I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So 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
Paul lists three “I am’s” in these three verses that have gripped me for a long time. I underlined them to make it easier to catch. I say gripped me. I could use the word driven. Paul used the words “gospel ambition” in Romans 15:20-21: And this I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of Him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’
I became a Christian through and evangelist that came to my rural farming community through a Vacation Bible School ministry. She and her ministry partner would come from hundreds of miles away for a week each summer to present the gospel to me and my community, a place where there was not a gospel witness. It was there, from the age of four on up to the age of seventeen, that I sat under their teaching and heard the good news of Jesus and was discipled by the two.
They continued to pray for me and influence me well into my adult life. The evangelist had a strong gift of teaching as well. I secretly wanted to be with her at her death so I could receive her mantle (or cloak), much like Elijah/Elisha, even though she lived states away from me in a retirement home. I didn’t find out that she had gone to be with Jesus until about a month later, but then God gave me a wonderful dream that I did get to walk her into the sunset off of a dock on a lake to go be with Jesus. It was like He was saying that He did give me her mantle.
Along with that has come the passion that Paul describes in Romans 1:14-16. He sums it up by saying: I am obligated to share the gospel with anyone and everyone; I am eager to come to you, whom I haven’t met yet; and I am not ashamed of the gospel because I know it is the power of God for salvation.
I am kind of like Clark Kent. I don’t wear my cloak (cape) so everyone can see it, like a pastor or a missionary does. I keep it under my principal’s clothes. But it’s there. It drives me and pulls me to places like the County jail, and to women’s homes that would never come to church–He calls me to go to them. One time I was meeting with a gal who was just desperate for help and so she went to the phone book yellow pages and went to the church list and the church I attended was at the top of the list. She called the pastor and said she was a mess.
He asked me if I would go meet with her, which I did. In talking with her, I asked if she would like to know Jesus. She said she would. So I explained how she could do that and she said she would like to pray, so we prayed together. We began to meet weekly for quite awhile. We were at her house one day, and she had three unruly young boys–plus an unruly big black lab. She firmly told the boys to keep him out of the house while we sat at the kitchen table and studied the Bible together.
Before we knew it, the boys let the dog in the door, which was right by the kitchen table. The fiercely barking dog lunged straight for my face and jabbed his mouth at my cheekbone, just below my eye. He had just been barking and his mouth was open, but yet when he got to my face, it was like it was slammed shut. I firmly believe that God shut his mouth. If He hadn’t, I would have a huge dog bite scar on my cheek. God shuts the mouths of lions and black labs!
I think of this story just to say, you never know where God’s gospel ambition will take you, and how He will enable you to share with those who haven’t heard before to hear. What a privilege.
Thinking about the three “I am’s,” why would we be obligated, especially since we’re saved by grace? When we receive grace–the good news about how to escape from a common misery, then we owe it others to tell them the same good news of how to escape. If I had cancer and someone shared a cure for cancer with me, I would feel a debt of gratitude to that person for sharing the cure and for being healed. I would want to share it with everyone else who have cancer out of an eagerness to see them be healed, just as I was.
Paul found grace, so he was a debtor to tell everyone else the good news of grace too. If I really get the gospel of grace, that I don’t qualify for it, and I got it–I would cherish it and gladly pass it on. I would be obligated and eager because he has transformed my life with it. God has also given me a reason to live and a hope for life after death.
How many people do you talk to that don’t really have that reason to live and that hope for life after death? You have it, but maybe you don’t share it because you think they don’t want to hear it. That would mean you’re ashamed of it. It’s so easy to keep quiet because of that. I have to remember to not be ashamed because the gospel is what people need, not anything else.
If I’m not ashamed of it, it means:
- that I know that the gospel of God changes lives and there is no other way to find hope in life and death.
- that I know I cannot rely on anything else to see change come about–not my personality, not a fancy presentation, not emotional stories, not cool music
- that I must get the gospel out to whomever will listen
So, my thought is to be like Paul. We are all debtors because of grace. We have found the sin cure. Because of that, we ought to be eager to share the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world. Remind yourself not to be ashamed. Being reconciled to God through Jesus is the very thing that everyone needs because all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The payment for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus (Romans 6:23).