Romans 1 & The Great Commission


If we read Romans 1 without the context, it is a supremely depressing picture. People have the knowledge of God. But they do not pursue God. So, God turns them over to their own lusts and passions. This is a bleak message.

We could conclude, “Why bother to witness? Why bother to do missions? Why bother to try to reach the unreached peoples of the world? If God has turned the lost over to their own lusts, there’s no hope. They will die in their sins.”

In fact, Romans 2 and 3 seem to confirm this sense of hopeless resignation. “There is none righteous not even one… All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… Therefore, people are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of wrath” Romans 3:10, 3:23, 2:5).

But we are in possession of a gift from God that has the power to turn something that seems so bleak and hopeless into something that is glorious and filled with joy.

And what is that gift? The Gospel.

The same Romans 1 that describes people far from God, also contains the truth that the Gospel has the power to transform anyone, anytime, and anywhere. It’s why we “are not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation” of anyone who will repent and believe (Romans 1:16). By grace through faith in Christ people who are wrong with God can become right with God.

Yes, Romans 1 paints a picture of people in a sad state and hopeless condition. But God can intervene and save some as He did in Corinth.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:9-11).

David Platt, in a blog post on the Desiring God website answers the question: “How does Romans 1 tell us we must go to the unreached?

Here, briefly stated, are four reasons why Romans 1, rather than discouraging missions, fuels missions:

1. Because the knowledge of God that the unreached have is only enough to damn them to hell forever.

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).

2. Because the gospel of God is powerful enough to save the unreached for heaven.

“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 1:16).

3. Because the plan of God warrants the sacrifices of His people.

“I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (Romans 1:14).

4. Because the Son of God deserves the praises of all peoples.

“Through [Jesus Christ] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Romans 1:5).

Several months ago, Cuyahoga Valley Church adopted an Unreached People Group, the SOLI people group on Pearl Island in Indonesia. Some might suggest that it’s hopeless to try to reach them – that their non-responsiveness means that God has turned them over to their own lusts as Romans 1 states.

But we believe that God will redeem some of the SOLI so that people from every nation and every tongue and every tribe and every color will be in heaven one day worshiping the Lamb who was slain.

We have been praying for dreams and visions to occur on Pearl Island in Indonesia that will result in the conversions of these individuals to whom Jesus appears.

Recently, a team of nationals came to the island to work with T&K, our missionaries, and do evangelism amongst the Muslims there. Some people came to faith. Two were baptized. It’s the first two SOLI people that have come to Christ through T&K’s ministry. This is very exciting!

A few days later, we received a report from an Australian missionary that CVC is partnering with to help with a Bible translation on the island. He, too, has seen some recent conversions. A brand-new believer was out fishing at night. He saw someone in a white robe. He was afraid and about to jump overboard. The man in the white robe said, “I am Isa – Jesus. Do not be afraid.” He then disappeared. The man usually catches 100-150 fish. That night, he caught 250!

Clearly, God is on the move amongst this SOLI people group. If we will go and share the gospel, some will respond to the truth. And their testimony will be like the testimony of the Corinthians found In I Corinthians 6:9-11.

I’m excited about our team from Impact going to minister there on Pearl Island in just a few weeks. Please pray for them.

And please pray for yourself that God will give you the burden and the hope that He will use you and all of us at CVC to spread the Gospel to redeem those UPGs that many think are hopeless.

See, the Gospel mobilizes our mission to the unreached, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (Romans 1:14). As Platt says, “Paul’s ownership of the gospel creates an obligation with the gospel.”

Paul is not the only one with an obligation to share the gospel. Everyone at CVC who has been saved has the same obligation.

Will you go? Will you share? Will you live unashamed?