David Miller has been preaching for 42 years. He pastored for five years before serving as Director of Missions for Little Red River Baptist Association (Arkansas), a position he held for 25 years. An itinerant preacher, David has been in full-time evangelism (Line Upon Line Ministries) since 1995. He served on the Board of Trustees of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, for eight years. He currently prefers the title “Country Preacher-at-Large.”
Text: Romans 1:14-16
I. The Debt to Pay (v. 14)
A. The Meaning of the Statement “I am a debtor”
B. The Men to Whom He Owed the Debt
C. The Morality Associated with the Debt
Under the Mosaic Law, if a man because of penury and poverty, was unable to pay his debt, he could sell himself into slavery. When Joseph was governor in Egypt at last the Egyptians sold themselves as slaves to the Pharaoh. Throughout history, men have devised unusual methods for the payment of debt. In England up until the 19th century, they had special prisons just for those who would not pay their debt.
Paul said, “I have a moral obligation and solemn responsibility.” Paul was a debtor for two reasons: first, because Christ had purchased him. Paul had been on the auction block. Like a sheep, he had gone astray. He had broken the holy law of a just God. But Christ interposed Himself in Paul’s stead, paid the ransom, and set him free. I am looking out across a congregation made up of debtors. You and I were sold into sin, but Christ has redeemed us. Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost . . . for you have been bought with a price. You were not redeemed with corruptible things of silver or gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ.
Consider the men to whom the debt is owed. We are to preach the gospel to the alcoholics, the adulterers, and the aristocrats, to the drunkards, the deadbeats, the dopeheads, and the Democrats. We are to preach to the rich, the loyal, and the Republicans. This congregation that I address is individually responsible to take the gospel to all people, regardless of status, race, color, or creed. All men across the tracks, in the suburbs, in the heights, behind the gated walls–we are responsible to preach the gospel to every creature.
Do remember the four lepers at this gate in Samaria? “Why sit here until we die?” Here me well tonight. There is morality involved in being debtors. We are debtors because of what they need, because of what we have, and what we are called to do. We are morally obligated.
II. Paul’s Desire to Preach (v. 15)
The allusion here is that of a runner, who is running so hard that he is gasping for breath. It is an allusion of the man who is worked up so much emotionally that he is gritting his teeth. It is likened to the horse chomping at the bits. Bless God there ought be some passion in this business of preaching the gospel! I tell you cold, dead, academic formalism kills the church. Who cares? You can have as many degrees as a Fahrenheit thermometer. People don’t care about that. Tell people of who you are; you are a man saved by grace. I tell you, I’d rather hear a man say, “I seen . . .” when seen something than someone who says, “I saw . . .” when he did not see anything. There ought to be some passion about preaching. Dear Lord no wonder people are not anxious to come. Paul says, “I’m reading; I’m chomping at the bits to preach the gospel to them.” Are you anxious to preach?
III. The Doctrine to Proclaim (v. 16)
A. The Exclamation Regarding the Gospel (“I am not ashamed”)
Do you know where Paul was going? He was going to Rome, the throne of immorality, of paganism and of imperialism. Paul was not ashamed to preach the gospel to Rome.
B. The Explanation Regarding the Gospel (“it is the power of God unto salvation”)
The gospel is good news. But beloved, there’s a little more involved in presenting the gospel of Christ than telling folks it is good news. We would begin of our explanation of the gospel with who God is. God is the sovereign, superlative self-existing One. He is the Creator, the Giver and Sustainer of our physical existence. He is a God of holiness, impeccable is He. Immutable, he has not changed. His views of morality are the same today as they have always been. It is this God who has given us His law. It is this God who in righteousness will pour out His wrath upon every sinner who has broken God’s law. We must move from God and talk about man.
Man is guilty. Man is dead spiritually and cannot activate himself. He cannot act morally and rehabilite himself. He is debilitated volitionally and cannot elevate himself. He is damned eternally and cannot exonerate himself. He is at enmity against God. He has a will but his will is in bondage to his nature which does not provide the ability to turn towards God. How then will this guilty sinner be justified in the sight of this holy God? How we answer that question will determine whether or not we have the gospel of Holy Scripture.
If God in justice and in righteousness deals with men only in wrath, how will man escape? But if God would reach out in grace and in mercy to sinful men, holy justice would speak up and say, “But wait, he is guilty. He has broken the law and lifted his fist in your face. If you let him go free, you will be inconsistent with your nature.” How will that dilemma be resolved? Left to ourselves, we would not have the head to devise nor the heart to desire salvation (Thomas Watson). Glory to God he has not left it up to us.
Tell them about the gospel of Jesus Christ, of His person and His work. He is the excellent, eternal effulgent God come in human flesh, fulfilling the law of God impeccably and bearing the curse, shedding His blood for the sins of His people. When Jesus shed his blood, He went into the heavenlies and sprinkled His blood on the mercy seat so that that the justice of God declared, ‘I’m satisfied! I’m satisfied!” So therefore God is the just and the justifier of those who put their faith in Him. This is the gospel. That’s conversion.
I haven’t said anything to you about health, wealth, and happiness. That’s not the Gospel! And Baptists had better not buy into this gospel of prosperity. There are many among us that think that gain is godliness; you better talk about Jesus, about the hypostatic union of Jesus humanity and divinity. Talk about the Gospel.
C. The Exclusivity of the Gospel of Christ (“it is the power of God” and it alone)
In 1990, when I first voted as a trustee of SBTS, my first vote was 60 to 1. I was not in the majority. 50 years from now, some of my posterity and some people may see that when they gave an ordained woman tenure, let them know I voted against it.
In her dissertation, Molly Marshall said that God might be bringing people to Himself through other religions. I tell you that is offensive to the gospel and to the God of the gospel. He is not one of several ways, not a way, but Christ is the only way of salvation. In our culture, we are tolerant of everything. The only thing that will stir the ire of our culture is intolerance. I won’t be surprised to read or hear in these days of major denominations placing their stamp of approval of two pigs and a goat joined in matrimony. If we are going to stick with the stuff, to stick in the old paths and ask for the old ways, here’s what we better do. We better pin our ears back, dig in, bow up, hunker down that faith in Jesus Christ is the exclusive, only way to God. If men are to be saved, they must come to faith in Jesus Christ.
D. The End of the Gospel of Christ
1. Individuality (the power of God to salvation for everyone)
The gospel is not just sent to communities, or groups, or nations. The Gospel is to be given to individuals. Every individual.
2. Universality (to everyone, Jew or Greek)
I am a Calvinist by conviction and doctrine. I have followed this track for 35 years, and occasionally I will even use the “C” word. I are a Calvinist, but I want to tell you as a Calvinist, I feel the weight and burden of my responsibility to preach the gospel with restriction to category of men out there. We are responsible to take the Gospel to every creature.
3. Equality (to everyone, the Jew and the Greek)
All men stand on equal footing at the cross.
4. Responsibility (to everyone that believes)
We must bear upon the consciences of unbelievers to believe upon the name of Jesus to be saved. How shall they call upon Him who they have not heard?