Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves

I am preaching through the book of Romans on Sunday mornings, and this recent message really resonated in our church family.  I thought I would post it here for your rumination as well!  May the Word dwell in all of us RICHLY!

By definition, a “debt” is something that is owed.   When you think of the word debt, perhaps you think of our national debt, which by the way is now over 10.2 trillion dollars. (  The United States of America owes that money to others.  Here’s another example: in April of this year, the Prime Minister of Great Britain Gordon Brown visited the White House and in public comments said “The world owes George Bush a huge debt of gratitude for his efforts against terrorists.” (  Perhaps you think of the Lord’s Prayer—“and forgive us our debts.” (Matthew 6:12)  In this case, our debt is our offenses toward God which require reparation.  We might say it this way “the wages of our sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)  God owes us something because of our evil deeds.  Trust me, you don’t want what you are owed, what you have earned, what you deserve.


There is a relationship between debt and duty.  If a debt exists, nothing will cause that debt to be eliminated unless someone assumes the duty to take action and pay the debt.  If our government does not assume the duty, the responsibility, the obligation, to take action on our national debt, it will likely not ever be paid.  If no one were to assume the duty of thanking President Bush for his action against terrorism, then the debt Prime Minister Brown said the world owed would not matter at all.  If God did not assume His duty in punishing evil, our debt of sin would never be paid and our God would cease to be holy.  Of course, God did assume His duty, but punished His Son for our evil so we do not have to be punished for the debt we owe.


As a result, we can sing “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe,” right?  And the reality is that we do owe God something.  We owe Him our gratitude for sure, but we also owe Him a life of service.  Paul was acutely aware of this debt and took it as his duty to take action on this debt every day of his life.  It was his passion.  It must be ours as well.


Text: Romans 1:11-13


Need: To be inspired by Paul’s passionate life.


Textual idea: in this passage, Paul introduced himself to the Christians in Rome as a passionate servant of Jesus Christ.


Sermon idea: from this passage, we are considering two important causes in which the Apostle Paul passionately invested his life.


Interrogative: what are these causes?






We have been looking at four statements of endearment Paul makes to the Christians at Rome—statements that we also should be able to make for one another here at Heather Hills.


“I thank God for you.” (v. 8)

“I pray for you.” (vv. 9-10)

“I can’t wait to see you.” (vv. 11-13)




“I owe you the Gospel.” (vv. 14-15)


Paul’s duty( v. 14)


As an apostle, or sent one, Paul had an obligation.  §  Representation: Paul stood in the place of Christ. (2 Cor. 5:20) §  Distribution: Paul had a message to deliver. (Acts 26:16-18) The scope of Paul’s obligation extended to all men.  Paul uses two parallel phrases to describe whom he was obligated to.  As far as the Greeks were concerned, there were only two groups of people in the world: Greeks and non-Greek.  The Greeks prided themselves on their knowledge and thought everyone else was ignorant.  In fact, those considered non-Greek were heckled using the word bar.  They would mock non-Greeks by calling “bar, bar, bar, bar.”  Thus, the word barbarian was onomatopoeia: it sounded like it was defined.  Paul is adamant that he is obligated to everyone, to the wise, knowledgeable Greeks as well as to the ignorant “bar-bars.”


Paul’s desire (v. 15)


Paul is saying that because of his obligation as an apostle, he is ready and eager to preach. This is a consistent desire Paul had through his ministry. (1 Cor. 9:16-17) To whom was Paul writing?  According to verse 7, he was writing to the saints at Rome, the Christians at Rome.  Now, this is where many of us scratch our heads a little bit.  Why would Paul be eager to preach the Gospel to people who were already saved?  In order to understand this, we need to review the message of Rom. 1:16-17.  


There, the claim is that the Gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes, who is continuing to believe.  Now, we know that the Gospel can save unbelievers.  But that is not what is in mind in this verse.  So, if verses 15 and 16 both point to Christians as a group people needing to hear the Gospel, the question we need to ask is “Why?”  Why do Christians need to hear the Gospel?


The answer is found in verse 17.  In the Gospel, something is revealed—something we need desperately every day of our lives.  What is it?  God’s righteousness.  What God demands for our salvation is something we do not have, righteousness.  And so, God in His great mercy gives us the righteousness of Christ.  He does so as we exercise faith in Him on a daily basis (“from faith to faith to faith to faith”).  And this is what puts us in right standing before God.


Here’s how it works: faith comes by hearing the Gospel, the Word of God, the Good News from God.  Faith itself is a gift from God.  None of this is our work; it is all of God.  As we exercise God-given faith through the Gospel, God applies the righteousness of God to our life account, declaring that we are “Not Guilty!”  He does that all through life, keeping us saved, keeping us secure.  Why do we need to be reminded of the Gospel?  Because we are sinners, even though we have become saints.  We still fight against and sometimes lose the battle with sin.  And in those moments of spiritual discouragement and ruin, it is the Gospel that renews us.  The Gospel reminds us that our path to final salvation is not accomplished in our own strength but in the completed work of Jesus Christ and in His righteousness.  Then we confess our sin.  Then we rise in faith to fight the fight of faith another day.  Then God assures us of His continuing justification and eternal security.  No one can take us from our Father’s hand.


What about those who don’t get up?  What about those who claimed God’s salvation as their own yet seem to have strayed from or even denied the Lord?  I can’t tell you if a person is saved or not because only God sees the heart.  What I can tell you is this: a child of God, born into the family of God, will persevere to the end.  He may stray, but God will discipline and bring him back.  God promises that.  (Romans 8:28-30; Hebrews 12:5-6; Philippians 1:6)


So, what should we take away from this final message in the introduction to this great book?


First, I would suggest that we share in Paul’s obligation, do we not?  Have we, like Paul, also been given a commission from Jesus Christ Himself to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth?  How seriously, how eagerly do we take that duty?  Are we compelled by it, propelled into action?  Do we view our lives in this world as representative of how Christ would live and act?  Do we take both His representation and the distribution of His message seriously?


Second, we need to dwell on the truth that “we never outgrow our need for the Gospel.  We shouldn’t ever think of the Gospel as ‘That’s the way we get saved’ and then we get strong by leaving it and getting something else.  We are strengthened by God through the Gospel every day until we drop.  It is that important.”(Piper)


It is also for that reason that Christ instituted a special service of remembrance which we will now observe.  As we do so, I hope you meditate on the Gospel of Jesus Christ which will renew your faith and reveal God’s righteousness in your life.  I’ll ask the men to come forward at this time. [Prayer]


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by PhilipT on October 24, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Right on Pastor Brian! Solid exegesis and sound application. Isn’t this the reason why Paul says that a complete sacrifice of ourselves (a seemingly unreasonable action) is entirely “reasonable” in Rom 12:1? I think there is much to be learned from Paul’s debtor mentality and Gospel focus.


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