Ashamed Of The Gospel
What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest man.
The above quote from a well-known unbeliever is an amazing admission of the desire within lost people to hear the gospel message clearly and unashamedly from believers. Blaise Pascal wrote:
There are only three sorts of people: those who have found God and serve him; those who are busy seeking him and have not found him; those who live without either seeking or finding him. The first are reasonable and happy, the last are foolish and unhappy, those in the middle are unhappy and reasonable.2
Whether a sinner is foolish or reasonable, he needs to hear the gospel presented so that the Holy Spirit can do His work. Most Christians would agree that nothing is as important in this life as hearing or giving the gospel. Then why don’t we do it more? Why don’t we simply speak the words of faith in a sinner’s presence so that he is confronted with the claims of Christ? Now, I am not minimizing “pre-evangelism” or simply being wise enough not to turn people off before we get a chance to turn them on. But I am proposing that we often fail to speak the gospel, even after much time has been spent preparing the soil, and there may be a very telling reason. John MacArthur says, “We try to live our testimony rather than speak it. But no one ever got to heaven just because someone lived his testimony in front of him. Sooner or later you’ve got to give them the words of the gospel.”3
When the Apostle Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Rom 1:16), he was not merely being emotional, but was expressing an issue that is at the very heart of evangelism. That issue is: Do we see God and eternity clearly enough to care about that more than we care about what people think of us? A “yes” answer would mean that we have a strong biblical faith. A “no” answer would mean, in biblical terms, that we are ashamed of things that cannot be seen when placed at the scrutiny of people we can see. To the Apostle, however, this would be like a doctor refusing to treat an emergency patient because he screams about the pain.
The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb 12:2). Despite how the life of Christ and His passion are stretched for principles by everyone from money manipulators to management moguls, the person and work of our Savior was rejected by the Jewish nation and by Gentiles throughout the known world. Paul himself says, “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor 1:23).
The Apostles were men specifically chosen by Christ to be witnesses of His resurrection at a time when that was a very unpopular and even dangerous message. We ought to notice again how often the words “boldness,” “power” and “unashamed” appear in the early chapters of Acts. After the Apostles were imprisoned and instructed not to speak again of this resurrection, God told them to “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20). When they were arrested again, beaten and released, “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (vs 41).
Peter later wrote that we are to be happy when we speak the gospel and are accused of being “evildoers” (1 Peter 2:12) by those who do not believe. “Happy are ye,” Peter says, “and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled” (3:14); “Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you” (4:4); “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (4:13).
Paul asked the Roman Christians, “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Rom 6:21-22). Paul makes it clear, to love Christ is to be ashamed of the world and to love the world is to be ashamed of Christ. It is the message of the cross for which we must not be ashamed. John Bunyan once warned, “Take heed of being offended at the cross that thou must go by before thou come to heaven. You must understand that there is no man that goeth to heaven but he must go by the cross. The cross is the standing way-mark by which all they that go to glory must pass.”4
In C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, master-demon Screwtape is instructing his pupil-demon Wormwood on how to keep a Christian (his “patient”) from being a witness. He says:
No doubt he must very soon realise that his own faith is in direct opposition to the assumptions on which all the conversation of his new friends is based. I don’t think that matters much, provided that you can persuade him to postpone any open acknowledgment of the fact, and this, with the aid of shame, pride, modesty, and vanity, will be easy to do. As long as the postponement lasts he will be in a false position. He will be silent when he ought to speak and laugh when he ought to be silent. He will assume, at first by his manner, but presently by his words, all sorts of cynical and sceptical attitudes which are not really his. But if you play him well, they may become his. All sorts tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be. This is elementary.5
The extent to which we realize that such a conflict exists between two worlds is the extent to which we will be unashamed of the gospel. We may even welcome the antipathy, as Paul wrote, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Tim 1:8).
1. Quoted by Bruce Lockerbie, The Cosmic Center (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1986) 144.
2. Blaise Pascal, Pensees (160) (New York: Penguin Books, 1966) 82.
3. John MacArthur, The Master’s Plan for the Church (Chicago: Moody, 1991) 107.
4. John Bunyan, “The Heavenly Footman” Orations from Homer to McKinley, vol. 4 (New York: Collier, 1902) 1586.
5. C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillan, 1982) 46.