Both Jew and Gentile

The equality of Jews and Gentiles before God is a crucial theme in Romans. Members of either group stand or fall before Him on the same basis. Paul wrote the letter with two purposes in mind. First, to prepare the ground for his visit to the city. Second, to deal with conflicts between Jewish and Gentile believers. In its first half, he explains his gospel. In the second, he addresses the status of the Jewish people and the specific conflicts in the congregation.

Paul planned to take the gospel to the Iberian Peninsula and support from the Roman church was important for this effort. He had not been to Rome in his previous missionary activities - someone else founded the church there. Thus, he needed to establish his credentials with believers in the imperial city.


But the church in Rome was experiencing tensions, including disagreements over dietary restrictions and calendrical observations. Based on his years of dealing with Jewish and Gentile believers, Paul was certainly qualified to deal with these issues.

  • (Romans 1:10-12, 15-16) – “I am debtor both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome… I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that 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.”

From the letter’s outset, Paul points to the role of the gospel for both Jews and Gentiles. And by “first” he does not mean that Jewish believers have special privileges over Gentiles as his subsequent stress on their equality with Gentiles demonstrates.

The conflict between Jewish and Gentile believers is key to understanding the letter, and it has influenced how Paul presents his gospel.

For example, he warns that “tribulation and anguish will befall every man who works evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek.” Likewise, there will be glory and honor for everyone who does that which is good - “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” – (Romans 2:9-10).

Israel certainly did receive a privilege offered to no other nation; namely, the possession of the Law, but that also came with special responsibilities and heightened penalties for failure to keep it.

It is not the “hearers of the law” who are justified before God, “but the doers of the law.” And though they may not possess the Mosaic Law, many Gentiles “by nature do the things required by the law.”


Both “Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” The one God of Israel is also the “God of the Gentiles.” In the end, both men who sin “under the law” (Jews) and “without the law” (Gentiles) find themselves judged by the one God of all who will not show partiality on the “day of wrath.” Obedience counts, NOT ethnicity or nationality.

Neither is Paul suggesting that believing Gentiles are better off than Jewish saints. “Are we better than they? No, certainly not; for we before charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.”

In this last verse, “we” refers to Jewish believers in contrast to Gentile Christians. All have “sinned and lack the glory of God.” Likewise, all will be saved in the same way - “through the faith of Jesus Christ for all that believe, for there is no distinction” – (Romans 3:1-26).

The issue becomes front-and-center in chapters 9 through 11 where Paul deals with the challenge, “Has the word of God failed?” Despite possessing the ordinances and covenant promises, collectively, Israel rejected her Messiah.

So, has God likewise rejected the Jewish people? Most emphatically, Paul declares, “No!” But his explanation includes aspects applicable to both groups - Jews and Gentiles.


Not all “Israel are of Israel, neither because they are Abraham's seed are they all children.” It is not biological descent that determines membership in the covenant people, but a faithful response to the gospel.

Paul himself provides clear evidence that God has not rejected the Jewish people since he is a Jewish believer in Jesus. Likewise, many other Jews accept Jesus as their Messiah.

The many “wild branches” (Gentiles) have been “grafted into the olive tree” because of their faith. But at the same time, many of the “natural branches” (Jews) have been “cut off” from the ONE olive tree “because of their unbelief.”

But the “natural branches” may yet be grafted back in if they come to faith in Jesus, just as the “wild branches” previously grafted onto the tree may yet find themselves “cut off” for unbelief. Once again, faith is the determining factor, not nationality or biological descent.

Jesus was sent to Israel to “confirm the promises to the fathers.” But those promises always envisioned the inclusion of the Gentiles:

  • As it is written, Therefore, will I praise you among the Gentiles… Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people… Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; and let all the peoples praise him… There shall be the root of Jesse, and he that arises to rule over the Gentiles, on him shall the Gentiles hope” – (Romans 15:8-12).

In all this, Paul refers to only one church and one people of God which is comprised of believing “Jews and Gentiles” who have been justified “from the faith of Jesus Christ.”  The gospel preached by the Apostle is the “power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”


Suffering Servant

The Living Word