I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
One of the “gotcha” questions the media loves to ask pastors is this: “Do you believe that a sincere Jew who follows his religion but never accepts Christ will spend eternity in hell?” I’ve seen pastors stutter and stammer when trying to answer that question. Finally, they sputter, “Well, we have to leave that up to God.” I have found the best way to answer that question is head-on. Yes, the sincere Jew who practices his faith without accepting Christ is going to hell, just as the sincere Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, or Baptist who follows religion without ever accepting Christ will spend eternity in hell. How can I say that with confidence? Because the three most prominent Jews of the New Testament–Jesus, the apostle Peter, and the apostle Paul–all said the same thing. They all said there is no salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ.
If anyone could be saved by his religious credentials apart from Christ, it should have been the apostle Paul. In Philippians 3, Paul recounted his spiritual pedigree: “Circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless” (vv. 5-6). Paul believed he was doing God’s work. He was convinced that Christianity was a heresy that needed to be stamped out. If religion could save anyone, it should have saved Paul. But Paul had a dramatic encounter on the Damascus Road that changed his life. Acts 9:3-5 says, “He was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.’” That confrontation transformed Paul from being the greatest antagonist of Christianity to the greatest evangelist for the Christian faith. Paul’s experience demonstrates that sincerity of religion is not enough.
We also see that in the ministry of Paul. Paul was not like many Christians today who say, “I personally believe that faith in Christ is the only way to be saved, but I don’t want to impose that belief on other people.” Not Paul. He said in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” At first glance, that phrase seems strange: “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Why would anyone be ashamed of the gospel? Yet if we’re honest, I think all of us would say there are times we’ve demonstrated by our actions that we’re ashamed of the gospel: when we refuse to speak out in class when the teacher is attacking Christianity, when we fail to share the gospel with somebody, when we refuse to lovingly say to the sincere follower of another faith, “There is only one way to heaven.” We all demonstrate that we’re ashamed, in a way, of the gospel when we refuse to speak out, but not the apostle Paul. He never backed down from proclaiming there is only one way to heaven.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The World’s Most Famous Jew Who Found Jesus” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.