Many of us are familiar with 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. (NKJV)
Why would Paul, inspired of the Spirit, say “I am not ashamed“?
Obviously, the Spirit selected that word “ashamed” for an important reason. It isn’t “I am not afraid of the Gospel” or “I am not intimidated by the Gospel”, but “I am not ashamed“. The problem of shame is brought to light.
Most of us have thought that the problem was being ashamed of the Gospel itself. That we are afraid to speak to others about the Gospel because we don’t want to look like “religious fanatics” or they won’t like us anymore. But the context of the following verses — indeed, chapters — opens up another possibility.Here’s what the next two verses say:
Verse 17: For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
Verse 18: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
Here we see two things:
- The righteousness of God
- The ungodliness and unrighteousness of men
Ungodly and unrighteous men in the face of a totally righteous God. The full dimensions of the ruin of ungodly and unrighteous man are revealed from verse 18 all the way through chapter 3 verse 20.
The end result of such ungodliness and unrighteousness is shame. When Adam and Eve first fell, their reaction before God was one of fear because of their nakedness (Gen 3:10). Shame. Our sinfulness, in the light of God’s pure, marvelous righteousness equals shame. This shame is as prevalent as the universality of sin and unrighteousness throughout the human race.
The problem of shame involving the Gospel is one of being dogged by our own inadequacy, sin and shame. That’s what holds us back from freely sharing the Gospel with others. We look at ourselves and say, “Who am I to tell this to others?” We look to our own unrighteousness and in shame think “someone else more righteous than I am should do it, not me.”
But the Gospel is not about our righteousness. It’s about God’s righteousness. There are two very important “for’s” in verses 16 and 17, giving the reason for not being ashamed of the Gospel:
for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”*
Here are the two reasons:
- The Gospel is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes”. “Power” in the Greek means “ability”. The Gospel is the ability of God to save. Now that answers our vast inability to be and do what is right.
- In the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed. That answers our ungodliness and unrighteousness.
At its core, the Gospel is not about us. It’s about God. His righteousness, His worthiness, His finished work in His Son, Jesus Christ. At the heart of the Gospel is Jesus Christ Himself. The Gospel is not about me, it’s about Jesus. We are not recommending sinners to ourselves, but to Christ.
Jesus Christ is our “wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30). Christian and sinner alike need Him. Evangelism isn’t about bragging about how great and righteous we are, but about how great and righteous Jesus is. And how our righteousness and godliness is found in another person, the Lord Jesus Christ.
That’s why verse 17 says that this righteousness of God is by faith. This means that it’s beyond ourselves. Faith implies dependence on another. Romans 4:16 says that “it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed”. The just live by faith precisely because it is all according to grace, which is all about what God and God alone does for us, not because we deserve it or perform right, but simply because He is good and loves us. If it is “of grace”, then it means that it is all God.
Isaiah 54 is one of the greatest New Covenant chapters in all the Bible. In verse 4, the problem of shame clearly comes out:
Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame;
For you will forget the shame of your youth,
And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.
Five “shame” words in one verse! Clearly, shame attends sin. We can also see the connection between fear and shame, as it was with Adam and Eve at the fall (Gen 3). And yet this verse answers our shame, disgrace and reproach. God says:
You will not be ashamed!
You will not be disgraced, because you will not be put to shame!
You will not be reproached anymore!
How can He say this? That’s what the Gospel and the New Covenant are all about. God says, “Now look what I have done”. Isaiah 54:7-8
 “For a mere moment I have forsaken you,
But with great mercies I will gather you.
 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”
Says the LORD, your Redeemer.
Christian: do you know that God is not angry with you anymore? That’s right and He’s even sworn an oath that He would never be angry with us again:
 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;
For as I have sworn
That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
So have I sworn
That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
 For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
No Bible-believing Christian questions the fact that God will never flood the earth with water again, as He did in the days of Noah. Why do we believe that? Because God swore an oath that He would never do that again (Gen 9:11-16). Here in Isaiah 54 God, in like fashion, swears an oath to never be angry with us again.
How could God righteously promise such things, given the ungodliness and unrighteousness of humanity? The New Covenant promises of Isaiah 54 are made possible because of the finished work of Christ, foretold in Isaiah 53, the One who bore our sin and shame:
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (verse 4)
 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Most Christians are familiar with Isaiah 53. Few know about Isaiah 54. That chapter resounds with the results of what Christ’s suffering, sacrifice and death accomplished for us: sin, shame and God’s anger forever removed. The New Covenant promises of God’s grace, blessings and total acceptance are based on the finished work of Christ.
Romans 1:16 says, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel”. Why? Because it is the power of salvation to everyone who believes and it reveals the righteousness of God — not man — received purely by faith, because of God’s grace.
Sin and shame forever removed, all because of Jesus. We are righteous because “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we would become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21), not because of our performance, good or bad.
That’s why Isaiah 54 opens with exultant joy:
Sing, O barren,
You who have not borne!
Break forth into singing, and cry aloud!
Now that’s good news worth telling!