Yesterday morning, in our series through Romans, I was able to preach the first of two sermons on Romans 1:16. The focus of the sermon was the reality of Paul’s love for the gospel bringing him to openly rejoice and promote it in the face of persecution and hostile opposition. Paul was certainly not ashamed of the gospel, but what about us? We live in a prideful society where people are proud of their automobiles, their clothing, and their accomplishments in business or athletics. But it’s becoming less of an acceptable thing in our society to be proud of our connection to Jesus Christ.
Paul’s Positive Pride in the Gospel
Paul could have stated that he was proud of the gospel or happy in the gospel, but instead, he used a negative statement to point out his positive pride. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Paul had been saved by Jesus while on his way to Damascus. Paul understood what it was like to be confused in religion, lost in sin, and under the wrath of God. So, Paul found his ultimate joy and peace in the fact that Jesus had rescued him from the pit of despair and redeemed him. Paul woke up that morning not planning to be saved—but it was Jesus who sought Paul and his life was never the same. What is this gospel that Paul was not ashamed of? Robert Haldane explains:
This Gospel, then, which Paul was ready to preach, and of which he was not ashamed, was the Gospel of God concerning His Son. The term Gospel, which signifies glad tidings, is taken from Isaiah 52:7, and 61:1, where the Messiah is introduced as saying, “The Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings.” 
Paul was not only saved by Jesus—he was also called to be an apostle. The office of an apostle was one of great responsibility—used during the building of the early church to announce the salvation of Jesus Christ and to endure the challenges of Jew and Gentile interaction in the church, persecution from the outside, and perversion of the gospel from within. Paul took his role as an apostle seriously and was not ashamed of the banner of the gospel. He announced far and wide the need for repentance and submission to Jesus.
Powerful Joy Killers in Paul’s Day
Christians were despised in Paul’s day. The climate toward Christianity was not one of great respect. In many cases, followers of Jesus were looked upon as the lowest of society. Jesus had warned about such problems as he spoke to his followers before his crucifixion. Jesus said the following:
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours (John 15:18-20).
When we consider how the inner circle of Jesus died, it proves the prophecy of Jesus to be true. Almost every single disciple who was part of the inner circle of Jesus died a horrible and painful death. From crucifixion to mock the fact that they followed after Jesus to being placed in a basin of boiling oil—each man endured the sufferings of Jesus with joy considering it an honor to endure such sufferings.
Paul was not only a chosen instrument for preaching, he was also chosen to suffer for Jesus (Acts 20:29-30). A survey of Paul’s ministry will show you exactly how much he suffered. In his own words, Paul provides a summary in his letter to the church in Corinth (2 Cor. 11:24-27):
- Five different times Jews whipped him with 39 stripes
- Three times he was beaten with rods.
- One time he was stoned, dragged out of the city, and forsaken as dead.
- Three times he suffered shipwreck. A night and a day he spend in the deep.
- Perils of waters – Floods or rivers as he journeyed.
- Perils of robbers – those who would rob him as he was on his journey.
- Perils by his own country men – his own people rejected him.
- Perils by the heathen – the lost and unregenerate wicked ones – persecuted.
- Perils in the city – as he would travel to the city to work or buy food.
- Perils in the wilderness – animals or violent people.
- Perils in the sea – as he was shipwrecked and faced storms etc..
- Perils among false brethren – those who claimed to be Christians.
Paul would later explain in his letter to the church in Rome (Rom. 8:18) that the sufferings of this present world cannot compare to the glory that is yet to be revealed to those who follow Jesus and suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). The whole world viewed Christianity as a helpless, weak, and failed religion. Yet, Paul embraced the bloody cross of Jesus without shame. The world looked to the cross as utter foolishness, but not Paul.
What about you? Are you ashamed of Jesus?
- Robert Haldane, An Exposition of Romans, electronic ed. (Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1996), 55.