Why do you obey God? What causes you to live for Him? What is it that gives nourishment to your heart so that your heart directs your will to do the Lord’s will? What compels you to live for Christ? I’m not asking why should you obey God, but rather, why do you obey?
- Some Christians obey God because of the benefits of obedience and the disadvantages of disobedience. Their mantra is, “If I obey God, I’ll be blessed. If I don’t, I’ll be disciplined.”
- Other Christians live for God out of a sense of debt. They think, “Given what Christ did for me, I owe it to Him to obey.”
- Some Christians are inspired by Christ’s example. WWJD is their slogan. A bracelet with those letters prompts them to think about him and do the Lord’s will.
- Other Christians are compelled to live for Jesus by the law itself. They think, “I obey because it right. Sin is wrong.” The 10 commandments motivate them.
Why do you obey God? It is an important question for all of us to consider, but the Apostle Paul already has an interesting and often unnoticed answer to that question in the Epistle to the Romans, particularly the 1st chapter. Look at Romans 1:13-15:
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 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.
If you have previously read Romans 1, have you noticed that before? It’s very interesting. The Apostle Paul wanted to go to Rome and planned many times to go to Rome, so that he could preach the Gospel to Christians in order to have a harvest among them.
Notice, very plainly and obviously, he wrote in v.15 that he was eager to preach the Gospel to them. Who were they? Well, he referred to them as “brothers” in v.13, a term used to describe fellow Christian men. The Apostle Paul was eager to go to Rome to proclaim Christ to men who had already made a commitment to follow Christ. Seem odd? Didn’t they already know about Christ? Why did they need to hear the message again? Yet, he wanted to proclaim Christ to them. And this idea is not a one time occurrence that perhaps is being misinterpreted. It is reinforced in Romans 1:7-8:
To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
The letter itself is addressed to the Romans who are “loved by God and called to be saints” – language that described their Christian commitment. In fact, their Christian commitment was so significant that their faith was being reported over the entire Roman Empire. These Romans were not just Christians. They were Christians with famous faith. Mature Christians. And the Apostle Paul was eager to preach the Gospel to them!
This idea is worth repeating so that you can soak it in. It may be a new thought to you, even a paradigm shifting thought. The Apostle Paul wanted to go to Rome and planned many times to go to Rome so that he could preach the Gospel to Christians, mature Christians with famous faith. He thought it was vitally important to proclaim Christ, not just to new Christians or regular church goers, but also to the Billy Grahams of the 1st century!
Before I answer the why question, it is important to state that there is no question that the Apostle Paul preached the Gospel to non-Christians. The book of Acts is filled with his missionary activity – preaching the Gospel where Christ was not yet known. In this very letter to the Romans, in 15:20, he described his desire to tell the non-Christian world about Jesus, “and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.” Most people who study the Bible notice that fact.
BUT, a very interesting and often unnoticed fact is that the Apostle Paul was just as zealous about preaching the Gospel to Christians. He understood his vocation to be set apart for the Gospel of Christ, a Gospel preacher to human beings, Christian and non-Christian alike. That idea appears a third time in Romans 1:9-10:
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.
Paul prayed over and over and over. He asked God to let him get to Rome many, many times. As he wrote this letter, he wondered if he would finally be able to get there soon. He was desperate to see them face to face so that he could preach the Gospel, not just to the pagans there, but also to the Christians.
Why? Why in the world would Paul preach the Gospel to mature Christians with famous faith? Well, it seems Paul was convinced that the Gospel causes Christians to live for God. It is the daily nourishment our heart needs to do the Lord’s will. It compels us to live for Christ. Look again at Romans 1:13-15:
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you…So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Paul wanted a harvest among Christians, that is, he wanted them to live lives of obedience to Christ. And he connected that harvest of Christ-like living to preaching the Gospel to them. The more he preached the Gospel, the more the Spirit of God produced virtuous fruit in the lives of his hearers. The more he proclaimed Christ, the more God formed Christ-like character in those who listened. Romans 1:5 might sum up Paul’s conviction on this topic the best:
Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.
In other words, through Christ and for the fame of Christ, Paul was undeservedly given the job description of Gospel preacher to the Gentiles so that by the consistent and faithful preaching of the Gospel, Gentiles would come to faith and be compelled to obey God.
The Apostle Paul’s practice was to preach the Gospel to non-Christians because he believed God worked through the preaching of the Gospel to convert them to Christ. Then, he preached the Gospel, re-preached the Gospel, reminded people of the Gospel, explained the Gospel, expounded on the Gospel, and taught the Gospel to Christians because he believed God worked through the preaching of the Gospel to compel Christians to obey God.
Christian, the Gospel is the power of God that converted you. It is also the power of God that nourishes you. It is the dynamic energy that began your Christian life and sustains your Christian life. It caused you to be born again and it causes you to live for him. God uses the Gospel to make it possible for us to become more like Christ. And God also uses the Gospel to make it happen, so that we actually do become more like Christ.
The Apostle Paul made that clear at the outset of the Book of Romans and he closed with the same theological truth:
Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ…so that all nations might believe and obey him.
Why do you obey God? What causes you to live for Him? What is it that gives nourishment to your heart so that your heart directs your will to do the Lord’s will? What compels you to live for Christ? Christian, consider the power of the Gospel. It is what you need today and everyday!