We are continuing to unpack the opening prologue of Romans found in chapter one verses 1-17. This prologue is all about the gospel, which is also what the entire book of Romans is about. The gospel is the good news of salvation that is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In the first seven verses, we looked at the specifics of the gospel. In verses 8-13, we looked at some of the defining qualities of the servant of the gospel, which was Paul himself.
This morning, we want to look at Romans 1:14-16. The thrust of these verses is very simply this: it is not enough to know the gospel. It is not enough to just have it in your head. It is not enough to be able to answer questions about it. You have to share the gospel with others.
Investing The Gospel
There is a sacred stewardship that has been entrusted to each and every one of us in the gospel, and we must invest it aggressively. It is like money that has been given to us. We have to invest it. We cannot hide it in a jar and bury it in the ground. We have to put it out in the marketplace. We have to get it into the lives of people. We cannot be a hoarder of the gospel. We have to be an investor of this sacred message.
Part of our accountability when we stand before the Lord on the last day will be: What did we do with the gospel? We will not be asked what our preacher or our pastor did with the gospel. Nor what our elders did with the gospel. Each of us, individually, will give an account to the Lord on how we invested or how we hoarded the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not enough to come to a Bible study. It is not enough to take notes. It is not enough to be able to articulate what the gospel is. Rather, it has to be invested. The gospel must be shared with the world so that people may to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Obligated, Eager, and Excited
As we look at Romans 1:14-16, these verses are known as Paul’s “Three Great I Am’s.” You will note Paul’s statement of “I am” in verse 14, verse 15, and verse 16. They are each related to Paul’s sense of obligation regarding the gospel, his eagerness with the gospel, and his excitement for the gospel.
Let me begin by reading these verses. They are very personal for each one of us. Paul writes in verse 14:
I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:14-16).
It is as if we are lifting the hood and looking down into the engine of the apostle Paul. What drives him? What accelerates him? What is his passion? What motivates him? What propels him? The answer is found in the three great “I am” statements of Paul. That which fuels Paul must fuel us as well.
I. I AM UNDER OBLIGATION (1:14)
Paul begins in verse 14 by saying, “I am under obligation.” There are a lot of Christians today that I hear saying, “We are all under grace. There is no such thing as duty or obligation. There is nothing laid on me. If you talk about obligation, you are a legalist. You are under the law. I am free. I can do what I want to do.” Let me say, that is sheer fool’s talk. The fact is, as believers, we are under obligation to God, we are under obligation to Christ, and we are also under obligation to others. Paul makes that abundantly clear in this text.
When the apostle Paul says, “I am under obligation,” we must understand that what he says applies to us as well. What is true of Paul is true for every one of us. Paul is not standing in a special line by himself, while the rest of us are in a different line. Paul is not the only one under obligation. He is speaking for every believer.
I want you to notice certain things as Paul says, “I am under obligation.” Notice how this begins, “I am.” Not, “I will be.” Not, “I once was.” Paul uses a present tense verb, “I am.” He is referring to the state of his life, every moment of every day. No matter when Paul would say this – whether he had just become a believer on the Damascus road, whether he is on his first, second, or third missionary journey, whether he is in a prison cell in Rome about to have his head severed – no matter where Paul is, he is always under obligation.
This is a constant state of obligation. Paul is not saying, “I am under obligation on Sunday morning.” Nor is he saying, “I am under obligation when I am teaching on Monday.” It is not simply, “I am under obligation on Tuesdays.” This is not a multiple choice, and he gets to pick and choose when he wants to be under obligation with the Lord. This sacred duty is twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Right now, you and I are under this same constant obligation.
When Paul says, “under obligation,” the old King James and New King James versions say, “I am a debtor.” That is very much the idea, though, obligation works as well. It is hard to go from one language to another language, but the word and its background speak of a financial obligation. It is as if you are in debt to someone, and you have an obligation to pay off the debt.
This should initially strike us as surprising for two reasons. Number one, salvation is a free gift. How can you be a debtor if you receive something as a free gift? Later in Romans 3:24, Paul will talk about salvation as a gift. He says, “Being justified as a gift by His grace.” Likewise, Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” How in the world did Paul end up in debt after he received a free gift for which he had paid nothing? That is a question we need to think about. How could Paul say he has gone into debt for a free gift? How did that work?
The second reason this is surprising, if you think about it, is that Paul has never been to Rome. Neither has he bought anything in Rome. He has never even met these people. He is now in debt for a free gift with people he has never been to see. You can be in debt two ways, and I want you to think about this. I will use myself as an example. One way to be in debt is if Bill was to lend me $100. As long as that $100 is in my pocket, I am a debtor to Bill. I need to give it back to him at some point. That is one way. The other way would be if Bill gave me a $100 bill, and he said, “When you see Kent, give him the $100 bill.” Now I have a two-way debt. As long as this $100 is in my pocket, I am still in debt to Bill, but I am also in debt to Kent, because I am supposed to give it to Kent. That is the second way this debt works.
A Two-Way Debt
Paul understood that the riches of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been deposited into his account when he became a believer. He is now the recipient of the free gift of salvation. But he is charged to give it to others. He must share the gospel with others. He must actually talk to people about Christ. The same is true for us. As long as I withhold talking about Christ to someone else, whether it is in my office, in my family, someone with whom I went to school, or someone I sit next to on an airplane, I am in debt to them because God has given me the gospel to give to them.
In a more primary way, I am in debt to God. Not to pay for this gift, but through a sense of accountability and responsibility. On the last day, I am going to have to stand before Him. He is going to go through my portfolio and see if I invested the gospel or if I hoarded it and kept it to myself. It is my responsibility to share the gospel with others, and I am accountable to God for whether or not I do this.
Paul is saying, “I am ready to come to Rome because I have a big debt to pay off. There has been something put into my life that I must pass on to others.” The same is true for you and me. Wherever the Lord sends you today, you are under obligation to speak to people about Jesus Christ as God opens doors of opportunity. I am not talking about being a wild-eyed fanatic standing on a street corner intimidating people and running them over. I am talking about building bridges towards people, befriending them, getting to know them, and as God gives you the opportunity, talking to them about the gospel. We have been building bridges for years. At some point, we have got to carry the gospel across that bridge to others and actually talk to them about Jesus Christ in order to discharge our responsibility.
A Watchman on the Wall
In the Old Testament, the imagery of being under obligation was slightly different, but it expressed the same truth. Paul picks up on this imagery in the book of Acts. The prophet Ezekiel said he was like a watchman on the wall, and there were people going about their day-to-day business behind the wall. If the watchman sees the enemy coming, he must blow the trumpet in warning. If the people do not respond, and the enemy comes and destroys them, then their blood is on their own hands. That is to say, their death was their own fault. The prophet blew the trumpet, but they chose to sleep in, or turn a deaf ear to the warning. That is on them. He did his part. He warned them. On the other hand, Ezekiel says that if he sees the enemy coming and chooses not to blow the trumpet, and the people are destroyed, their blood is on his hands. He was supposed to warn them, but failed to do so. Just like the watchman on the wall, we will each give an account on the last day for whether or not we shared the life-saving message of salvation.
In Acts 20, when Paul met with the elders at Ephesus after he had been with them for three years, he was about to say his farewell. They were going to hang on his neck with tears and say goodbye to him. Paul said, “My hands are free from the blood of all men. I have spoken up publicly. I have spoken up house to house. I have been in big groups and small groups. I have been one-on-one. I have not failed to blow the trumpet. My hands are free from the blood of all men. If any turn a deaf ear, then that is on them.” That is what Paul is saying in Romans 1:14 when he says, “I am under obligation.”
The same is true with you and me. We are under obligation to do something with the message of the gospel. We must give it to others. I want you to think about who you will cross paths with today. You must have this preset mindset that if God gives you the opportunity to testify for the Lord, you are going to jump right into it. You are going to talk to them. You are not going to have to pray about it because you have already prayed about it. You are looking for the opportunity.
“Both to Greeks and to barbarians”
As we look at verse 14, notice to whom Paul is under obligation. He says, “both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.” Here, Paul is using a literary method called “parallelism.” There is an A line and a B line. It is the way to say the same thing, but with different words. We will look closer at both lines and the meaning behind Paul’s words.
When Paul says, “to Greeks,” that refers to those who are at the top of society’s ladder. They were the cultured and the educated. The Greeks were refined and polished. They loved the arts. They had been trained in social graces and social skills. The Greeks were those who had arisen to the top of the ladder, and were at the top of the social and cultural scene of the day. The Greeks had read the philosophers out of Athens. The Greeks were very conversant with people, as though they had a liberal arts education.
Paul says, “I am under obligation to people who have ascended to the highest levels of society,” but then he also says, “to barbarians.” Referring to barbarians is the total antithesis. If the Greeks are at the top of the ladder, the barbarians are in the basement. You could not be any lower than the barbarians. The barbarians were crude, they were rude, they had no social graces, they had no polish, they had no learning, they could not even read. The word “barbarian” was a derisive term used by the Greeks who were looking down at others. To the Greek mind, when the barbarians spoke, their accent and pronunciation was so crude that they abused the language. They could not even be understood in what they were saying. When they spoke, it sounded like this, “Bar, bar, bar, bar, bar.” That is where the word ‘barbarian’ comes from. It is not even a word, but a mocking of people who have never been taught how to read, write, and speak to others.
By this phrase, “both to Greeks and to barbarians,” Paul uses a figure of speech known as inclusion, where the author states the two extremes, and it is implied that he is also addressing everyone in-between. It would be like saying this, “from the east coast to the west coast of America.” That means not just New York and California, but implies every flyover state in-between. Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and everywhere else. When Paul says, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians,” he means not only those on the top rung and the bottom rung of life, but every rung on the ladder. In other words, he is under obligation to everyone. If you are breathing, I am under obligation to you before God and to God, to talk to you about Jesus Christ, as God gives me the opportunity.
“Both to the Wise and Foolish”
At the end of verse 14, Paul says, “Both to the wise and to the foolish.” This is another way of saying the same thing, it is the second line of the parallelism. “The wise” does not refer to those who are wise in the things of the Lord. The reference is like the wise that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 1 – those who are wise in the things of this world, those who are wise in their own eyes, those who have all the degrees after their name, those who have excelled to the highest level of school. They are wise in the philosophies and ideologies of this world, but the sad fact is, they are unaware that they do not know the most important thing in life. They are not wise in the things of God. Rather, they are wise in the things of this world, which is spiritually bankruptcy. “The wise” match up with the Greeks.
“The foolish” at the end of verse 14 match up with the barbarians. They know they are foolish. They have never been to school, they grew up on the wrong side of town, they have not had the advantages and privileges that have been afforded to the wise. They are not just foolish in the things of the Lord, they are even foolish in the things of the world. Paul knows he is under obligation to the foolish as well as to the wise, and everyone in-between. Paul cannot say, “My ministry is to upper-class, white businessmen. If I am sitting next to someone else, I get a pass because that is not my mission field.” According to Paul, that attitude is wrong.
Whoever God providentially brings across your path as you travel the road of life, you are under obligation to talk to them about the gospel, as God gives an open door. By and large, we are meant to bloom where we are planted, that is God’s sovereign providence. We are going to talk to the people who are the closest around us, and that is generally going to be people who are like us. But the people we cross paths with daily can often be the hardest people to reach.
In witnessing, the easiest thing to do is to get on a plane and go to a far-away foreign country. You are never going to see those people again. So it is easier for you to be bold with them. Short-term missions is easy in that regard. You want to know what is hard? It is to be a witness for Christ in your family. That is tough, because you are going to see them next Christmas, and during summer vacation, and next Thanksgiving. When you speak to them about the gospel, it can be offensive to them. It can be equally hard to witness to the person with whom you work. Being bold with them is much harder than talking to a stranger. We must talk about the gospel on an ongoing basis with those to whom we are close. The Lord has sovereignly placed you in their lives to point them to Jesus. Just like Paul, we, too, are under obligation to all men.
II. I am Eager (1:15)
In verse 15 Paul begins, “For my part, I am eager...” In other words, no matter what everybody does, for my part, I am eager to do this. If everybody is in on this or if nobody is in on this, for my part, I am eager to do this. It is like the coach talking to the kickoff team saying, “Listen, you cannot wait for Fred to make the tackle. You cannot wait for Kent to get off the bench. For your part, you must make the tackle.” Paul is owning up to his personal obligation in preaching the gospel.
Every one of us needs to be able to say, “For my part, I am eager.” It is one thing to have an obligation to pay a debt, but it is something else to be eager to pay it off. Anyone can be under obligation and drag their feet to discharge their duty, thinking, “Can I just get this over with?” However, it is something else to be spring-loaded, sitting on ready, eager, and wanting to do it. Just like Paul, we must have a mindset that it is a privilege to tell others about Christ. It is a joy. It is fulfilling the purpose of why we are breathing on planet earth.
The Forward Lean
As we consider the word “eager,” we need to pause for a moment. Eager is a compound word, and it is worth bringing to our attention. The word pictures the forward lean of a runner. When I used to play football, you could tell who wanted to run the ball up the middle and who did not. In practice, there was always a guy on the third string, who would be put in at running back against the first string defense. You knew he was going to be handed the ball and be destroyed. He would be running off tackle right, and everybody on the first string defense knew he was coming off tackle right. Everyone knew he was getting the ball because he was shaking in the huddle, his eyes were like saucers, and he had cottonmouth. This little guy got the ball and headed to off tackle right as slow as a glacier. There was no forward lean. In fact, he was leaning backwards before he was even tackled. He was the very antithesis of this word “eager.”
“Eager” is the idea of the forward lean of the runner. You are pressing forward with the gospel. The main root word for “eager” is the same word for passion. It literally means ‘heavy breathing.’ The word gives the picture of a bull that is heavily breathing, ready to charge ahead. The word passion even carries the idea of the heavy breathing of a husband and wife’s intimate, physical relationship. There is an excitement, a passion, to press on. That is the word here for “eager,” with a prefix in front of it that intensifies the word. When it comes to the gospel, Paul does not have the emergency brake on. He is in fifth gear, pedal to the metal, speeding ahead.
“To Preach the Gospel”
Paul says, “I am eager to preach the gospel.” He is not just eager to live the gospel. It is very important that we live out the gospel in front of people. But if we only live the gospel, people around us will go to hell merely thinking we are a good person. What did that get them? In fact, it is rather self-serving that we are only living as a good person in front of them and not actually speaking the gospel to them. It is taking the easy road, keeping a comfortable distance so that our feelings do not get hurt. Nobody is going to get into heaven because they think you are a good person. You must open your mouth and speak the gospel to others.
Paul says in verse 15, “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” The phrase “to preach the gospel” is one word in the Greek. We get the word ‘evangelism’ from it. The one Greek word comes out as three or four words in English, “to preach the gospel,” is euangelizo. You can almost hear evangelism in euangelizo.
“I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Every word in the Bible has importance. The word “also” clearly implies he has been preaching with eagerness wherever he goes. “I want to preach it to you also who are in Rome.” That means whether Paul is in Corinth, or Ephesus, or wherever, he is eager to preach the gospel, no matter where he is.
Hardest to Reach
This is an amazing statement. If there were one place that was the toughest on planet earth to preach the gospel, it would have been Rome. Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire. There was sheer depravity everywhere in Rome. It was a cesspool of inequity. It was the filthiest, dirtiest, most idolatrous, most immoral, most incestuous place on the planet. Yet Paul says, “I am eager to go to Rome, the toughest place to share the gospel.” As the old saying goes, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” He has the mindset of, “Wherein the light shines into the darkness, the darkness cannot expel the light, but the light will always expel the darkness.” Paul is ready to go to Rome.
Paul’s own conversion is an example of one who was the hardest to reach. No one was further away from Jesus Christ than Saul of Tarsus. We will look in detail at his conversion in just a minute. But Paul understands that if he can be brought to faith in Christ, anybody can. If the Lord can capture him, the Lord can capture anyone, because he was the chief of sinners. He was one who would be labeled as “hardest to reach” with the gospel. Yet he was the one who the Lord saved.
This begs the question: What is your Rome? What is your hardest place to witness? Is it with your closest relationships? People you work with? Family members? Who are those people that you have almost written off as the hardest people to reach with the gospel? Paul is challenging us. We have to be ready, but we also have to be eager to reach those who are the furthest away from the Lord. Paul is eager to go to Rome. He is like Caleb going into the Promised Land, who wanted the biggest mountain with the biggest giants on it. We must be ready and eager to go to the hardest places to reach the hardest people with the gospel.
III. I AM NOT ASHAMED (1:16)
In verse 16, there is one more “I am” statement. Not only does Paul say, “I am under obligation” and “I am eager,” but he also says, “I am not ashamed.” Please note again the full impact of these two words, “I am.” He does not say, “I will be,” as if one day he will get around to it. He does not say, “I am hoping to achieve to.” Nor does he say, “one day I will arrive.” No, Paul declares, “I am,” in the present tense. “This is my constant state.” “This is my habitual lifestyle.”
Paul puts this statement in the negative by using a rare figure of speech, a double negative. He uses the word “ashamed” with “not” in front of it. This means the total opposite of being ashamed. He states dramatically that he is unashamed. For example, I could ask, “So how did you play golf today?” “Oh, it was not bad.” That means it was good. Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s word will not return to Him void. That means it will powerfully perform and accomplish all that He intends. It is a figure of speech known as litotes that uses two negatives to make a positive. This form of expression communicates with a strong effect. It carries a punch that lodges into the reader’s mind. Paul could have said, “I am fired up. I am excited. I am eager.” But there is far more of an impact to put it in a double negative. “I am not ashamed” is even stronger than saying, “I am excited” or “I am enthusiastic.”
“The Power of God”
Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because it is the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. When he states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation,” “it” refers to the gospel. This is why Paul is so eager in verse 15. This is also why Paul is not ashamed in verse 16. Because the gospel has the power to liberate any life from its bondage to sin. It does not matter where a person is with their life. It does not matter what happened in the past. It does not matter what your sin has been. It does not matter if you are a Greek, if you are a barbarian, if you are wise in your own eyes, or if you are foolish. It does not matter who you are, where you are, what you are. The gospel is far more powerful than your sin. The gospel is far more powerful than any resistance against God. The gospel if far more powerful than whatever lifestyle anyone has been entrapped in.
This word “power” comes from a Greek word (dunamis) that translates into the English language as ‘dynamite.’ The gospel is the dynamite of God. There is no more powerful message in the entire world than the gospel of Jesus Christ. No message has a greater impact than the gospel. No message has a more lasting effect upon a person’s life. No message has the power to change them from the inside out than the gospel. Every other message is just behavior modification. Mere religious talk is simply an outward touching up of a person’s life. Only the gospel has the divine power to work from the inside out and revolutionize a person’s life so that they are no longer the same in their essential being. When the gospel explodes in their life, they are not the same person. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
If this has not happened in your life, then you have never received the gospel. You cannot receive the gospel, and it not dramatically impact your life. When you believe the gospel, you are radically changed and transformed at the deepest level of your being. The gospel is not just painting the outside shell of your life. This is a total reconstruction process. The old things within you have been torn down, new things have been put in place, and you are totally rewired. You are totally restructured. You have a new mind. You have a new heart. You have a new will. You have a new disposition. You have a new standing before God. You have a new priority. You have a new pursuit. You have a new life direction. You have a new destiny.
There could not be a more dramatic makeover of your life than what happens when you receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not just a box you check on a religious survey. This is the total transformation of your life from the inside out, and you will never be the same again. That is the supernatural power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to say this again emphatically. If this dramatic change has not happened in your life, then you have never received the gospel. The saving truth of Jesus Christ does not pop like a little firecracker. It is not like a little snap-gun “pop” that goes off in your life. The gospel does not come in small segments. The gospel comes in a holistic, comprehensive package of truth, and when it is received, it explodes like a volcano in a person’s life.
The one who wrote this verse stands as the prototype for every other conversion. Paul could not have been anymore hell-bent on apprehending Christians and dragging them back to Jerusalem. He was a part of having them put to death, like Stephen had been put to death, for blasphemy against God by saying that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. In one life-changing moment, Paul was taken down. In one moment, he was knocked off his high horse, and His entire life was rerouted, to the point that when they took him to the prayer group in Damascus, he had to have Ananias walk in with him and say, “It is not a trick or a Trojan horse that has come into the Bible study. He really did get saved. He is one of us now.” It was that dramatic of a change, from black to white, from death to life.
Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation.” The word “salvation” was used to mean ‘deliverance, to be delivered from great danger, to be rescued from ruin.’ What is this danger the gospel saves us from? The answer is, from God Himself.
Look ahead to verse 18. Paul says, “For the wrath of God is revealed.” This is a present tense verb meaning that the wrath of God is endangering the human race right now. Not that we will be in hell one day. This danger is imminent. Romans 1:18 states, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men.” God’s steaming hot vengeance and fiery hatred of sin is right now bearing down upon every unbeliever. Those who are outside of Christ are but a heartbeat away from this wrath. There is a whole lot more to the gospel than, “Smile, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” On the contrary, it is Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Edwards got it right out of the Bible.
To be saved means to be rescued. Not from loneliness. Not from a bad job. Not from personal insecurity. It means to be saved from God Himself. There is only One who can save from God, and that is God Himself. Only God can rescue you from His wrath. If God does not rescue you, God will damn you. You will suffer the torment and the affliction of those in eternal hell. Hell cannot be hot enough for the person who is outside of Christ, who has risen up and rebelled against the holy God of heaven and earth. Every one of us desperately needs to be rescued from the imminent danger of the wrath of God. From the fire and vengeance of His wrath. Hebrews 10:31 tells us, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
There is only one way to be saved, and that is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is another reason why Paul is amped up to go to Rome, because there are people there under the wrath of God, who need to be delivered and rescued. There is only one way for them to be saved, and that is through the gospel.
“To Everyone Who Believes”
Paul continues, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” This gospel is for “everyone.” Greek, barbarian, wise, foolish, the gospel is for everyone. Paul will now distinguish the world religiously. In verse 14, he broke it out culturally, from Greek to barbarian, from wise to foolish. Those are cultural distinctions. In verse 16, he breaks it out by religious distinctions. “To the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” This is a very important statement.
There is only one way for someone to be saved, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, and that is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is not one way for a Jew to be saved and a different way for a Gentile to be right with God. There is only one narrow gate that leads into the kingdom of God, and that is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. When Paul says the Jew first, it is like the ripple effect caused by tossing a pebble into a pond, the ripple that subsequently moves out from the center to the perimeter. The gospel came initially to the Jews, and they were to take it to the world. However, they hoarded the saving message to themselves.
In fact, when the prophet Jonah was commissioned to go to Nineveh, he ran in the opposite direction. He did not want the Gentiles to be saved. He wanted the gospel to stay inside Israel, the way they had always been. He did not want outsiders to receive this salvation. He wanted to hide the gospel in his back closet. So he boarded a ship and headed to Tarsus, which is basically modern day Spain. But he was supposed to go to Nineveh, which is in the opposite direction. That is like being in Dallas when God calls you to go to New York, and you get on a plane and fly to Los Angeles. Jonah was trying to get as far away from what God wanted him to do as he possibly could. He did not want anyone else to be in on this great salvation that had been given to the Jews.
What a miserable mindset. What a selfish, self-absorbed, self-consumed way to live on planet earth. But it is not just Israel who acted this way. It can be also the church. It can also be us. We want to keep the gospel to ourselves, and we do not want anything to change salvation. We act as if we do not want anyone else in on this glorious grace of God that we have received. It is as if we do not want anyone else in our club. Paul says of the Jews, “We are going to take the gospel to them, but then we are going to take it to the Gentiles, to the Greeks. We are going to go to everyone with this gospel.”
We are going to stop right here and talk about this. Then we will pick it up next week with verse 17, because verse 17 is so important. It is the theme of the entire book. There is so much going on in verse 17, it is just fabulous.
Let us talk together about verses 14, 15, and 16. The three great “I am’s.” I will open it up for discussion. Tell me, how do you think this affects your life?
Audience: I am often not living under obligation. I am not eager enough, and often times I am ashamed, especially with those closest to me. I could not agree more that it is much easier to talk to somebody in Kazakhstan than it is to the person in the cubicle next to you. Especially when you have to live it after you give them the gospel.
Dr. Lawson: Yes, and especially when that rejection is so personal. I know you, but I do not know someone in Kazakhstan. In fact, I cannot even pronounce their name. But I know you, and we have to go to committee meetings every week together.
Audience: They see your inconsistencies, and they expect you to be different, which you should be, but you are not perfect. That is why you have a Savior.
Dr. Lawson: Yes, so how do we overcome this Matt?
Audience: Give them the gospel. Give them the power of the gospel. We are under construction. We have been totally transformed, but we are still in process. We have been justified, but we are being sanctified. We have been made perfect, but we are being made perfect.
Dr. Lawson: Sure. There is not a man in this room who does not struggle with this. There is not a man in this room who can say, “Okay, I have already maxed out on this. What else have you got for me in Romans? I am there. I need a challenge, okay?” No, this is every one of us. Because the more spiritual the activity, the more difficult it is. It would be so much easier to bring doughnuts to the office and be the class hero than it is to serve the gospel.
I think one way we overcome it is what Paul says in verse 16. His realization of what the gospel can do in a person’s life. I think we forget how much power the gospel has. We almost think the power has to be in our presentation, but nothing could be further from the truth. God works through weak people to spread a powerful message. The power is in the gospel. It is a hand grenade ready to go off in someone’s life. We pull the pin and get out of the way. We do not have to make it powerful. It is powerful. All we have to do is present the gospel as God gives us opportunities. Teach it in a class. Share it with our children. Then pray for God to work it into their soul.
Audience: The word of God was supernatural.
Dr. Lawson: It is a supernatural message with supernatural power. It is out of the box. It is so far outside of this world. It is come down from another world. It is come from God. That is what he said at the end of verse one, “It is the gospel of God.” This is God’s gospel. It has the power that God possesses.
Audience: I think that the problem sometimes, at least with me, is with faith. Because everybody says outwardly, “I have faith.” I heard this illustration about the guy that crosses Niagara Falls on a cable, and everybody is cheering for him and he is the hero. “Do you think I can do it?” “Yeah, yeah, go for it. We are with you.” “Well, why don’t you climb on my back and I will take you.”
Dr. Lawson: They say, “No, I am happy for you to do it.”
Audience: Exactly. This is the problem. When it is our time to say, “I am not ashamed. I am eager, and I am going.” Instead we say, “Wait a minute. I do not think I can do that.” Then we realize that our faith is not as strong as it should be. Whether you are the minister at large or the guy in charge of the nursery, that does not matter. It is a matter of our faith. It is a struggle because we are not in the word as we must be, and even when we are, it is difficult to believe it. If we believed it like Paul did, we would be eager. So that is the issue. That is the reality. At least sometimes, for me, I still struggle with that.
Dr. Lawson: Yes, well put Allen. Absolutely.
Audience: I think it is that step of faith. The power is going to give you that step of faith. If you exercise it, it is like that third string running back thinking, “Okay, I am going to make first string. I am going to show them. I am going to prove myself.” He has faith to even do that.
Dr. Lawson: Sure. God loves to take the third string and stick it in the end zone because He gets all the glory. God loves to take nobodies, like us, and do extraordinary things through us. We were all laughing at the third string running back, and it is kind of a funny picture, but that is us. That is every one of us. We are tripping over our words, and we are stumbling to the line of scrimmage, but God works through us because the power is not in us. The power is in the message, not in the messenger. It is a weak messenger, but a strong message.
Audience: When I consider this, it is like the three points of selfishness, “Me, myself, and I.” I love myself, but am I willing to love others? Because that is what you have to do to present the gospel. I think that considering what God has done for us is key. Always remembering that He loved me when I was unlovable. He loved me. So often we are afraid because we want to love ourselves, and we do not want to be reviled. We do not want to extend our hand and get bitten. You look back at your life and you are ashamed of how selfish you are. That is what is so convicting about this.
Audience: I think, too, that we do not want to offend anybody. The reality is, the greatest love that we could have is to tell somebody the eternal truth that if they accept Christ, by faith alone, then they do not go to hell. That is not really loving someone if we do not want to give them the gospel, is it? Because the greatest thing we can do in loving someone is to give them the gospel and be in heaven with them ten thousand years from now. But my mind thinks, “I do not want him to be upset with me when we go to lunch.”
Dr. Lawson: It is like you have the cure for cancer, but do not want to hurt their feelings. I will close with this. I was in Los Angeles this past Saturday eating lunch at a restaurant with four other Christians. I have an 89 year old woman who wants me to eat with her three grandkids. I cannot say no to this 89 year old lady, who is a wonderful lady. Her three grandkids are triplets and go to the Christian school out there. We are at this round table like this eating breakfast. The waitress comes up, and here are the five of us, Christians. Do we talk to her, or do we not talk to her about the Lord?
I am kind of sputtering. I do not want to mess up a nice lunch. I do not want to embarrass this girl, whatever, whatever. Low and behold, it is the 89 year old grandmother was has the faith to say, “So what is your name?” She says, “My name is Sarah.” The 89 year old grandmother says, “Sarah. That is a wonderful name. You know, Sarah is in the Bible,” and boom. In five seconds she has made this transition. Within two more seconds, this grandmother says, “So are you a Christian?” Well, I am almost sliding under the table a little bit thinking, “I feel so embarrassed for you to be asked this and we are all smiling at you.” She says, “Oh, yes, I am a Christian, and my mother named me for Sarah in the Bible.” I am thinking, “Whew.”
I mean, it challenges me. I cannot let some 89 year old grandmother lap the field, and use me to mop up the field. I need to be leading the parade. We all need to be stepping out in faith to see how can we talk to people about the Lord Jesus Christ. All of us here need to be able to say, “I am under obligation.” That is just a fact. “I am eager.” That needs to be in place. And “I am not ashamed.” God, do that in my life today. Let me close in a word of prayer.
Father, thank You for this Bible study. We need what Paul has said to be in our lives. We need it to be more in our lives. Bring us up to speed with where we need to be. Give us a greater passion for the gospel. Give us a greater passion for people and help us, strengthen us, enable us, empower us to be what You have called us to be. We cannot do this to ourselves. We humble ourselves and yield to You. In Christ’s name. Amen.