Editor’s Note: WALTER A. MAIER (1893-1950), held a PhD from Harvard (back when that meant something). He was famous for a radio ministry that was heard in over 120 countries. He was a devout Lutheran, during a time when his denomination was turning away from traditional Christianity. He refused to go against the older beliefs, and was called the greatest evangelist of the 20th Century by Billy Graham.
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the
power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.”
A few months before Charles Darwin, often called “the Father of Evolution,” died, he was visited by Lady Hope. In a signed statement this titled English woman tells how she found the scientist, who had flatly denied Scripture, propped up in his bed, reading the very Book he had attacked, the Bible. Calmly, yet forcefully he spoke on the guidance offered by the sacred Volume. He bemoaned the fact that people had accepted his theories regarding man’s origin as assured truth. Then he suddenly asked Lady Hope: “I have a summer house in the garden which holds almost thirty people…Tomorrow afternoon I should like the servants on the place, some tenants, and a few of the neighbors to gather there. Will you speak to them?” “What shall I speak about?” Lady Hope inquired. Clearly, emphatically he replied, “Jesus Christ and His salvation,” adding in a lower tone, “Is not that the best theme?” Thus, with death approaching, did Charles Darwin, evolutionist and denier of the Bible, acclaim the Lord Jesus.
This same eleventh-hour seeking refuge in Christ occurs every day along the far-flung battle lines of the Second World War. Why is it that a sailor from a torpedoed ship, rescued after floating eighteen days off Australia, cries out, “You can’t be an atheist on a rubber raft!”? Wtiy was it that when the Japanese bombardment began, soldiers on Corregidor, even those otherwise irreligious, fell on their knees before God? Why, during a recent blackout, did New York hotel guests telephone the desk for Bibles? Must we not conclude that, as danger and death approach, men usually banish their boasting ridicule of religion and humble themselves before their Maker?
How tragic, then, that even the disasters of war have not thus shocked all our people into a sense of utter dependence on Christ! Masses are crowding bars, night clubs, and places of sinful amusement, while across the Pacific American soldiers daily lay down their lives. Millions, with fatter pay envelopes than they have ever received before, are drinking, gambling, and carousing, while the sea daily takes its toll in the flower of American youth. We dare not permit pleasure to go on as usual. In this critical hour we need serious thought and especially a humble, prayerful return to the Lord. Therefore, though unbelievers reject Christ, skeptics question His Gospel, paganized thinkers ridicule His promises, atheists deride His holy name, proud sinners spurn His mercy, the cry must be:
Glory in His Gospel! Confess Him courageously! That loyalty to the Savior marked the mightiest of all apostles, Saint Paul, who exclaimed (Romans, chapter one, verse sixteen), ‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” heroic words which I give you not only as the text but also as the motto for a Christ-centered life.
I. WE HAVE EVERY REASON TO GLORIFY HIS GOSPEL
It took magnificent courage for Saint Paul to write the first Christians in the ghettoes and slums of Rome, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ!” and it required marvelous strength of faith for the apostles and those early disciples, surrounded by the pomp and display of imperial Rome, to stand up for Jesus and confess publicly that they were followers of a lowly Nazarene, who in distant, despised Galilee had died on the cross as a criminal. The declaration “I am a Christian” often meant the death sentence, even as Saint Paul paid for his loyalty with his life.
How much easier it is for us to champion the crucified Savior! Thank God, we live in a country, founded by believers, that still grants full religious libertyl Thank God, we can read the records of nineteen centuries during the Gospel has mightily changed men’s hearts, just as it has lifted nations from the depths of vice and degradation, transformed cannibals into humble believers, and, in short, enriched the world with its highest, noblest blessings.
Despite all this the very word “gospel” is misunderstood, misapplied, and misinterpreted. A Minnesota architect maintains that, though most people in our country repeatedly use the word “gospel,” they actually do not have a personal understanding of its meaning. Glibly men mention “the gospel of Communism,” “the gospel of hatred,” “the gospel of internationalism,” and a hundred other “gospels.” Pointedly Saint Paul warned, “Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed!” Yet false gospels have crept into churches: political gospels, social gospels, ethical gospels all as far from our Lord’s saving Gospel as blackest night is from brightest noon. Why do we not stop such misuse? Why do we not restrict this precious word “gospel” to its original, true, and sacred sense? In the same way, we believe, many hear the names “Jesus” and “Christ,” the words “redemption,” “atonement,” “salvation,” and fail to grasp their full, deep, true wealth of comfort.
So that on the great day of our Lord’s reappearing you cannot say, “You preached, but you never showed me the way to life,” let me tell you just what His Gospel is! It took six weeks for the bad news of the Solomon Islands naval encounters to reach our people, but in less than six seconds this glorious message can be heard around the world. It is the “good news” (that is the original meaning of “Gospel”), the best news anyone can ever receive, the assurance that Jesus Christ, the Son of the Almighty and the Son of the Virgin, moved by unmeasurable love, came into this sin-saturated world, lived His life among sin-bound men and died on the sin-cursed cross, all to remove your transgressions and grant you pardon, eternal salvation, and heaven itself! Though blinded, willful enemies of the faith try to change or alter, add or detract, question or quibble, this is how the Scripture explains the Gospel: “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life!’
Never since Saint Paul’s day has the Gospel been proclaimed with the clarity and conviction shown by that mighty spiritual leader whose work millions commemorate this Sunday Martin Luther, reformer of the Church and restorer of New Testament Christianity. Just four and one quarter centuries ago yesterday he started the titanic task of restoring the Gospel. While time restrictions prevent us from broadcasting his immortal Ninety-five Theses, or religious truths, by which that earth-shaking Reformation began, we can present nine and five theses reemphasizing the glorious truths which Luther rediscovered and courageously restated. Here they are: First, the nine theses, or facts, which explain our redemption:
1. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” that is, lost the holiness with which the Lord created them. This is Bible truth.
2. Unforgiven sin is punished by eternal death in hell Scripture, which has never made a mistake and never will, warns, “The wages of sin is death.”
3. No man can remove his own transgressions, make himself pure and spotless in Heaven’s sight. “Can…the leopard” change “his spots?’ Holy Writ demands, to show how utterly impossible it is for us to cleanse our stained souls.
4. Nor can even saints or angels take away our transgressions. Revealed truth assures us that no man can “redeem his brother nor give to God a ransom for him.”
5. Only the Almighty can remove sin’s curse. If there is to be hope for men and women burdened with many and terrifying transgressions, they must find it in the God who cries out to a world of anguish and evil, “In Me is thine help!”
6. God not only can save us; He has saved us. He sent His Son to fulfill the Law we had broken, to assume the punishment of our iniquity, as our Substitute to pay the death penalty of all our guilt, so that, beholding the cross, we know, He “was delivered for our offenses.”
7. Through faith in the Crucified and through faith alone we know that our sins are removed forever. The Bible promises, “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”
8. By accepting the Savior we who were “children of wrath” have become “children of God” who live under divine love, guidance, and protection.
9. By believing this glorious Gospel heaven is ours; for if we remain faithful to the end, God has promised us the “crown of life” eternal amid the indescribable radiance of our celestial homeland.
These are nine facts of the Gospel, As I repeat them I am sure some of my Modernist friends are shaking their heads either in protest or in condescending wonder. I can hear them call these Gospel truths “old-fashioned,” “out of date,” “narrow,” “bigoted.” Yet the only message which can turn souls from hell to heaven is this old but ever new Gospel, of which proud, self-sufficient men are ashamed, but for which the contrite can never thank God sufficiently.
There is more to Christ’s Gospel, however. Here are five additional theses, divine truths, showing its glorious grace:
1. The blood-bought, cross-gained salvation is for you, each one of you individually. Our text offers its blessing “to everyone that believeth.” You may be on the lowest rungs of human society, cut off from your fellow men because of your misdeeds. (I am now thinking of the triple murderess in the Ohio penitentiary at St. Mary’s, who every Sunday urges the women convicts to hear our radio message. I have in mind a young man in the Jefferson City, Missouri penitentiary, serving his second sentence, who recently wrote me that he had altogether forgotten Jesus until he heard our broadcast, when he pledged himself never to reject his Savior again.) You may be soldiers or civilians, rich or poor, white or black, yellow or red; yet each of you can say, “This is my Gospel, my Christ, my Savior.”
2. You can approach Christ despite the multiplied misdeeds in your past life. You can come just as you are, unclean, impure, unworthy, to learn, “Though your sins be as scarlet., they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
3. Your redemption is free. You cannot buy your salvation, for Christ has paid everything. One drop of His precious blood can outbalance all your transgressions, for here is the unbreakable promise: “The Hood of Jesus Christ His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”
4. To receive the full Gospel blessing you need only believe, only approach God as a poor, miserable sinner who accepts the Savior’s grace. Divine truth assures us, “By grace are ye saved, through faith.”
5. Your forgiveness is unquestioned and positive. Our text calls the Gospel “the power of God” not of man. “Heaven” itself “and earth shall pass away 9 before this supreme pledge is violated.
These five theses present to you the most sacred and sublime love which even God Almighty can give. For your souls’ salvation I ask you to study their life-and-death certainty. Wherever you are, let me direct to your home one of the thousands of pastors who work together with me for this same glorious Gospel and who can help you declare in the fervor of sincere faith, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ”!
II WE HAVE NO REASON TO BE ASHAMED OF HIS GOSPEL
Now, with all the pardon and perfect peace Jesus can speak into sorrowing, aching hearts; with all the light His Gospel offers for life’s darkest hours, should we not expect that every person on earth would accept His message as the highest good and the greatest blessing? Did you ever hear of anyone being ashamed of the friend who rescued him from death? Have you ever met a Negro whose heart is not moved by gratitude toward Abraham Lincoln, a true American who does not honor Washington’s heroic work? Have you ever read of a nation which does not pay tribute to those who fought and fell in its defense? Why, then, with Christ offering deliverance from death’s grip, sin’s slavery, hell’s tyranny, do millions blasphemously reject Him? How does it happen that some theological seminaries in the United States have not one man on their faculties who believes in the inerrancy of the Scriptures or in Jesus’ atoning death and life-giving resurrection?
How can we account for the fact that Christ is pushed aside in many modern churches which ban all hymns concerning the cross and the blood? Why do we sometimes behold, even in Gospel churches, lukewarmness and indifference toward the Savior? Why does a nation as wealthy as ours rob God? (If our people gave only 10 per cent of their income for religious purposes, the churches would have $4,000,000,000 annually for the extension of the Kingdom. Actually they receive only a fraction of that amount.) Why is it that a country founded by Christian pioneers, settled by Christian colonists, developed by Christian frontiersmen, richly endowed as no other nation in any other part of the world or in any previous age, now has more unbelievers, more public enemies of Jesus, than ever before?
Ask the large group of those who, despite the appeals of this “Go to Church Sunday,” have kept their distance from every place of worship, why they are ashamed of the Gospel, and they will answer, “Christianity has failed because it has not prevented this World War.” Nothing could be more unfair than to cry out, “The churches have been tried and failed in this crisis.” Rather should we admit that our age suffers its sorrows because it has failed to try Christianity. The postman recently brought a letter with one-cent postage due to a Duxbury, Massachusetts man, who refused to accept it and pay the penny. Back it went to the Dead Letter Office, where it was found to contain $450. Does any one charge the United States
postal system with failure when the fault lay entirely with the man who would not accept the letter? Why, then, blame Jesus for the war when multitudes within our boundaries spurn the free offer of His help and mention His name only in foul-mouthed profanity? Recently we read that the chaplain of the United States Senate died because a druggist had mistakenly compounded a prescription with fifteen times as much narcotic as the doctor had ordered. Does any sound-minded person hold
the doctor responsible for that pharmacist’s mistake?
Is it fair, then, to charge the Gospel with failure in this world of war, when many, ordained to preach the whole Bible, offer an erroneous substitute, a destructive counterfeit? If Jesus’ Gospel were universally accepted and His teachings followed, there would have been no Second World War. But because men hate Christ and love sin; because selfishness, carnal ambition, avarice, lust, love of power, and worship of money make them trample the rights of their fellow men, the world has been turned into bloody shambles. Jesus pleads, “Love one another!” but willful unbelievers insist, “Hate one another!” Jesus gave the Golden Rule, but dictators lay down the rule of steel and blood and iron.
Ask philosophical minds why they are ashamed of Christ, and they will demand in counterquestion: “How do you expect us to accept a religion in which a God permits war’s terrors and agony? How can we harmonize the existence of pain and evil with the Christian faith?” Some of you likewise refuse to acclaim Jesus your Redeemer because you think that the Lord has dealt too cruelly with you. A dear one has been snatched from your side, and in stubborn resentment you demand: “How can there be a God if I must suffer this way? How can there be a Savior if I am plunged into this agony?” You have tried to settle these issues apart from the Word. If only you would realize that Jesus has the key and explanation of human suffering! Those who come to Him in faith know that each affliction is laid upon them, as the Lord’s redeemed, by divine mercy instead of His anger, that trials which seem beyond analysis are the Almighty’s way of purifying faith and strengthening trust.
Again, ask proud enemies of our faith why they are hostile to the Gospel, and they will sneer: “Well, hasn’t Christianity been rejected by outstanding scientists? Isn’t it true that all great thinkers have discarded the Bible?” To both questions we answer with an emphatic “No!” Not only have leaders in every branch of learning been humble followers of the Lord Jesus, but today, during the heyday of unbelief and atheism, recognized teachers and intellectual leaders have come out strongly for Christ. Listen to these testimonies offered by men on the faculties of great American universities: From the University of Wisconsin: “In the Bible we find , . . our Savior, and eternal life through faith in Him”! From Ohio State University: “The Bible has shown me my sin with its terrifying consequences; but it has also brought me the direct comfort of the Savior who died for me on Calvary”! From Michigan State College: “The Bible reveals Christ and His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind”! From Johns Hopkins University: “I believe that . . . the Son of God Himself came down to earth and by the shedding of His blood on the cross paid the infinite penalty of the guilt of the whole world”! From Temple University: “I have praised the Lord that as a physician He has given me the privilege of testifying to Christs saving grace”! From the University of Illinois: “ln Jesus Christ I have found my Savior and Lord, my Helper along the way. Without Him life would be empty and worthless, the load of sin … still separating me from God”!
If these and hundreds of other present-day scientists, far from being ashamed of Christ, acclaim Him the Savior, should you refuse to accept Him? Many who attack the Bible have never reverently studied His Word, and many who assail His Word are led by blind and willful ignorance. Popular magazines this month bring the confession of a physician under the title “I Was an Atheist Until” -until that doctor took time to examine the human body and study the miracles which led him to conclude that there must be a divine Creator. If you who place question marks behind the glorious truth of the Savior’s atonement would only stop locking the Holy Spirit out of your heart and take time to consider the “many infallible proofs” of His forgiving, sustaining love, you, too, could write a glorious chapter in your life’s story entitled, “1 Was an Atheist-Until” -until I studied God’s Word and the evidences of Christianity.” Do not be troubled by the fact that men with headline names often attempt to discredit our Lord! I remind you that before Pearl Harbor some of the enemies of the faith publicly urged our people under no circumstances to take arms in behalf of this nation. Of course, they have changed their advice now; but the point I wish to emphasize is this: if these false prophets in academic garb could be so utterly mistaken in matters of human life, dare you follow them in their poisonous, destructive teachings concerning the heavenly life? Rather and I am pleading particularly with you college men and women join those scientific leaders who with inner joy and spiritual conviction exulted, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ!”
As men reject Jesus, they advance one excuse after the other. Many of their claims are dishonest; all of them are mistaken and destructive. Behind every refusal to accept the Gospel lies the love of sin, the unwillingness to serve God, the stubborn pride that will not repent. Christ is spurned and the appeal of His cross set aside because men love evil; because they want to serve the flesh; because the Savior is too lowly and humble, the Bible too stern and unbending in its denunciation of all wrong. Jesus says, se lf any man will come after Me, let him . . . take up his cross”; He insists, The “first shall be last”; He warns, “Ye must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God;” and since men prefer greatness, power, glamour, money, applause, the glorious Gospel of grace is contemptuously cast away. The consequence of that rejection, Jesus declares, is this: “Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven” “He that believeth not shall be damned.”
Thus once more I have laid before you this inescapable issue: Are you ashamed of Christ, or do you glory in His Gospel? I know that across the United States and Canada millions of you cling to the Savior as your only Salvation. God grant you continued loyalty and the determination to remain faithful always and everywhere! The Lord give you the courage to speak up in clarion voices, rebuking die enemies of the Cross, but testifying valiantly to the hope that is in you! Stand by us, my fellow redeemed, in this radio crusade dedicated to spread the message of Christ’s atoning love! England, Scotland, and Ireland are literally pleading for this Gospel. Our Sunday evening short-wave transmissions to these countries bring us a flow of letters which urgently ask that we maintain and increase our trans-Atlantic mission of the air. Help us reach the young men in the American fighting forces, who are ready to give themselves for our cause! Last week a corporal at an Ohio airfield wrote me that he had been on the verge of taking his life, when he heard our appeal to behold Christ and to trust Him. That changed everything, he said, and he has promised with God’s help to follow in the Savior’s footsteps. Give us the means for reaching all our young soldiers!
Some of you had not accepted Jesus as your Savior, were still ashamed of Him, when this broadcast began. Now that you have heard the message of His love for you; now that you have beheld the crucified Son of God, wounded, bleeding, nail-pierced, blood-streaked, death-marked, can you say, “I am ashamed of Him’? May the Holy Spirit mercifully keep you from that terrifying denial! May He rather lead you (and I have prayed especially for those who once knew the Lord, but who followed the path of sin; for you who until this hour have neglected your soul and steadfastly turned from Christ), if necessary, through suffering, sorrow, and pain, but always from cross to crown! May He bring you, humble, repentant, yet trusting, joyful, to Calvary, where, your sins forgiven, your cares cast on Him, your hope strengthened by His unfailing promise, your faith exults: “Blessed Savior, how could I be ashamed of Thee and Thy Gospel, the promise of my forgiveness, life, salvation? O Jesus, precious Jesus, grant me constantly more of Thy love, as I give myself in soul and body, mind and spirit, to Thee now and forever!” For heaven is yours when Christ thus becomes your Savior. God give you this unashamed, unhesitating, unending faith in the blessed Redeemer! Amen.