“I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as I am able, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are in Rome also.” Romans 1:14-15
How can Paul owe people he has never met? There are two ways to owe a debt (Timothy Keller’s commentary on Romans): one is when someone lends you money and you owe them until it is repaid; the other is where someone gives you something to give to someone else. Until you have given them what was entrusted to you for them, you are in their debt. This is how Paul, and we, are in debt to all those who have not heard the gospel. Think of when UPS is given a package for someone else. They could be said to be in debt until the package is delivered and signed for.
To all those God has graciously saved, He has given a charge: “Go into all the world and make disciples of everyone.” (Matthew 28:19-20) “Go” is to be understood as plural because He is speaking to the redeemed community. Go together, and take the gospel that has saved you, and give it to everyone in the world for My sake.
I don’t like being in debt; but if I have a debt, I certainly want to know about it. In Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s dead business partner, Jacob Marley, appears to Scrooge as a ghost with a chain he must carry around as a punishment for how he lived on earth. Scrooge feels the chain is unfair.
“You were a good man, Jacob. A man of business.”
At this Marly screams his response, “Business! Mankind was my business!”
Marley had a debt while on earth even if he didn’t own it. We don’t get to bury our heads in the sand and say to ourselves, “that’s not my problem.” If you are a real Christian, it is your problem. We have a mutual debt to reach the nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s own it together and then pray to the Lord of the harvest, “Send us to fulfill whatever assignment you have for us to fulfill.” (Matthew 9:38)