ROMANS 1:14-17




The word "debt" provokes an emotional response from each of us. Since we usually
associate the word with a financial obligation, it is a negative feeling. Debt is so much a
part of the way that our society operates that each of us knows the feelings that are
associated with it. Without question one of the things affecting our national economy at this time is the
size of the personal debt that individual consumers are carrying. There
was a reason for consumers not spending more money this past Christmas - their credit
cards would not accept any more debt! So many individual consumers are maxed out
when it comes to the amount of money they can borrow on their credit cards.
When the apostle Paul said of himself, "I am debtor" or "I am obligated", he was not
talking about a financial obligation. Rather he was confessing his moral and spiritual obligation to share
the gospel with the citizens of the world in which he lived. As one
who came to know Christ as an adult man, whose life was eternally and dramatically
changed, he felt a personal obligation to share the gospel with every person possible.
When you look at these words of the apostle and attempt to understand the sense of obligation that he
felt, it will help you understand where we need to be in our Christian lives. Debtor is not a word that most
of us would use when describing how we feel about the gospel. We, quiet honestly, do not feel an
obligation to share the gospel with everybody. Why is it that this first century Jewish convert, and all the
apostles, felt such an obligation and we 21st century converts no longer share such a sense of
obligation? It may well be that we have not thought as deeply about who we are, what we have received,
our relationship to the world around us, and our relationship to Jesus Christ, as we should have thought.
If you will get inside the mind of Paul and understand why he spoke these words, I suspect that you will
share his sense of obligation.
As we are making decisions today about our FAITH evangelism strategy for the next semester, I want you
to think with me about you being a debtor. To understand the debt that you carry will help you as you
decide whether or not you will be involved in FAITH in the spring of2001. There are three major things
that deserve our careful consideration.
When Paul writes, "I am obligated," it is a sense of accountability that grows out of his relationship to
Jesus Christ. He is debtor because of the nature of his relationship with Jesus. Since you and I share the
same relationship, we should share the same sense of indebtedness.
1. Because of the debt He paid for us.
What had Jesus Christ done for Paul that left him with such a profound sense of spiritual obligation? You
do not have to read far into the letters of Paul until you begin to sense the source of this sense of
obligation. You will remember that he bore witness to the Galatians, "God forbid that I should glory except
in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ." At the heart of Paul's understanding of his obligation to Jesus
Christ was a cross.
In his letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul refers to the cross in these words: "God made Him to be sin
who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." He saw the death of Jesus
Christ upon the cross as the moment in history in which the Son of God paid the debt for our sins
through the sacrifice of his own life. From the moment that he understood that aspect of the gospel, Paul
was forever more a person for whom Christ died. His life would never appear to be the same in his own
eyes-how could it? Jesus Christ had paid the price for sin by the offering of his blood as a means of
redemption. This put him in a debt to Jesus Christ-a debt which he would never be able to fully pay. It is
indeed a debt rooted in gratitude.
Christ died for me! He took my place! He bore my sins! He experienced my condemnation! Since he did
so much for me, I am obligated to him by gratitude forever.

2. Because of the gift He gave us.
The other aspect of his relationship to Christ that brought about the sense of obligation was the gift that
he had received from Christ. There are a number of ways that Paul might have described the gift that he
had received. In the Roman Letter he would probably have described it as "righteousness." By this term
he would have meant the required righteousness, the righteousness required to be acceptable before
God. God through Christ has given him freely this gift of righteousness so that he might be acceptable
before God.
In the same Roman Letter, he might have described it as the gift "of the Holy Spirit." In Christ, he
understood that God had given him the privilege of having the Holy Spirit to live in his life as the pledge
of eternal life. This was a mind-boggling truth - the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of God himself, living in me.
In the Galatians Letter, he looks at this same experience from a different perspective and speaks of
"Christ liveth in me." So, God has given to us the gift of righteousness, the Holy Spirit, peace, life, eternal
life, hope! He has given us this total gift, which we understand as salvation. Such a gift leaves us with a
sense of obligation.
When I look at my life from the human perspective, there are a few people who have given me so much
that it would not matter what they ask of me if it is within my ability, then the answer is "yes."
I think of my mother. She will be celebrating her 84th birthday in just a few days. This good, godly woman
has given me so much across my 65 years of life that there is nothing that she could ask that I would not
try to do. I am obligated! I am in debt. There is no way I could ever fully repay her for what she has done
for me. I've got a few friends like that! I think of a dear friend who is a member of this congregation that
has given to me and my family so much. There is absolutely nothing that I would not do for this friend, if I
could. The only limitation would be my ability. I am obligated! I am in debt.
Do you understand this? Do you understand the depth of our indebtedness to Jesus Christ? It was this
deep sense of indebtedness to Christ that causes Paul to declare, "I am debtor!"

This seems to be a primary focus of the apostle in this text. He says, "I am obligated both to Greeks and
non-Greeks, both to the wise and to the foolish." By the use of these familiar terms in that first century
world, he is declaring himself to be obligated to all men. When he said, "Greeks and non-Greeks" he
included the whole family of man. When he said, 'The wise and the foolish," he has included the whole
family of man. Racially, educationally, economically, socially, no one is excluded. He is declaring himself
to be obligated to every other human being on the planet. He will not exclude someone because they are
of a different race, or because they are of a different social standing, or because they are of a different
culture, or because they are of a different religious background or because they are of a different
political group. The obligation extends to the whole of the human family. What gave to Paul such a
compelling sense of obligation for the unsaved?  

1. We know their problem.
With these words, Paul is giving us insight into his understanding of the human family. We have been
adept at dividing the human family up into different groups, but in the eyes of God all such divisions are
at best surface divisions. Whenever you get down to the bare existence, the reality of every human life,
we are all the same. We are indeed all the sons and daughters of one original set of parents. We are
indeed "one blood." Our skin may be of a different color, our politics may differ, our cultural systems may
differ, but down deep on the inside we are all looking for the same thing - a life-fulfilling relationship with
Paul had come to Christ with the heavy burden of Jewish tradition and religion upon his shoulders. His
religious heritage in Judaism had never been able to satisfy the hunger of his heart. Many of those in the
first century world to which the apostle ministered came to Christ out of a background of paganism,
idolatry and Paul discovered that whether they came from an altar to an idol or from the temple in
Jerusalem, in reality they were both looking for the same thing - a relationship with God that was real.
When we look at the culture around us, the neighbors who live on our streets, the friends we bump
shoulders with in the market place, we should feel a sense of obligation toward them. We know what they
need! We understand their predicament. Indeed, we probably understand their predicament better than
they understand it themselves. It was this sense of understanding, this sense of shared humanity with the
rest of the human family that gave to Paul his sense of indebtedness. Can you indeed appreciate the fact
that through your experience with Jesus Christ, you have come to a profound insight into the nature of
human life? That profound insight obligates you!
2. We have what they need.
The apostle had an unshakeable confidence in the power and sufficiency of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
He is ready to declare that confidence and does when he writes, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel,
because it is the power of God for the salvation of every one who believes: first for the Jew, then for the
Gentile." He was convinced to the depth of his being that he had received what the world desperately
needs. He was like a man to whom a cure for AIDS had been entrusted. Can you imagine the sense of
obligation that would settle upon you if you suddenly became aware that you knew how to stop the
plague of AIDS around the world? It is within your grasp to share this secret with those multitudes of
Africa where whole communities are being decimated - thousand and thousands of children are being
orphaned by this terrible plague of AIDS. And you have
the cure! Are you not obligated to share what you have with those victims of AIDS? Is it not a moral debt
that you must pay? If that be true for some one who has a cure for AIDS, how much more for someone
who has the cure to the sin malady in the human heart. How much more for someone who has the good
news that has the power to change the destiny of a person? How much more for someone who knows the
secret of having your life transformed from within and having it made right with God for eternity? The
obligation is upon us! We are obligated to those in our community and our world who have not yet
understood the gospel of Jesus Christ!

This we learn from the apostle: "That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to
you who are at Rome." Paul understood that the only way he could pay his debt was by
the preaching of the gospel. The word "preach" may not be the best translation in this
passage. The verb does mean "to preach," but it is the word from which we get our word evangelism. The
idea in this word is to share good news. Let me paraphrase the
statement like this, "That is why I am so willing and eager to share the good news of the
gospel with you who are at Rome also." We pay our debts by sharing the gospel.
1. We should share it with everyone possible.
You cannot escape the universal note that is in this passage by the Apostle. He has
referred to Greeks and non-Greeks, wise and the foolish, and he then refers to Jews and
Gentiles. These were people who spoke Paul's language and people who did not speak his
language. These were people who were of his racial stock, and people who were not of
his racial stock. These were people, who shared his culture, and they were people who
did not share his culture, but he understood that the only way he could pay his debt was
to share the gospel of Christ with every one of them in every way possible. So, it is with
us! We should share the gospel with every person possible.
This is one of the things that happens in our FAITH process - over the sixteen weeks
you will have the opportunity to speak the good news of Christ to people you would
never have met in all of your life if you had not been a part of FAITH. You will go into homes where you
would never have gone, if you were not a part of FAITH. You will go into some homes of Jew and Gentile,
but they all need the same message.

2. We should share it eagerly.
There might seem to be a contradiction between the two verses. Does not "debt," "obligation," exclude
eagerness? Do you not go about paying debts out of sense of duty? This is the beautiful truth that the
apostle brings before us in this statement. Whenever you begin to pay this debt, it creates a sense of
excitement within that is contagious. The apostle declares it boldly, "That is why I am so eager to share
the gospel." Eager speaks of enthusiasm. Eager speaks of willingness. Eager speaks of joy! There is a
special joy that comes and should come as we go about paying this debt. The only way we can ever pay
the debt that we owe to the Lord who gave so much and to the world that needs so much is by the
sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone.
This may be a debt that you have chosen to ignore, but you should not. How can you ignore such a
debt? How can you live with yourself knowing you owe this debt and you are making no attempt to pay it?
In the context of your life and your circumstance, you need to make a commitment today that you will
begin intentionally in 2001 to pay the debt that you owe. Being a part of faith is not the only way to pay
this debt. But in the context of First Baptist Church, it is one of the best ways I know. I want you to join us
who have made such a commitment to be debt payers, and join us in paying the debt that we owe in