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Why was Paul called the apostle to the Gentiles?

apostle to the Gentiles

Paul calls himself “the apostle to the Gentiles” in Romans 11:13. It’s not as though Paul never preached to the Jews—on the contrary, his custom was to preach first in the synagogue when entering a new city (Acts 17:2). And it’s not as though the other apostles never preached to Gentiles (see Acts 10). But in a real sense, Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles was unique. Paul’s mission was to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles: “He chose me to be a servant of Christ Jesus for the Gentiles and to do the work of a priest in the service of his good news. God did this so that the Holy Spirit could make the Gentiles into a holy offering, pleasing to him” (Romans 15:16, CEV).

Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles by God’s choice. The Lord Jesus declared that He had a specific mission for Paul: “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Paul had been set apart from birth and called by God’s grace so that he might “preach [Christ] among the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:15–16).

Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles because the bulk of his ministry was spent in pagan lands planting churches among the Gentiles. Paul was the first to preach the gospel on European soil. His three missionary journeys took him far from Jewish lands to Gentile areas where Diana, Zeus, and Apollo were worshiped, to Cyprus, to Athens, to Malta, and eventually to Rome. He desired to preach in Spain as well (Romans 15:24), but it’s unsure if he ever made it that far.

Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles because he was under obligation to serve in Gentile lands. Paul’s testimony was that “this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). Peter preached (mainly) to the Jews, and Paul was commissioned to preach (mainly) to the Gentiles: “God had given me the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as he had given Peter the responsibility of preaching to the Jews” (Galatians 2:7, NLT).

Paul was well-qualified to be the apostle to the Gentiles. He was well-educated, being thoroughly trained in the Mosaic Law under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and having received a classical Roman education in Tarsus. He had the ability to argue his point from Jewish Law (Galatians 4:21–31) and to illustrate it from Greek literature (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12; 1 Corinthians 15:33). Paul’s training as a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5) allowed him access to synagogues everywhere, and he also held the privileges of Roman citizenship, which opened doors of opportunity throughout the Roman world (Acts 22:3, 25–29; 28:30)..

The Lord specifically chose Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles to show that salvation is offered to all people. Ephesians 3:6 speaks of how Christ brings together both Gentile and Jew: “And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). May the Lord continue to reach people everywhere for His glory, and may we display Paul’s willingness to go wherever God calls us.

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Questions about Romans

Why was Paul called the apostle to the Gentiles?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2022