Obligated, Eager and Not Ashamed

Romans 1:14-17

Who needs Romans? I think of three different groups. First, SINNERS need the message of Romans. There is no broader group than this one. All of us are sinful by nature. “There is no one righteous, not even one . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All of us as sinners need to see how we appear before God. We all need to face the truth about our dreadful and doomed condition apart from the righteousness that comes by grace to all who believe.

Second, SKEPTICS need the message of Romans. The letter addresses some very knotty issues and difficult questions in a rational, reasonable manner. Paul seems to anticipate the objections of the skeptics who say, “Your faith isn’t logical,” and ever so carefully, the apostle develops his arguments and unfolds his logical defense of the gospel thought by thought.

Third, SAINTS need the message of Romans. It is here that believers get grounded in faith. This letter provides a guide for understanding the content of the gospel so Christians in turn can present the Gospel to those who don’t know the Lord Jesus.

Therefore, Paul writes in Romans 1:14—

I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.

This another way of saying everyone needs the Gospel. In a wider sense the name GREEKS embraces all nations not Jews that made the language, customs, and learning of the Greeks their own; the primary reference is to a difference of religion and worship.

NON-GREEKS is the word BARBAROS {bar’-bar-os}, from which we get our word BARBARIAN. It denotes one whose speech is rude, rough and harsh or one who speaks a foreign or strange language which is not understood by another. It is used by the Greeks of any foreigner ignorant of the Greek language, whether mental or moral, with the added notion after the Persian war, of rudeness and brutality.

The Greeks called all others barbarians and the Jews termed all others Gentiles. The Romans had absorbed the Greek language and culture. So the pairing, GREEKS and NON-GREEKS, refers to those who are intelligent and educated and those who lack intelligence and education, depending upon one’s point of view.

The second pairing, THE WISE AND THE FOOLISH, represents a different grouping of all people. From God’s point of view, one is either WISE or FOOLISH. The WISE fear the LORD and the FOOLISH do not.

From the worldly point of view, the WISE are the skilled and cultivated, learned Greek philosophers and orators, Jewish theologians and Christian teachers, who form the best plans and use the best means for their execution. The FOOLISH may have knowledge and understanding, but they do not apply it.

Paul’s meaning is that the gospel must be offered to every class. He takes seriously the Divine commission—”Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation”—to the wise and the unwise; to the learned and cultivated as well as to the unlearned and uncultivated.

I AM OBLIGATED—literally, I AM DEBTOR comes at the end of the sentence in the original Greek. It is an emphatic statement!

Through all history there have been people who do not pay their debts. Society has imagined many attempted cures for this ill, and has inflicted many punishments upon those who failed to keep their obligation. Under the OT economy, those who fell into debt and were unable to pay were bound over the creditor in a slavery that lasted until they year of freedom determined according tot he law. As late as the nineteenth century debtor’s prison were common in England, and it was perhaps largely due to the work of Charles Dickens that these unwholesome spots were removed from society, and other arrangements were made to take care of the debtor.

In our country there are laws that permit the repossession of goods when the debt installments cannot be met, and there are laws which permit a lien upon property or upon wages in order that the creditor may receive that which is just due.

Our nation is in DEBT. Billions are owed in consumer debt. Of course, anybody in debt can always resort to the old adage, “Running into debt isn’t so bad—it’s running into your creditors that really causes trouble.” However, after the laughter dies down, we have to confess that unpaid debts have a way of enslaving people and then demanding from them the last pound of flesh.

However, SPIRITUAL DEBTS—the debts we Christians owe because we belong to the family of God— rather than being a BURDEN, are a BLESSING. The longer we are faithful to pay them, the more dividends we receive from the LORD.

SALVATION is not a DEBT. Salvation is a free gift from God and can be received only as a free gift. People who try to earn their salvation by good works—even religious works—do no really understand the Gospel of the grace of God. Salvation is not by works but by grace, and to confuse the two is to rob God of glory and man of salvation.

Yet, like Paul, we owe a SPIRITUAL DEBT. For debtors were are, indeed, and not amount of excusing will alter the facts. We are debtors to all of the human race the moment we have heard and heeded the Gospel of the grace of God. We are OBLIGATED to God who saved us and to lost world in need of the Gospel.

A Jewish man asked his rabbi, “why is it, whenever I ask you a question, you always answer with a question?” The rabbi replied, “So why shouldn’t I?” Cain tried that approach with God. “Am I may brother’s keeper?” was an evasive reply to God’s question, “Where is Abel your brother?” This same reply is used by dishonest people today when they want to avoid the responsibility of helping others. Of course, the answer to Cain’s question is, “YES!” You are your brother’s keeper, so long as it is in your power to help your brother.” To see others in need and do nothing to help them is to sin.

In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul argues persuasively that everybody is a lost sinner and stands condemned before a holy God. This wholesale judgment includes Greek, Non-Greek, Wise and Foolish. In fact, the whole world is guilty before God.

Behind the veneer of modern so-called “civilization” beats a sinful heart that is is in deliberate rebellion against God. The Good News is that God has provided salvation for a sinful world, and this glorious message ought to be motivation enough to encourage the church to get the Word out!

“Are people in today’s world lost?” is not an academic question for theologians to debate in some ivory tower. The question is at the heart of the church’s ministry, and the answer to the question is, “YES, all men without Christ are lost.” Are you paying your debt by sharing the Gospel with others?

Paul was doubly a debtor; he was debtor to Christ and a debtor to men. All Christians have these same debts for which they will be held accountable. We are debtors to Christ because we have been bought and paid for by the Savior’s blood. The whole basis of Christian living is set forth in First Corinthians on the grounds of our purchase by Christ. We were on the auction block, slaves of sin, and the Lord intervened to redeem us. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 spells out the Christian’s obligation—

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Because of the Cross of Jesus Christ, we are debtors to Christ to do His bidding and carry out His purpose. But we are also debtors to lost—since we are our brother’s keeper! Verse 15—

That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.

I AM SO EAGER—READY, WILLING TO PREACH THE GOSPEL declares the apostle—TO PAY MY OBLIGATION—MY DEBT! When Lois and I purchased our first house, we took out a mortgage. We were eager, ready and willing to pay it off the debt we owed the bank. So eager we paid it off in seven years! Paul was just as eager to fulfill the debt by preaching the Gospel and so am I!

Here the word used for PREACH means to bring good news, to announce glad tidings! Every Christian can do that! You don’t have to be a theologian to tell the Good News of Jesus Christ. So why don’t more Christians announce the glad tidings?

The worst thing about people is that they are often such cowards, but not Paul. Verse 16—

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Not only is Paul OBLIGATED and EAGER to preach the Gospel, but he is not ASHAMED of the GOSPEL!

Actually the words, I AM NOT ASHAMED, carry much greater force in the original. Paul was PROUD of the Gospel he proclaimed because it revealed the righteousness of God. We quickly recognize that the LOVE of God is revealed in the Gospel—

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

But people tend not to recognize that the Gospel reveals the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD. Paul is grateful for the love of God, but what made him proud of the Gospel was the fact that it reveals God dealing justly with sin.

One of the big questions of today is should the bars of justice be lowered so that President Clinton need not be impeached. God had not lowered His standards of righteousness or let down the bars, so to speak. And Paul is proud, and has nothing to be ashamed of when he preaches the Good News.

IT IS THE POWER OF GOD FOR THE SALVATION OF EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES: FIRST FOR THE JEW, THEN FOR THE GENTILE.

BELIEVING and FAITH are man’s responsibility. The Jews, as a nation, rejected Jesus. They were ashamed of their Messiah. The Jew is ashamed of the Gospel because of the Cross. They neither see nor comprehend what Paul wrote in Galatians 3:13—

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

When the Jew looks at Jesus on the Cross, he sees a MAN CURSED BY GOD, not THE REDEEMER— THE SAVIOR! The rebellious mind cannot see the transaction that 2 Corinthians 5:21 states so eloquently—

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD is appropriated by FAITH. There is no power of salvation in the Gospel for the unbeliever!

Romans has much to say about the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD and FAITH and Paul introduces these doctrines to his readers with verse 17—

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Regrettably, RIGHTEOUSNESS is to many a weighty theological term about which the ordinary person need not trouble himself. On the contrary, every man and woman, ye, every boy and girl who has come to the age of understanding, ought to understand what the bible teaches about the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD.

RIGHTEOUSNESS is an old English word for RIGHTNESS. God does only and always that which is RIGHT. He does not—He cannot—ever do anything that is NOT RIGHT!

Thus, God does not merely forgive sinners and accept them into His favor because He love or pities them, for this would not be RIGHT; it would not be JUST. In giving the Law, Moses said in Deuteronomy 25:1—

When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty.

Indeed, Proverbs 17:15 declares—

Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—the LORD detests them both.

Bildad, though a “miserable comforter,” reiterated this basic principle when he said to his friend in Job 8:20—

Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil doers.

And Job acknowledged this to be so in Job 9:2—

I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?

Yes, here is the problem: How can God, who does only what is right, JUSTIFY SINNERS and pronounce them RIGHTEOUS? How? Romans explains how! Its message of grace is God’s answer to this vexing question.

In the gospel of the grace of God, we find a striking paradox: God Himself condemning the righteous and justifying the wicked; forsaking the perfect and helping evil doers!

Behold the spotless Lamb of God on Calvary as He cries, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Judas kisses Him in base betrayal; wicked men pit in His face, mock Him, smite Him, scourge Him, crown Him with thorns and nail Him to a tree! And God, the Judge of all, does nothing to stop them! Indeed, He Himself unsheathes His sword and smites the one Person in all history who could truly say, “I delight do do Your will, O God.”

And this is not all, for on the other hand God saves Saul of Tarsus, Christ’s bitterest enemy, “a blasphemer, and persecutor, and a wretched man,” his hands dripping with the blood of Christian martyrs. To him God shows mercy, compassion and grace! That’s Paul’s own testimony recorded in 1 Timothy 1:13-16—

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and
receive eternal life.

This wretch saved by grace, God sends forth to proclaim openly to all men Romans 4:5—

To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

How can all this be RIGHT? The answer is that the One who died in agony and disgrace at Calvary was God Himself, manifested in flesh. There, at Calvary, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” It was the Judge Himself, stepping down from the Throne to the Cross to represent the sinner and pay for us the full penalty of our sins.

And who will say this is injustice? Injustice? It is perfect justice and more. It is GRACE!

Under the terms of the Law, we find God “showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:6).

But GRACE is infinitely more—it is the riches of God’s mercy and love to the evil doers—the disobedient, the objects of wrath—God paying the penalty for their sins Himself in the strictest accord with perfect and infinite RIGHTEOUSNESS revealed in the Gospel.

The phrase, BY FAITH FROM FIRST TO LAST, has been translated FROM FAITH TO FAITH or FROM FAITH UNTO FAITH. It can be read OUT OF FAITH INTO FAITH. I think this is a better translation. KJV of Philippians 3:9 reads—

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

The FAITH that Paul speaks about is first of all is THE FAITH OF CHRIST; then THE BELIEVER’S FAITH. Romans 3:22 literally reads—

This righteousness from God comes through faith of Jesus Christ to all who believe.

God’s trustworthiness is revealed as an appeal to our trust. Therefore, Paul goes on to write, JUST AS IT IS WRITTEN: “THE RIGHTEOUS WILL LIVE BY FAITH.”

The principle is simple. We are to have faith in the One who always keeps faith with us!

Anyone who thinks that man’s righteousness is just a lesser form of divine righteousness, just slightly inferior but moving in the same direction, has failed to comprehend the Word of God. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God and sinned, they fell and became lost. What did they fall from? What did they lose? RIGHTEOUSNESS.

There are two kinds of RIGHTEOUSNESS—God’s and Man’s. Isaiah 64:6 recites man’s righteousness—

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteousness is like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

There is absolutely nothing man can do to obtain righteousness! We cannot say, “God, I did twenty percent and I need eighty percent from You to make up what’s lacking.”

On the contrary, we must learn to curse our twenty percent of human righteousness, and come to the cross of Jesus Christ to receive the one hundred percent of a totally different righteous—the righteousness of God which is provided by the Lord Jesus Christ on the basis of His atoning death for sin and sinners.

No one has ever lived up to the standards of human righteousness, let alone the standards of divine righteousness. No one would ever have reached Heaven if it had not been that God kept telling men to believe His Word and to kill a lamb as a sacrifice. When you do that, said God, I will count My righteousness to your account, for I will see that you believe My Word. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you,” God told the Israelites.

When the Savior was manifested, the righteousness of God was manifested with Him. When the historical facts of His death, burial, and resurrection were set forth, the Good News concerning the theological meaning of those historical facts revealed the righteousness of God. It was shown that God was righteous in hating sin. It was shown that God was righteous in loving sinners. It was shown that God could take a sinner into heaven without dirtying heaven. It was shown that He could draw a sinful, human being to His own bosom without abandoning His holiness. It is the Gospel that reveals this righteousness of God.

Thus, the Gospel is based on SUFFICIENCY—for it is the power of God unto salvation. And the Gospel is based on SIMPLICITY—it is bestowed to everyone who believes. Can it be any simpler than that?

God is righteous, man is unrighteous. The Gospel simply tells how the righteous of God is bestowed on sinners out of faith into faith. It’s the Gospel God promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. It is the Gospel of the passover lambs, which pointed to Christ on the Cross when—

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26).

Today, we come to the Lord’s Table TO GIVE THANKS to God for Jesus who shed His blood so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Let us come as Paul would come—OBLIGATED, EAGER and NOT ASHAMED.

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