Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
The context of Romans chapter one centers on the gospel’s power to save, and the foolishness of those who reject its teaching. Sadly, the majority have always abandoned God’s message. The Gentiles replaced the truth about God and His Will with paganism. Their religion became a creation of their own mind, and allowed them to do and live as they pleased. They “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” (Romans 1:25) Clearly this corrupted their religious practice and moral character. (Rom. 1:26-32)
Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” “I” signals a personal liability for one’s approach, conclusions and response to God’s revelation. We are going to face judgment individually, based on our actions and how we handle The Word. (2 Tim. 2:15)
You might think that no one would ever feel ashamed of the gospel, but that is not the case. Many religions no longer hold up God’s message about homosexuality, a woman’s role in the assembly, or matters of divorce and remarriage. Some Christians feel uncomfortable when challenged about their faith and doctrine. We don’t want to tell people they can’t reach heaven in denominations. There was no ambiguity in Paul’s teaching because he understood the gospel’s value and place in salvation, and neither should there be in ours.
Some may be afraid of what others will think if they stand firm in their convictions. Faith is all we have when it comes to religion. People who differ with us speak their mind, and those in error stand firm. If the misguided are fearless enough to speak up, why would we not do the same for truth? (2 Thess. 2:15)
People say “I can’t do it, but I am not going to tell others they can’t.” Or they may say, “I must do it, but I’m not going to tell others they must.” My conviction about right and wrong is my faith, and hopefully it’s based on an accurate understanding. (2 Tim. 2:15) Refusing to tell others what they must and must not do displays a week and unconvinced faith. (Acts 4:19-20) Clearly no one can force their beliefs on another, but that doesn’t mean you should keep silent or waver. God will judge those who do wrong.
If you decide an act is prohibited by God’s Word, your faith says it’s wrong. By believing the Bible commands an act, your faith says it must be done. Everyone has an opinion about what is right and wrong, so why would anyone say his firm convictions don’t matter? While it’s true a person’s understanding may be wrong, everyone should defend what they believe.
I believe it is wrong to use instruments of music in worship and I tell others the same. There’s no doubt in my mind that homosexuality is sin, and I want others to know the spiritual danger associated with the act. How can anyone leave the impression that it doesn’t matter if they’re firmly convicted?
The Bible also recognizes the possibility of not being sure about something. Perhaps you avoid an act only because you’re not fully persuaded it’s right. Or maybe you limit what you do because you are not certain that other ways are right. In both cases, the Bible teaches us to take the sure and safe path. If there is a clear way of doing something correctly, why would any sincere Christian want to chance going beyond God’s Word? The answer is they wouldn’t and they can’t because a pure heart ensures no chances taken. (Rom. 14:23)
I’ve never known anyone to condemn a cappella singing in worship, but the same is not true about using instruments. Some argue the Jews used instruments in the Old Testament, or the New Testament doesn’t forbid their use, or it just doesn’t matter. Since we are no longer under the Old Testament, what they did has no bearing on us. The New Testament only mentions singing, so we know God approves singing. For anyone who has honestly researched religious and secular history it’s clear the early church did not use instruments. They were introduced sometime in the six century and not widely used until much later. Based on all the evidence, I’m firmly convinced that instruments of music in worship come from man, not God. If people aren’t sure about an issue, they need to study more about authority and avoid any possibility of sin. They may choose to do it anyway, but you can’t encourage them or leave the impression that it does not matter.
God is indifferent on some matters, but not when He regulates the action. An example of this involves eating meat and vegetables. (Rom. 14) He has given both for our enjoyment. However, He does care about the potential problems associated with this issue. It’s wrong for us to mandate either the eating or not of these foods. We must teach that they’re allowed, but not required. God also expects us to show compassion when dealing with another’s conscience on matters of liberty.
Regrettably, many replace matters of the gospel and Divine rule with what they think is liberty. For example, may we divorce and remarry for any reason? The world says “yes” and denominations say “yes”, but Jesus says “no”. (Matt. 19:9) May we take part in the Lord’s Supper on any day of the week? Many think it’s a matter of liberty, and so God doesn’t care. However, Sunday is the only day mentioned in His Word. (Acts 20:7) If God gives a guideline we don’t have the liberty to do something else.
Now we come to the final point of this article. We need to identify the gospel because some try to excuse their unwillingness to stand firm based on an alleged distinction between gospel and doctrine. The logic goes something like this, everyone must be unyielding when it comes to faith in Christ, but doctrinal issues are less important. The Bible is clear about Jesus, but not so clear about the acts of worship or the church. We should not be dogmatic over doctrines that distinguish religious bodies, or the specifics beyond the four gospels. Does the Bible teach this distinction?
There is no doubt the gospel includes teaching about Christ and is often used in that sense. We call the four books about Jesus the four Gospels and with good reason because they speak about the “good news” of salvation. But that’s not all of it. Consider Paul was ready to preach the gospel to the Christians at Rome, but they had already received the message about Christ and had no need of the “gospel” in that sense. In Romans 16:25 he writes about the “gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ”. So the gospel and preaching Christ are not the same in this passage. In Galatians 2 Paul speaks about how those insisting on circumcision “were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel.” This was a clear reference to a doctrinal issue. So don’t be ashamed of the gospel by compromising parts of the New Testament.