"What is the Gospel to you?"
Romans 1: 16-17
Romans is not a personal letter. It is not a story that never pick just you and me.
Romans is basically about the gracious actions of God reaching all mankind.
Paul ends his opening speech to the recipients of the letters to the Roman Christians, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel," revealing his identity as a deliberate, It is such a bold statement.
His Roman guests may not have realized what this means. Right before the announcement of this statement, Paul was imprisoned and stabbed to death in Philippi.
Then they preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in Thessalonica in which is the capital Macedonia, where is a synagogue of the Jews, and they are attacked by the Jews.
Surely the brethren secretly escape Paul and Silas at night and send them to the sheltered village of Berea, on the safe foothills.
However, the Jews in Thessalonica know that Paul is preaching the gospel in Berea, and follow it up to chase Paul and his companions.
And Paul and his companions spend an exceptionally long time in evangelizing the gospel in Athens, with no apparent effort or consequence.
And in the vision of Corinth moving to the end of the twists and turns, the Lord spoke to Paul.
"Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent, because I have many people in this city." (Acts 18: 9-10)
There a church in the six worship places with over a hundred people gathered.
There he met a Jewish man named Aquila, a native of Pontus.
He was just a few years ago from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. Paul worked with them, staying at their home because they had the same business.
But it was in the eyes of the Jews attacking Paul. Absolutely, Paul moved to the house of a man named Justus for safety reasons.
He was a Gentile but a believer in God and his house was right next to synagogue.
And the director of the synagogue, <Crispus>, became a believer in the Lord along with his whole family.
And after that many people heard Paul and believed in Jesus. Paul baptized <Crispus>, <Gaius>, and <the household of Stephanas>.
Shortly after, the Jews accused Paul to the proconsul Galio of Achaia, but when it was rejected, he held the synagogue chapel Sosthenes instead of Paul and beat it in front of the court.
Surrounded by dedicated saints to be hunted on behalf of Paul, he had a great comfort in his ministry for a long time.
There were so many good people next to Paul. Until then, Paul's ministry was very successful.
However, a short time later Paul had a problem as he left for Ephesus for mission. A letter from the Corinth church arrived from Chloe's household.
Some of the Christians left in the Corinthian church began publicly criticizing Paul.
"I follow Apollos"; Another, "I follow Cephas"; Still another, "I follow Christ."
That may have been because of Paul's writing, which concerns the Corinth church.
Paul's mission may not have been exactly the same as Apollos and Cephas.
Paul's role was planting, and the role of the intelligent leader Apollos was to give water.
Here Paul was able to regret his missionary work. He could be very angry, thinking about the Corinth church. But he unexpectedly says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel."
What is this gospel, what good news does Paul say? It may be a stupid question.
We know that Paul is not talking about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which have not been written yet.
Somewhere Paul talks about "my gospel".
But it speaks of Jesus' experience of his life, especially the voice of his call to Jesus, whom he met on his way to Damascus.
But he does not say that here. So what is Paul's "Gospel" now?
Paul sent a letter to the Church of Rome when he was ministering in Corinth for a year and a half, and after three years in Ephesus and two more years in Jerusalem on the other side, he finally arrived in Rome.
But until Paul arrived in Rome, his travel schedule did not work as planned.
Paul was arrested at Jerusalem. And was escorted to Caesarea along the Emmaus road just as the resurrected Christ appeared to his disciples.
And Paul was bound there by chains of prisoners and was taken to Rome.
Paul spent two years under house arrest in Rome. And finally he was executed by Nero Emperor.
Romans is the letter that Paul completed just before this fateful last trip.
"I want to see you earnestly."
"So I tried many times to go to you, but I could not go until now."
And he says: "My earnest desire is to preach the Gospel to you in Rome."
"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."
When Paul planned to go to Rome, did he know he was going to die there not too soon?
If he was an ordinary person, it would have been easy to get scared.
He did not travel to the pitfalls of success and wealth as today's top American CEOs travel in private jets and limousines.
Paul was finally a prisoner when he arrived in Rome, a Christian leader who was not welcome in ancient Rome. He was stigmatized as a threat to Rome.
Imagine that you are now touring ancient Rome on a time machine.
We see the Roman army marching from one side of the city to a towering pillar, one eye at a time.
They march in the middle of the city as conquerors on any land far from Rome.
And you see the people cheering everywhere when the army marches.
The trumpet echoes, the knife and helmet shine in the sun, and the banner shakes in the wind.
All the soldiers carry the booty of victory in their hands. And you see the thousands of new slaves who have been captured by them behind their strong army.
Now they carry gold and precious metals taken from their enemies and place them on the altar of Jupiter, the Roman war god.
On the left is an elegant temple built to worship the Roman gods.
The famous "Forum Romanum Square", where the Roman law was enacted, will appear soon.
It was the political and economic center of Rome from the 6th century BC to over 300 years.
There is a statue of the Caesar emperor, which the Romans actually serve as God.
Now we reach the Colosseum, which is as big as the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena.
This was a place where the Romans were built for a hundred thousand people to watch chariot racing, the confrontation of gladiators, or seeing Christians being thrown by lions.
Paul would have seen a massive Roman army marching towards Rome central.
But Paul now proclaims the new power of Jesus Christ to change the world before them.
What did Paul think of the parade of the imposing Roman army?
Paul had no army. The people Paul knows are usually many inmates and slaves.
So what is Paul's strength?
Even if all Rome forces Paul to worship the Emperor, there is no real power to force it.
But unexpectedly Paul's source of strength was the weakness of the cross of Jesus Christ. He is not ashamed to declare the weak gospel.
The Rome people boast.
"We have ruled the world and built cities."
"We can see Caesar. But can you see your God?"
"The king of Rome governs the visible throne, but your king died on the cross."
"The Romeans have become the greatest people in history. We will rule the world forever."
But Paul is not ashamed to say to the Romans, who were born to rule, and who are very proud, that they should be born again.
Paul reverses the logic of the greatest empire in the world.
"I am not ashamed of the gospel. Faith in Jesus Christ is the power to save you."
Paul was able to say this boldly in ancient Rome.
What about us living in America today?
Have not you sometimes been ashamed of the gospel?
Because in our sophisticated world there are lots of old and modern architecture everywhere.
Modern educated people do not believe in supernatural beings that are not based on observable scientific phenomena.
But we are not ashamed to think that we do not have answers to all the scientific questions of the world.
We do not even know all those questions.
We are not ashamed though.
It is because we discover the wisdom of the world day by day in Jesus.
I ask you. Do you remember the last time you shared your Christian faith with others?
When was the last time you spoke about a sermon or Bible passage to someone who is not going to church?
When was the last time you invited someone to church?
Are you afraid to call it a fanatic?
Are you afraid of losing his (her) friendship by talking about serious things?
But we are called to communicate and say, "I am not ashamed of the gospel and I want to share the truth with you. I hope you will grow up together in the gospel."
Obviously, if more of our Christians are not ashamed of the Gospel, we can lead social ethics.
We can shout for strength today.
"I am not ashamed of the gospel that tells us not to live for the things of this world, and I am not ashamed to have a car smaller than you, and I am not ashamed to live in a smaller house."
The world says, "Look for a good life," but the gospel says, "Look for the life of a good man."
The gospel was always a stumbling block to those who boast of things in the world.
They laugh at Paul and try to kill him, but Paul is not ashamed.
We are not ashamed to look forward to the resurrection of the Lord with those in the hospital today, along with those who are at home and are on the path of rehabilitation of long suffering.
We are not afraid to proclaim the gospel for everyone who has been discouraged for so long and has given up hope for a better life.