13 October 2007Romans 1:16-17
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith." (v.16)
We live in a world in which many people find the Christian
gospel 'shameful'. Attacks on belief by critics such as Richard
Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, find a ready audience. And
even many Christians are ashamed of some of the ways in which the
Christian gospel (or at least what claims to be it) is
In Britain the worst things Christians are likely to face are hostile argument and ridicule, but in some places the stakes are higher, even life-threatening. At the time Paul was writing the letter to the Romans, there were many reasons why the gospel might be a cause for shame.
The beliefs of those early Christians scandalised those brought up in both Jewish and Greek belief-systems. The behaviour of some Christians did them and their faith no credit. Christians were regarded as potential enemies of the Roman state and were subjected to harassment, arrest and even the possibility of death.
Paul was writing to people who were well aware of all those things and trying, by expressing his own confidence in the gospel, to encourage others not to lose heart.
But it was about more than simply facing up to embarrassment and persecution! In this letter, Paul recognises that the gospel faces an even stronger test: put simply, does it work? There are deep-seated reasons why human beings and the world are unable to free themselves to live as God intended. Can the gospel help?
Paul asserts categorically that the gospel has God's power to save absolutely every one.
What are the challenges to faith for you? Ridicule, the 'cringe factor', intellectual arguments, difficult life-events, something else?
Why might people be prepared to be put to death for their beliefs? What is the most you would do to defend what you believe to be true?