Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 20, 2002
Turn in your Bible to Romans 1:16,17. This is a watershed passage of Scripture. It was these verses
that haunted Martin Luther until he came to understand what they meant. The result was not only his
own salvation, but within a few years, the start of the Reformation. Those who reject these verses teach
must also reject Biblical Christianity, for these verses stand directly against any form of salvation by
works. Those who accept what these verses teach must also then live according to God’s New Covenant
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to
everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it [the] righteousness of God is
revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous [man] shall live by faith.”
Paul begins this passage stating that he was not ashamed. Shame is the fear or painful feeling that is
aroused when you, or someone or something you identify with acts or thinks or fails to act or think
according with the standards you accept as good. Shame brings with it the desire to shrink back and hide
because your weakness or failure has been exposed. Shame is an emotion that entered the world with
Adam’s sin in Genesis 3. Perhaps you will recall that after Adam and Eve at of the forbidden fruit of the
Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the text says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and
they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and
his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:7,8).
They became painfully aware of their sin and desired to hide it from each other and from God when He
came looking for them. They did not want their sinfulness exposed to each other and especially not to
Let me make a couple of side comments here. The reason that nakedness brings shame is not because
there is something wrong with the human body. There is not. God designed and created Adam and Eve
and He pronounced them very good (Gen.1:31), and that includes His placing them in the Garden of
Eden naked and unashamed (Gen. 2:25). Nakedness brings shame because sin corrupted man’s nature
and the exposure of the body is a reminder of that sin. A very young child can run around naked without
shame for two simple reasons. The same reasons older people cannot. First, they are unaware of their
own sinfulness. They have no perverted thoughts toward others and they have no awareness of anything
perverted about their own bodies. As they get older, that will change. Second, the naked body of a
toddler escaping from the changing table does not bring perverted thoughts into the minds of other
people. That will also change as they get older and their bodies mature. God’s standards of modesty are
for the benefit of both the individual and the rest of society. God does not want you exposing yourself to
your own shame or for your exposure of yourself to cause perverted thoughts in others to their shame.
Ladies, and this goes for you men too, you need to be careful to dress properly, modestly and discreetly
(1 Tim. 2:9). Dressing to entice is not an issue of fashion, but of morality. If you are not a harlot, don’t
dress as one. Your bodies do not belong to you, but to your spouse or future spouse. They are not for the
viewing pleasure of perverse people. Godly people do not want to be thought of in that way.
The opposite is also true. Job made a covenant with his eyes not to gaze at the virgin (Job 31:1)
because it would be to his own shame to view her exposure. Men, and this goes for you ladies too, be
careful of what you look at. You do not need to have perverse thoughts generated by what you see. As
you are going down the street you cannot keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep
them from building a nest in your hair. You can also wear a hat and not look up to find them.
Pornography is out of the question for Christians. That includes the forms that masquerade as
entertainment in our society. Would not brotherly love refrain from encouraging in anyway people
exposing themselves in a manner that you would not approve of if it was your mother, sister, daughter,
father, brother or son? Why then pay money to see such magazines or films or support the products of
those who exploit others in such a way?
Whether a person feels ashamed or not depends both on the action or thought, the accepted standards
of society, and one’s own standard of what is good. Paul states that he is not ashamed of the gospel
because he clearly understood both the truth of the gospel and God’s standard of right and wrong. Paul
placed greater emphasis on what God thought of him than of what other people may have thought of
him. For that reason, Paul was not ashamed to proclaim the gospel of God or live by God’s standards.
But note that Paul states this from the negative instead of the positive. He says he is “not ashamed of
the gospel” instead of “I am proud of the gospel.” While there could be several reasons for this, two are
First, pride is not generally presented in Scripture as a positive virtue. There are only a few
references in which the term is even used in a positive manner (2 Chron. 17:6; 2 Cor. 1:12,14; 5:12; Phil.
1:16), for the most part pride is a negative – Prov 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But
with the humble is wisdom.” 1 Peter 5:5b “. . . and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one
another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Second, the historical situation was one in which the world was against Christianity. The gospel was
and is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks (1 Cor. 1:23).
The Jews could not understand how Jesus, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, could be the Messiah.
Jesus did not fit the prophecies of a conquering Messiah and He was not following the religious
traditions they had developed over the centuries. The result was that the Jewish leaders were against
Jesus and His followers. Recall from our study of John the reaction of the religious leaders. In John 7
they had sent court officers to arrest Jesus. Instead, the officers heard the comments of the people and
then Jesus Himself and upon returning without him said, “Never did a man speak the way this man
speaks.” The leaders respond in verse 47-49, “You have not also been led astray, have you? 48 “No one
of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he? 49 “But this multitude which does not know the
Law is accursed.” In John 9, in response to the testimony of the man born blind that Jesus must be from
God since He had given him his sight, the religious leaders said, “They answered and said to him, “You
were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they put him out (John 9:34). The situation
with the Jews did not change with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. The followers of Jesus were
treated with contempt, disdain, scorn and persecution.
The Greeks, here a term referring to all non-Jews, considered the gospel to be foolishness. A classic
example of this was Paul’s encounter in Acts 17. Paul went up to the Areopagus, also known as “Mars’
Hill,” at the request of the Athenian philosophers who wanted to know about this “new teaching” he was
proclaiming. They had a great interest in telling and hearing something new (Acts 17:21). They listened
respectfully to what Paul said as he explained to them the “Unknown God” they had worshiped in
ignorance. This God had created them and their existence was dependent upon Him. This God had
overlooked their ignorance previously, but was now calling on them to repent because He had fixed a
day in which He would judge the world in righteousness through a Man He had appointed. However, the
reaction changed when Paul said that the proof of this was raising the Man from the dead. Verse 32 says
that “when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said,’We shall
hear you again concerning this.'” In other words, some were immediate with their scorn at such an idea
while others were more polite, but still put Paul off and heard no more. Only a few joined with Paul to
understand more of what he was talking about.
It is still the same way today. God is still “well-pleased through the foolishness of the message
preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). And it is still not many “wise” or “noble” after the
ways of the world that will believe. The world still holds in contempt and treats with disdain those who
follow Jesus Christ, and in many places in the world there is still physical persecution.
Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, but this does not mean that he was not afraid. He states himself
that at times he was. Paul wrote the Corinthians, “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in
much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in
demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on
the power of God” (2 Cor. 2:4,5). To be afraid of standing up to speak the truth to those you know may
well reject your message and you, and possibly persecute you is not from shame, but simply fear of what
consequences may come as a result of saying and living by what you believe. It can also arise from the
fear of somehow messing up God’s message and displeasing Him. From the listing in 2 Cor. 11:23-27 of
all the things Paul suffered in serving Christ, there were fearsome consequences to preaching the gospel.
Yet, Paul faced and overcame those fears because he understood the purpose of his life and entrusted
himself into God’s loving and gracious hand. Paul was fearful at times, but he was never ashamed of the
gospel and so he would shrink back from declaring it to others.
That is the greatest personal challenge to us in this passage. Are you like Paul or are you ashamed of
the gospel? Do you value the opinions of other people more than God’s? Are you embarrassed to let
others know you are a follower of Jesus Christ? Yes, it is fearful to risk suffer persecution regardless of
its severity. Our natural inclination is avoiding pain if we can whether it is the pain of physical abuse or
the emotional pain of being rejected by others. I don’t want to be hit or have my property damaged
because they became angry when I point out to them they sinners in need of God’s forgiveness which is
available through Jesus Christ. I don’t like being verbally insulted either. Neither do you. But if we
understand correctly exactly what the gospel of God is, then any suffering from persecution is well worth
it. I may be afraid, but the fear will not become shame which would cause me to shrink from declaring
God’s truth regardless of personal consequences.
The Power of God for Salvation
What is the gospel of God? It is the power of God unto salvation of all who are believing without
regard to race.
Paul correctly points out at the end of verse 16 that this salvation is to the Jew first for it was to and
through the Jews that God revealed His plan of salvation. Jesus pointed this out to the Samaritan woman
at the well in John 4:22 telling her, “You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we
know, for salvation is from the Jews.” In Matthew 15 a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus asking Him to
help her sick daughter. Jesus told her that He was “sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Her response was to bow down before Him and say, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responds, It is not good to
take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” You and I might have left offended at that point, but
her response was one of utter humility. “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from
their master’s table.” Jesus responded to her great faith and healed her daughter. We gentiles may not
like that, but we must recognize that it is God’s grace that saves us and not our heritage. That is true for
Jewish people too. John 1:12,13 points out that “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to
become children of God, [even] to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of
the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The gospel is the power of God unto the
salvation of all who are believing.
But why does man need salvation? What does mankind need to be saved from? The answer is not
“hell.” Hell is only a consequence. It is not the problem. The problem is sin.
Most of you are familiar with the story of Adam & Eve and their disobedience to God’s command
that plunged man into sin. God had warned them that on the day they would eat of the Tree of the
Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die. Death is separation. Physical death is the separation of the
soul from the body and spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God. In that day, they did die
spiritually as they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden and separated from the previous relationship
that had with God. This separation would become eternal in hell unless some means could be found to
remedy sin. Physical death also entered the world at that time as God killed an animal to cover their
nakedness (Gen. 3). The problem man faces is his sin and its consequences – death and hell. Every
person has inherited Adam’s sin nature (Rom. 5:12) and then confirmed that sinfulness by their own
disobedience of God’s commands. Man is therefore condemned by both his inherited sin nature and his
own personal failure to keep God’s commands.
The salvation Paul speaks of here is deliverance, rescue and preservation from sin and its
consequences. It is deliverance from the bondage of sin, rescue from sin’s consequences and
preservation from continuing in sin. It would take the power of God to bring about this salvation. Man
can not do this on his own, though he tries.
Some try to deal with sin philosophically by simply denying it or its consequences, but that is
foolishness. Denying either sin or hell is like trying to keep yourself from falling down by denying
gravity exists. Even if you could make it look good on paper, reality would still hurts when your face hit
Man has also developed various religions and philosophies in an effort to improve his manner of life
and somehow appease God. But man is simply not powerful enough to change his character to meet
God’s perfect standards. Without holiness, man will not see the Lord (Heb. 12:14), and Isaiah 64:6
makes its clear that no one meets God’s standard of holiness. “For all of us have become like one who is
unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” Romans 3:10-12, quoting from Psalm
14, makes it clear that left on our own, no one is good or even seeks after God – “There is none
righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All
have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even
one.” Philosophy and religion fail because they are not powerful enough to either change man or satisfy
the penalty of sin.
Consider if a man was finally able to change himself to the point that he no longer sinned. What
then? He still has a problem because he is already guilty and condemned by the sins he has already
committed. A murderer is not set free simply because he no longer murders. A thief must still make
restitution even if he no longer steals. A liar is still responsible for the damage his lies have caused
others even if he only tells the truth from now on. The wages of sin is death (Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 6:23)
and the penalty must be paid.
Many religions instituted animal sacrifice as a means to pay this penalty. This was in keeping with
God’s instructions in the Law, but such sacrifices could never take away sin. They had to be continually
made because of man’s continuing sin, and an animal is not the equivalent of a man. They were only a
shadow of what had to come as Hebrews 10:1 states, verse 4 adding, “for it is impossible for the blood
of bulls and goats to take a away sin.” (See also Psalm 50:8-12; 51:16f; Isa. 1:11-15; Jer. 7:21f; Hosea
6:6; Micah 6:6f).
There were those men powerful enough to cause others to die in their place, but even that would not
satisfy, for the death of the one murdered would only satisfy the penalty of his own sin and not that for
anyone else. An equivalent sacrifice would have to be made, but it would have to be sinless itself. Only
the power of God could do this, and that is exactly what Jesus Christ did.
Jesus was a man so He would be an equivalent payment for other men. He was sinless, so His death
could be a true substitution and not a payment for His own sin. He was also God, so His sacrifice would
be of infinite worth so that it could be applied to all men. He made one sacrifice for sins for all time
(Heb. 10:12). But Jesus also broke the bondage of sin (Rom. 6) and clothed those saved by Him with His
own righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). This was absolutely necessary or man’s continuation in sin would
condemn him. The promise was proven by the power that enabled Him to conquer death and rise up
from the grave. Without the resurrection we would still be in our sins (1 Cor. 15: 17).
Only the power of God could accomplish this. The gospel is the power of God unto the salvation of
all those who are believing.
The Qualification for Salvation
The last part of that phrase gives us the qualification of salvation. It is not, as John 1:13 states, by
“blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” People are not saved because of
ethnic heritage, nor by that person’s own desire or the desire of someone else. Your parents cannot save
you. It comes only from God to those who are believing.
What is believed? The truth Jesus has revealed about Himself, God and salvation. What had Jesus
said about himself? John 3:14-16, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must
the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. 16 “For God so
loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but
have eternal life.” John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who
sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” John
8:51 “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” John wrote his
gospel account for this purpose – John 20:31 “but these have been written that you may believe that
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
What must be believed is that Jesus is who He claimed to be. He is God in human flesh who lived a
sinless life and then died as the substitute for our sins and then rose from the dead. Paul summarized this
in Romans 10:9,10 stating, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus [as] Lord, and believe in your
heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes,
resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” The requirement
for salvation comes down to a matter of belief, but that belief is on going.
The verb form for “believe” here is a present, active participle. Salvation is for those who believe and
continue to believe. Jesus is not a Santa Claus story. This is not a belief you hold one day and then
disbelieve next. The fickle belief of people like those described in John 8 does not bring salvation. Jesus
is real and true belief in Him is ongoing resulting in a change in your life, and your eternal destiny.
The Righteousness of God Revealed
As Paul states in verse 17, the gospel is the revelation of the righteousness of God and how He saves
based on faith. God could not just forgive sins without the penalty being paid, for then He would be
unjust and a liar. God is the one gave Adam and Even both rule and the penalty for violating the rule.
God is the one that stated that the “soul who sins will die” (Ezek. 18:4). If God did not require that
penalty to be paid, then He would not be true. God is consistent with Himself and keeps the laws He has
made. He is just.
At the same time, if God condemned all mankind without hope, He would be just, but He would not
be loving, merciful or gracious. How then could God be both just and loving? How could His
righteousness be demonstrated? By paying the penalty of sin Himself. His justice is satisfied in the very
act of love, mercy and grace that pays the penalty. His righteousness is then manifested by granting
salvation to those who are believing, that is, trusting God according to His character and promises.
The phrase “from faith to faith” is parallel to “everyone who is believing” in verse 16. The same
formula in an expanded form is used in Romans 3:22 explaining the manifestation of the righteousness
of God – even [the] righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe. The
righteousness of God is manifested in through faith in Jesus Christ and abides on all who believe.
The phrase is further explained in the quote from Habakkuk 2:4, “But the righteous man shall live by
faith” which also explains the nature of righteousness. The nature of true righteousness is the same in
both the Old Testament and the gospel Paul was preaching.
The Nature of the Righteous
Man commonly wants to define righteousness in terms of the rules he makes for himself and keeps.
That was the way in which the Pharisees had lived it in keeping with the rabbinical system that
proceeded them. It is still the way religious man defines righteousness in our own day. Whether it occurs
in an older system such as Roman Catholicism, or in a new system, such as has developed in the new
cults, or in the legalism in many evangelical churches, it is all basically the same. The religiously
righteous man lives by his work in keeping his code of ethics. All that varies is the particulars in the
code of what you can and cannot do. It is works based righteousness.
God defines righteousness in terms of the persons’ faith in Him. Faith is not an intellectual assent
separated from life. It is the belief that a person has that guides the daily actions of life based on the trust
placed in the object of belief, in this case, God Himself. It is not the action itself, but the basis for the
action that makes the difference in the life of faith that is righteous.
Paul will explain this further in chapter 4 with the example of Abraham, but the point here is simply
this. Man is not made righteous with God through his own goodness and works. Man can only be made
righteous with God through the gospel message which calls on people to an ongoing belief in Jesus
Christ, the sinless Son of God, in trusting Him for the forgiveness of their sins based the sacrifice of
Himself as the and His resurrection. This continuing belief manifests itself in a righteous life of faith. A
life in which you step forward to do what God asks and live according to His standards despite any fear
that might be there, regardless of the consequences of an unknown outcome, not because some effort to
appease God or win His favor, but because you trust Him. The righteous live by daily trust in God.
Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because he lived by faith. What about you? If you are not one of
the believing ones yet, talk with myself or one of our church leaders. You can join the family of God
today by turning from your sins to Christ by faith.
If you have been ashamed of the gospel in the past, God is willing to forgive, but it is time to move
forward in trust and see Him do great things in your life. You are not alone. Part of the purpose of the
church is believers helping one another walk in faith, but that can only happen as you get involved with
others and let them minister to you even as you minister to them. Take advantage of our various
ministries and fellowship opportunities.
What would happen in our community of each of us was like Paul? Let us pray and live by faith to