I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Paul is eager to preach the Gospel. He’s not looking for more people to cross off his list, he’s looking for more and more people to believe in Christ the Lord. We read yesterday about how he prayed for the Roman church all of the time. That eventually led to him sharing in mutual, faith-building fellowship with them. In this section, Paul develops his full calling a little more to show that it isn’t just for Rome.
For Paul to say he is under obligation to the Greeks and to the barbarians was a pretty big claim. Barbarians were savage, uncultured, crazy, out of control and probably evil people in the eyes of the Greeks. The Greeks were civilized, powerful, educated, and rich with a wonderful history (according to the Greeks!). Being called to the wise and to the foolish was like saying Greeks and barbarians. The people that had it together and the people that didn’t.
This is a little bit of a joke, if you think about it. “I’m called to wise and the foolish, so I’m eager to talk to you in Rome.” I’ve had success with kings and baboons, so I’m sure I’ll get along fine with you. Is what it reads if you give Paul a sense of humor.
The depth of it for today is that nobody deserves to have the Gospel withheld from them. The people that are young and old, pale or tan, tattooed, multi-lingual, deaf, or whatever are all worthy to hear the Gospel and be loved by God who created them. Paul wasn’t eager to preach the Gospel because all of those people were so lost and evil, but because the Good News of Jesus is SO GOOD. He wasn’t compelled to get them to stop being barbarians or foolish, but to help them start following Jesus (see yesterday).
Let us work hard not at figuring out who is a barbarian and who is a Greek, but in becoming so compelled and obligated that we would want to share the Gospel with everyone, whatever type of person they are.