“I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (Rom. 1:14-15).
I read this passage this morning, and it struck me as beautiful how Paul juxtaposes these two ideas. I’m obligated, and I’m eager. We needlessly perceive a tension between law and grace, between promise and warning. We hear “obligation,” and we cringe with unsettling images of a distant, domineering master looming, testing, and waiting to see if we measure up. We hear “grace,” and we cringe at the recklessness of free, immeasurable blessing coming to dirty, hopeless people.
But then I read Paul, who identifies as a “servant” and a “messenger;” yet he also “thanks,” “serves with his whole spirit,” and “longs” to please his Master and deliver His message (Rom. 1). Paul is a servant under obligation, and he is also eager to serve. The truth is that Jesus never came to destroy the law. Rather, He came to complete it (Matt. 5:17). Yes, we have an advocate with the Father for all sin, past, present, and future. But why have an advocate if nothing is expected of you? The command for holiness remains.
We often consider God’s expectation of holiness as if it were a restraint, keeping us from good. But this isn’t Paul’s demeanor in the slightest. No, friend, he is eager for the holiness that is expected of him! Now, the question is: Why?
The gospel lifts before our eyes a bloody cross that lavishly forgives every last sin we’ve committed, going further still to call us true children of God Himself, and giving us credit for Jesus’s perfect love for the Father as if we had done the same. It is amazingly beautiful! But if we stop at the display and refuse to gaze in awe, then the gospel is not yet truly beautiful for us. It is merely factual, incomplete and twisted, and even growing close to a false gospel. We’re quick to ignore the “double cure” spoken of in the hymn Rock of Ages. The beauty of the gospel is that God will “save from wrath and make me pure.”
The thing about the gospel is that as you truly gaze on Jesus and behold the depth of His exchange, as the Holy Spirit breathes life to this message, you begin to get tunnel vision. Your eyes are stolen by the Son absorbing the full heat of God’s fury and giving you the wealth of adoption to the greatest Father ever known. The weight of it moves you to deep worship and adoration, and sin is simply displaced. There’s just no room left for it. Satisfaction drips from you like a drenched sponge at the nature of God. You’re seeing Jesus. And the shocking result is that who you are at the deepest level begins to change! Restriction blossoms into freedom. Law transforms into beauty. Stiff-arming gives way to embrace. When you meditate on the first cure, you participate in the second. When you see Jesus, you become pure.
Friend, when you come home from work not wanting to serve your family, when you despise that customer who isn’t valuing your time, when you want to blow up at your roommate for not cleaning (again), and when you hate everything that’s interrupting your peace and quite — in times like these, you need the double cure. You are obligated, but you aren’t eager. In short, you are in the flesh. Gaze of the lavishness of the gospel, the brilliance of God’s patience and justice, and fantasize on the kind of God who would go to such lengths to serve you. Soak it in, and experience the double cure that catapults you out of the flesh and into the Spirit. Only then will you be eager to serve like Jesus and find incredible satisfaction in it!