Summary: John Gibson Lockhart, in his famous biography of Sir Walter Scott, said, “He was making himself all the time, but he didn’t know what he was until the years were past.” And such it is with every life.
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Paul Is Debtor
Text: “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise” (Rom. 1:14).
Scripture Reading: Romans 1:1 – 16
This epistle quotes the Old Testament some 57 times, more than any other New Testament book. It repeatedly used key words-God 154 times, law 77 times, Christ 66 times, sin 45 times, Lord 44 times, and faith 40 times.
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans. Chicago: Moody Press.
John Gibson Lockhart, in his famous biography of Sir Walter Scott, said, “He was making himself all the time, but he didn’t know what he was until the years were past.” And such it is with every life. We grow up never quite realizing the influences that shape us until we look back upon our lives from mature years. Paul wrote to the Romans, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.” What are these influences that shaped the life of the apostle Paul?
First of all, it was the influence of history. Paul said, “I am debtor to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians.”
Paul was indeed debtor to the Greeks. Paul and the whole world owes much to those Hellenists! Under Philip the Macedon, the Greek states were united. After his assassination in 336 BC, his son Alexander, only twenty years of age, set out to rule the world. He conquered Persia in 334, then Babylon and Syria, Arabia and Egypt. With his armies came the Greek language, culture, art, and philosophy.
Rome and its Caesars took up where the Greek conquerors left off. Rome extended the empire from the Caspian Sea to the Atlantic, from Britain to the Nile, from Hadrian’s Wall to the Euphrates. What would this mean to Paul and the spread of Christianity? It would mean peace and safety. There were Roman governors in every province. Paul’s Roman citizenship saved his life often. From end to end of the empire ran the Roman roads. Travel was easy though travelers were often in danger of robbers. The whole world was joined under one law and authority. Before this time the world was not ready to receive the missionary message of the gospel. Now, by a common language and in the safety and protection of the Romans, Paul could take to all the world the message of redemption. What were the other influences that made Paul the man he was?
A quick look at any newspaper or passing glance at a weekly news magazine reminds us that in our world most news is bad and seems to be getting worse. What is happening on a national and worldwide scale is simply the magnification of what is happening on an individual level. As personal problems, animosities, and fears increase, so do their counterparts in society at large.
Human beings are in the hold of a terrifying power that grips them at the very core of their being. Left unchecked, it pushes them to self-destruction in one form or another. That power is sin, which is always bad news.
Sin is bad news in every dimension. Among its consequences are four inevitable byproducts that guarantee misery and sorrow for a world taken captive. First, sin has selfishness at its heart
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (p. 1). Chicago: Moody Press.
II. The influence of the Hebrew home.
The Jewish dispersion among the nations began with the forcible deportations under the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser about seven hundred years before Christ. By the time of Alexander there were colonies of Jews in every major city of the Greek world. While Jesus was still a boy, there was born in a Jewish home of Tarsus a boy who was destined to make the city’s name famous for all time. Both of his parents were of pure Hebrew lineage and, though they were living outside the land, the Jewish heritage was strong in their home. On the eighth day, at his circumcision, he was named Saul. Hebrew would be his native tongue, but he would be fluent also in Greek and Aramaic.
Paul was born into a home of means. By birthright, he was a Roman. He would be trained in the rabbinic schools. In paternal sternness, Paul was taught the law and manners of Israel. At the age of five, he began to memorize the Torah by oral repetition. The teacher would recite a sentence and the class would repeat it in unison. In this way Paul memorized the Jewish law. He would carry the lesson in his heart. He would need no copy book.