Calvary Road Baptist Church

“YOU ARE A DEBTOR”

Romans 1.14-17

 

The Apostle Paul begins his letter to the Christians in Rome by naming and describing himself in verse 1; a servant of Jesus Christ, called an apostle, and separated unto the gospel of God. He describes his ministry message in verse 2 by means of revelation (he writes “by His prophets”) and by means of inspiration (he writes “in the holy scriptures”), before describing his Master in verses 3-4. His Master is the Son of God, made of the Seed of David. He became Jesus Christ, declared the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection from the dead. He became Jesus Christ our Lord, this One Who is the eternal Son of the living God. In verses 5-6 Paul briefly describes his apostolic ministry. He received grace and apostleship. The reason God extended grace and apostleship to him was for obedience to the faith for Christ’s name among all nations, as was the case with his readers, who were also described as the called of Jesus Christ.

Though he had not yet traveled to Rome, Paul understands that the Christians in that city know his name and reputation because some among them are Paul’s converts and others among them had doubtless heard reports about Paul’s activities. Therefore, he addresses them with precision, with praise and prayers, and with passion. They are correctly described (just like him) as beloved of God, (just like him) called of God, and also (just like him) saints of God. Thus, Paul shows that he and they have a great deal in common. He offers praise of thanks for their testimony in verse 8, reveals that he offers up prayers for their blessings in verse 9, and requests their permission to visit them in verse 10 (though neither he nor they at that time had any idea that God would arrange his transportation by means of an arrest based upon a false accusation in Jerusalem, incarceration for several years in Caesarea, and a trip to Rome under guard for his appeal as a Roman citizen to Caesar). We see evidence of Paul’s passion in verses 11 and 12, where he expresses his love toward them as a longing to give to them and to establish them more firmly in the faith. His love for them is also expressed by his recognition that his arrival in Rome would result in both him and them being comforted by their mutual faith.

It is in verses 13-17 that Paul expresses to the Roman Christians the substance of his desire to come and visit them. He had purposed to travel to Rome on several occasions, but was providentially hindered. His straightforward statement of intent was to bear fruit, which both in Romans 1.13 and Romans 15.28 can only refer to the monetary offering he was raising on behalf of the starving Jewish Christians in Judea. Consider Romans 1.13 a bit more carefully with me before we proceed:

 

“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.”

 

May I paraphrase? Paul seeks to communicate, “Make no mistake about the purpose of my intended visit, though I have had to reschedule for a variety of reasons. Just as with other Gentile congregations, I want to raise money from you to ease the suffering of Jewish Christians in Judea.”

How very refreshing is Paul’s honesty. He wants money from them to advance the cause of Christ, tells them up front that he wants to visit them to raise the money, and assures them that both he and they will be comforted when he arrives on the scene to collect the money. Would to God we had more of that kind of honesty in Christian circles. Paul certainly is a real missionary, is he not? He prays for them and expects money from them. And how else should it be between a missionary and established churches? They pray for us and want money, while we pray for them and give them money. They then use the money to finance their efforts in the gospel ministry.

Having communicated his desire in verse 13, he informs the Roman Christians of his debt in verse 14:

 

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

 

Paul recognized his moral obligation to the Greeks, to the barbarians, to the wise, and to the unwise. In short, he recognized his moral obligation toward every member of the human race. To discharge his spiritual debt, Paul writes in verse 15 of his duty:

 

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

 

We see, in this verse, both Paul’s readiness to preach the gospel and his responsiveness to sinner’s needs. Verses 16-17 make very clear to his readers his determination:

 

16    For 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.

17    For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

 

Paul was determined because of the power of the Gospel of Christ (its strength of God, its source from God, its salvation to everyone that believeth, and its scope of both Jews and Gentiles. So, what does the preaching of the Gospel accomplish, verse 17? It reveals the righteousness of God from faith to faith. And this is verified in the prophet Habakkuk, where we read that “the just shall live by his faith.”[1]

Having quickly surveyed Romans 1.1-17, I would like to take you back to Romans 1.14, my text for this morning’s message from God’s Word that is titled “You Are A Debtor.” Before we consider four assertions, let me describe some situations to you: You are walking a foot path with a jug of water when you come upon someone who is dying of thirst. Do you have a moral obligation to give that person a drink of life saving water? Of course, you do. Because all human life is sacred, you have a moral obligation to provide a portion of what you have to meet that thirsty man’s need. Here is another situation: You are driving home from the market with fifteen ready made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when you pull into your driveway, get out of your car, and are suddenly approached by the boy who lives across the street. He breathlessly tells you his older brother has become weak and uncoordinated and he suspects that his brother, who has diabetes, has dangerously low blood sugar. Do you have a moral obligation to hand the boy one of your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to give to his brother? Of course, you do. Finally, you are walking along in the alley behind your house and you hear someone shout for help. Looking through a crack in the fence, you see that one of the neighborhood kids has climbed your next-door neighbor’s fence and has somehow slipped and fallen into her swimming pool. Do you have a moral obligation to enter that neighbor’s yard, grab the shepherd’s hook hanging on the patio wall, and using it to bring the drowning kid to safety? Of course, you do. Who would question these obvious moral obligations?

We now read once more our text, Romans 1.14:

 

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

 

I would like to use this verse in God’s Word as the basis for four assertions:

 

First, THE APOSTLE PAUL WAS A DEBTOR

 

Before we begin, let’s be very clear about this word debtor. It is not a controversial word. It is not a word whose meaning is disputed by scholars or unduly influenced by context. This is a word for which there is unanimity among scholars. The word refers to someone who owes a debt, specifically a binding obligation placed upon debtors in the ancient world.[2] One who is obligated to do something.[3] By inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul selected this particular word to describe himself:

 

“I am debtor.”

 

Three observations about Paul’s debt:

First, the fact of Paul’s debt. That Paul is a debtor is undeniable. However, it is not a legal debt that he is obligated to pay off, but a moral debt. A spiritual debt, if you will. The fact that Paul is a debtor is beyond dispute since he admitted it.

Second, the basis of Paul’s debt. A debtor is someone who owes something. A debtor is someone who owes someone. Thus, a debtor is someone who has something that another does not have, but the one who does not have is entitled to receive from the one who has. What does Paul have? He has the truth, specifically the Gospel truth. What does the other not have, be they Greeks, barbarians, wise, or unwise? Gospel truth.

Third, the requirement of Paul’s debt. Since Paul had the truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the power of God unto salvation for everyone that believes, he was a debtor to the Greeks and the Barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise. In other words, he was morally obligated to present what he had, the truth of the Gospel, to those who did not have it, the unsaved. Not that Paul should feel inclined to deliver the truth to those who did not have it, but that Paul had a holy obligation to present the Gospel to those who did not possess it. The fact of Paul’s debt, the basis of Paul’s debt, and the requirement of Paul’s debt is inarguable.

 

Next, EACH OF THE ROMAN CHRISTIANS WAS ALSO A DEBTOR

 

First, the fact of each Roman Christian’s debt. Was Paul a debtor because he was a Jew? No. Was Paul a debtor because he was an apostle? No. Why, then, was Paul a debtor? Was it not because he was a servant of Jesus Christ? Yet, so were they. Was it not because he was separated unto the Gospel of God? Yet, so were they. Was it not because God’s Son Jesus Christ was his Lord? Yet, He was their Lord as well. Was it not because of his faith in Christ? Yet, they, too, had faith in Christ. The reality, of course, is that each Roman Christian was a debtor for precisely the same reasons Paul was a debtor, because though he was called to be an apostle, they too were called if only to other places of ministry. So, the fact of each Roman Christian’s debt is established.

Next, the basis of each Roman Christian’s debt. The basis for the Apostle Paul’s debt was that he owed something. As well, a debtor is someone who owes someone. Thus, a debtor is someone who has something that another does not have, but the one who does not have is entitled to receive from the one who has. Did not the Roman Christians have what Paul had? He had the truth, specifically the Gospel truth. Did they not also have the truth? And did not the unsaved not have with the Roman Christians precisely what they did not have with Paul? Yes. What did they not have? Gospel truth. Thus, the basis for the Roman Christian’s debt was the same basis as Paul’s.

Third, the requirement of the Roman Christian’s debt. Since Paul had the truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the power of God unto salvation for everyone that believes, he was a debtor to the Greeks and the Barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise. In other words, he was morally obligated to present what he had, the truth of the Gospel, to those who did not have it, the unsaved. Not that Paul should feel inclined to deliver the truth to those who did not have it, but that Paul had a holy obligation to present the Gospel to those who did not possess it. In what way would the requirement of the Roman Christian’s debt be in any way different than Paul’s? In no way at all. The fact of the Roman Christian’s debt, the basis of the Roman Christian’s debt, and the requirement of the Roman Christian’s debt is also inarguable.

 

Third, ALL BELIEVERS ARE DEBTORS

 

First, the fact of every believer’s debt. Was Paul and the Roman Christians debtors because he and some of them were Jews? No. Was Paul and the Roman Christians a debtor because he was an apostle or because they had some unique calling to ministry no other Christians had? No. Why, then, were Paul and the Roman Christians debtors? Was it not because they were servants of Jesus Christ? Yes. Was it not because they were separated unto the Gospel of God? Yes. Was it not because God’s Son Jesus Christ was their Lord? Yes, He was their Lord. Was it not because of their faith in Christ? Yes. But does not every Christian have faith in Christ? The reality, of course, is that each Christian is a debtor for precisely the same reasons Paul was a debtor, and for precisely the same reasons the Roman Christians were debtors. So, the fact of each Christian’s debt is established. Your debt is established.

Next, the basis of every Christian’s debt. The basis for the Apostle Paul’s debt and the Roman Christian’s debt was that they owed something. Debtors owe someone. A debtor is someone who has something that another does not have, but the one who does not have is entitled to receive from the one who has. Do you not have what Paul and the Roman Christians have? He and they had the truth, specifically the Gospel truth. Do you not also have the truth? And do not the unsaved not have with you precisely what they did not have with Paul and with the Roman Christians? Yes. What do they not have? Gospel truth. Thus, the basis for your debt is the same basis as Paul’s and the Roman Christian’s.

Third, the requirement of your debt. Since Paul and the Romans had the truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the power of God unto salvation for everyone that believes, he and they were debtors to the Greeks and the Barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise. In other words, he and they were morally obligated to present what they had, the truth of the Gospel, to those who did not have it, the unsaved. Not that any believer should feel inclined to deliver the truth to those who did not have it, but that every believer has a holy obligation to present the Gospel to those who do not possess it. In what way would the requirement of your debt be in any way different than Paul’s or the Roman Christian’s? In no way at all. The fact of your debt, the basis of your debt, and the requirement of your debt as a believer in Jesus Christ is, therefore, inarguable.

 

Finally, Though You May Be Here Today An Unbeliever, EVEN UNBELIEVERS ARE DEBTORS

 

First, let us consider the fact of your debt. I find it amazing that those who do not believe in Jesus Christ somehow feel that they are exempt from the moral imperatives God has placed upon believers. Understand that you suffer from a delusion. Let me explain: Are you allowed to drive at double the speed limit in the United States because you are not a citizen of this country? No. The law applies to everyone. Are you allowed to drive on the left side of the street because you are from the U. K. where everyone drives on the left side of the street? No. The law applies to everyone. Therefore, by what stretch of the imagination do you suppose that the moral obligations God lays upon His own children would not also be applicable to you? It is not because you are a citizen that you give water to one dying of thirst, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a diabetic in need, but because you are a human being.

Next, the basis of your debt. The fact that you are in this auditorium today provides you, with these about you who are committed to helping you, with the Bibles scattered around, and with the tracts and brochures available in the back, with that which all others who are unbelievers do not have, the truth of the Gospel. Walking along, you come across someone dying of thirst. Yet you carry no water. Does that exempt you from obtaining water? No. The diabetic across the street desperately needs to raise his blood sugar, yet you have no peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Are you exempt because you have no peanut butter and jelly sandwich? No. Go into your house and make one! Just because you are not a Christian does not mean you are not expected, you are not demanded, by God to step up and see the profound spiritual need of those around you met. So what if you are not a Christian. Your son is still headed for Hell. Your daughter is still headed for Hell. You have no justification for standing by and saying nothing, doing nothing, pretending you have no obligation. I do not have to be a lifeguard to save the life of a drowning child. I don’t even have to be able to swim to face the obligation of giving my best effort to see the drowning child rescued. In like manner, you are obligated as a human being to see the profoundest spiritual needs of other human beings met by the only means possible, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, the requirement of your debt. The moral imperative of every human being demands that we do what we can to rescue the perishing and care for the dying, and being one who does not believe in Jesus Christ does not mean you have no responsibilities toward your fellow man. It means you are irresponsible toward your fellow man, as well as being irresponsible with respect to your own profound spiritual needs. The fact is that we live in a moral universe where, despite the propaganda, right is right and wrong is wrong, the truth is true and lies are not true. Trick yourself and fool yourself by denying reality all you want, but God will not only hold you responsible for your own response to the Gospel you have been exposed to, but He will also hold you accountable for the payment of your debt owed to other members of the human race. It all goes back to Genesis 4.9, when God held unbelieving Cain responsible for his brother, Abel. Remember what Cain asked? “Am I my brother’s keeper?” He sought to deny his debt with respect to his brother by disclaiming knowledge of his whereabouts. But the rest of God’s Word answers loudly to Cain, the unbeliever: “Yes, you are your brother’s keeper!”

 

Long ago and far away the Lord Jesus Christ died on Calvary’s cross an atonement for my sins. He rose from the dead after three days, was seen of many witnesses, and then ascended to His Father’s right hand on high, where He is enthroned to this day until the time of His second coming in power and great glory. Until He comes again it is the duty of all mankind to declare the unsearchable riches of Christ. Notice, if you will, that I have made no mention of the Great Commission to preach the gospel to every creature in this message from God’s Word. Paul made no mention of the Great Commission because it was unrelated to his indebtedness to the Greeks and Barbarians, to the wise and the unwise. The Lord Jesus Christ issued the Great Commission to the Church of Jesus Christ. The debt to which Paul refers in Romans 1.14, however, his debt and yours, is a more foundational moral obligation than the Great Commission because it is a moral debt shared by all humanity, Christians as well as non Christians.

Arguing from lesser to greater, if it is morally reprehensible to walk by a man dying of thirst without giving him water, if it is morally reprehensible to deny a peanut butter and jelly to a needy diabetic, and if it is morally reprehensible to refuse help to a youngster drowning in the neighbor’s swimming pool, what can be said about the eternal welfare of someone’s eternal and undying soul? How can you not witness to the lost? How can you not give to missions as God enables you? And how can you not consider and then respond to the valid claims of Jesus Christ, the unique Savior of sinful men’s souls?

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[1] Habakkuk 2.4

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 348.

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

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org