Gospel Mission was Paul’s “Oblitunity” (and Ours as Well)
“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.” (Romans 1:14–15 ESV)
“Oblitunity” is a word we like to use around Bethel. I made it up. It is a mashup of obligation and opportunity and it describes Christian duties which also are our delight; when what we have to do is what we also very much want to do. Kissing our wives. Duty or delight? Both. Caring for our children. Duty or delight? Both. Obligation and opportunity. Oblitunity.
Missions and gospel ministry was for Paul his greatest oblitunity. We see it here. I am under obligation to preach the gospel to everyone. The word for obligation comes from a Greek word that means “debtor.” A debt is something you have to pay. It is something you have to do. Paul HAD to preach the gospel. Christ had commissioned Paul. God’s grace deeply moved Paul to want to share. Yet the next verse shares his heart. “I am eager to preach…to…Rome.” Eager means “joy, glad, happy.” Paul was enthusiastic about the opportunity.
This, of course, reflects the heart of Jesus who was no begrudging Savior. Rather he came with joy to save us. “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Paul was a happy apostle and Jesus was, and is, our joyous Savior. The Great Commission is rooted in this joy. Indeed, the word gospel means, “good news.”
Listen to the words of the great pioneer missionary to Africa, David Livingstone, who suffered so many things in his pursuit of Africa for Christ in the mid-1800s.
“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa…. It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.”
What turns sacrifice into joy? Love. Joy. Gladness in God. Romans is a letter animated by joy in God’s gracious mission to save sinners.
Why is Missions Urgent? The Reality of the Wrath of God
Paul begins the greatest explanation of the gospel, not with the good news, but with the bad news. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18) It is a hard doctrine, but the plain fact is that without a personal belief in Jesus as Savior, every single person who has ever lived will experience forever God’s wrath and judgment.
The final place for this is hell. Jesus spoke of eternal punishment often describing it as:
- A place of fire and burning (Matthew 3:12)
- Eternal weeping and “gnashing (grinding) of teeth.” (Matthew 13:42)
- The gulf between heaven and hell is “fixed” (Luke 16:26)
Every description of hell is terrible beyond anything we can even imagine. You don’t want to go there for one second, much less forever.
This creates missional urgency. This prioritizes reaching our children and neighbors for Christ. This motivates pioneer missions work in places where the gospel has not been heard. The wrath of God urges on Wycliffe Bible Translators to translate the Scriptures into obscure languages. The gospel forces us to look at the people of the world through the lens of impending wrath and judgment.
Stop this week sometime and just look at the bustling people around you in the restaurant or at college or on the interstate. Take a moment and consider the incredible reality that every person you see will spend eternity either in torment beyond what we can imagine or eternal bliss and joy beyond what our minds can conceive. What determines that destiny? Whether they are under God’s wrath as the due punishment for their sin or under God’s grace by faith in Jesus. That’s the bottom line. And most of what you and I worried about this week won’t matter one bit one second after we die, and these realities are unchangeably fixed forever.
Missions is motivated by the wrath and grace of God.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
 David Livingstone as quoted by John Piper, “I Never Made a Sacrifice,” www.desiringgod.org, March 19, 2018.
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