Prologue

Romans 1:8-17

Paul’s personal observations are contained in verses 8-15, and are followed by a transitional section in verses 16-17. The personal remarks fall into three sections as he tells the Romans of his prayers for them, his desire to visit them, and of his desire to preach in their midst.

Paul’s prayers for the Romans can be found in verses 8-10, and follow more or less the typical Pauline pattern. Paul’s prayers take on the form of thanksgiving for their faith as he mentions that their faith has been reported all over the world by the time of his writing. A secondary emphasis is his desire to visit them, which transitions into the next section which is comprised of verses 11-13.

While the first two parts of this passage are fairly self explanatory, verses 14-15 reveal a great deal about Paul’s mindset:

I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.

In the previous section, verses 1-7, Paul made it clear that he was Jesus’ slave, called to apostleship and that as such, his mission was to call the Gentiles to faith in Christ. Thus, in verse 14 he says that he is obligated to preach in the midst of the Romans. When you take Paul’s use of the word “obligated” here in verse 14 and pair it up with his use of the term “servant” (slave) in verse 1, Paul’s attitude flies in the face of our modern perspectives on faith.

What? Me someone’s servant or slave? Me being obligated to do something? Outrageous! How dare you!

I can almost hear someone objecting on the basis of the old Faith versus Works argument, yet as I have pointed out so many times, there is no conflict whatever between faith and works. If you are new to this idea, here is why: Salvation is by grace through faith; we could not earn it by working for it no matter what we do because it has nothing to do with works. Having received salvation by the blood of Christ shed on the cross, mandated by God’s love for us, our response is the expression of God’s love in us to the world around us. Paul uses the word obligation because he has been called to make disciples, just as we have been; he is answering God’s call. Yet his motivation is in the fact that he loves God and all of God’s children, and there is no greater act of love than sharing God’s love with others, and to share that love, he needs to do something.

In that, we find fellowship between Man and God when our relationship with God brings about the response to do our part in achieving God’s purpose, which is the reason God created Man in the first place.

Paul sums this up in verses 16-17:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

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