As Paul sat in Corinth, contemplating his planned journey to Rome, he could have easily been intimidated. Rome as the seat of the world's strongest, most dominant super-power. Roman roads, laws, and armies spanned the Mediterranean world. What could he possibly say that might make a difference in the context of Rome's seemingly unassailable power?
As he considered what he would do and say when he came to this great city, he reflected back over what had brought life and light and hope to the many people and cities where he and his apostolic team had been. What was it that had turned people from darkness to light, that had prompted them to repent and believe in and follow Jesus, that brought them into relationship with God? In one word, it was the gospel.
That's why Paul writes this in Romans 1:16: 'For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes'. Paul was unashamed because the gospel is powerful. People aren't ashamed of power. That's why Rome had so much pride - it was self-perceived as the most powerful city in the world. But Paul was not self-confident - he was gospel confident. He was confident in the belief that the good news about Jesus was powerful to save people.
If the gospel is that powerful, we need to understand it in very clear terms. What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news that God became man in Jesus Christ. He lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died, in our place. Three days later He rose from the dead, proving that He is the Son of God and offering the gift of salvation and forgiveness of sins for all who repent and believe.
That's the good news. And that is God's power for salvation - that's how he delivers people from darkness and brings them into relationship with himself. When we see that, know that, and celebrate that, regardless of what else we see around us, like Paul, we'll be unashamed.