The word ‘gospel’ means “good news.” In the Roman Empire this word was often used in reference to Caesar’s coronation. Romans believed that Caesar had brought them justice and prosperity, so the day of his crowning was good news. And when a new emperor was crowned, he would certainly make sure that the gospel of his ascension to the throne was proclaimed throughout the empire as well.
None of this would be lost on his Roman readers when Paul uses the word ‘gospel’ in reference to Jesus, the one he had just declared to be the “Son of God in power” (1:4). Paul is proclaiming a new gospel to the Romans: King Jesus has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. He now sits on his heavenly throne at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
In short, Paul is saying that the world is under new management! We tried to run the world our own way; it led to wars, bloodshed, and pain. But now, the promised one has taken the throne, and the best news of all is not that there is a king but that this King is good. The same Jesus that loved sinners, spoke the truth, and offered forgiveness while on earth now reigns supreme and is holding out salvation for all who will believe.
Paul is unashamed to proclaim this gospel because he knows that in it lies the power of salvation. Even as Paul wrote the words “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” he knew the sting of persecution. He had suffered much because of the gospel. He had already been stoned, beaten with rods (three times), shipwrecked (three times), received 39 lashes (five times), and on many other occasions had been imprisoned. Yet, he says, “I am not ashamed.” He proclaims the gospel all the more boldly. Why? Because he knows that “the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Paul had seen the enslaved sinner set free, the hopeless given hope, and the broken hearted healed by the power of Jesus. He had counted the cost of his persecutions and determined that the joys of serving the Lord far outweighed the pains.
Church tradition holds that less than ten years after writing this letter Paul was martyred for the gospel in Rome. He simply refused to stop proclaiming the good news about his King. May our great King and Savior grant us the same passion and perseverance in declaring His goodness to the world.
For further reading…- Hebrews 2:10-18: Jesus is not ashamed of you.
- Mark 8:31-38 & Luke 9:18-26: Christ speaks about being ashamed.
- Philippians 1:12-30 & I Tim 1:8-12: Paul speaks about being ashamed.
- Isaiah 55:10-11: The power of the Word of God.