Summary: The apostle Paul teaches us that the gospel is for the whole world.
In the opening greeting (1:1-6) of Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul gives us a succinct six-point summary of the gospel. These six points are as follows:
1. The origin of the gospel is God (1:1c),
2. The attestation of the gospel is Scripture (1:2),
3. The substance of the gospel is Jesus Christ (1:3-4),
4. The scope of the gospel is all the nations (1:5b, 6),
5. The immediate purpose of the gospel is the obedience that comes from faith (1:5c), and
6. The ultimate purpose of the gospel is the glory of God (1:5a).
This six-point summary of the gospel is a summary of six major themes that are traced throughout Paul’s entire letter to the Romans. Today, I want to examine one of these points, one of these themes, namely that the scope of the gospel is all the nations. Paul expresses it this way in our text for today, Romans 1:14-15:
"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 at Rome" (Romans 1:14-15).
In today’s text Paul is saying that the gospel is for the whole world.
Thom Hopler, in his excellent book on cross-cultural evangelism titled, A World of Difference: Following Christ beyond Your Cultural Walls, shows this from the Bible as a whole.
In Daniel we find that the gospel is for the dreaded Babylonians as well as for the persecuted Jews.
In the ministry of Jesus the gospel was taught to “publicans and sinners” as well as to those who had the privileges of education and high birth, like Nicodemus.
The gospel was disclosed to the Samaritan woman of John 4.
Later, at the time of the expanding apostolic ministry, God reminded Peter that the gospel was for Roman military officers, like Cornelius, as well as for those who, like the Jews, were ceremonially “clean.” On that occasion Peter made the point by declaring, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him” (Acts 10:34-35).
Jesus showed the geographic scope of the gospel’s proclamation in the Acts’ version of the Great Commission: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
How easily we forget this! Christians forget, or perhaps ignore, that the gospel is for the whole world. Today, I want us to see from our text that the gospel is for the whole world.
I. The Gospel Is for Educated People
First, the gospel is for educated people.
In Romans 1:14 the first persons to whom Paul says he is obligated as an ambassador of the gospel are Greeks, whom he contrasts with non-Greeks or, as some of our more literal translations say, “barbarians.”
There is a second contrast in this sentence, the wise and the foolish (or “unwise”), which indicates how the first category is to be understood.
If Paul had contrasted Greeks with Romans—which he could have done, since he was writing to the Romans, we would understand the distinction between Greeks and non-Greeks in terms of nationality.
If he had let the comparison end with Greeks and non-Greeks, not mentioning the wise and the foolish, the distinction would have been primarily an ethnic one.
However, Paul adds the words wise and foolish, and by doing this he shows that what he is chiefly thinking about is education.
Because of their language, long-established Greeks had access to the great historical, epic, dramatic and, above all, philosophical writings of the past. Even the powerful Romans got most of their education through this channel. Apart from the Greek language, others—people of all kinds—could never be considered educated or wise by Greek standards.
So, Paul’s first claim is that the gospel God sent him to proclaim is for the educated people of this world. It is for the wise, whether they are Greeks or Romans or Americans or the intellectual academicians on university campuses.
The gospel is for you if you are among the educated of our world. You need this ancient Christian gospel. Whatever your educational attainments, however wise you may be, you are still a sinful person who is cut off from the God who made you and to whom you must one day give an account for your life, including your sins. You are mortal. One day you will die. You will enter eternity with or without the Lord Jesus Christ—just as surely as any other person in this world.