by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 3 Study # 3 May 25, 2004 Lincolnton, N.C.
(035)Thesis:There are reasons for "shame" regarding the Gospel that we must address and dismiss.
Introduction:We have been looking at Paul's commitment to proclaim the Gospel in Rome. He said that he had a deep seated sense of "obligation" that grace not only did not alleviate, it created it. We have looked at length at some of the theological implications of "grace" and "obligation". At any rate, Paul claimed that he was prepared to fulfill his obligation in respect to Rome. This evening we are going to look past the obligation aspect of his motivation and see another reason for his enthusiasm: his conviction that the Gospel is the answer to the problems of men.
I. Paul's Conviction Regarding the Gospel.
A. He claims that it is the power of God unto man's "deliverance".
B. He claims that he is "not ashamed" of it for this cause.
1. His positive confidence is stated in negative terms.
2. This negative statement raises certain issues that we shall address.
II. The Issue of "Shame" and the Gospel.
A. The fact that many men are ashamed of the Gospel is clear.
1. There is a profound reluctance to proclaim the Gospel.
2. There is a tacit admission among the "proclaimers" that they do not see it as genuinely workable...
a. In that there is no serious proclamation of its doctrinal truths by many.
b. In that there is a ready acceptance of the thesis that "preachers" are not competent counsellors for the really "big" problems in the lives of people by the "preachers".
1) Sometimes this takes the more blatant form of sending the sheep off to the ungodly for counsel.
2) Sometimes this takes the more concealed form of sending the sheep off to the "Christian" counsellor whose training is not in the Scriptures, but in modern psychology.
B. The reasons for the "shame" are not always as clear.
1. Sometimes what "looks" like "shame" is not shame in regard to the Gospel itself, but "shame" in regard to one's own grasp of its wisdom [i.e. "I don't share the Gospel because I am afraid I won't have the answers I need when I get into the conversation..."].
a. This is not "being ashamed of the Gospel".
b. This is only a matter of "shame" if one has been a laggard in the form of Hebrews 5:12.
2. Sometimes the "reasons" for genuine shame are matters of ignorance.
a. The "realm of interest" for the Gospel has been confused and muddled so much that people are afraid that their "proclamation" of the Gospel will prove to be an embarrassment when the "Gospel" doesn't yield the anticipated fruit.
1) This raises the question of just what people ought to "expect" from the Gospel.
2) The "realm of interest" of the Gospel.
a) Is not currently the material/physical realm.
i. The Gospel of the New Covenant makes no promises regarding deliverance for physical man except for the resurrection.
(a) God cannot refuse to fulfill a covenant commitment.
(b) His clear refusal to heal, or correct physical issues, is as clear a statement that He has made no covenant promises regarding man's "bondage to corruption" until after it has done its complete work [see 2 Timothy 4:20; Philippians 2:27-30; and the widely known "thorn in the flesh" passage in 2 Corinthians 12:7].
(c) This does not make the physical realm "unimportant", but it does put it last on the agenda of "solution" and makes it the realm in which the battles will be fought without that "solution".
ii. Even the notoriously abused "healing passage" of James 5:15 does not provide a scintilla of evidence that the Gospel's "realm of interest" is a current solution to the problem of the physical realm [bondage to corruption].
b) Is the soul/spirit realm.
i. This is the realm which dominates both attitudes and actions.
ii. This is the realm which, dominating both attitudes and actions, is the realm of "sin" and "righteousness".
iii. The Gospel is God's message of "salvation" from "sin".
iv. BUT, even here the Gospel's promise is not what men expect.
(a) Men often erroneously jump from omnipotence to expectation (they expect more of the power of God than "shows up").
(b) Men are supposed to work from "promise" to "expectation", not from "power" to "expectation".
(c) So...what are the promises?
(i) Gradual transformation through time by the renewal of the mind (Romans 12:1-3).
(ii) Instant provision at the point of attack for every temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).
(iii) A great number of personal failures (James 3:2) that can only be over come by time and gradual transformation through time.
(iv) Failure when too much status is given to a believer who is not mature (1 Timothy 3:6).
(v) There is an on-going list...
(d) What are the implications of elder leadership?
(i) The fact that church leadership is reserved for "elders" indicates that God has no illusions, nor makes any promises, regarding "rapid character development".
(ii) Elders are elders because they are "old".
(iii) Elders are elders because they have made progress over a lifetime in the application of biblical truth.
(iv) 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.
(e) 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.
(f) 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 (the majority get old without becoming wise).
b. 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".