Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Verse That Surprised Me

I was reading in Romans recently when I came to 1:15. Paul writes to the Roman church, "So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome."

When Paul normally talks about preaching, he is referring to proclaiming the gospel to the lost. This is what we see in his practice as well. In light of what verse 14 says, we sense that verse 15 refers at least in part to his preaching to the pagans in Rome.

However, in 1:15 the apostle clearly writes that he is eager to preach the gospel "to you also who are in Rome." Since he is communicating with the church, he must also be talking about preaching to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. When Paul uses the word "you" in his letters, he is almost always talking about the church he is writing to.

This surprised me because in the NT we almost always see preaching aimed at the lost. Here we see Paul intending to preach to the saved. Why would he desire to do this? What's his plan and purpose?

My guess is that he simply wants to ensure that they fully understand the gospel and share with them what God has been doing in other places. Paul undoubtedly, based on other things he writes, desires to encourage and be encouraged by them as well.

Still though, he talks of preaching to the saved. This seems outside the norm for him. Any ideas on the significance of this?


Alan Knox said...


This is a difficult passage (concerning "preaching") at face value. However, in context, I think it makes much more sense.

First, the term "preach the gospel" is from euaggelizomai, so it's definitely talking about proclaiming the gospel (i.e., "evangelizing"), not "preaching to the church."

Now, look at Romans 1:15 within the context of the paragraph:

I want you to know, 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. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:13-16 ESV)

Throughout the passage, Paul uses "you" (plural) in two ways: 1) to refer specifically to the Roman Christians to whom Paul is writing, and 2) to people living in Rome generally.

Also, in context, it is clear that Paul is talking about proclaiming the gospel for the purpose of salvation, something that the Roman Christians do not need. Therefore, in Romans 1:15, Paul is talking about proclaiming the gospel (evangelizing) unbelievers in Rome.

Of course, I'm open to hear other suggestions as well.


Jason_73 said...

Hi Eric,

I know that writers like Jerry Bridges have written much on this subject, that the gospel should be preached to believers and non-believers. His book, "the gospel for real life" and Milton Vincent's book "A gospel primer" have radically changed my view on the purpose of the gospel for believers.

"A gospel primer" is probably one of the most important books I've ever read.


Tim A said...

I would suggest, that even though some elements of the context point to a preaching to the lost, he is speaking of "preaching the gospel" as preaching about much more than how to come to a place of professing Christ, or making a decision to follow, or depending of sin and turning to Christ, or the 4 laws. He is speaking of the gospel as everything about salvation from profession to perfection in glory. Everyone is on this pilgrimage somewhere, both the lost and the found. This is the whole soteriology package. This would include the Roman believers.

Aussie John said...


In context, I would rather use the word "proclaim" instead of "preach".

The gospel is obviously what Paul wants to proclaim.

It would seem that there was a need to remind the Roman congregation regarding the message of the gospel,including those who claimed to be saved, but were not.

As well, there was the need to evangelize/ make disciples in the unsaved wider community.

Eric said...

Thanks everyone for the discussion.

I tend to lean toward Paul preaching to both the church and the lost, albeit at different occasions. What this would look and sound like would, I'm sure, be different.

As we think of his interaction with the church, his previous mention of mutual encouragement must be the context in which we think of his preaching to them. As for the lost, we ave multiple examples of this from Acts.

Alan Knox said...


Some commenters brought up the possibility that Paul wanted to "preach the gospel" to the church because we all need to be reminded of the gospel. I agree that we all need to be reminded of the gospel, but the verb used here seems to indicate that is not Paul's desire. He uses the verb euaggelizomai... or "evangelize." As far as I know, this term is used in reference to unbelievers, not the church.


Eric said...


I looked at the Greek as well (although I struggle with it these days). I had wondered about his choice of that verb; I see what you mean.

Why do you think Paul wrote, "...preach the gospel to you..."? I wonder why he added the phrase "to you." The letter does seem addressed specifically to the Roman Christians. What do you think?

Alan Knox said...


"Among you" sounds strange because we immediately assume that Paul means "you who are reading this leader," and we know that Paul is writing to believers.

But, within this very context, we see that Paul uses "among you" to mean "among Romans":

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. (Romans 1:13 ESV)

Notice in that sentence Paul writes "among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles." He is contrasting people in Rome to Gentiles in other cities/regions/nations where he's been. Plus, he's seeking a "harvest," which is always related to evangelism in Scripture.

But, the people he's writing to (i.e., believers in Rome) have already been "harvested," so to speak.

Again, while it seems strange to our ears/eyes, I think the passage makes it fairly clear that Paul is using "among you" to refer to "people in Rome."


Aussie John said...


I almost commented on Paul's use of "euaggelizomai", as our beloved brother Alan has done, but, I have fond thoughts of God moving in the lives of people who were convinced they were Christians, simply because "they had made a decision".

Teaching from Scripture,to a congregation, was the instrument God used to bring these people to Himself.

There is no doubt that "euaggelizomai" means evangelizing, but how do we know, when we are speaking to a group or a congregation, without any intention of evangelizing, that God will use our words to evangelize?

That has happened with me, several times. One instance, among several, was when a crippled, elderly, long time member of the Baptist church in which I was 'pastor',came rushing out of her seat, with tears streaming down her face, saying, "I want Jesus Christ in my life. I've just realized I am not what I thought I was!"

Over many years I have found that God is not bound by our carefully correct interpretations and presuppositions regarding these matters.

I'm sure not going to argue with God!

Tim A said...

1) to bring good news, to announce glad tidings
a) used in the OT of any kind of good news
1) of the joyful tidings of God's kindness, in particular, of the Messianic blessings
b) in the NT used especially of the glad tidings of the coming kingdom of God, and of the salvation to be obtained in it through Christ, and of what relates to this salvation
c) glad tidings are brought to one, one has glad tidings proclaimed to him
d) to proclaim glad tidings
1) instruct (men) concerning the things that pertain to Christian salvation

It seems to me this goes beyond simply seeking conversion of the lost.

It seems he this is his intro to what to the whole book that delivers the whole salvation package - new birth to new heaven

Eric said...

Thanks everyone again for the discussion.

I wonder if Paul was making a sort of generalized statement here. We know, of course, that he was going to spend much time in mutual fellowship with the church in Rome. He was also going to evangelize the lost. Maybe Paul was thinking of all this under a sort of heading of preaching the gospel.

The specific question, I suppose, was whether or not Paul was planning to do any preaching to the saved. I'm still unsure. If so, it would be markedly different than his preaching to the unsaved.