The Great Obligation

Written by Drew on November 17th, 2005

Paul considered himself to be under a great obligation. “I am under obligation,” said he, “both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (Rom. 1:14). In another place he remarked, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16). Much has been said concerning the debt Paul owed. Undoubtedly, it had to do with Jesus’ death on the cross. Such a sacrifice obligates all of us (1 Jn. 2:2). Also, there is the matter of Paul’s conduct prior to his becoming a Christian. He had been a “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” (1 Tim. 1:13). Consequently, he worked harder than the rest of the apostles to compensate for the earlier damage he had done (1 Cor. 15:10).

Another factor, I believe, led to Paul’s feelings of indebtedness: the trust God had put in him.

William Barclay once said, “There is no obligation in this world like the obligation of being trusted.” Certainly this is true. Having someone’s trust creates the enormous responsibility of not letting him down.

Man is notorious for breaking trust. The Psalmist wrote, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (118:8-9). Yet, God has chosen to trust us anyway. He risks betrayal because He wants to put His faith in humanity.

Think of the trust required for the Father to grant His human creatures the power of free will. He could have made us creatures of instinct, automata who follow Him like robots. But that is not what He did. He left us to decide what path to walk in life.

Furthermore, think of what Jesus has entrusted to His church. He told the apostles, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (Jn. 14:12, emphasis added). “Greater works” were left in the hands of Jesus’ disciples after His ascension. These included the establishment of the church, the preaching of the gospel, and the glorification of God through the church (Eph. 3:21). In a very real sense, the church is the Lord’s “body” (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 1:23). We are His hands, His voice, and His feet on earth. If we fail to perform His mission (Mt. 28:19-20), the world is without hope!

Think of the trust God has put in you. Don’t let Him down.


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