For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes—first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed– a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:"The righteous will live by faith.” (TNIV)
To not be ashamed of something is to be proud of that thing… especially in those times when it would cause embarrassment or ridicule. To not be ashamed of something means to stand up and identify yourself with it… even in those moments when others might turn away.
Paul is not ashamed of the Good News. He has identified himself with it and he will continue to do so… even when it might cause him embarrassment or ridicule… even when it might bring poverty or unpopularity or misunderstanding… even when others may bend in the pressure… even when it might bring severe consequences against him… He will not be ashamed.
The God-way to receive abundant life is not always the most popular way… and it certainly doesn’t seem to be the quickest… but it is a way of life that is without shame. In Habakkuk 2, the Lord cautions the prophet to be bold with his plan— even if there will be others who won’t understand, “Write my answer in large, clear letters on a table, so that a runner can read it and tell everyone else. These things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed. Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked; but the righteous will live by their faith.” (NLT)
Paul quotes part of this passage. From start to finish, just as it is written, Paul says, “the righteous will live by faith.” In essence: “I’m hanging in there. Even when others trust in themselves I will share the Good News with people of all nations. Even when it causes me ridicule or even when others misunderstand… even when it creates an uncomfortable stir… I will continue to share the Gospel. It may take some time… but the righteous will live by their faith.”
It is the Good News of Jesus that we trust. We don’t trust in plans or strategies or buildings or money. Even if those things can produce quick results, the results will be fleeting and crooked and ever unsatisfying. But the production of the Gospel is ever lasting.
Pre-Final note: Habakkuk is worth a read here… because Paul certainly had it on his mind. Rarely have North American Christians read Romans 1:16 in the context of Romans 1:17. Verse 17 quotes Habakkuk for a reason. Habakkuk chapter 1 reveals the earnest concerns of a man who questions God’s ways. Habakkuk chapter 2 relays God’s measured response, including the quotation used by Paul. And chapter 3 offers the prophet’s profound response to God— declaring trust in God’s way even though it is the more difficult way in the moment… He opted to not be ashamed of the Good News even in the midst of waiting through difficult circumstances.
Post-Final note: Arrogance is never the correct alternative to not-being-ashamed. Sometimes in our attempt to be "proud" of the Gospel, Christians have swung towards a sense of superiority,a complex of lordliness. As a result, many who call themselves "Christians" actually bring shame on Christ by their self-deluded attempts to not-be-ashamed of the Gospel. Anyone who identifies themselves as a follower of Christ but who holds placards of condemnation and slander at a funeral or other such event, or who angrily demeans another human being "in the name of the Gospel," or who justifies violence in the defense of "faith", is operating out of a crooked, arrogant self-pride. Such people are not functioning out of a transformed Gospel life evidencing a willingness to take the temporary consequences of trusting in the Gospel. Good News is GOOD… and the righteous live by it. In contrast, arrogance is bad… and the prideful live by it. Arrogant faith is sin… and sinning in the name of Christ is a twisted sickness. Such behavior is the cause shame. And never will being-not-ashamed justify the creation of shame.