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The Overwhelming Overflow

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The apostle Paul was overwhelmed.

It is noteworthy that the chapter of Romans that speaks of the “beautiful feet of those who bring good news” begins with a lament about religion. In the opening verses of Romans 10, Paul decries tradition, ritual and law that have no room for the grace God demonstrated in sending His Son, the Messiah. In the crescendo of his lament, Paul reasons that his brothers in Israel were tragically missing the very simple Old Testament truth that had become New Testament gospel: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (v. 13).

In the verses leading up to this quote from Joel 2:32, Paul contrasts the confines of religion with the wellspring of grace given in Jesus. He is absolutely overwhelmed at the profound simplicity that humans are not made right with God by what they do but rather by trust in what He“s done. In The Message, verses 8 and 9 read:

It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—Jesus is my Master—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”

Being overwhelmed by this grace, in the way Paul was, produces an overflow. Paul could not help but share the good news of salvation by grace in Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 he declares that Christ’s love compels him. But the truly amazing thing in Romans 10 is that Paul shows a direct relationship between the depth of overwhelming gratitude and the breadth of the overflow. If overwhelming joy at the scandalously free grace of God moved Paul to persistence in calling his own people back to the truth they’d heard but ignored, how much more does it compel bearing witness to those who have never heard?

Verses 14 and 15 are well known for spelling out the logic of reaching the unreached. These lost souls cannot call on one in whom they don’t believe. They can’t believe in one they have not heard of, and they cannot hear unless the Word is preached to them. And no one will preach in a way that will touch the unreached unless these teachers are sent to go to them.

The peoples of our world can be divided into two groups. What separates the groups is an access divide. That is, those in the first group may or may not believe in or call on Jesus, but they do have access to the truth that He is the one in whom they should believe. We live in this group.

The second group lives without any such access. They have no opportunity to believe in or call on Jesus. Unless someone crosses the access divide to them, bearing the gospel, they will never hear it. While this is logical, it takes more than logic to see the job done. Crossing that divide—everywhere it exists on this planet—calls for a motivation that is deep. It takes the overflow of the overwhelmed to move beautiful feet to the ends of the earth.

The key to this motivation is the understanding of our own position in relationship to the access divide. The truth is that we, or at least the people group we are part of, were once on the wrong side of this divide. If someone had not crossed the divide on our behalf, we would remain without access.

Is our overwhelming gratitude for grace causing an overflow that can go to the ends of the earth on behalf of those who have no access to it? This is the secret power of God’s plan for the world. It has been the secret power at work in The Alliance. May God grant that it continues to overflow through us until all have heard!

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