The Church’s Debt To The World

Rom 1:13-17


13And I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you (and was hindered hitherto), that I might have some fruit in you also, even as in the rest of the Gentiles. 14I am debtor both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome. 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith.


It is almost certain that Paul had never been to Rome when he penned these words. The  question naturally arises  as to the occasion of  this letter. Other of his epistles were directed to churches that he had founded or visited, and had ministered unto. But he had neither founded  nor visited the church in Rome when this epistle was written.


The place of writing is probably from Corinth, the time can be fixed fairly close  by reading Romans 15:23-26. This was in all probability in the spring of AD 57-58. In this reading Paul states he had been hindered from coming to them. But now having a great desire to do so, and having no other place ¾ he hoped to see them soon. And then in verses 25 and 26 we read.


 25But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. 26For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.


Nevertheless, Paul was a citizen of Rome, a Jew he by birth; as he said of himself, he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews,”  Paul was a Hebrew, born of Hebrew parents, he belonged to Hebrews down to the last detail.  But Paul was a Roman, not by accident, or even by personal choice, but by actual birth. When an officer of Rome said to him¾

Tell me,  art thou a Roman?  He said, Yea. And then answered:  With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. Acts 22:27-28


He was a Roman, having all the rights and privileges of   citizenship. It is perfectly evident in the study of his life and writings that this fact affected his thinking and teaching.   While he was a Hebrew pre-eminently, and while he was very conscious of the Greek thought and culture, Rome had a great impact upon him. He was completely at home  in the  Roman world.


In recognition of this we begin to understand the reason for his writing this letter. When we add to this knowledge, the supreme matter, that Paul was a commissioned  apostle of Jesus Christ, we have sufficient explanation..   The supreme influence of Paul was his calling and commission by Christ.  There was no side of Paul’s life of which this inner fact did not take hold and make use. Paul knew that Rome was the strategic center of the world.  that from Rome highways stretched out over the whole known world. 


We see Paul then a  man who was transfigured by his message so that kings trembled at his preaching.... I see him looking at Rome, and saying¾If I could but start a new adventure of the Cross, with Rome as a center. How well all these advantages would aid our efforts.”  And when he said: “I must see Rome also." he was not compelled by the curiosity of a tourist, it was the passion of a missionary,  a man whose heart and will were dominated by the preaching of the cross of Christ.


And so being for a time prevented from going to Rome, he felt he must write his letter. He must as least see to it that the Christians in Rome had a clear statement of the Gospel  of Christ.   But all of this would be but the human side, because behind all of this was the Holy Spirit ever guiding and directing and guarding the inspiration of each word written.  


In our text we have found the deep underlying impulse of this letter,  and what is it?


 I am a debtor.” Romans 1:14. To change the form slightly, the apostle declared, “I am in debt both to Greeks and to Barbarians, to the wise and to the foolish.”


This leads us to ask some further  questions.  Just what did Paul owe to the Greeks? What did he owe to the Barbarians?  And immediately we answer nothing¾ save they had made attempts to kill him. What did he owe the wise? Well he had set at the feet of Gamaliel, but he had paid for everything learned here? What did he owe to the foolish?  Nothing absolutely nothing.


Looking from this standpoint we are missing the whole of the meaning.  Let me express it yet another way.  He meant: The Gospel has been committed to me for others, and so long as there is a Greek, a Barbarian, a wise man or a fool, who has not heard it,  I am in debt. 


The Gospel has been given to me not only that I may hear its message, obey its precepts, and receive the salvation of my soul¾  but the Gospel has been given to me for others. In 1 Cor. 9:16-17 Paul expresses his attitude toward the gospel and those  lost¾ hear him.


16For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! 17For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. 


Now we began to see the underlying purpose of Paul's life. his passion, his driving force was,  preaching the gospel. Sometimes a minister may be placed into  a severe strain by his daily activities, going to  visit in the hospital¾  visiting brethren in their homes. Besides this he must preach two sermons on Sunday, perhaps teach a class thus become stressed with all his activities. 


 We hardly know what strenuous service is as compared with Paul's. We have our modern means of transportation, Paul knew none of that.  No  air conditioned automobiles¾ there was often no resting places, he crossed the tempest-tossed seas, and mountain ranges, knowing all the perils of thieves, murders, hunger, and lack of rest.


 What, then was the driving force?  Why hurry Paul?  And he would have replied, "I have a debt, it must be paid¾  I have a gospel, a message of hope, I must go and tell men.  I am a debtor".  There is a ring of tremendous responsibility in his statement   "I must see Rome also., I am in debt to Rome, I have a message for Rome, I am ready to preach in Rome also.“  This must be the language of  every Christian in every successive age of the Church, and therefore it must be the language of the church. In principle, in this word of Paul declared the attitude and responsibility of the church to mankind. 

- The Church is in debt, in debt to the world,  not that the world has ever given the church something for which she must pay.  But that God has given the church something for the world. In Ephesians three we read: 3:8-11


8To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,


But you say, the world hates God, this may be true,  but God loves the world, (John 3:16) and would have all men to come to the truth. (2 Peter 3:9). And for that reason God has given the church something, not for itself, but for the world.   If the church appropriates the great gospel of Christ, sings about it, and thanks God for it in her worship, for what He has done, and stops there,  we have failed miserably.  


I often listen to the great hymns of Tillit S. Teddlie one which really touches me is “Into Our Hands” 

“Swiftly we’re turning life’s daily pages, Swiftly the hours are changing to years. How are we doing using God’s precious moments?  Shall we reap glory? Shall we reap tears?


Millions are groping without the gospel, quickly they’ll reach eternity’s night. Shall we sit idly as they rush onward” Haste let us hold up Christ the true light


Into our hands the gospel is given, into our hands is given the light.  Haste let us carry God precious message, guiding the erring back to the light.


Brethren until we take the gospel and give it to the world we have failed in this respect.  We are in debt.


Let us take time to consider the nature of this Deposit the church has received for the world.  Let me state at once the I am not using the word "deposit" at this point carelessly. In writing to Timothy Paul said: 2 Timothy 1:12


12For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.


The words, "that which I have committed unto Him," are exposition rather than translation. To translate more literally what the apostle wrote,  we may render the statement thus: "I am persuaded that he is able to guard my deposit against that day." Strong’s defines this Greek word [paraqhvkh] as “a deposit, a trust or a thing consigned to one's faithful keeping” . We see the word again in 1 Tim. 6:20 “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust


he idea is the Lord had deposited something with Paul, and that deposit is in trust for others. Referring to that deposit, Paul stated¾ "I have suffered for it, I am not ashamed of it, and He is able to keep or guard that deposit.” This then is the sense in which the apostle uses the word deposit¾ something committed, to deposited with him for others.


 What  then did the Lord deposit with Paul? In order to find the answer I go to our text:  "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it….." (Rom. 1:16)  and there follows the description of the deposit of the great Gospel committed unto him and to the church. –

"for it is the power unto salvation to every one that believeth."


Here the is the heart of the matter, The gospel is God’s power for salvation!  That is what our gospel is. It is not for entertainment, not to be taught for a social degree. But taught for the salvation of precious souls created in the image of the Eternal God.


Thus the gospel is essentially a message for those in need.  It is the message of Christ, who distinctly affirmed, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."


If for the sake of argument  that there are some who have no need of cleansing, and spiritual regeneration¾ then our Gospel has nothing to say to them(Rom 3:23; 1Jn 1:8-10).   On the other hand, those who know themselves in need of a Savior, and in need of the Gospel,  it is for such, the Church holds in trust as a deposit.


Our text takes us a step further In revealing the nature of this deposit as it says:  Rom. 1:17-18


17For therein [that is in the gospel] is revealed a righteousness of God from  faith to faith, as it is written the just shall live by faith.  


The gospel is then, first the announcement that righteous ness is attainable. That is a fundamental theme of the book of the  Roman epistle. The righteousness of God has been revealed in the person of Christ, and available through the gospel of Christ.  


If men would know what the righteousness of God is they must know Christ and to know Christ we must know the gospel.   


 But it is well that we inquire yet again, why is such a gospel necessary. Again I turn to the text:  Rom. 1:18


 "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all  ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men. who hold the truth in unrighteousness.


A revelation of righteousness was made necessary  by the revelation of God's wrath from heaven. Concerning the Gentiles the apostle declared that they were "men. who hold the truth in unrighteousness." The Greek word katevcw means to hold down to imprison, to prevent its working. That was the reason of God’s wrath.


 When is God angry with a man? When that man hold down or imprison  the truth in unrighteousness. Let me attempt to state that yet another way, and to do so I go to Romans chapter Two   


The argument in Romans chapter 2 is this:  Verses  11-16. The Jew had sinned against the law. The Gentile was held responsible for the measure of light which he had but did not follow. Both Jew and Gentile held down or prevented the operation of God's law. Hence God's wrath revealed from heaven.


The age has not changed, or at least human nature has not. God is no respecter of persons ¾We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Rom. 3:23.  Therefore all have a need.  Because all need of salvation¾ the gospel is our deposit. It is committed to us. We are therefore committed to the work of proclaiming it to a lost and recreant world.


 And finally¾  it must be remembered that the Gospel is for men of all nations.  Sometimes our actions say otherwise¾ but   the plain teaching of the New Testament verify it.  If I did not believe that I could never preach again. But there is no room for doubt or question. The gospel is for all men and it has been committed to us.


This was made perfectly clear in the last command of Jesus to the twelve.   They ask:¾ Acts 1:6-8


Lord,  wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8But ye shall   be witnesses unto  me,


 Then Jesus describes the circles which bound the sphere of responsibility. Let us note them   in Jerusalem “ that’s the first circle, next He says “and in Judea” He expands the circle.  Then states. “and unto the uttermost part of the earth


 Christ is the Head of the church. Eph. 1:22-23 and He stands in our midst and says, “you are in debt, In debt to  those of the city, the county,  in debt to the state of which we live, indebted  to the uttermost parts of the earth. 


So long as anywhere there is a person, who has not heard the Gospel, we are in debt.


Oh how we need to listen to the voices crying out from the streets. What are these voices saying? "You are in debt to us, for you have the Gospel, Bring it to us." The man of Macedonia is crying to us as clearly as he did to Paul.  "come over and help us".


It is a great privilege to have such a deposit, but it carries such a responsibility.  Listen to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4

 “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”


 We have the Gospel that will meet the need of the age. If we hide it, it is hid to those who are lost.    Suppose the Church fails to discharge this debt. No, let us close on a more personal note. “What if I fail to discharge this debt”? What then?  Have you ever asked yourself this question?   God has no alternate plan to save a lost humanity.


Listen to Paul again¾

 16For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! 17For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.  1 Corinthians 9:16-17


The church's responsibility to the world is marked in these words.  Romans 1:14-17. 


14I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 15So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written,  The just shall live by faith


May God lay on us the burden of this duty, this privilege, and send us out to discharge it.  As the Church discharges this debt, she fulfills her mission in the world.




Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ


phone:  (678)617-9658