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Commentary on "The Gospel Comes to Thessalonica"



Day 7: Friday, July 6, 2012 - Further Study



The general theme for today is that when the Apostle Paul preached from scripture he was quoting the Old Testament. This should be rather obvious since what we know as the New Testament didn’t yet exist. Furthermore, he was quoting directly from the Old Testament to show that the ministry and gospel of Jesus Christ was a fulfillment of prophecy from the writings of Moses and onward through all the other prophets.

A secondary theme of just who the Apostle Paul was under obligation to is introduced but not explored with the quote from The Acts of the Apostles, p. 380 by Ellen White.



The introductory Ellen White quote introduces the unexplored question of just what does it mean for Paul to be "under obligation". From the structure of this quote it appears she was referring to this biblical passage:

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. (Romans 1:14-15 ESV)

Paul makes it clear that he is a 'debtor’ (under obligation) to “Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish”. A number of logical questions should arise by this statement of his. How did he become indebted? In what way is he indebted? With whom was this indebtedness generated?

For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. (1 Cor. 9:16-18 ESV)

Notice what the Lord had to say when he instructed Ananias to assist Saul:

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9:15-16 ESV)

Later we see what Paul says when preaching the message of the gospel to the Jews of Antioch in Pisidia:

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “’I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 13:44-47 ESV)

When taken all together the picture we get is that while Paul had a love for his fellow Jews and would always preach to them when given the opportunity, his special mandate given directly to him by the Lord was to take the gospel to the Gentiles which in Romans 1:14-14 would be expressed as “Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish”. The debt he is expressing is his obligation to the Lord for having removed him from the realm of death and placing him in the Kingdom of God with assurance of eternal life.



  1. While Ellen White’s quote along with the Quarterly comments isn’t totally wrong it does tend to obscure the real source of why Paul was indebted. Paul learned that Jesus paid his penalty for sin upon the cross. The Lord transferred Paul’s indebtedness from him personally and placed that to the account of all that the Lord intended for him to reach with the salvation message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. When you understand the nature of Paul’s indebtedness you must realize that all who had been transferred into the Kingdom of God by the Cross of Jesus Christ have this very same indebtedness. Whenever given the opportunity we are compelled to tell of the love of our Savior and the good news of the Cross by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  3. The gospel is for all who will receive it. As in the case of Paul, this ministry often matures into a special direction while the gospel message itself never changes.


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