Paul’s Third Self-Portrait in Romans


          “Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ…” (Romans 1:13-16).

          Like the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:9), the apostle Paul had fire in his bones. His evangelistic zeal was relentless and unquenchable. In this third self-portrait (see July 30th, August 9th and 10th) in Romans—easily identified as “I am”—he grants insight into the fuel for this raging inferno within him.

          I am debtor… (v. 14). As the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7), Paul felt an obligation, a continuous payment-due responsibility to all strata of society—from the aristocrat to the backwoods, from the educated to the illiterate. He owed them an opportunity to hear the gospel. Like Isaiah, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8) was the only acceptable possibility to the spiritual crisis of his day.

          I am ready… (v. 15). Though much of his past had been counted as loss for Christ (Philippians 3:7), his experience as the chief of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) did leave him feeling uniquely prepared to preach Christ and Him crucified. He was a living testament to the exceedingly abundant grace of his Lord (1 Timothy 1:14), and he was chomping at the bit to proclaim the exceeding riches of God’s manifold grace.

          I am not ashamed… (v. 16). Though he was incredibly ashamed of his past as a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent man (1 Timothy 1:13), Paul was in no way ashamed of the gospel which saved him from his heinous lifestyle. Deliverance from sin’s guilt, enslavement, and stain was not something Paul was timid or embarrassed about in any way.

          I am…debtor, ready, unashamed.

          Herein lies Paul’s personal identification of what fueled his insatiable desire to have some spiritual fruit among the Gentiles.

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Author: jchowning

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