Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1
14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
1901 ASV Translation:
14 I am debtor both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.
In Romans 1:14-17 there is only one variation in the text of the Textus Receptus in comparison to the Nestle/Aland 26: the words "of the Christ" in verse sixteen of the Textus Receptus are omitted in verse sixteen of the Nestle/Aland 26. Since Paul has already made it more than abundantly clear that the Gospel is about God's Son, Jesus the Christ, the only significance to this difference is that the Textus Receptus puts a tad more emphasis upon the fact by the inclusion of those words than does the Nestle/Aland 26. There is nothing "doctrinally" at stake. There is never anything "doctrinal" at stake in the variations we have in the various textual traditions in spite of the rather loud screeching of those who always assign some "Satanic Conspiracy" motivation to any variation from the text of the Textus Receptus.
May 11, 2004
- I. Paul's first issue in this paragraph (there is nothing "inspired" about the way paragraph divisions are made in the text) is the matter of the scope of his "indebtedness".
- A. He posits a double "couplet": "Both to Greeks and to Barbarians; both to Wise and Ignorant..."
- 1. These are "culture" and "information" categories.
- 2. There is a question as to whether they were intended by Paul to "overlap" so that the "Greeks" were the "Wise" and the "Barbarians" were the "Ignorant".
- 3. There is not much of a question, however, as to whether Paul "lumped" all of the "nations" into one of these two categories because he had already mentioned "all of the nations" in 1:13 and because he went on to "lump" the whole world into the either/or categories of "Jew" and "Greek" in 1:16. By this reasoning, the "Greek" Category formed two sub-categories: true "Greek" (as those theoretically "wise" as 1 Corinthians 1:22 indicates); and "not quite Greek [barbarian], but Greek-Gentile in the sense of 'all non-Jews are Greeks' " (as those theoretically "uninformed" as 1 Corinthians 14:11 seems to imply). Paul did occasionally refer to others who were not actually "Greek", but he seemed to have a fairly large split categorical method of referring to humanity as either "Jew" or "Greek" in his letters so that 'barbarians' were a sort of sub-Greeks. The rationale for this is likely the fact that the "Hellenization" that Alexander the Great brought about reached far beyond the nation of Greece so that even the Barbarians were effectively "Hellenized" and, therefore, could be called "Greek" in some forms of language, cultural influence, etc.
- B. Then he posits his "indebtedness" in regard to them.
- 1. There is some degree of "theology" involved here, especially since we are often told that 'grace' is so 'free' that it does not create any kind of 'indebtedness' -- that, in fact, if we posit any kind of 'obligation' in our grasp of 'grace', we "do not understand grace".
- a. Obviously, Paul didn't seem to have any notion whatsoever that grace and "indebtedness" were somehow mutually exclusive. He is the apostle of "grace" and it is he, in this text, who declares his standing "obligation" and what is an "obligation" if one is not "obliged"?
- b. This raises the "theological" issue of the nature of the "grace of God".
- 2. The issues of "indebtedness" need to be clear.
- a. The question of whether the righteousness of God that is imputed to those who believe in Christ is a matter of human "performance" or divine "grace" needs to be clear.
- 1) The major problem with attributing the righteousness of God to man on the basis of man's fulfillment of some divine imperative regarding "performance" is not really a question of "grace". The real issue of man's standing in the righteousness of Christ is this: upon whose "performance" does this righteousness rest? If Christ does "all" that the Law requires, then man has "nothing" to contribute. If Christ does "all but one, two, or a few things", then righteousness is not based upon Christ, but, rather, upon the cooperative effort of Christ and he/she that would be saved by doing the things that Christ did not do. If Christ does nothing more than set an example that men must follow if they would be saved, then the righteousness is not of Christ at all, but of those whose diligence in following the example is sufficient to measure up to the righteousness of God. This issue has been the argument of the ages and men have come down all along the "performance" continuum. There are those who see the Scripture teaching that justification is founded upon Christ's work on our behalf with nothing required of man. And there are those who see the Scripture teaching that justification is founded upon man's fulfillment of the creature-responsibility of total loyalty to the will of God. These are the opposite poles of the continuum. Then, all along the line between these poles is an amalgamation of Christ's work plus man's response-work.
- 2) "Grace" enters the picture at this point in order to deliver the ultimate statement of "where" men are to take up their "position" on this continuum. The basic argument of Paul that "if it is of works, it is no longer of grace" means that "grace" rejects not just the majority of man's actions, but "all" of them for the distinct purpose of resting the issue upon the performance of Jesus Christ as the Second Adam in Whose hands the entire issue of justification rests. Just as Adam made a choice to sin that plunged every son/daughter of Adam into sin without human remedy or acquiescence, so Christ perfectly fulfilled all of the will of God so that every son/daughter of God has been raised from the position in sin to the perfection in righteousness that is Christ's.
- 3) Then "faith" enters the picture. There have been, through the ages, those who have taught that, since Christ died for the sins of the whole world, and since there is nothing "of" man that is required, eventually all will be saved. But this is not a teaching of the Bible. Jesus Himself said that the way to destruction was "broad" and "many" would walk upon that broad way while the "gate" to life was very difficult to "find" and "few" would be successful. These words deny ultimate salvation for everyone. Thus, the key "divider" issue between those who receive the righteousness of Christ and those who do not is the issue of "faith"...i.e. upon what one rests his case. Since, then, it is whether one "believes" in the sufficiency of the works of Christ, or not, that "divides" men into opposite camps of the "saved" and the "lost", the question arises as to the essential nature of "faith". Is it a "work"? Is it a "human production"? Is it the "one" thing Christ did not do "for" His own? How are we to see "faith" as the "divider of men"?
- a) It boils down to the answers to these questions...
- i. Is "faith" the result of man's "choice" to "put his faith in Christ"?
- ii. Is "faith" the result of man's "choice" to "stop resisting the obvious"?
- iii. Is "faith" a "meritorious" action of man that allows him to "claim" the position of "righteous in Christ"?
- iv. Is man the author of his "beliefs"?
- v. Is "faith in faith" the same as "faith in Christ"? [Are we saved by faith, or are we saved by Christ?]
- b) In the most "evangelistic" of all of the writings of the New Testament (see John 20:31), the apostle John answered all of these questions.
- i. In John 1:13 John dismissed the "will of man" from the equation. Thus, the issue of "faith" being a matter of "choice" is answered. It is not. Men do not and can not determine what they believe by "choosing" [Try this experiment: "Choose" to believe that you can "jump to the moon". You cannot "make" yourself believe by force of "will".] This also answers the question of "merit". If man cannot do what is required, how can "merit" be entertained?
- ii. In John 8:46 John quoted Jesus as saying, "...if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?" and then quoted His own answer: "He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." Thus, the question of whether man is the author of his "beliefs" is answered: man's "beliefs" are the result of his "nature" (whether he is "of God" or not) and not the result of his own authorship, but of God's. Jesus is the "Author" of faith because He is the "author" of the new birth that addresses the "nature" of a man.
- iii. In John 13:38 John gave Jesus' answer to the question of whether "faith in faith" is the same as "faith in Christ": it is not, because "faith in faith" is "faith in oneself" and "faith in Christ" is the overt rejection of faith in oneself.
- 3. Then we come to the issue of "indebtedness".
- a. The issue of "indebtedness" needs to be clear in terms of what caused the "debt".
- 1) There is no way that anyone can establish Paul's obligation on the basis of something that the Greeks or the Barbarians did for Paul that put him into their debt.
- 2) The "debt" arose from Paul's identity before God. Paul was not indebted to the Greeks and Barbarians on the basis of their actions but was indebted to them on the basis of his identity as a creature of God. Since God had created Paul, Paul came into a position of obligation to Him. The "debt" could be satisfied by Paul's proclamation of the Gospel to the Greeks and Barbarians. This was the divine charge and Paul was without any way to escape his "indebtedness".
- 3) Be clear here: "grace" did not "establish" the "debt". Paul's obligation was rooted in his identity as a creature and "grace" does not erase the obligation. Perhaps the greatest single error regarding grace is the notion that grace erases obligation. It does not. It provides for the fulfillment of the obligation. Obligation is forever. Nothing will ever remove "obligation" from the universe. God is not interested in setting creatures "free" to live without "obligation". Instead, He is interested in bringing creatures into the freedom of living within harmonious, mutual "obligation". "Obligation" is only an ogre to the depraved who wish to be free above all else: "give me liberty or give me death". Love, which will never pass away, is disinterested in being "free" from the needs of others; rather, it is fully involved in addressing those needs. "Grace" is God's process of bringing the wilful into love...the rebellious into delighted submission...the selfish into utter selflessness.