which is “the rod of God’s strength,” whereby he has brought millions, through seas of difficulty, to the full enjoyment of the heavenly Canaan? The brazen serpent that healed the Israelites in the wilderness, though it was only a piece of brass, became an object of idolatrous regard: and shall we make “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God an object of shame and contempt? If we marvel at them for giving God’s honour to a piece of brass, what wonder must it create amongst all the heavenly hosts, that any creature, to whom the Gospel of salvation comes, should treat it but with the profoundest veneration, and the most ardent gratitude!]

3. It is actually effectual for the salvation of every one that believeth—

[Never did it fail in any instance: it is equally effectual for “Jew or Gentile,” and for the vilest, as well as the best, of the human race. It will leave none under the guilt and condemnation of their sins, none under the power and pollution of them. The righteousness which it provides for sinners is so pure and perfect, that, when clothed in it, they stand before God without spot or blemish. The grace treasured up for them in their living Head is so abundant, that the weakest of mankind, even though he be opposed by all the hosts of hell, shall find it sufficient for him. It will not bring him out of six difficulties, and leave him to perish in the seventh; but “will keep him to the endz,” and suffer “nothing to pluck him out of his Redeemer’s hands.” Is this then a thing to be ashamed of? and shall they be ashamed of it who profess to expect salvation by it? Methinks, a man must be almost as destitute of reason as of piety, who can account it any ground for blushing, that he loves, and admires, and glories in the cross of Christ; yea, and determines never to his latest hour to glory in any thing else.]

Address—

1. Let not any of you then be ashamed of the Gospel—

[Let not the rich; for it will make you richer than ten thousand worlds: “the riches of Christ are absolutely un-searchable.” Let not the poor; for it raises them to an equality with the greatest on earth, and gives them crowns and kingdoms for their inheritance. Let not the learned be ashamed of it; for in it is contained “the manifold wisdom of God;” and even angels are made wiser by the revelation of it to the Church. Let not the unlearned; for it will “make them wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Let not any thus dishonour it, till they cease to need its blessings, or have found a substitute worthy to supersede it. God is “not ashamed to be called our God:” O! be not ye ashamed to become, and to be called, his people.]

2. Let not the Gospel be ashamed of you—

[Many, alas! who profess to love the Gospel, are in their conduct a disgrace to it. Their pride, their passion, their worldly-mindedness, perhaps too their want of truth and honesty, together with a variety of other evils predominant in them, cause “the way of truth to be evil spoken of,” and “the very name of God to be blasphemed.” In every age, and in every Church, such instances occur; and lamentable it is to say, that no people are more unconscious of their guilt than they. It is on account of such persons that our Lord says, “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come: but woe unto him by whom the offence cometh: it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were cast into the depths of the seah.” Look to it then, ye professors of godliness, that this tremendous evil be not imputable to you: and endeavour so to walk, “that the adversary may have no evil thing to say of you,” and “that they may be ashamed, who falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.”]

Simeon, C. (1833). Horae Homileticae: Romans (Vol. 15, pp. 9–15). London: Holdsworth and Ball.