Summary: I am debtor. Paul views himself as a debtor to the whole world. He has been placed in debt by the love of Jesus Christ. “For the love of Christ compels us…” (II Cor 5:14).
Paul’s Three “I Ams”
14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.
I am debtor. Paul views himself as a debtor to the whole world. He has been placed in debt by the love of Jesus Christ. “For the love of Christ compels us…” (II Cor 5:14). Paul’s concept of Christian service is that each believer is deeply in debt. It is probably this same concept that inspired Isaac Watts to pen the words of the hymn “At the Cross” when he said, “But drops of grief can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe. Here, Lord, I give myself away, ’tis all that I can do.” Paul felt he had a responsibility to give nothing less than himself to the spreading of the gospel by which he was saved.
To the Greeks, and to the Barbarians. In the Jewish mind, there were only two classes of people, Jews and heathen; in the Greek mind there were Greeks and barbarians; but in God’s mind there are only the saved and the lost; “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (I Jn 5:12).
Anyone who has Christ has the answer to the world’s deepest need. He has the cure to the disease of sin, the way to escape the eternal horrors of hell, and the guarantee of everlasting happiness with God. This puts him under the solemn obligation to share the good news with people of all cultures—barbarians—and people of all degrees of learning—wise and unwise.
15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.
So, as much as is in me is Paul’s way of saying that he will give 100% of himself to the preaching of the gospel. He won’t hold anything back.
Paul has already said that he was in debt to the whole world, and in order to discharge that debt, he was ready to preach the gospel to those in Rome with all the power God gave him. He is not talking about the believers in Rome, as this verse might seem to suggest, for they had already responded to the good news. But he was ready to preach to the unconverted Gentiles in the capital of the Roman Empire.
I am ready to preach appears to be the middle statement of a trilogy of three first-person statements concerning Paul’s preaching of the gospel of Christ. The first statement is I am debtor (14), and the third statement is I am not ashamed (v. 16).
All of us are debtors to Christ. All of us should be unashamed of the gospel of Christ. But not all are ready to preach that gospel. Paul was not only able and willing, but he was ready to preach as well. He was a clean vessel, not just a chosen vessel. He was ready to be used of God. Paul was like the old country preacher who, when asked how he prepared his Sunday sermon, said, “I read myself full, think myself clear, pray myself hot, and let myself go.” Many believers are not ready to be let go because they are not read full, clear-minded about Christian doctrine, or prayed up. Paul was ready to be “let go” and sent to Rome by any means.
16 For 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.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. In stating the theme of the gospel as the good news that Christ died for our sins, Paul makes a bold claim that he is not ashamed of that news. He may have had our Lord’s warning in the back of his mind: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Lk. 9:26). Someone might ask why Paul could have been ashamed of the gospel. Perhaps he would be ashamed to spread the gospel because of the fierce persecution for those who had come to believe in this message. As a Jew, Paul could have been ashamed of the gospel because the Jews despised it as undermining the law. As an educated man he might have been ashamed, because to the wise Greek the gospel was sheer foolishness. He may have been ashamed of the gospel of Christ because, by the pagans, Christians were branded as atheists, a brand no Pharisee could tolerate. This atheism was not a theoretical denial of the existence of the gods, but was a practical refusal to recognize pagan deities as truly God. For those whom the Romans considered to be “Christian atheists,” the consequences were severe, perhaps forced labor in mines or even capital punishment. Although Paul could have been ashamed of the gospel of Christ for these and other reasons, there is never a hint in any of the New Testament writings that he ever was ashamed. Quite the contrary, since he is pictured as being zealous in his efforts to bring the gospel to the lost and to start new churches—“As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (Rom. 9:33). Paul was not ashamed to take God’s good news to sophisticated Rome, even though the message had proved to be a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, for he knew that it is the power of God to salvation—that is, it tells how God by His power saves everyone who believes on His Son. This power is extended equally to Jews and Greeks.