As a child, raised in the church, the idea of being a missionary was shoved down our throats constantly. Being a missionary meant preaching, trying to convert all the people you came in contact with, and because most of these people did not go to our church, they were obviously lost and we had the exhortation to save their souls. (You can see a problem with that attitude I hope.)
At one church, under pressure from a friend and the peer group, I became a part of the Sunday evening visitor contact team. To do this, I had to go through the short training that our church had put together; they called it the Roman road; you know, Romans 3:16 and others, where it says, God so loved the world and so on. I hated the home visits for the most part with one exception. A lady had filled out a card and asked for prayer; she was extremely heavy and had difficulty walking. Because she was one of our visits, I developed a friendship and relationship with her and her family and went back to visit several more times on my own.
Overall, my public speaking ability was greatly hampered by introversion and childhood insecurities. We frequently got hard nudges from pastors and guest speakers, as they tried to push us to be exactly like them.
I, for the most part, got over my insecurities, however, on occasions I still feel twinges of fear trying to assert its control over me. Fortunately, I have learned to conquer fears grip. One of those occasions came as I sat with a group of about 80 men to study at a church I was attending. The group leader got up and started introducing the speaker, saying how much he loved this guy, and then he called my name. I had no idea that we were that close. As I think back on that period of time I was also in a Celebrate Recovery group, and this particular leader would attend on occasions; maybe he heard me speak, which I did twice. Unannounced, with no intentional preparation, I chose to act like I knew what I was doing. In actuality, I had done the teaching just two days before on Sunday morning, so it was still reasonably fresh in my mind. I walked away from that moment much like Paul as he opens this next section of Romans, unashamed.
Romans 1:16-17 NLT For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. (17) This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
- For I am not ashamed –
Ashamed is the Greek word epaischunomai, and means to feel shame for something: or to be ashamed. The Webster’s dictionary explanation of ashamed goes like this: To be affected by shame; abashed or confused by guilt or a conviction of some criminal action or indecorous conduct, or by the exposure of some gross errors or misconduct, which the person is conscious must be wrong, and which tends to impair his honor or reputation.
Had Paul broken any laws of the local government? No, but he was going against the grain of the religious system. In heavily populated Jewish communities, the Synagogue elders or council upheld the law of Moses. Since there were laws that restricted work on the Sabbath, then he could have been punished for that, but as a rule, if you know Paul’s story, you don’t see him breaking Sabbath laws.
Paul was an expert in the law of Moses prior to preaching this good news about Jesus as the Messiah. Teaching about, Jesus the Messiah, now that could have got him in trouble, as the majority of the Jewish community submitted to the council elders and too would have seen Paul as blasphemous for preaching about a grace-filled life in Jesus. After all, their hope, as a Jew, was wrapped up in sacrifices.
This teaching of grace alone would have put Paul at odds with the Jewish councils, for there was an entire economy wrapped up in the sacrificial temple system. In time we do find Paul being attacked by an angry mob for that very thing, as this good news Paul preached set some of those who worshiped idols free; these were the same idols that many of the townsfolk stopped buying and therefore impacted a local economy.
So, if Paul is affected by shame; confused by guilt, or has a conviction of some criminal action, it seems rather apparent that it would have been at the hands of the Jewish religious community. Paul did nothing to draw feelings or guilt upon himself in any manner.
- Of this Good News about Christ.
Prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus, the only thing Paul knew about Jesus was what he witnessed from the sidelines, as the Synagogue elders cried out for the Romans to crucify Jesus. Saul, as we would have known him then, probably watched as they hung Jesus on the cross. He most likely did not know that Jesus said he would rise again. Paul would not have been aware of the numerous miracles that Jesus performed; nor did he know or experience the unique relationship Jesus had with the Father God. (Why say unique, because no one spoke to the Father, nor called Him Father, the way Jesus did.)
So all that Paul learned of this grace either came from the vision on the Damascus road, or the three years that he spent seeking God’s face in Arabia. Consider how Saul/Paul was a master of the Law and the Prophets; in practicality, he was working on his Doctorate when the Lord found him that day (They did not have a Doctoral system of education.) That means Paul finished his education in the deserts of the Sinai peninsula, the same deserts that Moses had to wander in, and, if all that Paul preached was in God’s eyes, reworked information, then Paul found the grace and mercy that he taught in what many perceive as the most restrictive books in the Bible. (This restrictiveness is why many will not touch the Old Testament.)
- It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.
The phrase, it is, speaks of the Good News about Christ. If time permits and God is willing, we will eventually discuss all that the Good News/power of Christ entails. Since we have Bibles, something that neither Paul nor the early church had, we have God’s Word in a nicely packaged form. If you are like me, then you have concordances and can quickly look up the most straightforward of words and find intricacies you did not know existed. And, you can cross-reference items such as the phrase “it is the power of God at work.” That cross-reference work will lead you to passages like you see below.
While Jeremiah 23:29 speaks of power, the mercy and grace evade me. NASB “Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?
This next one is deep. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 NLT So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended, and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. (24) But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
In pondering these two verses, I see that the truth is all wrapped up in Jesus submission to the cross. Christ is the power and wisdom of God, that is a lot, and it is all that I need to understand, but that is probably not going to happen in the few pages I allow myself to work with.
In case you missed it, this process of understanding happens among those called by God to salvation. This means you.
Paul tells us in Romans 1:17 NLT, that –
- This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight.
Whether it is instantaneous, or after a while, we are made righteous. What does that word righteous mean? Webster’s dictionary tells us that it means just; accordant to the divine law. Applied to persons, it denotes one who is holy in heart, and observant of the divine commands in practice; as a righteous man. Since we are born broken thanks to Adam’s treason, it would be impossible for us to attain any righteousness unless something extraordinary took place. Well, something did take place, and now we back to Christ crucified. Christ’s willing submission paid the price that our sin/brokenness demanded; it demanded our death, but He died in our place and took the penalty for that sin away.
Are you kidding me, if God made us right, then that means I am a free man?
Well, yes and no. Yes, your price was paid, but much like my adoption agency scenario, in which God comes and pays for all of us to go home with him. The No side of this is that we still, in a sense, have to get off our lazy butts, put down the game controller and sign the paperwork that demonstrates our willingness to go with Him. There is no paperwork in God’s plan, as acceptance comes in the form of you, by faith, asking Him to take over your life and the mess you have made with it. If this statement were to change anything, it should change the way we look at, and speak to people, for they are all loved, welcomed, and forgiven by the Father.
- This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
There is nothing you can do to make yourself righteous. I know, there are many religions that advocate works, such as Islam, but even they would not dare guarantee that you can obtain right standing with their god. It works this way in virtually every religion but Christianity. Sadly, because of false teachings and poor leadership you can find religious legalism in Christianity as well.
An example of this legalism came a couple of years ago at a Sunday evening service I attended at a Christian church. The Pastor that evening said, if you have had a miracle in your life, then come forward so that you can pray for others; so I did. As expected no one came to me, so as I stood there twiddling my thumbs, the spirit of the Lord said to me, that lady. I pointed at her and motioned for her to come down front. There was, of course, some hesitancy as I am told that I can be seen as a big, somewhat scary man, but as I waited the Holy Spirit said, go get them. By this time she was gathering her husband and others to go with her. We all prayed as the Holy Spirit gave me the words to say to them. We cried, hugged and had a great time, and then they returned to their seats. Only moments later this tall, angry lady, came charging over to me and demanded to know who gave me permission to pray over people. I know what I wanted to say, like did you listen to anything the Pastor said? But I did not. I merely pointed to the Pastor and said, he did. She huffed and rattled on about classes that must be attended. I never attended those classes and no longer participate in that church. She, on the other hand, was laid off.
Its all through faith and I have faith in the one who sent me. That faith also anchors me in the hope of an eternity of peace and joy with Him. I so long for that.