What Does the Bible Say?
In Acts 22:21, Paul says, “And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.”
So Paul, sent by our LORD to the Gentiles (non-Jewish people) to preach and witness of God’s love, said:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.—Romans 1:16
This verse raises a couple of questions. First, why did Paul begin this message with the assertion that he is not ashamed of the gospel? The gospel gives Paul’s life its context, its meaning, its purpose, and its direction. Second, why does Paul even speak of being ashamed of the Gospel? I think he’s probably recalling Jesus’ words of warning:
For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.—Luke 9:26
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;—2 Timothy 1:7–8
What does Paul mean when he says that the gospel is the power of God
unto salvation to every one that believeth? To understand this, we must have a clear understanding of who Jesus is and how a person is
The sad truth is that today many Christians behave as if they take salvation for granted. The urgency of salvation and the unspeakable eternal consequences of being cut off from God forever in hell are obscured in their minds.
Many in Paul’s audience held onto their Old Covenant (Old Testament) perspective. For them, salvation has a sharp image and a clear meaning. It means a radical deliverance out of a desperate situation. What Israel experienced at the Red Sea, when all help was cut off before and behind them, only a vertical miracle from on high could save. That was salvation.
In Kyle Sutton’s daily Messianic devotional, Honey Out of the Rock, the April 14th devotion called the Cup of Redemption provides some insight into what salvation truly means.
I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.—Psalm 116:13
The Hebrew word for salvation is “yeshuah.”
Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.—Psalm 91:14–16
In Calling on the Sacred Name, the January 22nd devotion, Sutton says,
The heavenly Father knows you by name and longs for all His covenant children to know Him by name and call upon it in time of need. In Psalm 91:14-15 Yahweh pledges six things when you call upon His sacred name: He will deliver you, set you on high, answer you, be with you, honor you, satisfy you, and show you His “salvation”—which in Hebrew is yeshuah.
Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus.
To the Jew First
Referring back to Romans 1:16, Paul tells us that this salvation message was “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” There are two commonly accepted understandings of what Paul means here by the term “first” (Greek: proton). Strong’s Concordance defines it this way:
4412 πρῶτον, πρώτως [proton /pro·ton/] adv. Neuter of 4413 as adverb (with or without 3588); TDNT 6:868; TDNTA 965; GK 4754 and 4759; 60 occurrences; AV translates as “first” 51 times, “at the first + 3588” twice, “first of all” twice, and translated miscellaneously five times. 1 first in time or place. 1a in any succession of things or persons. 2 first in rank. 2a influence, honour. 2b chief. 2c principal. 3 first, at the first.
The primary meaning refers to “first” in a chronological sense. But does this mean that the Jews have a special preference in salvation? I don’t think so because of what the Scripture says in Gal. 3:26-29:
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.—Galatians 3:26–29
When Paul says,
There is neither Jew nor Greek …for ye are all one in Christ Jesus, the idea that the Jews have a special preference in salvation can be disregarded.
The second understanding of what Paul means here is that
first has the sense of priority. Commentators who believe that proton refers to a priority will usually cite two other passages, Romans 2:9-10 and Acts 13:46.
Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:—Romans 2:9–10, (AV)
In Romans 2:9, Paul is referring to the coming judgment, stating,
There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first [proton] for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
We’ve already seen in Acts 22:21 that the Lord sent Paul to the gentiles,
And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. Why then, does Paul make the synagogues the first place he attends whenever he arrives in a new city on his missionary journeys? Gentiles don’t attend synagogues. Is he disobeying our Lord’s command?
But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.—Acts 13:14, (AV)
Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.—Acts 13:46, (AV)
In Acts 13:46, Paul and Barnabas entered the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia, where Paul shared the gospel with the people gathered there. When the Jewish people rejected the gospel, Paul and Barnabas responded very forthrightly:
…It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.