16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
1901 ASV Translation:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
As we pointed out in the prior notes, the only textual variation between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26 is the Textus Receptus's insertion of the phrase "of Christ" after the word "gospel".
I. Paul has established his sense of obligation to preach to the Gentiles as it arose from God's command. He went further to say that it was his "full commitment" to fulfill that command as it applied to the folks in Rome also. This is the natural way of "grace" ... to be committed to the will of the gracious God without rebellion and resistance.
II. Verses 16 and 17 lay out his thinking regarding both his attitude toward the Gospel and the impact of his preaching.
A. His attitude is one of great confidence stated in the negative: "I am not ashamed" = "I am fully confident".
1. The statement in the negative anticipates the "norm" that is found among men: they have no confidence in the Gospel and, consequently, would be embarrassed to be heard proclaiming it as the solution to man's condition and its consequent difficulties.
a. This "shame" has taken its toll in the "church" as preachers turn the "difficult counseling situations" over to the psychologists and psychiatrists, or, in a more "subtle" form, to the "Christian counselors" whose study is not the Word of God but the principles of psychological manipulation of men's minds. This fact stands: it is only in the Gospel and by the Gospel that the promise of the Spirit is made reality in a person's life and it is only by the Spirit that man is changed from glory to glory. God is not "into" improving the flesh -- He has already written it off as a total loss --, but is "into" waging war against it by the indwelling Spirit. Everywhere in the Bible the exhortation is to turn to the Word of God for the progress into His holiness and nowhere are we given any hope whatsoever that help will come from any other source.
b. There is a reason for the "shame": the amount and nature of the "progress" men make is often far less than what we would "expect" from a source as powerful as God. Because we underestimate both the profundity of the depravity of man and the effectual plan of God, we "anticipate" profound and rather immediate results and, when we are frustrated in our anticipations, we turn to "a more effective method". In our generation, this method has become a combination of medication and counseling that has no regard for the sufficiency of the Word of God. Because the medications and counseling of the ungodly often produce a more rapid appearance of success, we feel justified in our "shame". But this question needs to be asked: what has changed by way of medication and ungodly counsel? Has the heart been mended and the eyes of the soul fixed upon the Lord? Has humility replaced pride and the fruit of the Spirit replaced the manifestations of the flesh? Or, has the flesh simply been "tamed" so that its manifestations are more "acceptable"?
1) There is this consideration also: God makes no offer of "progress" to the unbelieving. There is no solution in the Gospel, or outside of it, for the proud. There is no promise of "deliverance" from God for the wicked who will not turn to Him as the Solution and embrace His methodology. If man is unwilling to "repent", he is without a solution for his sin and modern methods of "life improvement" and "behavior modification" are simply short term facades of vanity that will prove, over the long haul, to be disastrous. This is a bitter pill for those who refuse to acknowledge that there are many who are beyond hope because they are beyond the grace of God. Americans, who arrogantly think they can "fix" anything, are particularly "ashamed" of the Gospel for this cause.
2) We conclude that it is incumbent upon the believer to permit God to be God and to proclaim the Gospel with the expectation that some will be transformed over a lifetime of exposure to truth and many will walk away from a methodology that refuses to allow them to dictate the terms of their involvement.
B. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.
1. The big question here is this: "What is the nature of this salvation?".
2. The answers are established from various texts in the revelation of God...the Bible.
a. There is no New Testament covenant commitment on God's part to provide a pre-resurrection correction of problems that have their root in the physical flesh of man.
1) The rationale for this statement consists of three New Testament "revelations".
a) On the one hand, God cannot "refuse" to fulfill a "covenant" promise. Thus, His refusal to alleviate Paul's "thorn in the flesh" is within His prerogative and Paul is right to accept His refusal with enthusiasm.
b) On the other hand, there are clear examples of illnesses that were beyond Paul's "apostolic authority" as he struggled with the realities of a physical world that is under the bondage to corruption without remedy except for resurrection.
i. 2 Timothy 4:20.
ii. Philippians 2:27-30.
c) Also it is the definitive declaration of the apostle that we have been turned over to the bondage of physical corruption until the resurrection: Romans 8:20-25.
2) God is free to do more than He has promised (miraculous healing), but not less.
a) We are free to ask of Him things beyond the covenant (Paul did).
b) He is free to give us what we seek if He chooses.
b. The "realm of interest" for which God has given the Gospel has to do with the non-physical man and his involvement with "sin".
1) The New Testament is replete with insistence that both attitudes and actions are the domain of the New Covenant.
2) The New Testament gives believers not only the hope that sin can be restrained, but actually insists on every page that sin be restrained by them at every turn.
a) However, this issue is dealt with realistically: there is no silver bullet for dealing with sin so that instantaneous and enduring success is achieved.
i. The New Testament promises the power of the Spirit to deal with any and every type of "sin", but it does not promise "once and for all" solutions.
ii. Everywhere in the New Testament there are exhortations to carry the war to the flesh.
b) The fact that church leadership is reserved for "elders" indicates that God has no illusions, nor makes any promises, regarding "rapid character development".
i. Elders are elders because they are "old".
ii. Elders are elders because they have made progress over a lifetime in the application of biblical truth.
iii. Elders are elders because they have been brought by the grace of God through many "dangers, toils, and snares" over an extended period of time so that, having been delivered over a lifetime, they are now prepared to give direction to the Church.
iv. The conclusion we draw regarding the nature of God's "salvation" is that it addresses the problems of wisdom-living incrementally over a lengthy period of time.
c) The fact that "salvation" is presented in terms of "new birth", "babyhood", "youthful vigor", and "elderly maturity" indicates that God's salvation has these characteristics...
i. There is a "birthing salvation" that moves a person out of one "family" into another so that "forgiveness, redemption, and justification" are accomplished facts.
ii. There is a "growth salvation" that moves a person from one stage of development to another as in "from glory to glory" that insists upon a daily "attitude adjustment" but makes no promises of "immediate wisdom or maturity".
iii. The conclusion we draw is that God's salvation looks a lot like human experience in birth and growth to old age.
(a) As is the case with typical human experience, the "young" think they have all of the answers and typically go through all kinds of rebellious "straining at the bit".
(b) As is the case with typical human experience, those that actually make it to the goal of aged wisdom are few.
c. Because of these realities, Paul is not claiming that his message is an "instant" answer to all that plagues man, but he is claiming that his message is God's powerful method of eventually getting men to where they ought to be in terms of "consistency of character".