Paul was a global Christian. It was John Wesley who famously said, “The world is my parish,” but it was mainly through Paul that God taught the church to think globally and to have a missionary faith—that is, a faith that has the whole world always in its prayers, thoughts, and actions. In Romans 1:5, Paul tells us why. In addressing the church in Rome, Paul writes of having “received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among the nations.” He was aware that both outside and inside the church there were many different kinds of people. Rome was a cosmopolitan city, and the church’s context reflected that reality.
The gospel is always the same for all: it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (v. 16). The same gospel of Jesus is addressed to all the nations so that some people among all the nations may come to faith (v. 5). The gospel is not a message reserved for a specific ethnic group. Rather, it is the universal good news of salvation for those who believe—be they Jews, gentiles, Romans, barbarians, educated, uneducated, young, old, men, or women.
When Paul thinks about the gospel, he relates it to the “nations”—all the nations. Why? Because the God of the Bible, the God of Israel, the triune God of the Christian faith, is the “Lord” of all. He calls disciples from among all nations to believe in Him and to obey Him.
Notice here the courage of Paul. Rome was known as caput mundi, the capital of the world. The Roman emperor was considered to be god in himself who claimed absolute power. Paul knows that absolute obedience is due not to Rome and to its caesars but to Jesus Christ the Lord. He is calling people from all nations to obey the King, the real King—the true, righteous, and loving King. He is not afraid to tell this to the people who were in Rome. They were face-to-face with the emperor and his absolute claims. We should not be afraid to proclaim the lordship of Jesus in our pagan societies. It may be unsettling for people, and it may upset people to hear that Jesus is the Lord of the world, but this is the truth.
Christian mission is motivated by the fact that Jesus is the Lord over the whole world. He is not a regional god; He is not a Western god; He is not a private god. He is the Lord of all peoples. The true God of the world is calling people from all nations to recognize His lordship and to believe His gospel. From east to west, from south to north, Jesus is the Lord of all. This is why Paul is interested in what happens in Rome. He wants people there to be brought to “the obedience of faith.” Rome is not Paul’s home, and yet Rome is part of the world. Paul knew that Jesus is Lord of the whole world. Do you see why we should be mission-minded believers?