Writing to Christians in Rome, Paul expressed his great desire and readiness to preach the gospel when he said, “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also” (Romans 1:15).
As Paul penned these words, he had never been to Rome. His initial purpose in writing his letter to the saints in that city was to commend Phebe, a member of the church at Cenchrea to their attention and care. God’s purpose, however, was to move Paul, by the Holy Spirit, to pen a theological masterpiece declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Rome was a city of stark contrasts. High culture was combined with cruelty. The highest degrees of sophistication co-existed with the degradation of sin. Worldly wisdom co-mingled with wanton wickedness. One writer stated that in this city of wealth and power there existed not one hospital nor a single orphanage. But Paul knew that what Rome needed was not a social reform or societal renewal, but spiritual redemption. Paul knew that they needed the gospel.
And he, unlike Jonah, was not a reluctant prophet. Paul was ready.
One of the synonyms Strong’s Concordance gives for the word ready is “predisposed.” I know some people who are predisposed to talk about their grandchildren. (I can relate!) Others are predisposed to engage in conversation about sports, politics, weather, or something they want to sell.
But Paul’s great burden, his highest concern, his greatest message was the gospel. He was predisposed to preach it because it was always on his heart and mind.
This predisposition to preach the gospel should be true of our churches. It should be true of all of us as individual believers. But I’m afraid that it seldom is.
When I was a young pastor, our church was sometimes criticized for our emphasis on the gospel. “All they do is preach John 3:16” was the criticism. (Although I doubt that statement is true of any church, it reveals a wholly inappropriate attitude toward John 3:16. We may preach something other than John 3:16, but no one will ever preach anything better than John 3:16). I hope the criticism was true, for I will willingly admit to a predisposition to sharing the gospel.
On a recent Wednesday evening, I had the privilege of being in our home church and hearing my pastor, J. D. Howell, preach. As I looked across the auditorium, I was thrilled to see living, lasting results of the gospel.
As one man opened the service in prayer, I remembered the day my soulwinning partner and I knocked on his door. His entire living and dining rooms were decorated with paraphernalia related to booze. Shot glasses, liquor bottles, and signs advertising various intoxicating beverages filled every nook and cranny. He listened gladly to the gospel and willingly trusted Christ. He never looked back. Now, several years later, he serves in our addictions ministry and helps others find victory over sin.
Looking some rows across the auditorium, I saw a man who was once deeply controlled by drugs. He had a friend in the drug life who was a backslidden former member of our church. Noting how bad off he was, our former member said: “You need help. You should go to First Baptist Church of Bridgeport.” He did. And on a Sunday night he heard the gospel and got saved. He later married a lovely young lady from our church. One of their sons teaches in a Christian school. The man works in our bus ministry and is one of our deacons.
Across the aisle from me sat a man in his eighties. Many years ago he saw our buses picking up riders in his neighborhood and came to “check us out.” A man of great character, he worked for General Motors for over forty years and was never once absent or late. At our church, he liked what he saw and joined. Soon, he became part of a men’s soulwinning group. After several weeks he came to see me. “Pastor, since I’ve learned to share the gospel, I realize I’ve never been saved. Would you lead me to Christ?”
Sitting behind me was a lady who was saved during my first year as pastor. She as well as her children and grandchildren are living for the Lord and involved in our church. For years she has cared for a young lady from a difficult home life. That young lady plays in our orchestra and will graduate from our Christian school this spring.
There were many more: the couple I led to Christ in their home forty years ago; the man who was saved on a Sunday night thirty-five years ago and is now our financial secretary; the lady who used to be a pole dancer and came to know the Lord through our addictions ministry; the man I met going door to door who visited and then trusted Christ in his home who has one daughter married to a preacher and another married to one of our deacons; the now-retired school teacher saved in our early service three auditoriums ago; the family reached through our first vacation Bible school in 1975; the man I could never catch home whose sister in law told me “he’s home now.” (I changed my schedule, drove out in the country to see him and had the privilege of leading him to Christ.) All of these were there that Wednesday night. And all were there because of the gospel.
Lee Roberson said, “If people are not being saved then either the gospel has lost its power or the gospel is not being given.”
We must ask ourselves, are we ready to share the gospel? Are there tracts in our pocket? Do we try to turn conversations with unsaved people toward the gospel? Do we see each person we meet as an opportunity to present the gospel?
May the Lord help us to have a predisposition to speak the glorious gospel of our wonderful Savior.