Vigilant Evangelism

15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome (Romans 1).

The word for eager here is made up of a root word (thümos) with a preposition (pro) before it.  This word is used only here and where Jesus tells His sleeping apostles, “The spirit is willing (pro-thümos), but the flesh is weak.”  The root word means passion, heated anger as in boiling over, or even wrath.  Hmm … and the preposition simply means before.  Thus, literally, I suppose it means something like before getting out of control, which fits with the weary apostles not being able to control the sleep that overcame them.

But how does it fit here?  Translators insert ready, willing , or eager for this word we see here, which is good, yet I’m thinking Paul might be using it in terms of not being distracted nor deterred — in the sense of not letting circumstances or anything else control his life, thus keeping him from preaching the gospel to those folks in Rome (see verse 13).

For this to happen — to keep things from getting out of control — Paul wanted to be constantly and consciously vigilant to the cause.  There, that’s the word I would prefer — vigilant.  For vigilance infers bad consequences (like boiling over and being out of control) as the result of its negligence, while words like eagerness, readiness, and willingness do not.

Lord, I don’t want to be just eager, or ready, or willing in my witness for You — I want to be vigilant!  For I know that if I’m not vigilant, then bad things happen.  I myself become out of control and overcome by the cares of this world, and the lost around me become more out of control and ready for the heated, boiling over wrath of God.  Make me and all of us at St. John’s vigilant This Day to look for opportunities to share Your gracious gospel to those around us!  Amen.