Paul's Debt and How He Discharged It (Romans Sermon 3 of 120)
January 16, 2000 | Andrew Davis
I. The Nature of Paul’s Debt
This morning, we're going to be looking at verses 8-15, Paul's debt and how he discharged it. Now, right at the start, I want you to know that I'm not preaching on stewardship this morning and how to avoid consumer debt, although that would be a worthy topic. A lot of people are in debt financially and that's something we need to watch at all times. I remember a little while ago, I was sitting in a waiting room, I think it was for the dentist or something like that, and there was a show on that I never watch, but this morning I had, I guess, more or less no choice. It was Donahue, and they had on a bunch of people that had run their credit cards up to the max one after the other. And one guy I remember owed five times his annual salary in discretionary debt. Can you imagine being in that much debt from electronic equipment, couches, pedigree dogs and all kinds of things? I mean this guy just bought and bought. Donahue asked him, "How could you have gotten that in debt?" And he said, "Well, once I got to a certain point, it just didn't matter anymore." And so he just went one after the other, buying things.
But I'm not talking about that kind of debt today. I want to talk about the debt that Paul is referring to here when he says in verse 14, "I am obligated, [or I'm a debtor] both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and to the foolish." Paul considered himself in debt, and I think it's very important for us to understand the nature of that debt, what it is and what it is not and how Paul discharged that debt in order that we may carry out the ministry that God has for us to do. Let's look at Romans 1:8-15, "First I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve with my whole heart, in preaching the Gospel of His Son as my witness, how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times. And I pray that now at last, by God's will, the way may be open for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong. That is that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you but have been prevented from doing so until now in order that I might have a harvest among you just as I have had among the other Gentiles. I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I'm so eager to preach the Gospel also to you who are at Rome."
So Paul states in verse 14 that he is a debtor, he is obligated both to Greeks and to non-Greeks. The word for non-Greek actually in the Greek language is barbarian, barbarian. And some scholars believe that it came from the Greek attempts at speaking foreign languages. It sounded to them like bar bar bar, so they called them barbarians. It's a true story. And so, what Paul is saying is in effect, "I have a sweeping debt or an obligation to all kinds of Gentiles, both to the cultured and to the uncultured, to the wise, and to the foolish, to people who are within the Greek system and those who are barbarians, I am a debtor to all of them. I have an obligation to each and every one of them." In this way Paul is summing up his life mission. Now last week we saw verse 5, which I think sums up exactly what Paul says his mission is. In Romans 1:5, Paul says that, "Through Jesus Christ and for His Name's sake we receive grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles, to the obedience of faith." So in effect Paul could say, "I exist by the Grace of God for a purpose, and my purpose is to bring about the obedience of faith among all Gentiles for the glory of God's name, for the glory of the name of Jesus Christ. That's my purpose."
Does our church have a purpose statement? I think we should. This would be a good one. How about you in your own life? Do you have a purpose statement? Could you say, "I exist for this reason and everything I do fits into that in some way or other." Oh that God would protect us from the futility of a purposeless life. But Paul had a purpose, "I exist by the Glory of God, by the Grace of God, for the Glory of God and for the bringing about of the obedience of faith among all Gentiles. That was my purpose." And therefore Paul wrote the letter to Romans. This 16-chapter letter was written out of that sense of purpose and call to bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles, of whom the Romans are included, and he had a sense of constraint in that purpose. He was constrained by it, everything he did passed through the filter of that purpose.
He talks about it in 1st Corinthians 9:16-17, he says, "When I preach the Gospel I cannot boast for I am compelled to preach the Gospel. Woe to me, if I do not preach the Gospel. If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward, if not voluntarily, I'm simply discharging the trust committed to me." What did Paul mean when he said, "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel?" He's saying, "I live for this. I'm constrained by it. It kind of hems me in and everything I do constrains to that purpose." In 1st Corinthians 4:1-2 he says, "So then men are to regard us as servant of Christ and as those entrusted." I love that word. Entrusted with the secret things of God. "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." Again constrained to that purpose, that desire to be faithful to the thing that God had committed to him, the ministry of reconciliation among the Gentiles, for Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles and everything he did fit into that purpose. Now this was as we talked about last time, grace, grace from God, wasn't it? Paul says, "Through Him and for His name's sake, we received grace and apostleship."
By the grace of God, Paul says, "I'm an apostle." Grace for salvation, yes, but we're going past that. Grace for apostleship. Remember we talked about that, Paul's characteristic position as an apostle be like this saying, "God, give me what I need to be an apostle," everyday. Every day he woke up and said, "God, give it to me. Give me what I need to carry on this ministry." I do that as pastor of this church, you should do that in your calling as well. "I can't do it except by the grace of God, so give me today, God, what I need to do it." And so, Paul saw this grace, grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience of faith. And that grace from God gave Paul an incredible energy, didn't it? A tremendous drive. We're going to see some of that in these verses today.
There was a zeal, an eagerness to carry out this ministry and it came from God himself. Verse 15, he said, "Because of my debt" or "because of my obligation," verse 15, "I am eager to preach the Gospel, also to you who are at Rome." "I'm zealous for it. I'm burning for the chance to do it. I want to do it like a champion ready to run a race. I'm ready to get in there and do it for the glory of God." It was a zeal to him. And there was a compulsion of grace, the grace of God led him to that kind of zeal, that kind of energy at every moment. He was relentless in his pursuit of God's purpose, the relentlessness of grace. I read last week, 1st Corinthians 15:9-10, I'll read it again, it's just so powerful. This is Paul's assessment of himself.
He said, "I'm the least of all the apostles and I do not even deserve to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God, but by the grace of God, I am what I am. And his grace to me was not without effect. No. I worked harder than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was in me." Do you see the relationship between the grace for apostleship and the energy and the zeal that Paul used to carry on that ministry? We should be like this every day, "God, give me what I need to carry on my spiritual ministry today. Give it to me. I need You to give it to me. And as You give me that grace, I'm going to pour out good fruit for You." So, that was Paul's way of looking at it, "I need you, God. Help me." He says the same thing in Colossians 1:28-29, "We proclaim Him, [that is Christ] admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom."
Why, Paul? Why do you do all this admonishing and teaching? "So that we may present everyone perfect in Christ." That was his goal. Wasn't a goal for the beginning, it was a goal for the end, he wanted to take you from being lost in your transgressions and sins all the way to being perfect in Christ, the whole journey, that's what Paul had in mind. That's what Romans is all about. The Gospel, folks, is the whole journey, it's not just the start. And so, Paul says, "I want to present everyone perfect in Christ." And then he says this, I love this, "To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me."
Do you need that energy? Are you in a ministry situation in which you need Christ's energy in order to carry on that ministry? Is your whole life constrained to a purpose like this?
That's the way Paul was. He said, "You know, if Jesus didn't give me my daily bread of energy, I would not be able to do my ministry. But He does every day. Daily grace, daily energy, and it produces daily labor and struggling, so that I may present everyone perfect in Christ." That's his attitude. But what is the nature then of Paul's debt? In verse 14 he says, "I have a debt, an obligation, both to Greeks and non-Greeks." I believe that the Gospel ministry itself was Paul's debt. He owed them the Gospel. Now, I've tried to wrestle with this and tried to understand the nature of this debt, it's so important.
The debt is good news to the suffering, good news to people who need the good news. Imagine if you would that you lived in a village and there'd been a severe drought for a long time and everyone was desperately thirsty and desperately hungry too. And one day for some reason, you stumbled across a mountain spring that had been covered up to that point, no one had noticed it, but now it was trickling and starting to flow a little bit more. Maybe just by the grace of God and answer to prayer, it happened. And so now as you see this bubbling mountain spring, you get down on your hands and your knees and you drink, and you feel the strength coming back. You feel the water flowing through you and you feel life coming back. You were parched and now you're alive, and you just sit next to that spring and say, "Boy, that was good, and it looks like there's enough water here for me for a long time." And then as you're sitting there, you look out and there's a village, and you know that you're the only one in the village that's found the spring. Only one.
Maybe you believe that it's been opened by the grace of God and that you are a messenger of the spring of water. It doesn't belong to you, you found it. You owe it to the village to go tell them. You owe them. You're in debt to them to go tell them about the spring. You have to discharge that debt because if you don't, you'll feel that somehow that spring was meant for you alone. It's your spring. It's got your name on it. God gave it to you. You deserved it after all. Does any of us deserve grace? The word "deserve" and "grace" do not go together in the same sentence, unless you put the word "not" somewhere in there. Grace comes in the face of what we deserve. And so, if you sat there and hoarded that spring to yourself, you're saying, "Somehow, I'm better than those village people. They don't deserve it, but I'm going to sit here and drink as much as I want."No, you're a debtor to them because you're no better than them. And you are to go preach to them and give them the Gospel.
II. A Dangerous Misunderstanding: Salvation Is NOT A Mortgage!
Now, let's come to an understanding about what this debt is not. This is so important. There's a dangerous misunderstanding about debt in the Christian life. Paul's debt here is not to God to repay for his salvation. Our salvation, brothers and sisters, is not a mortgage. Can somebody say "Praise God!"? Praise God it's not a mortgage. I actually got my mortgage bill just the other day. Praise God our salvation is not a mortgage!
Now, I know here I'm kinf of bucking the trend on some things that we've heard in various places, but it's worth bucking. We need to do it. "Oh to grace, how great a... " What? "debtor. Daily I'm constrained to be." Now, I love, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing." I think it's a great hymn, and I think that probably the writer of that hymn understood it properly. At least I hope he understood grace properly. But can I tell you something? Grace does not produce debt, grace pays debt. I'll say it again: Grace does not produce debt, grace pays debt.
How about this one from Frances Havergal: "I gave My life for thee," this is Jesus speaking, "I gave My life for thee. What hast thou given for Me?" I think it might be a good idea, but it could lead you into this kind of debt mentality, thinking that salvation is a mortgage. "Jesus did all this for me. I need to pay it off, somehow. I need to pay it off." Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf, ever heard of him? He was the founder of the Moravians. He was the one who started Herrnhut, which is the group of Moravians from which all of that came. Zinzendorf was converted to Christian ministry, to a radical change of life. He was a German nobleman who had all this money and he was using it for what lots of people use all their money for: Self pleasure.
Then he said he came to a painting that he saw in a gallery. It was a picture of Jesus hanging from the cross and the painter had painted at the bottom: "I did this for you. What are you doing for me?" And that motivated him to begin using his money for the Lord. Now, I think it was tremendous, all the good fruit that came from it. But I ask you a question now: Is this solid ground for our ethics? Is this the right approach to take? If you ask Christians what is the Biblical motive for obedience, some might say "gratitude." Gratitude, thankfulness. We need to be thankful to God and therefore we need to do a lot of good works for Him. But that idea is never found in the New Testament.
The Biblical motive for obedience is the glory of God, and the power and strength for obedience is faith, not gratitude. That's the way that the New Testament always teaches it. There is a place, a very important place in the Christian life for gratitude, but it's not for this. Paul's debt here is not to God, we must understand that. He is obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. The gift of Christ, folks, is infinite. Infinite.
Remember the story of the forgiveness of the slave? Remember the slave that owed 10,000 talents? 10,000 talents, I've told this before. 10,000 talents! Now a talent is 75 pounds of gold or silver. Let's assume gold. 75 pounds. One talent, 75 pounds. 10,000 talents, 750,000 pounds of gold. Do you have 750,000 pounds of gold? Do you know anyone that has 750,000 pounds of gold? Do you know that the Roman empire in one year collected about 8,900 talents in taxes from their entire holdings? You owed more than the gross national product of the Roman Empire.
And the funny thing is, in the middle of all that, the servant falls on his knees and says, "Be patient with me and I'll pay it all back!" Oh, the preposterousness of that idea! You're going to pay back 10,000 talents? Where are you going to get it? Where are you going to find it? No, grace cancels debts. Grace pays debts. It doesn't incur debt. It doesn't produce debt; it pays it. Now, if you start to try to pay God back, it's no longer grace, is it? I remember when I was a child I had a friend, good friend of mine, his name was Steve. Steve and I liked science; we're both were science kind of people. We both were nerds, it's true. And we enjoyed science, we really did. I still do. I enjoy it... But I remember it one morning, I had bought a gift for him, and it was a gyroscope. You pull it and it spins and it does all kinds of amazing things, and it's a lot of fun, and I thought Steve would like that. Well, I found out that he was sick and I had a morning paper route. I decided I would bring the gift to him and give it to him before school. I knew he wasn't going to school 'cause he was sick. Well, his father opened the door, answered the door. Unusual for a young 7th grader to be at the door at that hour of the morning, said, "What do you want?" He was not a polite man, actually. I liked him, but I never really got on with the father too well. He said, "What do you want?" And I said, "I have something for Steve." He said, "Well, what is it?" and I said, "It's a gyroscope. It's a gift." He said, "Well, how much do I owe you for it?" I said, "Nothing. It's a gift." He said, "Just a minute," he went back and he got his wallet, and he said, "Was it about three, four dollars?" I said, "No, it's a gift. I don't want to be paid for it. It'll ruin it."
Isn't that what salvation is, a gift? "The wages of sin is death." You want wages? Well go over to death. You want gift? Then salvation is a gift, it's a gift, it's free. You can't pay for it, don't try. You'll pollute grace. It's no longer grace. Romans 4:4 says, "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited to him as righteousness." It's a gift, brothers and sisters. Our salvation is not a mortgage. We can't pay it off. I just wanted to clear that aside. That is not Paul's debt, he is not earning back his salvation by doing lots of good work for God.
III. Discharging the Debt: Preaching the Gospel of Grace
Alright, the debt is his preaching of the Gospel. And who did he owe? He owed Greeks and non-Greeks, wise and the foolish. You could just put in everybody, anybody that God led to him. He owed them the Gospel. He wanted to pay it off, that debt. The ultimate goal of this charging of the debt by preaching the Gospel of grace was the glory of God. He wanted to glorify God, that was what was burning in his heart, the passion that he had. His method in discharging it was the preaching of Gospel of grace, and there were two different audiences, two different categories. The first audience were unbelievers, people who did not yet believe in Jesus Christ. Well, that makes sense, no great surprise here. We want to preach the Gospel to unbelievers. And in verse 16 he makes an open declaration, we'll talk about that for the next two weeks, "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." So you want to preach the Gospel to unbelievers so that they come into faith, come into belief and have salvation. And in verse 13 he says, "I want to harvest." "I want to harvest," isn't that a beautiful, beautiful picture, beautiful word?
We're so removed from harvest, we go to Kroger and buy bread. Have you ever harvested anything? Well, I once picked apples. I was at a pick-your-own kind of place. But no, it used to be the harvest is what enabled you to survive. There's a joy at harvest time, and Paul says in verse 13, "I want to harvest." "I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many time to come to you but have been prevented from doing so, until now." Why? "In order that I might have a harvest among you just as I have had among the other Gentiles." "I want to harvest, I'm here for a harvest." Just like Jesus in John chapter 4, you remember the disciples had come back to Jesus. John 4:34-35, the disciples come back and they brought lunch, they're going to have a picnic by that well. Remember? The Samaritan woman at the well? She is gone now, the Samaritan woman has gone into the town. What's she doing? She's talking about Jesus, talking about Jesus. The disciples, what they are talking about? Food, "I'm hungry let's eat." And Jesus said, "Let's take a moment and learn a lesson." And so He uses food. And He says, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work. That's what I eat, I get energy from it, I love to do it." That was Jesus' attitude.
Then He says, "Do you not say four months more and then the harvest? I tell you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields. They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests a crop for eternal life." Some commentators believe that at that point the Samaritan village, the whole village, was visible to Jesus, they were coming out. And He said, "Look, there they are, the harvest. So if you need to eat, eat fast 'cause we've got some work to do. You see, My food is to do that harvest." I think that was Paul's attitude, say, "I want to come to Rome, I want to harvest, I want to bring them in, unbelievers, to faith in Jesus Christ." But what's the second audience? Audience one is unbelievers. Audience two would be believers. Is Paul going to preach the Gospel to believers? Yes, he is. Why? Because he wants a harvest from them. A harvest of righteousness, the obedience of faith, he wants it seen in every area of life. He wants a full harvest of righteousness in the life of the believer. You're not done being saved yet, folks. You're not done yet. We don't pay for our salvation in installments, our salvation is not a mortgage. But we do receive it in installments don't we?
We get justification first then we have a whole lifetime of sanctification, working it out, growing in holiness, bringing the obedience of faith in every area, and then at the end we get glorification. Full completion, perfection. You get it in installments, you don't get it all at once. And so what is it that keeps you moving along the path of salvation? Hearing the Gospel. Because the Gospel promotes faith, it promotes faith, and it is faith that keeps you moving along the path. You keep believing, you keep hearing, you keep obeying. The obedience of faith. And so he said, "I want to preach the Gospel to you who are at Rome," he says. To the believers, he's going to preach the Gospel to them. And this makes sense, Romans 6:22 it says, "Now that you've been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness... " What is a person who's been set free and has become a slave of righteousness? What would you call them? A Christian, right? Now that you're a Christian, the benefit you reap leads to holiness and the result is eternal life. What do you reap? You reap a harvest, don't you?
So Paul says "I want to harvest in the life of the believers, those who have already come to faith in Christ. Holiness, growth in righteousness in every area of life, I want to harvest from both believer and unbeliever. It makes sense also with The Great Commission. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Father, in the Son, in the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded." "So I want to harvest in every area," said Paul, "That's what I am coming for. I'm coming for that harvest." In Roman 15:15-16 Paul says this, "I have written you quiet boldly on some points." When we get to Romans 15, you'll know what he meant, how bold he was. There's meat in here, folks. Get ready for it, grow your teeth, it's coming. Alright? Get ready to chew the meat, it's coming. But he said, "I have written you quiet boldly on some points as if to remind you of them again because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of preaching the Gospel of God so that the Gentiles might be an offering acceptable to God, sanctified through the Holy Spirit."
"I want to present you Romans up to God as an offering, and my priestly duty is discharged by preaching the Gospel to believers. I'm going to preach to you. And I am going to remind you." When you think of the word 'remind,' what do you think? Put something back in someone's mind that was there before. Why is that necessary? Do you ever forget things? Do you ever forget? All the time. We all forget. I forget, and we need to be reminded. We need it put back in our minds. Oh yes holiness, righteousness faith, obedience, walking with Jesus. It needs to come back and he says, "I'm going to do this and it's all by the grace of God." God gets all the glory for this harvest by the preaching of the Gospel of God's glory.
IV. Paul: Our Role Model
In this way therefore, Paul is our role model. He's our role model. Now why does it matter how Paul carried out his ministry? Because we need role models, don't we? And we're given a ministry too. All of us have been. We've been committed to the ministry of reconciliation. It's given to us. How do we discharge our debt?
You have a debt to your co-workers, you have a debt to your neighbors, you have a debt to your relatives. How will you discharge your debt? Well, may I commend to you Paul as a role model? We do need role models. Jesus is our ultimate role model, it's true. And 1st Peter 2:21, says, "He committed no sin nor was any deceit found in His mouth. When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate. When He suffered He made no threats. Instead He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might follow in His steps as an example." He's our example, 1 Peter 2:21.
And Paul himself actually presented himself as an example, "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ," 1 Corinthians 11:1. So Paul's our example. And how did Paul carry out his ministry? First he saw his ministry as to God. Ministry first to God. In verse 8 he says, "First I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you." He thanks God for his ministry, thanks God for the work that he's doing. And he thanks them through the mediator, Jesus Christ. Do you realize that you cannot even thank God without the mediator? God doesn't want to hear your thanks if it doesn't come through the mediator. But it does come through the mediator if you're a believer in Christ. And he says, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you." Give thanks through Christ, and God hears it. And notice, what does he thank God for? He thanks God for all of you, for the people.
Paul was not kind of a ministry machine looking for faith or looking for something more, he cared about people. He cared about people who are of certain age, a man or a woman with a child or an older man or now a widow. He cared about individual people. He wasn't just trying to kind of gather faith like it was some commodity. It was connected to people. And he thanked God for these people. He thanked God that they were saved. And notice he also thanks God for ministry or work done by other people. Had Paul ever been to Rome? Well, no. He's explaining here why hasn't been to Rome yet. He's explaining this. So he's never been to Rome. Well then where did they come from? Do you know that people got saved in the first century other than through Paul? It's true. Did Paul care? No. He didn't care where it came from just as long as it's a pure Gospel preached properly, he rejoiced. "I thank God for you."
Now some people think that they came from Pentecost because there were visitors from Rome at Pentecost, and they may well have been. They came to faith in Christ, went back filled with the Holy Spirit and planted a church in Rome. Maybe so, but Paul thanked God. But notice also, what does he thank God? He says, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because of your faith." Now this is interesting, very interesting. We tend to think of ourselves this way. We say, "You know, I know that my good works have nothing to do with my salvation. My good works are as filthy rags in the sight of God, I understand that. But you know, I did have faith. I did believe, that's the difference between me and him. Okay, he didn't believe, but I believed."
Well, what does Paul thank God for here? Their faith. Let me put a picture in your mind. Suppose it was Christmas time and your spouse gave you a sweater, a beautiful Christmas sweater. And you pull it out and you looked at it and said, "Oh, this is wonderful." And then you turn to your son and said, "Thank you for this sweater. Thank you." What would your son do? He'd say, "Dad, I didn't give you the sweater. Mom gave you the sweater. Thank her, she's responsible." You thank the person who's responsible. So, why does Paul... Let me ask you a question, why does Paul thank God for the faith of the Romans? Because God is responsible for that faith. It's a gift from Him, He gave it to them. Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God’s workmanship," he said. God worked within us. And He gave us faith as a gift. Ephesians 2:9, "Not by works, so that no one can boast." It's a gift, and so Paul says, "Thank you, God, for the faith of the Romans. It's from You, their faith."
And it's a spectacular faith, isn't it? It's a spectacle to the whole world that in the heart of the Roman Empire are believers in Jesus Christ. How can it be? In the heart of the Roman Empire there are people who are believing in Christ. They may even be Roman citizens and yet they're believing in a Jewish carpenter who was dead on a Roman cross. That's incredible. And so I think what happened was, there was a network of small little house churches all through the Roman Empire. And word got out and all these little house churches are encouraged because the Gospel has reached the heart of it all, it's reached Rome. How strategic is that? Very strategic. 270 years after Paul wrote this letter, one of the Roman emperors declared himself to be a Christian, Constantine. That's a measure of the progress of the Gospel through the Roman Empire. Supernatural power to conquer the Roman Empire, not with a sword, but with a message of God's love and forgiveness and of resurrected life in Jesus Christ.
"So your faith is being reported all over the world and I praise God for it," says Paul. Verse 9, "God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the Gospel is my witness." Wholehearted service to God, thankfulness to God, and ministry to God, but wholehearted service to God. He says, "I serve Him in my spirit wholeheartedly." Do you do anything wholeheartedly? I ask myself that question. I think sometimes our service is so diluted. It's so watered down. Paul was full strength in his service. When you came and drank what Paul had to offer, you got the full thing. It wasn't diluted. Whole hearted service, zeal. Romans 12:11, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." That was Paul. Wholehearted service to God. Has anything captured you? Anything, are you living for something worth living for? "Zeal in my purpose." That was Paul. And he said, "God whom I serve." The word "serve" actually is usually translated worship. He looked on his service to God as a form of worship.
I had told you that verse earlier about priestly service. It was his priestly ministry, this Gospel ministry. Do you have a priestly ministry which you are offering up to God in service? And then also constant prayer to God. Verse 9-10, "God is my witness, how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times." He was constantly praying for the Roman Christians. Does that mean 24 hours a day, 3,600 seconds an hour... I hadn't multiplied it all out, but, at every single second was he praying for the Romans? Is that what "at all times" means? No, of course not. He had other things that he was doing, there are other ministries that he was carrying on. But what it meant was he was regularly in the habit of praying for the Roman Christians. Regularly. In the habit of lifting them up and praying for them. And so Paul saw his ministry as a ministry to God first and foremost. But second of all it was a ministry both to and from the Romans.
Now as you read through this, you get the whole sense that Paul is trying to explain something. He's trying to explain why he's never been to Rome. Now, Paul, if you're the Apostle to the Gentiles, and if we're so strategic and so important, being in Rome, why haven't you ever been here? Why haven't you come? Don't you care about us? "Yes, God is my witness. For my secret prayer life about you. He's the only one who could tell, but let me tell I do pray for you, I do love you and I've wanted to come, numerous times. But I've been hindered up till this point. God keeps saying "No. The time isn't right." But if I could I would be there right now. I want to minister to you. I love you. I care about you." "I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to see you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles." It was God's will that prevented him from coming, not his own lack of desire. He wanted to be there. Verses 11-12 say, "I longed to see you so that I might impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong, that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." He almost corrects himself, says "Yes, I want to give you my spiritual gift ministry but you know something, I want back from you too. I want to get your ministry to me."
This is just the doctrine of spiritual gifts again, folks. We need each other. The whole church needs the ministry of spiritual gifts. I need your gifts. Or else I will not be complete, mature, holy and perfect. I need you. You need me. We need each other. This is how it works. And Paul says we're going to be mutually encouraged by each other's gifts, by each other's faith. We need each other. Paul talks about that later in Romans. Romans 12, He says "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function. So in Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us." "I want your gifts, Romans, and I want to give you mine. So that we can grow up on that journey of sanctification." Paul had the humility to recognize, "I'm not done yet, I'm not finished yet." Do you know how he knew he wasn't finished yet? Because he wasn't dead. And therefore I still have growing to do. "I still need to grow, and, Romans, I need you. So I want to receive from you and I also want to give to you. I want the harvest in my life, I want the harvest in your life. The harvest of obedience and faith in Jesus Christ."
V. Summary and Application
Now in these verses, 8-15, we've seen a number of things. Number one, we've seen Paul who had a life totally focused to a purpose. His purpose was to bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles for the glory of the Name. The glory of the name of Jesus Christ. Now this call of grace in his life, he considered it to be a debt of obligation. But it was not a debt to God. Salvation is not a mortgage. He was not paying it off. But he considered it a debt to other people. To Greeks and non-Greeks, both the wise and the foolish. The Romans as believers were deeply and passionately on Paul's heart. He had never been there before because God hadn't allowed him to be there. But he wanted to. And God could witness to the fact that he was constantly praying for them, he cared about them very much. And he deeply desired to have a harvest among the Romans and so he wanted to use his spiritual gifts and receive back their gifts so that there might be a harvest of righteousness, obedience in faith in Jesus Christ. And finally, Paul as a role model, therefore of wholehearted service and obedience to God. Deep loving commitment to other people, to the Romans.
What application can we come from this? Number 1: Please don't try to pay off your salvation. Don't do it. It's a gift. It's a gift. Let all your service come to Him in recognition of that. You're serving Jesus Christ, knowing fully that you've received the gift of salvation and that the two are not connected, it's not a mortgage. But also see yourself, come to see yourself as a debtor. Come to see yourself as somebody who owes the people around you a hearing of the Gospel. Next week we're going to see how those people will try to shame you as you discharge that debt. They're going to try to pour shame on you. Paul says, "I am not ashamed." But they're going to try to shame you as you discharge your debt to them. Love them anyway, minister to them anyway, pay the price so that some of them might believe. See yourself as a debtor to lost people. And let that sense of debt kind of incorporate everything in your life. You have a spiritual gift package, an arrangement of spiritual gifts that God has given you. Use them for His glory to accomplish His ends, have a unifying focal point to your life. The glory of God in the obedience and faith of the nations and the outcome of all that is a harvest of righteousness, a harvest of righteousness for the glory of God. Please join me in prayer.