A Sacred Obligation
Scripture: Romans 1:14–1:14
This is the second of two concluding messages from our series on the first 8 chapters of Romans. We have spent 8 months together, unpacking these chapters about the Gospel, or “good news” of God. So I think it is fair to ask: What has God done in your life through these messages? Some of you have been here for the entire series. Others have joined half way through. Others may only have come recently. But whether in whole or in part, what have you learned? What spiritual riches have you acquired from this rich mother lode of spiritual truth?
Maybe through these messages you have come to faith in Jesus Christ. You put your trust in Christ and his work on the cross and you were justified by faith and became a child of God. Or maybe you were already a believer, but through these messages you gained new insight and new appreciation for God’s magnificent and complete work of salvation. Maybe you have been released from doubts that plagued you, or been set free from the bondage of sin in some area of your life. Possibly you have been set free from some old yoke of religious legalism and liberated to walk under the influence of the Spirit of God. Or maybe you acquired a new realization of how much God loves you and how secure you are in God’s love. There is so much spiritual truth here to feast on; I only hope that you have been as blessed by listening to these messages as I have been in preparing them.
Now, while we are reflecting on what we have taken away from this series of messages, I need a volunteer…
When the volunteer arrives on the platform…
What is this I am holding in my hand? (Offer a 1000 dirham note)
I am going to give this to you. But before I do, you need to know something. It is not for you to keep. I want you to take it and give it to (prearranged person standing at the back).Will you do that for me?
After this is done, continue with the message…
Last week, in one concluding message from Romans, we leaped ahead in Romans, to chapter 12 and verse 1 to see one application growing out of the Gospel. In that verse Paul urges us, based on the mercy of God revealed in the Gospel, to present our bodies, our lives to God as living sacrifices.
But I could not, in good conscience, conclude the series without looking at one more application and implication of our studies in Romans. For this one, rather than leaping ahead, we are going to leap back all the way to chapter 1.
Once again, we are focusing on just one verse; verse 14. In fact, I am particularly focusing on just one phrase in the verse: I am obligated. Before we break from our series in Romans, we need to understand this. When you and I received the Gospel, we incurred a debt. We inherited a sacred obligation. We became debtors. That is literally what Paul says: I am a debtor.
What is this debt we have incurred? In one sense, we looked at one such debt last week. Christ gave his life for us. We now owe it to him to give our lives back to him in obedience and service. But Paul is speaking about a different debt in Romans 1:14. It is a debt, an obligation which he says he owes both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish…
What is this debt we owe? How shall we discharge it? Paul answers that question in the next verse. He speaks of his eagerness to discharge his debt when he says: That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel to you who are at Rome. How will Paul discharge his obligation? By preaching the Gospel. The word Paul uses here is the word from which we get the English word “evangelize”. To share the good news of the Gospel.
Here is what we must all realize. After 8 months of study and 8 chapters of Scripture text, this truth we have learned, this Gospel we have received is not for us alone. When I gave the 1000 dirham note to (name?), I did so by saying, “This is not for you to keep.”
Now I need to stop at this point and highlight an inadequacy in my object lesson. In the object lesson, (name ?) received the money and passed it on without personal benefit. He received the money, incurred the obligation and passed it on and had nothing left to show for it. That is not the case with the Gospel. When you and I receive the Gospel, we receive great personal benefit. We receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life; we are adopted into the family of God. The Gospel we have received is for us. But it is not for us alone! With the Gospel and all its benefits, we incur a sacred obligation and that obligation is to share the good news with others.
In my introduction, I asked what you are taking away from these messages in Romans. What benefit have you received? I hope they are many. But we must realize that these benefits are not for us alone. With these benefits comes an obligation; a sacred obligation to pass the Gospel on.
There are some who might say that this was a burden and obligation that belonged to Paul alone. After all, he identifies himself in verse 1 as an apostle who has been set apart for the gospel of God. So maybe this is a particular burden on those who have received a special calling. But the Spirit of God will not let us off the hook so easily.
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 5:17-18:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
It is clear in this text that Paul is talking to all who have believed the Gospel. “If anyone is in Christ…” All of us who have been reconciled to God have been given “the ministry of reconciliation.” God has “committed to us the message of reconciliation.” This is our sacred obligation. The Gospel is for us, but it is not for us alone. We have an obligation to pass it on.
God may have unique callings and unique burdens that he places upon certain believers. Paul’s unique calling was to the Gentiles and to take the Gospel where it had never been preached before. In another text we are told that while Paul’s calling was to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, Peter on the other hand, was to take the Gospel to the Jews. Maybe God has given you a particular burden and calling. Maybe it is to a particular people group. Maybe your calling is to work with children, or with youth or some other unique group. The specifics of our ministry and calling may differ but the ministry and message of reconciliation has been entrusted to every child of God. Roles may differ, but we all have a role to play. If we have received the Gospel, we have inherited this debt. Like Paul, we are debtors to pass the message on.
There is a story in the Old Testament, in the Book of 2 Kings. The city of Samaria was under siege by an enemy army. The people in the city were starving to death. There were four men with leprosy in the city. Their plight was particularly desperate. They took counsel together. “If we stay in the city, we are going to die of starvation. Let’s go out to the enemy camp. Maybe they will take pity on us and feed us. If they don’t, the worst they can do is kill us and we’re as good as dead anyway.”
So they went out into the enemy camp. To their amazement, they found it deserted. God had done a miracle. He had caused the enemy soldiers to hear the sound as of a large invading army. They fled in panic and left everything behind.
I am going to pick up the story in 2 Kings 7:8:
The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.
They had all they could eat and more; riches beyond their wildest dreams. But then they were convicted by the Lord. This is the part I want us to see in verse 9:
Then they said to each other, “We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves…”
They went back into the city and reported the good news and the city was saved. But I wonder if this could be said of us. We have spent 8 months feasting on the spiritual riches of the Book of Romans. We have eaten the Bread of Life. We have drunk from the living waters of God’s truth. We have taken truth and hidden it away for future use. This is appropriate. This is as it should be. This Gospel is for us. Feast on it! Enjoy it! Celebrate it! But let’s not stop there! We must realize, as these four men did; with this privilege comes responsibility. Let it not be said of us here at ECC: “We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.”
The Gospel is good news. It is good news for us. But it is not for us alone. Those of us who have heard and believed the Gospel have inherited a sacred obligation. We are debtors to those who are still inside the city, spiritually starving to death. We are debtors to pass the good news on. May God give us eagerness and boldness to discharge that debt.
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION
Share a truth from Romans 1-8 that you found memorable and which you intend to hide away and remember for future use.
In this sermon, Pastor Cam repeatedly made the statement, “the truths of the Gospel are for us but they are not for us alone.” How would you relate this statement to your answers to question #1?
Have you shared anything you learned from these messages in Romans with anyone else? If so, give an example. If not, why not? Why do we as Christians sometimes find it difficult to share the “good news” of the Gospel?
Is there someone God has laid on your heart to share a Gospel truth with during the next few months? Do you have a plan for doing this? Share this with the group and spend time praying for one another.