by Mike Ratliff
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but suffer together in the Gospel by the power of God, the one having saved us and having called us to a holy calling, not by our works, but by His own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (a personal translation of 2 Timothy 1:8,9 from the Greek text)
The Apostle Paul’s understanding of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and that of most of what we refer to as the visible church in our time is quite different. I’m not talking about Reformed Theology as opposed to Arminianism or Semi-Pelagianism or even Pelagianism here. No, I am talking about the Good News itself and its impact on the believer and all those whom God touches through it as it preached and shared by obedient disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, the real, un-doctored Gospel must contain the offense of the Cross. It must be offensive in that it addresses the fact that each and every one of us is hopelessly lost and and on our way to an eternity separated from God in judgment because we are sinners who can do nothing to save ourselves from God’s Wrath which must come upon on all sin with no exceptions. That is why the Gospel is “Good News” and glorious my brethren.
In 2 Timothy 1:8,9, which I placed at the top of this post, the word “ashamed” translates ἐπαισχυνθῇς which is an interesting verb from of ἐπαισχύνομαι or epaischunomai, “to feel shame for something, or to be ashamed.” This verb form is aorist tense, subjunctive mood, but it is “used as an imperative.” What this means is that it usually forbids an action which is not in progress, and thus commands that it not be started. That is exactly what Paul is doing here isn’t it? The verb ἐπαισχύνομαι carries with it the idea of embarrassment and fear of ridicule because one’s actions or beliefs. It usually is not used of being ashamed of the wrong things one has done, but in the context of how Paul used it here.
Instead of being ashamed of the gospel and those who are suffering for its sake, what are we to do? The words “suffer together” translate συγκακοπάθησον the aorist tense, imperative mood, active voice form of συγκακοπαθέω or sugkakopatheō, “to suffer hardship in company with: – be partaker of afflictions.” This verb form is a command. We are to suffer together in the Gospel by the power of God. I submit that when these parameters are removed, when the suffering is alleviated by removing the offense or by softening the message or by preaching something else, et cetera, then we are being ashamed of the Gospel.
How were we saved? Was according to our works? No, it was by God’s own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the the ages began. How dare we attempt to change this glorious Gospel in any way by “contextualizing” it, thereby robbing it of its power. Here are vv19-12 from the ESV.
and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:8-12 ESV)
This is the gospel message that we guard and must never compromise in any way and that includes contextualization. When I say “contextualization” I am talking about changing it so that the hard edges the sharp offense is removed in an attempt to reach a certain group of people. However that is an exercise in unbelief. We must remain faithful to the one and only Gospel message given to us by God even if it is offensive and causes some people to become quite angry and want to kill us. It does not matter because that is that “suffering” thing that Paul was talking about. God will even use that to reach those whom He is preparing to reach with the Good News.
On the other hand, some say that “contextualization” includes translation into another language. Uh, no, that is not what I’m talking about. Every culture has the concept of what sin is and and when we point out that all men are sinners and are going to be judged by God who is Holy, Righteous, and Just and must judge all sin, but there is is Good News and there is a Saviour name Jesus Christ who has paid the price for all who believe and turn to Him in repentance as Lord and Saviour, well, that has worked in every culture with no exceptions so these people who say we must change the message in order to reach certain groups of people are pushing a man-centered message, not a message from God.
Soli Deo Gloria!