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”For I am not ashamed of the gospel (of the Anointed), for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭1:16‬

Paul might not be ashamed of the gospel but what is there to be ashamed of in the first place? And would the fact that he is a Jew with a Gentile audience (Epistle to the Romans) elucidate the shame? What does he mean to imply shame?

I would ask for a short definition of gospel prior to answering the question, thank you.

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  • Could I ask which version/translation you are quoting from, please ? Do you mean a definition of the word εὐαγγέλιον Strong 2098 or do you mean a definition of the concept 'gospel' as expressed in the whole of scripture ?
    – Nigel J
    Jun 26, 2020 at 20:26
  • @NigelJ I don’t have a preference, So long as it can be substantiated but εὐαγγέλιον is what I had in mind. For English translations I tend to use ESV on this stack. Jun 27, 2020 at 1:43
  • 1
    Chrysostom's commentary can be found here.
    – Lucian
    Jun 27, 2020 at 18:46

3 Answers 3

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See appendix below for a short discussion about εὐαγγέλιον.

Ashamed

The Greek word here is ἐπαισχύνομαι (epaischunomai). It only occurs 11 times in the NT and almost always associated with the Gospel or the testimony about the Gospel somehow. Jesus discussed this very idea twice (Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26) and Paul mention it five times (Rom 1:16, 6:21, 2 Tim 1:8, 12, 16) and twice in Heb 2;11, 11:16 about God not being ashamed.

The reason for shame being associated with the Gospel is quite simple - to intelligent reasoning people the whole idea of a Messiah hero figure being so shamefully ridiculed, humiliated and ultimately crucified was absurd. 1 Cor 1:18, 21, 23 all discuss the "foolishness of the Gospel. The life of Jesus had many embarrassing things that scandalised non-believers:

  • the apparently illegitimate birth
  • Jesus' singleness (being single at 30+ was a problem, especially for a teacher)
  • Jesus' miracles which were often questioned
  • Jesus' "poor" table manners and lack of etiquette
  • To thinking (intellectually arrogant Greeks) the resurrection was also ridiculous and remains so today

… and so forth. (There is an interesting book, "The Jesus Scandals" by David Instone-Brewer that is worth reading.) These problems about the story of Jesus remain problems today and must be simply acknowledged. It is the very good news associated with the story of Jesus - His love and salvation that is what makes the Gospel, and the Jesus that makes the Gospel possible, so attractive to believers. Thus, Paul could honestly say he was not ashamed but glad of its transforming power that had such a dramatic effect on his life. And so should we.

APPENDIX - The Gospel

In its simplest form, the Gospel is the story of Jesus and His love demonstrated in initiating salvation. The NT tells this story in the four "Gospel" accounts. Theologically, the NT tells the story in terms of a series of metaphors as follows.

  • Christ’s robe of righteousness provided a covering to hide the sinner’s wretched state. Job 29:14, Ps 132:9, Isa 11:5, 59:17, 61:10, 64:6, Zech 3:4, 5, Matt 22:1-14 (wedding garment parable), Rev 3:4, 6:11, 7:9, 19:8. This robe is a counterpoint to the “filthy rags” of Isa 64:6 and Zech 3:4, and immediately and completely hides them.
  • The Greek verb “aphiemi”, to forgive or give remission, means (literally) to send forth or send away. It is used of sins in Matt 9:2, 5, 6, 12:31, 32, 26:28, Mark 14:24, Acts 8:22, Rom 4:7, James 5:12, 1 John 1:9, 2:12, etc. That is, our sins are sent away or banished. See also Mark 3:29, Acts 5:31, 13:38, 26:18, Eph 1:7, Col 1:14. Again, Jesus accomplished this great work on the cross. See “Forgiveness”.
  • Propitiation or expiation (Greek: “hilasterion”) denotes the act of appeasing a deity by sacrifice to incur divine favour (it is only an analogue, metaphor or figure of speech!). Thus, Jesus’ sacrifice is described as propitiation in Rom 3:25 and 1 John 2:2. These are direct references to the same word used in the Septuagint in Ex 25:17-22 (and repeated in Heb 9:5) where the “atonement cover” or “mercy seat” of the Ark of the Covenant is described. That is, the covering of the Ark provided both atonement and mercy at the same time! See also 1 Cor 5:7, 1 Pet 3:18. Thus, Jesus is correctly described as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29, 36).
  • Justify and Justification (Greek cognate root: “dike”) means to pronounce righteous or acquit and is obviously a legal term. Paul, in Romans, tells us that God has freely justified all sinners (Rom 3:23-27) and that this occurred while we were still sinners (Rom 5:5, 8, 9) by His death on the cross. This “declaring right” is clearly what God does and is His initiative and something that cannot be earned (Rom 3:20). In Gal 2:16 we are emphatically told that we are justified by trusting God and not by works of the law. See “Election” for more information. It is often used inter-changeably with “Credit”, see below.
  • The Bible also uses the idea of Jesus’ death being a kind of penal substitutionary execution to satisfy the requirements of “the law”; thus, His death was an essential part of our salvation. Isa 53:5, 6, 11, 12, Matt 20:28, Rom 5:19, 2 Cor 5:21, Gal 1:4, 3:13, Heb 9:15. Again, the extent to which this is literally true is highly debated – is it only a metaphor to demonstrate God’s great love and grace? Or did Jesus’ death actually change something about God’s attitude to us (recall that Jesus is also God!) Obviously Jesus’ death did not change God’s mind because God gave His Son and God did not give something in order to change His own mind! Jesus death was to demonstrate His justice (Rom 3:22-28).
  • In Rev 12:7-10 the process that leads to atonement is depicted as a war which Jesus wins. His victory obtains atonement for mankind (Col 2:15, 1 Peter 3:22). In this warfare, sinners are God’s enemies that He must capture in the war (Rom 5:10). This metaphor is extended for the Christian life (Eph 6:10-17, 1 Thess 5:8, 2 Cor 10:3-5, Isa 59:17) with “the armour of God”. See also Rev 19:11-21.
  • The atonement is also presented as a kind of recapitulation: Jesus became the second Adam and succeeded where Adam failed. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22). Rom 5 discusses this idea at some length but the idea of sacrifice and the gift of salvation are never too far away even in this passage.
  • “Credit”, “account”, “imputed”, or “reckoned” (Greek: logizomai) is a financial or accounting term used in the market place but was employed by Paul to denote the act of God in crediting Abraham (and sinners generally) as righteous when they trusted in God, apart from the works of the law, as a free gift. The idea is based upon the assumption that sin creates a debt to God which must be repaid (Col 2:13-15, Matt 6:12). Again, it is only an analogue, metaphor or figure of speech and so is not literally true. (Rom 4:3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24, 2 Cor 5:19, Gal 3:6, James 2:23. (See also Gen 15:6.) That is, the righteousness of God is “imputed” to the underserving sinner, freely. Thus, God “cancels the debt” (Matt 18:21-35).
  • “Gift” is used to convey the idea that atonement is absolutely free and the initiative of God. Rom 4:4, 5:15-17, 6:23, 2 Cor 9:14, 15, Eph 2:8, 3:7, Heb 6:4.
  • Redemption, Ransom, or most correctly, Manumission: Two Greek words are translated “redeem” (“exagerazo” and “lutroo”) with almost exactly equivalent meanings. Both speak of Christ redeeming sinners as slaves (Luke 1:68, 24:21) by paying a ransom (Matt 20:28, Mark 10:45, 1 Tim 2:6, Heb 9:15), but, Scripture is silent about to whom the manumission fee was paid (it is only an analogue, metaphor or figure of speech!). 1 Cor 6:20, 7:23, Gal 3:13, 4:5, Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 1:18, Rev 5:9. This manumission idea emphasises God’s free gift of salvation because both Greek verbs were commonly used to buy freedom for a slave or hostage, without any contribution of the slave. Perhaps the most touching example of redemption is contained in the enacted parable of Hosea and Gomer – see Hosea 3:1-3.
  • Reconciliation describes the process of reuniting an estranged family member. It is predicated on two Biblical assumptions that (a) Jesus is our brother (Heb 2:11-13, Ps 22:22, Isa 8:17, 18, Matt 12:48, 49, John 20:17, Rom 8:29), and (b) sin separates us from Jesus our brother (Isa 59:2, Gal 5:4, Eph 2:12, Ps 22:1, Eze 14:5, Jer 6:8). Reconciliation is found in only a few places but they, again, emphasise that atonement is God’s initiative without any input from us. In 2 Cor 5:18, 19 we find that Christ reconciled the world to Himself by “not counting our sins against us”. Rom 5:10, 11 teaches that sinners were reconciled to God by Christ’s death. Further, a comparison with v9 shows that justification and reconciliation are used in parallel.
  • Rescue (save): The Greek verb, “sozo” means literally to rescue or deliver from danger (Matt 8:25, Mark 13:20, Luke 23:35, John 12:27, 1 Tim 2:15, 2 Tim 4:18). Thus, when the New Testament discusses salvation, it is using the figure of someone in immanent mortal danger being rescued by a “rescuer” (Acts 2:47, 16:31, Rom 8:24, Eph 2:5, 8, 1 Tim 2:4, 2 Tim 19, Titus 3:5, etc). This a perfect figure of our relationship with Jesus who delivers us from the danger of sin (Phil 2:12) and eternal loss (Rom 13:11, 1 Thess 5:8, 9 2 Thess 2:13, Heb 1:14, 9:28, 1 Peter 1:5, 2 Peter 3:15, etc). See also Eph 6:17 where salvation is described as a helmet to protect from spiritual danger. This figure also emphasises that salvation must come from outside the person.
  • The absolving of sin is sometimes represented as a “washing away” of sin, or “cleansing”. Lev 16:30, Num 19:9, Ps 51:2, 7, 10, Isa 4:4, Eze 36:25, Zech 13:1, 1 Cor 6:10, Eph 5:26, 1 John 1:7, 9. The practice of Baptism is built on this vivid metaphor and thus depicted as washing away of sin (Acts 22:16) as well as death to the old life and resurrection to a new life in Christ.

This is not an exhaustive list.

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  • I’m going to have reread this before I select this response but +1 and thank you Jun 27, 2020 at 1:45
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There is nothing in the Gospel that merits "shame", and certainly Paul did not struggle with feeling ashamed of it in the existential way we might think of at first reading of this verse. Consider that Paul may be saying that he has not allowed personal disgrace (shame) to be "put upon" his reputation and his ministry via persecution and false accusations he has received for preaching the Gospel, thus he will continue preaching it, even at Rome.

  1. Consider the Greek

Strongs 1870 epaisxýnomai
(from epi, "on, fitting" intensifying 153/aisxynō, "disgrace")
– properly, disgraced, like someone "singled out" because they misplaced their confidence or support ("believed the big lie"); to be ashamed (personally humiliated). In sum, 1870/epaisxynomai ("dishonor") refers to being disgraced, bringing on "fitting" shame that matches the error of wrongly identifying (aligning) with something. [The prefix (epi) underlines specific (personal) nature of the disgrace.]

Certainly, this is what Paul's detractors were constantly attempting to do to him... to "on - fit disgrace" to his character and ministry.

7 But if by my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, just as some people slanderously claim we say, “Let us do what is evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved!* (Romans 3:7-8)

  1. Consider the Common Response Among Jews and Gentiles

22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.* (1 Corinthians 1:22-25)

Paul knew this was the perspective of the contemporary Jewish and Greek audiences he preached to and was convinced that his Gospel was the truth in the face of skeptics. He did not struggle with being ashamed of it, but rather refused to be shamed for it!

  1. Consider the Immediate Context

14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.*

This is not the tone of someone struggling with being ashamed of preaching the Gospel. It is the resolve of someone determined not to do so.

Conclusion

Therefore, I would suggest that it is not that Paul struggled with being "ashamed" of the Gospel or that there actually was anything to be ashamed of, but rather, Paul is saying that all of the attempts of Jews and Gentiles to "put disgrace upon" his reputation and his ministry have not worked. Quite the contrary, he is "eager" to preach that Gospel to those in Rome.

Application

We mean well when we challenge believers in our sermons to say as Paul, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel" in order to encourage them to share it even when it is hard for them (us), somehow implying that Paul may have felt the same kind of intimidation that we often do. However, as comforting as that notion may be, I don't think that's quite right. I think the application here is: to be as personally convinced as Paul was that the Gospel is truth, and based on that conviction, determine to share even at the risk of our own reputation.

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  • @ Welcome to BH and thanks for joining in. Do take the tour for information on this site.
    – C. Stroud
    Aug 7, 2023 at 10:54
  • Great answer +1. I edited by putting in "not" but did you mean "not to stop preaching" or "Not to be ashamed" ? Please role back my edit if not what intended.
    – C. Stroud
    Aug 7, 2023 at 11:06
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There are two potential causes for shame or embarrassment for a Christian as mentioned in the NT. First is the apparent reason concerning the humiliating crucifixion and death of the Jesus, a message considered foolishness to the world (1 Cor 1:18). Unbelievers contemptuously raise the objection that since he couldn't save himself, how could he possibly save others? This mockery may be unheard of in the Christian nations, but common in the non-Christian world. The second reason is due to personal suffering & persecution. The first is the shame for the testimony of the Lord, the second is for the believer's own persecution due to their religion.

Paul writes that no trouble whether oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword can separate him from loving Christ: "As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”" (Rom 8:35-36, Ps 44:22)

  • 2 Timothy 1:8 (ESV): "Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God."

  • 2 Timothy 1:12 (ESV): "Which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me."

  • 1 Peter 4:16 (ESV): "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name."

The context of Romans 1:16, however, refers to the shame of preaching to the Gentiles. The social shame for the Gospel. Paul had already been outcasted and hated by the nation for his new faith; on top of that he has also been an object of shame for the Jews for preaching to the Gentiles, without converting them to Judaism (cf Matt 23:15-16). In the eyes of the Jews and the Judaising Christians, Paul had broken the bond with God for betraying the covenant of Moses (Acts 15:1; 21:21).

While Proselyting was permissible as long as one converts to Judaism, teaching the religion to the Gentiles as a dedicated missionary must have been very controversial. Moreover, Gentiles were considered worthless & depraved (created as fuel for hell fire) according to some, a view reminiscent of the Western Christian perspective concerning non-Christians.

We read in The Jerusalem Post article Ask the rabbi: May a Jew teach Torah to a gentile?:

The Torah states, “Moses has commanded us the Torah, an inheritance for the community of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4). Deeming this inheritance the exclusive property of Jews, the sages prohibited gentiles from learning Torah and Jews from teaching it to them. A strident prohibition was also expressed in the Zohar.

While the Talmud elsewhere mentions that non-Jews were taught Torah, some of those cases were clearly under the coercive pressure of the dominant rulers.

Scholars have offered various rationales for the talmudic prohibition, which broadly impacted its scope. Based on talmudic exegesis, some scholars understood any non-Jewish study as a betrayal of the unique bond between Jews and God or a misappropriation of national treasure, with a few even contending that this included potential converts who had not yet joined the nation. Some went so far as to ban teaching the Hebrew alphabet, although other sources indicated that this was a pragmatic step to prevent polemical abuses by hostile anti-Semites. In a similarly polemical vein, one medieval source suggested that gentiles can learn the Prophets and Hagiography (Writings) because its prophecies prove that God has not abandoned the Jewish people.

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