Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Your Debt to Pay

Perhaps more than any other missionary, Paul was driven to preach the Gospel to those peoples who had never heard (today called unreached people groups). He said:
He wished "To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you (the Corinthians), and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand." (2 Cor 10:16)

"Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation: But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand." (Rom 15:20-21)

His passion and call were to take the Gospel to the "uttermost part," to the "regions beyond," to "all nations." Sacrifice, suffering, and death weren't too high a cost for him.

One of the motivations that took Paul to extremes for the sake of those who had never heard was his debt.
"I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also." Romans 1:14-15
He isn't speaking here of a debt to God, Who had done so much for him. He was concerned about his debt to those who had no access to the Gospel. But how could he be in debt to those whom he had never even met?
  • The Gift Exchange - Bob has a gift for Mary. Bob gives me the gift to give to Mary. Whose gift is it? Not mine, but Mary's. Until I give it to her, I owe it to her. I am her debtor. Likewise, Paul was a debtor to those who had never heard because Paul had receive the Gospel from God to be given to the world (Rom 1:5, 1 Tim 1:11-14). Until they received what God had given to them, Paul was their debtor.
  • Moral Obligation - Jim has found 'the' cure for cancer. There are millions of people with cancer, with perhaps thousands dying of it every day. Would he be wrong to withhold it from the world? Absolutely. He has a debt to pay to them now. He is morally obligated. We see this in Scripture as well. Did not all the men have a debt of love to pay to the half dead man? But only the good Samaritan paid his debt. So Paul had a debt, for he had the power of God unto salvation, and there were millions who had no access to it.
Paul's possession of the Gospel, combined with the presence of those who had never heard, made him a debtor. The equation looks like this:
The Gospel + The Lost = Debt
In Paul's day there were more than 300 million human beings in the world. Few of them had access to the Gospel (though that was rapidly changing). The presence of these people and his possession of the Gospel drove him toward the 'ends of the earth.'

Our debt is created by the same formula. But think of this. While there were over 300 million people in Paul's day, there are over 6 billion now. 1-2 billion (with a 'B') of these are members of unreached people groups, with little or no access to the Gospel.

Also think of this. Paul had the Gospel. But we have the Gospel in a way that he did not. We can hand the completed revelation of God to an unreached man (though it may need translated yet). We have travel and communication abilities that Paul couldn't use to get the Gospel out. So, what if the equation for us looks more like this:
More Gospel + More Lost = More Debt
Here's a riddle: what do a Mathili man in North India, a Baharlu woman in Iran, and a certain American lady in your neighborhood have in common? None of them have heard an adequate presentation of the Gospel.

What else do they have in common? I am their debtor. Until they are reached, my debt remains, and the glory of God in the nations is at stake.

In response to his debt, Paul said, "So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel" (Rom 1:15a). His debt equation drove him to go and suffer and die joyfully. What does your debt equation do to you?

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