In his letter to Christians in Rome Paul states that he is not ashamed.  To be more precise, he says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (Romans i.16).

Put another way, he asserts that he is not embarrassed by the good news about Jesus Christ.  To see just why  he  does not shy awayfrom making it known we need to see what the good news is.  It concerns what God has provided for you and me.

Before I tell you what God has done I have to tell you about yourself and all other people.  If I fail to start there I risk leaving you unclear about what the gospel of God is.

So let me tell you what Paul says about mankind.  It is not a happy message.  It will not cheer you up if you are unhappy.  Nor is it a message that lets the happy stay happy.

The first point to note is that, by nature, we suppress the truth.  That is, the truth about God.  As we look at ourselves and what exists around us, Paul argues, two facts emerge.

One is that there is something amazing about the universe and everything in it.  The words complex, finely tuned, and delicately balanced are appropriate.  They indicate that what we see was designed, created and placed.  More than that, it appears to be held in place.  Consider, for example the tides and stars.  We can work out when the next high or low tide will be; what the orbit of each planet will be; and when the next lunar or solar eclipse will take place.

This tells us that there must be a designer.  It also tells us that the designer must be powerful.  And that the Creator must exist outside or beyond time and space.

That is why Paul asserts that God’s:

“invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans i.20).

Although we know that God exists, we choose neither to honour or thank him.  And we are without excuse.  Protest as much as we may, the fact remains.  The evidence clearly points to the reality that, instead of being excited by the truth of God, we choose to suppress it.

The second point to note is that we are under God’s wrath.  He is displeased with us.  Moreover, our rebellion against him – for that is what it is – makes us subject to punishment.  The day of judgment shall come.  In the meantime you and I experience a foretaste of the punishment that will be endured for ever by those who live and die refusing to love God as their Lord and Saviour.

Hell is what you and I deserve.  And hell is what you and I shall endure if we die rejecting Jesus Christ.  But what is happening now?  How do we know that God is displeased with our disobedience?

Paul says that mankind has been given over by God to live and think and speak and act according to the understanding and longings that we have.  Three times Paul uses the term given over or delivered up (see Romans i.24, 26, 28).  And, very helpfully, he states clearly what mankind is given up to by God.Paul makes three statements.  They occur in quick succession.  They describe you, me, and every person.  There are no exceptions.  What Paul says is true of all who are not born again by the Holy Spirit.

He says that:

(1) you have been given over to be ruled by your desires (Romans i.24);

(2) you have been given over to be ruled by your dishonourable passions (Romans i.26); and

(3) you have been given over to be ruled by your debased thinking (Romans i.28).

Paul indicates that the whole of your being is affected by this judicial act of God.  And you will also note, I trust, that the punishment given by God perfectly matches your wrongs.  You think wrong thoughts.  And so you have wrong desires.  What is more, you give your passions free rein in the doing of wrong deeds.

How does God punish such rebellion?  By giving you over to thinking wrong thoughts, having wrong desires and expressing wrong passions.Let me summarise what Paul says about you, and all mankind.  You suppress the truth.  You reject God.  And, you are under God’s wrath.  Is there a way of escape?  Is your situation without hope?

There is hope.  The hope is the gospel of God.  That is why Paul says he is not ashamed of it.  What is the gospel?

It is about the righteousness of God (Romans i.17).  I need to define that term.  It can be taken to refer to the fact that God is righteous.  That is to say, he is both pure and perfect.  He never thinks a wrong thought or does a wrong deed.  There is not defect of any kind in him.

The term can also be taken to refer to the righteousness that God provides for mankind.  I have sought to show that you lack righteousness.  That must be so because, without Christ, you desire wrong things, think wrong things, and indulge your passions in doing wrong things.

To be acceptable to God you need to be righteous.  That you can never be in yourself.  You are in a state of rebellion and are given over to it just as you want.

But the good news God gives is this.  He tells you that he has provided a Righteous One whose righteousness he will account as yours the moment you believe.  The Righteous One he sent is Jesus Christ.  The Jesus, that is, who “was descended from David according to the flesh” (Romans i.3) and “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead (Romans i.4).

Jesus Christ was and is perfect and pure.  He was made just like us, except without sin.  He lived the perfect life you can never live.  He did that for sinners.  As the Perfect Man he is always acceptable to God.

The message of the gospel is that all who receive Christ Jesus have his righteousness credited to them.  That is so because, through receiving Christ they are united to him, never to be severed from him.  Thus when God looks upon a believer he sees a rebel clothed with the righteousness of Christ.  And because he is clothed with Christ’s righteousness he or she is accepted as righteous by God.  That is why Paul also asserts that this righteousness of God is “revealed from faith for faith” (Romans i.17).

You are called to have faith in Christ and to live your life by faith in Christ.  Without faith you can never please God.  But through faith in Christ you are acceptable to God for ever.

I trust you now see why Paul was not ashamed of the gospel.  And why he says it is, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans i.16).

Who am I? is the question at the head of this sheet.  God, through Paul, says that you are (1) a rebel who deserves to be banished from God’s presence for ever.  (2) You are a rebel who can find forgiveness through receiving Jesus Christ.  And (3) you are a rebel who, from the moment you receive Christ, will know the power of the Holy Spirit at work within you.

EPC  25 September 2016