"I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish þ hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome" (Rom. 1:14-15).
What would you think of a person who was deeply in debt to someone else and all the time this person had the ability to pay off the debt but did not? What if the person to whom the money was owed was naive, poor, and ignorant, so that the debtor could avoid paying off the debt? What if the poor, naive person ended up going bankrupt as a result? What would your opinion be of the debtor? You would be outraged at the lack of moral integrity, would you not?
During the Civil Wars in England a man on the Isle of Man was accused of treason and sentenced to death. The king eventually granted a pardon. The pardon fell into the hands of a bitter enemy of the condemned man, and it was never delivered. The man from the Isle of Man was executed. What do you think of someone who possesses a pardon which could save another person's life, but he fails to deliver it, whether intentionally or by neglect? Again, would you not be outraged at the insensitivity and inhumanity of this person?
Paul said that he was a debtor to the people of the world. Of course, Paul was in debt to God for his marvelous grace. Paul was in debt to Jesus Christ for his substitionary sacrifice of atonement at Calvary. Why should Paul feel a debt to the sinners of the world, most of whom he had never met, many of whom were his enemies? Paul felt the obligation, because God had called him to be an apostle. Paul was "set apart for the gospel of God" (Rom. 1:1). Paul possessed the payment to save others from spiritual bankruptcy. He possessed the pardon from the king to save them from being executed. He had the gospel, the good news of Jesus, which was "the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith" (Rom. 1:16).
We possess this very same gospel which has the identical saving power today as it did in the first century. The needs of people today for salvation are just as pressing as were those of Paul's world. Should we not feel the same debt of obligation to others to share the good news of Jesus Christ?