The second word that describes those gripped by the Gospel is obligation. Those who are gripped by the Gospel feel a deep obligation/passion to share the Gospel with all people.
Paul didn’t start the Roman church and he had never even visited there before. In the book of Acts we find that Paul was in Ephesus when he determined to go to Rome but he wasn’t necessarily going to take the direct route (Acts 19:21). He was going to go to Macedonia, then to Achaia, then to Jerusalem and finally to Rome. Paul wrote this letter from Corinth which was the capital city of Achaia.
What we need to understand from all of this is that this would be a long journey by modern standards. Imagine how long this trip would be in a day when the method of travel consisted of walking, riding on donkeys or camels and finding passage on a ship. This was going to be an extremely long and probably somewhat difficult journey. Despite the length of this journey Paul was absolutely committed to going there and preaching the Gospel to them. Why? Why was Paul willing to make such a long difficult journey for a group of people he didn’t know?
“I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.” Romans 1:14 (NKJV)
Paul said he was a debtor. When Paul said he was a debtor, he was saying that he was obligated or bound by a duty to do this. There are two ideas being expressed in this. The first is that he is obligated to do this because of all that Jesus had done for him. In Paul’s mind the Son of God leaving heaven, dying a horrible death for his sins and rising from the dead was a pretty big deal. It was such a big deal in fact that he couldn’t “waste” that by not telling others about it.
The second idea is that he is obligated to do this because God has called him and given him a mission to be a part of. In Paul’s mind being allowed to fulfill a mission given to him by the sovereign God of the universe was big time and deserved devotion and commitment.
This obligation was not something he took lightly. The picture here is that this was a relentless and intense sense of obligation that Paul couldn’t shake even if he wanted to. To Paul, knowing the Gospel and not telling others would be worse than having the cure for the most terrible kind of disease and then refusing to share it.
We also have to notice who he felt this obligation to. Basically the idea here is that he felt obligated to tell the Gospel to the entire world. He makes the contrast between the Greeks and the barbarians. In the Greek mindset a barbarian was anyone not of Greek culture. He also feels obligated to share the Gospel with the educated and the uneducated. He is basically saying that he wants to share the Gospel with all people regardless of race, nationality, culture or social/economic status. He wants to share the Gospel with those who are like him and those who are very different than him.
Of course even a casual reading of the New Testament teaches us that the Church is meant to be a place where all people are welcome. The Gospel is for all people and should be shared with all people. Each of us should feel the same kind of obligation that Paul felt to share the Gospel with all people regardless of race, nationality, culture or social/economic status. Sadly this is not always the case. Unfortunately what many churches want and the only people many Christians will talk to are people just like us. We don’t want to deal with messy people or different people.
As we set out to share the Gospel things like race, nationality, culture or social/economic status should not even enter our minds. We must understand that racism is a sin. We can no more claim to love Jesus and faithfully follow Him while hating someone for being Hispanic, black, Asian or white than we can claim to love Jesus and faithfully follow Him while sleeping with our neighbor’s spouse. Listen, if race, color, culture or social/economic status is a barrier that keeps you from sharing the Gospel with someone, then you might ought to wonder if you’ve genuinely been saved.
Jesus was intentional about reaching out to people who were different than He was. Of course that was easy because He was perfect and so everyone was different than He was. Still though, He set an example of reaching out to the worst kind of sinners in an effort to see them saved. Paul followed this example and went out of His way to reach out to people who were very different than he was. This must be our pattern as well.
Those who are gripped by the Gospel don’t focus on race, color, culture or social/economic status when looking to share the Gospel. They just look for people who need to hear the Gospel. We must train ourselves to see the world the way Jesus saw the world.
“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” (Matthew 9:36-37 NKJV)
Here is what Jesus saw as He looked at the world. He saw multitudes with overwhelming problems. He saw people without a shepherd or savior. He saw plenty of people in need but not enough people who cared. This seems to be the way Paul saw the world as well. It will be the way we will see the world when our hearts have been gripped by the Gospel. When we have been gripped by the Gospel we will feel an obligation to share the Gospel with all people regardless of race, color, culture or social/economic status.
What do you see when you go to places where there are crowds (sporting events, stores, etc.)?
As believers we must ask God to change us so that when we look at crowds of people we will see people that will spend eternity in hell apart from Jesus Christ. Then we will feel the weight of the obligation of the Gospel as Paul did.