I yam what I yam!
You wouldn’t have to talk to me very long to hear how fond I am of the book of Romans. Paul’s masterful argument (some say diatribe) delineates and describes more meat and potatoes theology than any other book in the New Testament.
One aspect I appreciate about this book is how personally and relationally he begins. After a brief, doctrinally loaded prologue and greeting to the Christians in Rome, Paul tells the church how he longs to be in their presence, how he yearns for the mutual encouragement that would surely come if they were to meet.
In verses 14-16 (NIV), Paul uses the statement “I am…” three times. Each of these statements give us a glimpse of who Paul was, how strongly he aligned his life to his mission, and what that mission turned out to be.
The first of the “I am” statements is in verse 14, “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and foolish.” What kinds of things are we usually obliged to do? If someone does you a favor, you might feel obliged to say “thank you” or more formally “much obliged.” If someone loans you money, you are obliged to pay it back. Paul felt an obligation to those from Greek (Gentile) heritage as well as those from non-Greek (Jewish) heritage. He felt obligated to the educated elite as well as the uneducated masses. In short, Paul felt obligated to everyone. Do you?
You may have heard an illustration that is often put in the form of a question: If you had the cure for cancer, would it be right for you to keep that cure to yourself or would you share it with others? The illustration is meant to show people who know Christ that they have an obligation to anyone and everyone who doesn’t. Cancer kills the body, but sin and separation from God kills the soul. Paul wanted the Romans to understand him clearly. His teaching and preaching didn’t come from selfish idea of achieving popularity or respect, but from a passionate obligation to show all people the way to be saved.
Secondly, Paul said, “That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.” The obligation Paul felt leads him to an eagerness that is caught by his loving and authentic words of introduction (vv.8-13). Using the cure for cancer illustration once again, most of us wouldn’t begrudgingly and sheepishly share the cure for cancer with the world; we would shout it from the rooftops, put it on the front page, post it on Facebook and e-mail it to everyone we knew! We would be incredibly eager to share this great news! Of course Paul is eager for the Romans to hear the gospel… why? His next “I am” tells us.
The third “I am” statement is in verse 16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Why would a person be motivated, obligated, eager and not ashamed to share some news with the world? Because what he is sharing is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. If you were to ask me why I do what I do, I pray my answer would come close to that. If I were to ask you why you believe, why you pray, why you go to church, etc., my hope is that you would answer the same.
It’s not just Paul who is obligated, eager and unashamed of the gospel. It should be us too. Look at those three statements once again and see how you’re doing.