The Good News Debt!
By Sam Nadler
From the Apostle Paul’s perspective, the power to get things accomplished was not based on his personal ability or skills (he often admitted to his weakness in this area, see 1 Cor. 2:1-5; etc.), but in the Good News message itself. The very message of Messiah is God’s “dynamite” to change even the most hardened of lives. Compared to the eternal power of the Good News, even Rome’s great empire, with the most powerful military of the day, was incomparable. Paul had boldness and confidence in knowing that God’s enablement was enough to fulfill his life and calling (Rom. 8:37, Phil 4:13) despite his acute awareness of his own personal limitations.
A number of years ago at an outreach in Kiev, Ukraine, the power of God was dramatically manifested as my coworker *Joel was preaching. During a series of evangelistic meetings, a Russian Jew named *Sasha was our biggest hindrance. Sasha, a fiercely passionate man, would start riots among the Jewish people of Kiev in an attempt to stop the preaching of the Good News. At one meeting, as Joel was preaching, Sasha walked in with his mob, then rushed the stage to attack Joel. Just as he got to the platform the Spirit of God came upon him and instead of attacking Joel, Sasha collapsed and fell to his knees at Joel’s feet, weeping and asking for forgiveness and praying for God to save him! When the crowd saw what God had done, a sacred hush swept over the congregation and many gave their lives to the Lord. An even greater hindrance than Sasha is sin. God’s grace can overpower any sin for those who trust in Yeshua.
The Righteousness of God revealed by Faith
Paul writes in Romans 1:14-17 “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, for my part, I am eager to preach the Good News to you also who are of Rome, for I am not ashamed of the Good News about Messiah; for it is the power of God to salvation for 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.”
This realization of God’s righteousness revealed in the Good News made Paul eager and unashamed to share it. Let’s think of it in another way. If Paul were an ambassador representing the majesty of Rome, the most powerful empire of the day, would he feel ashamed to speak on the emperor’s behalf? Of course not. In contrast, Paul was not representing a mere man, but the righteous and holy God of the universe! Which brings us to a paradox: How can a righteous God forgive sinful men? A righteous, just and holy God must, by His nature, judge sinners.
It would be unrighteous for Him to not do so. But, God reveals His own righteousness and the depth of His love by going ‘the extra mile,’ providing a way to forgive people of their sins and to satisfy justice at the same time! God’s righteous character reveals not only that He was able to do this, but that He even desired to forgive us in the first place! God’s loving desire to forgive all who will receive Messiah by faith, both Jew and Gentile alike, reveals His righteous character. If there were any other way for God to forgive people other than through the Good News, then God would have been a fool to allow His Son to die on a cross. Additionally, if there were any other way to demonstrate God’s righteous character in a sinful world, other than proclaiming the Good News, then Paul didn’t know of it! Therefore, Paul proclaimed one message to all people: Messiah died for your sins (1Cor. 15:1-4).
As a young believer in Messiah, I was always looking for opportunities to share the Lord, which included picking up hitch hikers when I was going to Bible College in California. One day I picked up a man hitching a ride and immediately gave him a Good News pamphlet. The man, *Fred, replied, “I was just praying that God would send a Christian to give me a ride. I need help!” Fred poured out his story of how he ruined both his life and his wife’s life with drugs.
He was completely burdened down with guilt and shame. “God wants to forgive you, Fred,” I shared. Surprised, Fred said, “What? I never thought I could be forgiven!” (Because Fred thought only of the judgement and condemnation that he deserved, he had never considered that God’s character included His loving, compassionate desire to forgive and restore him). When Fred heard of God’s righteous character revealed in the Good News, he trusted in Yeshua. As we prayed, I could almost see the weight of sin being lifted from Fred’s soul. It was a wonderful reminder to me that God’s desire is always to forgive and restore sinners, rather than condemn them.
The Love of God that Obligates us by Faith
“I am debtor both to Greeks and also to the barbarians; both to the wise and to the unwise. So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also” (Rom. 1:14,15). We can see why Paul would be eager and unashamed, but why would he feel obligated? After all, the grace of the Good News removes our sins so that we are no longer “moral debtors” before God (Col. 1:14; 2 Cor. 5:21). ). True, but this issue of debt is a little different. Paul uses the word ‘obligated,’ or ‘indebted’ like a person with a stewardship entrusted to them from God.
By God’s grace we have become recipients of His love poured out into our own hearts, not as a final resting place for His love, but as a resource to be shared with others. As ‘debtors’ we are to “owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8).
How much grace should we show?
Paul saw himself as a debtor to share with all others that which he had received. When we recognize how much God has forgiven us, our appreciation will be seen in our own demonstration of love and forgiveness. “Yeshua said, ‘A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’ And He said to him, ‘You have judged correctly’” (Luke 7:41-43).
The demonstration of love by Messiah becomes the very standard of love. As Messiah deliberately laid down His life, we lay down our lives: to love as God has loved us. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
Gentiles can Bless the Jewish People!
Gentiles who have received Messiah Jesus have received the spiritual blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. Therefore, they are now obligated as stewards of God’s grace to minister back to the Jewish people in spiritual and practical ways! “Yes, they [Gentiles] were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them [Israel]. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things” (Rom. 15:27). I am always encouraged when Gentile believers tell me that they are trying to identify with their Jewish friends and neighbors while looking for every opportunity to share the Good News. In big and small ways, you can be a witness, if you allow the love of Messiah to move your heart. You can share that debt of love to all who will believe, even to the Jew first!