Domingo, 26 de Fevereiro de 2017
   
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I am not Ashamed of the Gospel

This article’s title has been extracted from Romans 1.16. In this famous verse, Paul extols Christ’s message by stating it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”. Well, in times when the evangelical community emphasizes so much the “power of God” e so little the Gospel, something is clearly wrong. Also in times when preachers teach salvation depends on the person who listens after all, we notice why so few see the Gospel as “the power for salvation”. In many minister’s minds, the “power for salvation” is rather placed in men’s free-will than in Christ’s pure Gospel. But let us set the modern scenery aside and talk about Roman 1.16, which entitles this article.

I have already read some commentaries about the phrase “I am not ashamed” and some strike me as very feeble. Feeble comments are those that disregard, inter alia, technicalities of language and emerge from the commentator’s mere personal perceptions. Such commentaries are not ever bad or heretic. Most of the times they simply are “weak” for not offering richer information concerning context and/or grammar. I like to call explanations like that as “intuitive interpretation” once their main source are insights of the writer.

Well, where do I want to get? As I was saying, I have already read feeble commentaries on the phrase “I am not ashamed”. Their authors would say something like this, “For what reasons would someone be ashamed of the Gospel? Paul was not, but why would anyone? Well, one could be ashamed of the Gospel because of its simplicity, for being a message announced by uneducated people (Galilean fishermen). Others could be ashamed of the gospel because its message content might seem absurd to men. After all, the Gospel states that a crucified Nazarene is God, that he rose from the dead and will come again in glory someday. Wouldn’t it arouse people’s laughter? Still, others could be ashamed of the Gospel because its major figures are socially isolated, rejected and chased. What a shame to be connected to such people!”.

Comments like these sound beautiful and usually are the basis for a stout pastoral appeal. However, a “technical” analysis of the text shows that these thoughts were way far from Paul’s mind when writing Romans 1.16. In fact, when composing this famous verse, the apostle used a figure of speech called litotes. Litotes is in place when the speaker aims at lessening an statement by denying its opposite. Calm down! It is not as hard as it seems. Let me exemplify. Suppose I want to say that Mary is old. Asserting that, truth as it is, might not be too polite. So, to extenuate the statement, I say: “Mary is not young”. See? I say Mary is old by denying the term opposite to old (young). This way, the saying is lighter and Mary won’t feel hurt.

How does it apply to the verse we glance at? Very simple: Paul is actually saying he is proud of the Gospel. Not by a long shot he thought of reasons to be ashamed of the message he preached and he also did not imagine someone in a situation where they could be ashamed for believing in Christ. Actually, he just wanted to emphasize the opposite. He only was proud of the Gospel and gave reasons for it (“it is the power of God for salvation”). Yet, saying “I am proud of the Gospel” could weight in a sense and Paul smoothened the impact through litotes, i.e., he denied the opposite of being proud by saying “I am not ashamed”.

What is the point in practical terms? Well, to have this understanding is mandatory so that preachers do not emphasize what Paul did not. Preachers (and readers) who comprehend the verse properly will not lose time highlighting the chance of someone being ashamed of the Gospel nor even reasons why that might happen. Instead, they will point out the “holy pride” Christians must have towards the Gospel and reasons for that, encouraging them to more vigorously proclaim the word of faith.

Moreover, Christians who get the text right will not run the risk of believing that being ashamed of the Gospel is a plausible possibility (which can discourage evangelism). Their keynote will be on Gospel’s greatness, not on reasonable motives to be afraid and ashamed of it, once such shame and its reasons were not in the apostle’s mind when he wrote Romans 1.16, as said.

Well, there stands a basic little lesson on how to grasp the meaning of this verse. Along with it, we learn that Paul was proud of the message he preached, and this was his main point. At least in this text, the apostle never even took into account the chance of someone being ashamed of the Gospel. If we are to convey what he teaches here, the only option is to encourage Christians to boast of what they believe in, and this “holy pride” is great motivation for the sake of proclamation.

Pr. Marcos Granconato

Strength and faith

Soli Deo gloria

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