We are continuing our discussion through the Book of Romans today and we are moving on to verses 14 and 15 of chapter 1 which reads,
I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.
I am interested in the word right at the beginning of the verse, “obligated”. What does Paul mean when he says he is obligated?
I am also interested in who Paul is indebted to. He is indebted to the Greeks and the barbarians; that is the people of Greece and all the Gentiles beyond the influence of the Roman empire.
Why is Paul indebted to all these people? Is it because they have been so nice to him?
By the time Paul writes his letter to the Romans he has been stoned by the Ephesians, whipped and unjustly imprisoned by the Philippians, sued by the Corinthians and unjustly arrested by the Jews who also plotted to assassinate him. The debt he owes cannot be one of gratitude.
Could he be talking about a cultural obligation. Is he saying “The Greeks have created western culture! They are so awesome I feel obligated to them!”?
Nah! Paul was a Jew a Pharisee even associating with Gentiles was something frowned upon, never mind considering their culture as something to be admired and feel indebted to them about.
So what did he owe the Greeks and barbarians, money? I am being totally tongue-in-cheek.
The word “obligated” here is the word, opheiletēs. It refers to a person who owes someone else a debt. It refers to someone who has wronged another and must make amends.
Had Paul somehow wronged the Greeks and Barbarians? No he was not a debtor to any of them strictly speaking. The debt Paul owed was to God. It was a debt he could never pay back. Jesus had taken Paul’s sin and paid for it with His life and Paul owed Jesus, God the Son, an eternal debt of gratitude.
God had transferred Paul’s debt to the Greeks and the Barbarians. Paul owed them the right to hear the gospel not because he owed them but because he owed God.
Every Christian today owes that same debt to God. God has done the same thing with us that he did with Paul. God has transferred the debt to those people around us. You see God needs nothing from us but they do. They need to hear the message of salvation from us. We owe it to them not because of who they are but because of who God is.
Sharing the triuth we know is an obligation not an option. It is a duty not a choice.
If you have missed any of our previous discussions on the Book of Romans they can be found on THE ROAD THROUGH ROMANS PAGE.