The Expository Files


   Paul’s Passion In His Words

Romans 1:14-17

Romans 1:14 - 17 (NKJV) 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome: “I am a debtor,” and beginning with those words he describes the passion of his life.

We know what it means to be debtors. Debt has become a way of life in our society. The national debt is something we hear about on the news daily. Personal debt has become a problem for many individuals and families.

But here in Romans 1:14 it is not economic debt that’s under consideration. It is spiritual, and it is the concept of obligation combined with passion! Paul considered himself obligated “to Greeks and to barbarians,” and to “wise and unwise.” This obligation/passion was to preach the gospel. Paul’s deep desire was to tell lost people the truth about Jesus Christ and instruct them in their response to Jesus Christ, to be saved from sin; to become Christians and have a faith that would influence many.

Paul states this personal obligation – this sense of duty to the lost – here in verse 14 of Romans 1. But it has already been indicated back in verse 1, where Paul described himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ,” and “an apostle, separated to the gospel.” Paul’s life’s love and work was to preach the gospel and live the gospel. It was a rich sense of duty he carried with him to his death.

I believe we should not think of this in the same way as the prophets who carried messages to nations and considered it as a burden {often, the prophets were announcing the doom of some nation.} This is not like that. Paul carried a message to people of salvation or rescue. Whether Greeks, barbarians, wise or unwise, this was his commitment.

His commitment or debt is further described in verse 15: “So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.” Where people were, who people were in their ethnicity did not change Paul’s debt. The gospel Paul preached was to be delivered to people of all nations. Paul wanted to do that in Rome to the best of His ability: “as much as is in me,” he was eager to do this.

Let’s bring up this question. We’ve already observed, Paul wrote this epistle to the Christians in Rome. The question may come up – How do you preach the gospel to people who are already Christians?

There are two parts to my answer: ONE – Paul was not limited in his preaching (as we just observed in verse 14). So preaching in Rome would be to and for anyone who would hear.

TWO – “The gospel” is the good news about being saved in Christ, and includes all our good responses to Him – beginning with baptism, and continuing after baptism.

So, when a preacher delivers the Word of God, about becoming a Christian or being a Christian, he is preaching the gospel of Christ (see Phil. 1:27).

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

I believe it is very important for each of us to take this in and to let this become so familiar to us it motives us and enables us to teach and influence others.

“Not ashamed of the gospel.” Think about what it means to be ashamed of something. You don’t mention it; you try to hide it; you disassociate yourself from it. Now consider the opposite: wanting to shout something from the housetops; knowing something is so great, so true, so important - - you cannot hold back. It is good news and you must share it. That’s how Paul felt about the gospel of Christ and it is how each of us should feel about it.

He says, “it is the power of God for salvation…” Focus on the idea of power. Something that has power is able to accomplish an end; able to do what it proposes. The gospel is the power God uses to save people from sin.

This holds tremendous meaning. It means – first of all – there is only one message that has the power to convict and convert sinners. The message delivered through the apostles of Christ that we have in the New Testament is the one and only message that gets the job done.

This is the power God uses to get us to see our problem – then it offers the solution, and tells us how to respond! If someone tells you they were saved some other way – by some other means or message – that claim is denied by Scripture here.

Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because it is the singular power God uses to save sinners.

“…for everyone who believes…”

The power must be personally applied, and it is personally applied through belief. Want to know what the belief includes? Just keep reading through Romans.

But we already know something; look back in verse 5 – “obedience to the faith.” So Paul was not ashamed of the message He delivered – the gospel – for it is the power of God to salvation “for everyone who believes.” And that belief has this obedience component.

“…for the Jew first and also for the Greek,” repeats what we talked about earlier that Paul wanted to spread this message to everyone – without regard to blood, nation, race or location.

Verse 17 is an important part of this.

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed,
from faith to faith;
as it is written, ‘The Just Shall Live By Faith’.”

This word “righteousness” is sometimes used in the context having to do with our conduct (keeping God’s commandments). We are to walk in righteousness and be righteous people. That’s part of this. But the primary thrust of this “righteousness” is right standing with God.

How do I have right standing with God since I’ve sinned? The gospel reveals how! “From faith to faith” is translated in one version, “by faith from first to last.” Our faith activated must respond initially and continue to respond after baptism. Because of Christ such active response of faith brings us into right standing with God (see also Rom. 5:1-2).

The ESV says, “from faith for faith” which is suggestive of faith that regenerates; that continues; that leads you on in your standing with God through Christ.

Then this quotation from Hab. 2:4, which was not only relevant in his time but now expresses what our response to God should be: “The just shall live by faith.” Life with God (now and afterwards) is enjoyed by those who trust and obey.

Life Lessons

Though we are not apostles, we are Christians, and we ought to have a deep and abiding sense of obligation – a debt – to preach the gospel. This comes from a couple of places: ONE, our love for God. TWO, our love for our fellowman. Those two things combined should compel us to feel this sense of obligation Paul expresses.

In connection with this I want to bring up this phrase: “…as much as is in me…” NIV & ESV, “I am eager.” At the center of Paul’s character there was this passion, this eagerness to preach the gospel to the best of his ability. That is an eagerness we should have, and it ought to be applied and expressed to the best of our ability. I read this the other day: “Obligation to him who died produces obligation to those for whom he died,” (Robert Mounce Commentary on Romans). This is the heart of evangelism, having this kind of passion. If we don’t have it, we should commit ourselves by prayer and study to develop this eagerness to preach the gospel. If you know somebody who is not a Christian – you can start there!

In these pivotal verses in Romans there is this expression that should cause us serious thought: Not Ashamed! To not be ashamed should strike a strong chord of self-examination. It really sounds bad doesn’t it, to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. We would not want to stand before God in judgment having to answer Him for being ashamed of His message! I’m thinking every time we read this, it should prompt very personal, objective, self-examination. Am I ashamed of the gospel?

One more thing. God does not force Himself upon people against their will! The gospel is the power God uses: “For everyone who believes.” Might be good for us to remember that belief is a choice that begins with hearing, leads to faith and then obedience in life. Any theology or creed that is contrary to this is just not right.

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 18.6; June 2011