Apostle Paul – “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise” ( Romans 1:14 )

Background

As I was looking for another of Paul’s quote stumbled upon this one.

I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise ( Romans 1:14 )

Commentary

Ellicott Commentary

  1. Why is the Apostle so eager to come to them? Because an obligation, a duty, is laid upon him. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 9:16, “necessity is laid upon me.”) He must preach the gospel to men of all classes and tongues; Rome itself is no exception.
  2. (14) To the Greeks, and to the Barbarians.—The Apostle does not intend to place the Romans any more in the one class than in the other. He merely means “to all mankind, no matter what their nationality or culture.” The classification is exhaustive. It must be remembered that the Greeks called all who did not speak their own language “Barbarians,” and the Apostle, writing from. Greece, adopts their point of view.
  3. Wise and foolish.—(Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 1:26-28.) The gospel was at first most readily received by the poor and unlearned, but it did not therefore follow that culture and education were by any means excluded. St. Paul himself was a conspicuous instance to the contrary. And so, in the next century, the Church which began with such leaders as Ignatius and Polycarp, could number among its members before the century was out, Irenæus, and Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, and Hippolytus, and Origen—the last, the most learned man of his time.

 

MacLaren Commentary

  1. No doubt Paul is here referring to the special obligation laid upon him by his divine call to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. He was entrusted with the Gospel as a steward, and was therefore bound to carry it to all sorts and conditions of men. But the principle underlying the statement applies to all Christians. The indebtedness referred to is no peculiarity of the Apostolic order, but attaches to every believer.
  2. Every servant of Jesus Christ, who has received the truth for himself, has received it as a steward, and is, as such, indebted to God, from whom he got the trust, and to the men for whom he got it.
  3. The only limit to the obligation is, as Paul says in the context, ‘as much as in me is.’ Capacity, determined by faculties, opportunities, and circumstances, prescribes the kind and the degree of the work to be done in discharge of the obligation; but the obligation is universal. We are not at liberty to choose whether we shall do our part in spreading the name of Jesus Christ. It is a debt that we owe to God and to men.
  4. It is no very exalted degree of virtue to pay our debts. We do not expect to be praised for that; and we do not consider that we are at liberty to choose whether we shall do it or not. We are dishonest if we do not. It is no merit in us to be honest.
  5. Anchored
    • Brotherhood
      • I. Now, first, let me say that we Christians are debtors to all men by our common manhood.
        It is not the least of the gifts which Christianity has brought to the world, that it has introduced the new thought of the brotherhood of mankind. The very word ‘humanity’ is a Christian coinage, and it was coined to express the new thought that began to throb in men’s hearts, as soon as they accepted the message that Jesus Christ came to give, the message of the Fatherhood of God. For it is on that belief of God’s Fatherhood that the belief of man’s brotherhood rests, and on it alone can it be secured and permanently based.
    • Common Manhood
      • Here is a Jew writing to Latins in the Greek language. The phenomenon itself is a sign of a new order of things, of the rising of a flood that had surged over, and in the course of ages would sap away and dissolve, the barriers between men.
      • The Apostle points to two of the widest gulfs that separated men, in the words of my text. ‘Greeks and Barbarians’ divides mankind, according to race and language. ‘Wise and unwise’ divides them according to culture and intellectual capacity.
      • Both gulfs exist still, though they have been wonderfully filled up by the influence, direct and indirect, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
      • The fiercest antagonisms of race which still subsist are felt to belong to a decaying order, and to be sure, sooner or later, to pass away.
      • I suppose that the gulf made by the increased culture of modern society between civilised and the savage peoples, and, within the limits of our own land, the gulf made by education between the higher and the lower layers of our community-I speak not of higher and lower in regard to wealth or station, but in regard to intellectual acquirement and capacity-are greater than, perhaps, they ever were in the past.
      • But yet over the gulf a bridge is thrown, and the gulf itself is being filled up. High above all the superficial distinctions which separate Jew and Gentile, Greek and Barbarian, educated and illiterate, scientific and unscientific, wise and unwise, there stretches the great rainbow of the truth that all are one in Christ Jesus.
      • Fraternity without Fatherhood is a ghastly mockery that ended a hundred years ago in the guillotine, and to-day will end in disappointment; and it is little more than cant.
      • But when Christianity comes and tells us that we have one Father and one Redeemer, then the unity of the race is secured.
      • And that oneness which makes us debtors to all men is shown to be real by the fact that, beneath all superficial distinctions of culture, race, age, or station, there are the primal necessities and yearnings and possibilities that lie in every human soul. All men, savage or cultivated, breathe the same air, see by the same light, are fed by the same food and drink, have the same yearning hearts, the same lofty aspirations that unfulfilled are torture; the same experience of the same guilt, and, blessed be God! the same Saviour and the same salvation.
      • Because, then, we are all members of the one family, every man is bound to regard all that he possesses, and is, and can do, as committed to him in stewardship to be imparted to his fellows. We are not sponges to absorb, but we are pipes placed in the spring, that we may give forth the precious water of life.
      • Brother’s Keeper
        • Cain is not a very good model, but his question is the world’s question, and it implies the expectation of a negative answer-’Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Surely, the very language answers itself, and, although Cain thinks that the only answer is ‘No,’ wisdom sees that the only answer is ‘Yes.’ For if I am my brother’s brother, then surely I am my brother’s keeper. We have a better example.
        • There is another Elder Brother who has come to give to His brethren all that Himself possessed, and we but poorly follow our Master’s pattern unless we feel that the mystic tie which binds us in brotherhood to every man makes us every man’s debtor to the extent of our possessions. That is the Christian truth that underlies the modern Socialistic idea, and, whatever the form in which it is ultimately brought into practice as the rule of mankind, the principle will triumph one day; and we are bound, as Christian men, to hasten the coming of its victory. We are debtors by reason of our common humanity.

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