Paul began his lengthy treatise on justification by faith with this bold affirmation - "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith'" (Rom. 1:16,17).
When there is only one way to be forgiven and thus justified before God, it would be quite foolish to downplay its importance. Each Christian must be committed to upholding and defending this great message from God (i.e., the gospel, cf. Jude 3).
This commitment will bring the righteous in conflict with the ungodly of the world. This can tempt some to compromise their convictions. Whether the pressure to yield comes from persecution (as it did with first century Christians) or simply the desire to fit in with the world (cf. Rom. 12:1,2), followers of Christ need to recall the words of the Master. Jesus warned His disciples - "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels" (Luke 9:26).
Some early Christians apparently were tempted to avoid controversy as touching the gospel. Paul told Timothy - "Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God" (II Tim 1:8).
What are some ways people show they are ashamed of the gospel? Perhaps the most obvious one is silence about religious matters. In some circumstances silence may indeed be golden, but when it comes to God's word silence probably shows one is yellow. That is, he is a chicken, afraid of engaging in a discussion about the gospel. Recall Jesus said - "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32,33). Now, occasionally, silence is the wisest course of action. Jesus showed this during His sham "trial" (cf. Mark 14:57-61; 15:3-5).
Why might some members of the church not wish to talk about what ought to be the heart and center of their lives? Perhaps they think by not bringing it up they can still be faithful and avoid upsetting non-Christians. Taking this thinking to the extreme means one would never attempt to teach even one soul, which is contrary to the command Jesus gave in Matthew 28:18-20. Would this be counted as being faithful to the Lord and His will? Obviously not. The devil knows very well how to shut the mouths of weak members.
Another way people show they are ashamed of the gospel is in failing to stand for the truth (cf. Gal. 2:5). Apparently some do not believe in the uniqueness of the Lord's church, do not have strong convictions about it, or are unwilling to defend it (cf. Phil. 1:7). The gospel is a very narrow way which obviously excludes many (cf. Matt. 7:13,14; Acts 4:12). Some disciples feel so uncomfortable with this truth that they may compromise the message. However, by so doing, they have denied their Lord and His church.
Others show their discomfort with being identified as Christians in not praying at public places (e.g., restaurants). Still others fail to openly carry a Bible lest they are taunted. In an increasingly anti-Christian society, such wishy-washy followers will probably soon fall away (cf. Luke 8:13).
Paul wasn't ashamed of the gospel because he knew it was the only way for man to be saved. How about you? Are you ashamed of the gospel? Hopefully, you will be able to say with confidence, "No way!" Only then will Jesus claim you as one of His (cf. Heb. 2:11; 11:16).