Friday, October 06, 2006

Romans 1:14-15

I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.

Obligated to whom? Greeks and non-Greeks. Cultured and non-cultured gentiles. All people! Why? What has “everybody” done for him that requires something of him? 1 Corinthians 9:16 “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” Paul is not indebted to God for His grace; rather he is indebted to the people of the world. God’s grace given to us does not indebt us to God. Because of the grace of God, we are obligated to share the gospel with everyone. There is no one who is any less or more deserving than us. And that makes us a debtor to all. Grace is free. God gives it freely; nothing is required to get grace—lest it not be free. When you hear good news about how to escape from a common misery, you become a debtor to tell the good news to others so they can escape the misery too. You owe it to them. Why? Because if you withhold the good news of grace from others, it’s as if you were qualified for it, and they were not, then you show that you have never known grace. Now we are debtors to God not because of His grace, but because we have stolen His glory by sinning against Him; and it is His grace that pays for those debts. God’s grace calls us out of darkness into the light and bestows eternal covenant love on us in order to create what it commands—faith. Grace makes us willing to believe. We will not believe without it; we are certain to believe once made willing by it. God’s grace creates our faith.

God sent His Son to die in my place, and He redeemed me from my sin. He united me to His Son so that now my heart is His Son’s heart. I want to think the way His Son thinks, I want to live the way His Son lives, and I want to do the things His Son wanted to do. What did Christ want to do? The Will of the Father. What is the Will of the Father? That people from all nations will come and worship Christ to the glory of God. Therefore, we should want to see the nations worshipping Jesus Christ; furthermore, Jesus has told us to go to all the nations. Paul was once an enemy of Christ; now he is His apostle. And Paul was overwhelmed that God would give a sinner like him that kind of an obligation. We should be too.

Paul was eager to share the gospel. The obligation was not burdensome for Paul; rather, it was a delight. It was voluntary slavery. Paul was eager to share the gospel—with believers! Are you eager to share the gospel with believers? With unbelievers? We don’t usually think about preaching the gospel to believers. Paul wanted to preach the gospel to these Romans, and they were already believers. Paul is not merely interested in getting professions of faith, as crucial as that is, by first-time preaching of the gospel. (My father-in-law is amazing when it comes to this!) Rather, Paul is interested in bringing to God the offering of sanctified gentiles—perhaps the “obedience of faith” is sanctification. It’s the gospel of grace that converts, and it’s the gospel of grace that sanctifies. We must tell people the gospel the first time; and we must remind people again and again of the meaning and implications of the gospel of grace. So the gospel of grace is what we preach to unbelievers, and the gospel of grace is what we preach to believers. That is what Paul says in Romans 1:15. He desires to preach not to get them saved, but to keep them saved through sanctification. Our faith feeds off the good news of the grace of God. And our obedience feeds off of faith. Therefore, to bring about the obedience of faith, we must hear the gospel of grace over and over.

Now, we don’t think of duty and obligation in terms of eagerness. We hear duty, ought, obligation, and we immediately cringe. There are a lot of people that will say, “Once you become a Christian, you don’t have to do anything; it’s just that you want to. You don’t have to obey the commands, you just want to.” That is incorrect theology. Paul says he’s under obligation. Does a husband have to love his wife? Yes. I hope he wants to, but he has to. Do parents have to love their child? Yes, I hope they want to, but they have to. Obligations don’t change when we become Christians. God’s commands are still there, but those obligations cease to be burdensome, because our hearts have been renewed. Paul is obligated and eager. There’s no contradiction between obligation and desire. Paul’s willing, but it’s also a command. He has to, but he wants to. Here’s an analogy:

Martin Jones is a junior executive. He’s sitting in his office, it’s early afternoon, he’s working on some accounts, he’s really kind of bored by the work he’s doing. His boss comes down the hall and says, “Jones, we’ve got a guy in town with huge potential, and I want you to do this. I want you to go out with Mr. Phillips over there. Head out to the country club, and play a round of golf with him.” Now Jones happens to love golf. And in fact while he was doodling on the notepad, he was thinking about golf. Now is he happy about going out to play golf with a huge potential client. He’s thrilled; he’s willing. Does he have to go? Oh yes, he does. His boss told him to. He has to, but he wants to. Paul’s mission statement as an employee of Christ and his life’s passion are one in the same. He loves his work. Do you?

So here is the summary of what we’ve done so far: grace came to us unconditionally and absolutely free from God when He called us to Himself and loved us as His own. This grace makes us debtors to everyone who, like us, needs grace, because not to share the grace we received would imply that we qualified for it and they don’t; and that would nullify grace. And what we share is the gospel of this great free grace. This is how we pay our debt to others: freely we received, freely we give. Every believer is a steward of grace to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of the glory of God’s Holy Name.

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