So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. Romans 1:15
This little phrase in Paul’s introductory words to the Roman believers has much to say to us. I have to ask myself, “Am I eager to preach the gospel?”
What do you think of when I say the word “eager”? The picture that comes to my mind immediately is an outgoing, friendly little puppy. If you walk into a room, they cannot wait to attack your shoestrings. If you sit in the floor with them, they are immediately up in your lap, pulling at your clothes or licking your face. If you throw a ball, they fall all over themselves racing to get it. If you feed them, they usually have both feet in the bowl as they eat. Whatever they are doing, they are fully engaged, intent, and undeterred by your desire to curb their enthusiasm.
Paul uses the Greek word prothymos to describe his eagerness to preach the gospel. It’s only used two other times in scripture, by Jesus Himself, as He asks the disciples to keep watching and praying while He goes off by Himself to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41, see also Mark 14:38).
The word means “ready” and “willing,” and Jesus’ warning to the disciples that the “spirit is willing” is exactly what Paul means when he says “for my part.” The KJV translates this phrase “as much as is in me.”
In other words, his eagerness to preach the gospel did not come from his outward circumstances or his physical ability. It came from within – from what God had done in him, and who God had made him to be. I love that phrase “for my part.” He knew that the spread of the gospel was God’s plan and God would be the one to make it happen. He only focused on what God had called him to do personally – his part, and he did it with confidence, knowing that God would take his words and his faithful obedience and use them for His purposes.
What do we see in Paul’s life, just from the introductory verses in Romans 1:1-17, that can encourage us, as we desire to eagerly preach the gospel?
He was ready.
To be ready is to be prepared. Paul’s preparation was two-fold. First, he had experienced the gospel himself on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9). He had an encounter with Jesus and his spiritual eyes had been opened. He immediately repented and surrendered his life to follow Christ. Second, he had answered God’s call on his life. Paul knew that his life now had a new purpose. He was called as an apostle, and specifically to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles (Romans 1:5). He was ready and eager to preach the gospel because He knew what had happened to him, and what he was called to do. God prepared Paul by saving him and calling him; now he was ready.
He was willing.
Paul’s willingness came from understanding his obligation. He says in Romans 1:14, I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. How was Paul under obligation? The Greek word opheiletēs is translated “debtor” in the KJV and means “one who owes anything to another” and “one bound by some duty.” Jesus gives us a glimpse of this debt, this obligation, in a parable he told, and a pray he prayed.
Matthew 18 tells the story of a man who owed a debt he could not pay, ten thousand talents (about 150,000 years of daily wages). He pleaded for mercy, and his master showed grace, forgiving him the debt instead of throwing him into prison until he died. What was his response? One would think that he would become the most merciful man in the city, having been forgiven such a great debt! It would have changed his life, given him freedom, his family, and joy unspeakable. But he forgot that he had been a debtor and went out and demanded payment from someone who owed him a pittance, a few days’ wages. When the man asked for mercy, instead of remembering the grace shown to him, he threw him into prison.
In Matthew 6:12, Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray. He tells us to pray like this: And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. In other words, as we ask God to forgive us daily, we are reminded of the great sin debt – the obligation we could not meet if we lived a thousand lifetimes – and are indebted, obligated, to pass that same grace and mercy on to others.
He was able.
How was Paul able to preach the gospel? History tells us he was a man of small stature, nothing special to look at, and not even very eloquent in his speaking. So, his ability did not come from physical attributes or skills. He was very well learned in the Old Testament scriptures, but this knowledge without the power the Spirit had only led him to persecute followers of Christ, not be one. Paul was able to preach the gospel not because of his own ability, but because of the inherent power of the gospel itself.
Paul tells us clearly, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)
The power of the gospel is not in our words or our presentation, or even in our enthusiasm. We can eagerly preach the gospel because it’s true and it has the power to raise dead men to life by faith. It has the power to save. It’s not how we tell it, it’s what we are telling!
Are we ready?
Have we experienced the gospel ourselves? Do we know that we are called to tell it?
Are we willing?
Do we realize the obligation we have to others, because of the great debt for which we are forgiven?
Are we able?
Will we simply and clearly communicate the gospel that saved us, knowing its power to change lives comes from the gospel itself?
God wants eager children who are fully engaged, intent, and undeterred in their desire to preach the gospel. He uses willing and grateful hearts, obligated to share what we’ve experienced and been given, and living changed lives by the power of the gospel.
I want to eagerly preach the gospel. Do you?
Acts 4:20 – For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.