Calvary Road Baptist Church


Romans 1.13-15


The Apostle Paul was born in the Roman Empire in the cosmopolitan city of Tarsus. Though a Jew, who had spent the majority of his life in Jerusalem, being trained for the life of a Pharisee and a scholar, Paul had some exposure to the horrors of Gentile sin as a youth in Tarsus. After his encounter with the glorified Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and his calling to serve as the Lord Jesus Christ’s apostle to the Gentiles, and perhaps somewhat affected by the reluctance of Jewish Christians to warmly accept this man who had been such a deadly adversary, he broke out of the bubble of Jewishness that had previously shielded him to some degree from contact with the consequences of Gentile sin in a very personal way.

When one is raised in a nice and refined home, that is moral and relatively untouched by the more sordid sins, it is sometimes the case that you just do not understand what such things do to people, people that you come to know, people that you have learned to love. However, after Paul began to serve the Savior and preach the Gospel, he quickly found out the depths of the degradation of sin. He became acquainted with those scarred by the divorce of their parents, as well as those who had been debased by the harlotry of idolatry. He knew what sin can and does do to those who partake of it. He knew, as well, how extremely deceitful sin is, convincing those who are in bondage to it of their freedom to do as they please. However, Paul knew better. He realized that the most deadly slavery to sin results from being deceived into thinking you are free, though the reality is that even one’s mind is enslaved by sin.

As he journeyed West during his missionary travels from Antioch into Asia, into Galatia, into Macedonia, and finally into Achaia, the sins he observed seemed to become more and more and more horrible. Just as soon as he thought he had reconciled himself to the horror of certain sins, he would journey to a city still closer to the capital of the Empire and discover horrors previously unimagined. Finally, when he was in the infamous city of Corinth, Paul concluded that the time had come to take the giant step of going directly to Rome. As soon as the offering for the starving believers in Jerusalem was taken care of he would be free to go to what was unquestionably the sin center of all mankind. Little did he realize that God’s plans reflected greater wisdom than he had, for it included his arrest and three years’ confinement before arriving in Rome in a centurion’s custody and awaiting an appeal to Caesar himself.

What would Paul find in Rome? Though he had not seen it all with his own eyes, he knew what was awaiting him there: First, what awaited him in Rome was idolatry, terrible and debased idolatry, for as the Romans eagerly conquered and expanded their empire, they embraced every god of the nations and were willing not only to tolerate the worship of strange gods, but to worship those strange gods themselves. What also awaited him in Rome was infanticide on a scale he had never before seen. In Rome particularly, blood meant little to the most bloodthirsty of races. When a child was born to a Roman, the babe was immediately taken by the midwife to the father and placed at his feet. If the child was perfect, and if the child was the right sex, if the father’s previously drawn up will would accommodate the child, and if the father felt like doing so, he would reach down and take the child up, recognizing him as his own and assuming responsibility to raise the child. However, if, for any reason, the father was so disposed, he could and often did, refuse the child, condemning that helpless baby to slow death by exposure if no one came along to where the child had been abandoned to take it and nurture it and raise it up as someone’s slave. Such children did not grow to adulthood in Rome without unspeakable abuse that they could do nothing to prevent or to stop. If the child was deformed, that baby would be quickly drowned because, as reasoned the Roman philosopher Seneca, “What is good must be set apart from what is good for nothing.” To the Christian, who remembered the words of the Lord Jesus Christ to “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” and “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones,” few things could be imagined to be more horrible.[1] However, that is not the end of it. Slaves, comprising half of the approximately one million people who lived in the city of Rome, were denied marriage altogether, resulting in fornication on such a scale as can hardly be imagined. When a master tired of a slave as a sex partner, he could simply execute him or her, or sell him for use in the gladiatorial games where he would fight to the death against other slaves for the right to live a bit longer.

Oh, my friends, the horror of it could hardly have been imagined by Paul, but the testimonies he heard were too many to discount. It was bad there. It was the worst there. The common attitude of the Roman was that the whole world was decadent and perverted. Little wonder, then, that the Romans felt no remorse at being the most decadent and the most perverse of them all. They fully illustrated that men are not good, but are inherently sinful and depraved. What was Paul’s reaction to the horrors of sin he had heard about? He had to go there. However, he had to go there for different reasons than the wicked children who grew up in Church and went to Christian school would go someplace like that. Paul does not want to go there so he can dabble in sin and so he can taste of the wickedness. He had not the distorted and stagnant little thought life that would reason he had been deprived of fun by living in a godly home and been denied the opportunity to commit such sins.

He does not want to go there because he remembers the sweet taste and pleasure of sin and wants to dip into the mire one last time, like so many who claim to have repented of sin do. No, Paul wants to go to Rome to do something about the problem, not to contribute to it. He wants to go there to be useful to God in delivering men and women from their sins, not go there and use men and women to commit sins. Paul wants to go to Rome because he knows that the only hope for that deformed newborn, the only hope for that unwanted baby girl, the only hope for the deliverance of those slaves from the ravages of rape and fornication, the only hope for masters who would otherwise have the blood of murder on their hands, the only hope for little girls being married off to brutal and offensive old men at the age of 12, the only hope for men and women who are the property of others going to heaven when they die at the hands of gladiators, or wild animals, or the whims of their cruel masters, is Jesus Christ.

Do you want to know what it would be like to be a man who was of the conviction that men and women, boys and girls, are without hope apart from Christ? Do you want to peek into such a man’s life and psyche? Then turn with me to Romans 1.13-15 and we shall see together. Let us stand for the reading of God’s Word:


13    Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

14    I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

15    So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.


What does a man have who believes, who really believes, that Jesus Christ is the only hope of mankind, and that Jesus Christ is the only hope of individual men, individual women, individual boys, and individual girls? What does such a man have?




Verse 13: “Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.”


Paul had a strong desire to get to where the problem was with the only solution that was any good whatsoever, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, Paul had served Christ for so long without going to Rome. How are the few Christians in Rome to know that Paul really does desire to come to them, and minister to them, and encourage them as they seek to reach their neighbors with the Gospel? By addressing three items:

The first item he addresses is their perception. Paul is not a naive man. He knows that the passing of time during his fundraising efforts served only to cause doubt about his willingness to come to Rome. Therefore, he communicates in such a way as to correct their perceptions about him. How helpful would it subsequently prove to be after his three years of incarceration only delayed his arrival in Rome even more than he anticipated.


“Now I would not have you ignorant.”


Here Paul raises the issue of their attitude toward him. It is possible they have formed opinions without knowing all the facts. Do people do that? You ought to hear what people who have known me for decades think I believe and why of course without ever simply asking me. Paul’s experience is a classic illustration of forming opinions without having any idea concerning the totality of the facts. However, Paul does not tell the Romans their attitude might be wrong. The facts will show one way or the other. At this point, he only wants their attention to the facts that will result from their being told that they do not have all the facts.




Here Paul illustrates his attitude toward them. They have, in all probability, wondered about his motives, questioned his integrity, and been somewhat suspicious of his honesty. However, he calls them “brethren.” He is not meeting them halfway, but way more than halfway, to make sure their attitude is such that they are likely to be receptive to the truth.

The second item he addresses is his purpose. They can doubt every motive he has without him being able to “prove” that his motives are honorable. You see, motives are beyond the scope of Christian consideration. Therefore, Paul does not seek to prove his motives to anyone. What he does instead establishes that


“oftentimes I purposed to come unto you.”


Of course, that could be verified. Motives you cannot verify, but actions and statements you can verify. Did they question his intentions to come to them? All they had to do was ask around. People who knew Paul would know. Then, why had he not yet come? Paul had not yet come because Paul was not his own man. He was God’s man. He had no control over his own schedule. God and the opportunities God brought about to serve Him determined what Paul did. If he had not gotten there any earlier, there were reasons for the delay, good reasons, you can be sure. What were his reasons for delay? The advance of the Gospel. An opportunity created by famine to send a special offering from Gentile Christian congregations to Jewish Christian congregations back in Judea that would have the effect of greatly reducing the ethnic prejudice that often existed between Jewish and Gentile believers. “Pastor, I thought grace was the remedy for race.” It is, though God frequently makes use of means to apply His grace to a problem in Christian’s lives. The Jewish believers experienced famine, with the Gentile Christians showing marvelous generosity to send money to buy food. It was tending to that great opportunity that initially delayed Paul’s mission to Rome. It was time well spent, since racial and ethnic prejudices are reevaluated when those you thought little of sacrificed greatly despite their poverty to put food on your table. Then, after this letter to the Romans had been sent, there was his arrest in Jerusalem on trumped up charges, his incarceration in Caesarea for three years, and then his appeal to Caesar that resulted in him being transported to Rome courtesy of the Imperial Roman army. So you see, Paul had been what you might call tied up.

However, all along, he did want to get there. Why? There is a third item he addresses to show forth his desire: Productivity. Paul was an emotional man. You cannot read what he wrote and deny that. However, he knew that emotion is no substitute for activity. Paul was also an active man. Very active. However, he also knew that activity is no substitute for productivity. What Paul was interested in, bottom line was productivity. He yearned to bear fruit for his Lord. Just as he had reached multitudes for Christ among Gentiles elsewhere, and discipled them to maturity, so he wants to bear fruit in Rome to see that happen elsewhere. Why was Paul so desirous? On one hand, he knew that bearing fruit glorifies God, his ultimate reason for existing. At the same time, he knew that folks simply did not have any hope apart from Christ.[2] He longed to be in Rome because he wanted to see what Christ was doing there as he had seen Christ do there what Christ did elsewhere in the lives of so many others. How do you change the life of a little girl born too pretty for her own good, who has been molested? How do you fix the problems in the life of a man ravaged by rampaging sin? The world attempts to solve problems by redefining such things and their results by calling them diseases of some sort, which only conceals that they have no real solution. So, what do you do to solve the problem? How do you fix the guy whose life is filled with guilt and remorse, with years of wreckage behind him? As well, what about the woman with guilt who denies her guilt? How do you fix her? You don’t. The Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t. He doesn’t even try. His solution to a sinner’s problem is to do away with the old life and to give the sinner an altogether new life. That is precisely what happened with Paul. Though guilty of different kinds of sins than those typically committed by Romans, his were just as wicked, just as defiling, and just as horrendous. What, then, had Christ done for Paul? He forgave all his sins, washed him clean in His own shed blood, and created him afresh and anew. What had been done for him, Paul desired for others.

It is at this point that I need to clear up a long-standing misconception related to Paul’s desire to have some fruit among the Romans, even as among other Gentiles. Precisely what does he mean? Paul’s reference to fruit here is typically misidentified as meaning exactly what the Savior meant by fruit in John 15.1-8, when He spoke of Himself as the true vine, believers as branches, and the bearing of fruit in that passage related directly to bringing sinners to Christ. Not so here in Romans 1.13. Keep in mind that Paul said in Romans 1.15 that he was ready to preach the Gospel in Rome, not that he intended to preach the Gospel in Rome. There is a difference. The fruit he refers to here in verse 14 and again in Romans 15.24-28 is properly understood as the monetary offering he hopes to collect from the Romans. I read from Romans 15.24:


24    Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.

25    But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.

26    For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.

27    It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.

28    When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.


And if you are still uncertain that Paul’s intention is not to bear the fruit of souls in Rome but to bear the fruit of money, to bear the fruit of an offering, consider Romans 15.20, where he writes,


“Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation.”


Understand that Paul is not writing to the Romans to solve any of their problems. And he has no intention to visit them to show them how to do it or accomplish what they have not succeeded at accomplishing. He did not win them to Christ, or establish any of their Churches, and therefore seeks only their prayer and financial support for his great Gospel enterprise in Spain. Paul’s habit was not to preach where Christ had been preached, which would strongly suggest he had other reasons for going to Rome than to preach there. Does a missionary reach out to us not knowing us so that he might show us how to do ministry correctly, to preach the Gospel in Monrovia because he is convinced we are not up to the task? Not at all. Missionaries seek us out for two things, prayer support and financial support. That is the fruit they seek from us, and that is the fruit Paul sought from the Romans.




When you have something that another person desperately needs, you have the profoundest moral obligation to provide what that person needs. If you allow a man to die of thirst while having water available, you should be tried and convicted for murder. Why? Because you are your brother’s keeper, that is why.


Verse 14: “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.”


First, a description of debt. The word translated “debtor” is used in seven verses in our New Testament in noun form[3] and thirty-five times as a verb.[4] In both noun and verb forms, it refers to one who owes a debt, to someone who is under obligation in a moral or social sense that must be discharged.[5] It is what, in the Lord’s model prayer, we want God to forgive:[6]


“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”


And it is, in the parable of the unjust steward, what the wicked steward would not forgive.[7]


“And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.”


In the context of Romans 1.14, Paul uses the word debtor to describe the situation that exists between one who has the most profound of human needs and another (Paul himself) who has the means of meeting that need. Paul recognized his moral obligation to his fellow man, a moral obligation you and I also have.

Next, note Paul’s description of them to whom the debt was owed. There are two pairs of two given in verse 14. The first pair is those described as Greeks and Barbarians. The second pair is those described as the wise and the unwise. If you take note of what Paul later says in verse 16, it seems that in verse 14 and verse 16 Paul is dividing the entire human race into two parts, but he does so in three different ways. Taken from the perspective of the Greek-speaking person, Paul first divides the world into the Greeks and Barbarians. By Greeks, Paul certainly refers to anyone who spoke the Greek language, since the word barbarian was the common term used to describe anyone who did not speak Greek.[8] Taken from the perspective of social standing, Paul then divides the world into those who are wise and those who are unwise. If taken in a classical sense, the wise were considered to be those who were cultured and refined, with the unwise being those who were rude and uncultured, the lower strata of society. Paul has twice divided mankind into halves. First, he took mankind and looked at our race from a cultural perspective. There were those who were on the cultural in and those who were on the cultural out. Second, he took mankind and made a division according to social standing, which would correspond to economic status, with the wise being considered upper class and the unwise being considered lower class. So, what is Paul saying? He is indicating that no matter how you cut it, he was obligated to every man. This is simply another way of saying that no matter how you slice it, people of every station and portion of mankind are in desperate need of what Paul is ready to provide. Are you poor? You are not too poor to need and also to benefit from what Christ has to offer. His hand is not shortened that it cannot save.[9] Are you wealthy? The evidence is abundant that sin reaches into your parlor, into your playroom, into your bedroom, into your office, just as it reaches the poor. No matter who you are you need Jesus Christ. If you think you do not, you are simply deceived. It was because mankind is so needy, and every man is needy, that Paul felt the burden of great debt and obligation that he did. It was a debt he wanted other Christians to feel, as well.




Verse 15: “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.”


When there is diligence, there is first readiness. Do not tell me you are diligent if you are not ready. If you are truly diligent, you will make sure that you are ready. Paul did not get to go to Rome when he wanted to go. God obviously had other plans for His servant. That said, Paul was certainly ready to go whenever God gave him the go ahead. Take note of the phrase “So, as much as in me is.” Here Paul is saying that he has done his part to get ready. He has been faithful on his part. He has done what he can do to get ready to discharge his personal responsibility. He was prepared.

When there is diligence, there is also responsiveness. I love it when you walk up to someone and ask them, “Are you ready to do the job?” and he says, “Yessir.” Then you say, “Okay, let’s go and do it.” And then he says, “You mean, now?” Apparently, he was not really ready, because when you are really ready, you are also responsive. What was Paul’s response to the need? What was he going to do to address the problems of the unsaved people of this world? How would he meet the need of the little deformed child left outside to die of exposure or to be drowned? How would he meet the need of the young man turned loose with the Gladiators to face the wild beasts so the Romans could be entertained by blood sport? Does Paul prepare a sign and go out and march? Does he protest injustice in the streets? Does he institute a letter writing campaign to the Roman Senate or the Emperor? No. He preaches the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he wants to encourage the Roman Christians to do the same. The man who believes Jesus Christ is the only answer does only one thing. He does not picket. He does not protest. He does not propagandize. He preaches. And he does not just preach. He preaches Jesus Christ. This is what Paul did in those places where Christ was not named, leaving it to the Roman Christians to preach Christ in their place of ministry and responsibility. “But pastor, we must address the injustices of our society.” My friends, Rome was the capital of the most unjust society that ever existed, and Paul and the saints brought the Empire down by bringing men and women to Christ one person at a time. They did not do good, but let others do good while they focused on doing best. Not to say Paul never spoke against injustices he observed. But there is no record of him doing so. Paul was diligent in the right way. His diligence was shown by his readiness. The right kind of readiness. Ready to do the right thing in the right way. And his diligence was shown by his responsiveness. He told the Roman Christians what he was going to do, how he was going to address mankind’s spiritual problems, and when he arrived on the scene (wherever that was) he did exactly what he said he would do.


In these three verses, we have seen what a man had who faced the unimaginable suffering brought about by the wickedness and depravity of sin, in response to a society that murdered their newborn and their unborn infants, that molested their little boys and girls, and that murdered their fellow man for sport and pleasure. In short, in response to a society that had no hope, Paul had three things: Believing to the core of his being that Jesus Christ is the solution for man’s ills, Paul had desire. His desire to be on the scene could be seen in the purpose of his desire to get to Rome and in the productivity of his desire to bear fruit so he could then move on to his place of service, which was Spain. Believing to the core of his being that Jesus Christ is the solution for man’s ills, Paul also felt debt. Because he had what mankind needed and did not have, the Gospel message whereby sinners are reconciled to God through faith in Christ, Paul felt the weight of moral obligation to give Living Water to the man dying of thirst, to give the Bread of Life to the one who starved, to present the returning Christ to the one without hope. He was perceptive enough to realize that no matter what a man’s station or position in life happened to be if he did not know Christ Paul was indebted to present Christ to him. Believing to the core of his being that Jesus Christ is the solution to man’s ills Paul, finally, was diligent. When he could not get to Rome, he was at least ready. Then, when God decided it was time, he was responsive.

How does the Los Angeles area differ from Rome? What they did to their unborn we do to so many of our unborn. What they did to so many of their newborns we do to too many of our newborns. What they did to each other we also do to each other. They killed for fun, and we do the same, from kids with their video games to adults via their movies, to gang bangers and their gang banging. What one thing did the Romans of Paul’s day do that people here do not now do? Do you agree with the Apostle Paul and me that Jesus Christ is the answer? If so, demonstrate your desire to minister Christ to the lost rather than filling up your day doing so-called Christian things. Discharge your debt to your fellow man. Declare your diligence by your readiness and by your responsiveness. And then go. Go to your neighbors, family members, coworkers, and go with us on Saturday nights. Then, give so others can go.

If you are here without Jesus Christ, you need Him. Consider the claims of Jesus Christ. Reflect on what the Bible declares to be your great and overriding need for God’s forgiveness. Then respond by coming to Christ. If I may be of assistance, please do not hesitate to speak to me.

Calvary Road Baptist Church is a congregation of people who believe that Jesus Christ is the only hope for mankind and is the only hope for individual sinners. If your wife was drowning before your eyes and only you could rescue her, would you decline the opportunity by saying, “I just can’t”? Of course not. You would certainly do something. In anticipation of such a circumstance, would you not get ready to do something? If you desire the desire to reach the lost, if you want to discharge your debt, if you want to demonstrate diligence, if you want to bear fruit, commit yourself to participating in our Church outreach. And because there is more to mankind than Monrovia, Arcadia, Duarte, and Azusa, get behind our Church’s missions ministry with your prayers and financial support.

We who have the Gospel of Jesus Christ have so much; we are duty bound to discharge our debt of obligation. Read the missionary’s letters on that wall, and ask God to challenge you in only one of the many ways you can engage in real ministry to a lost and dying world by giving to support worldwide missions. This world, our culture, the nation we are a part of, is not redeemable, is not savable. However, individuals are redeemable. That is why each one needs to do his part to reach one, by going yourself, by inviting others, and by giving to missions. Decide to do that now.


[1] Mark 10.14; Matthew 18.10

[2] Ephesians 2.12

[3] Matthew 6.12; 18.24; Luke 13.4; Romans 1.14; 8.12; 15.27; Galatians 5.3

[4] W. F. Moulton and A. S. Geden, editors, A Concordance To The Greek Testament, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1978), pages 740-741.

[5] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 742-743.

[6] Matthew 6.12

[7] Matthew 18.29-33

[8] Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle To The Romans - NICNT, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), pages 61-62.

[9] Isaiah 59.1

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