Romans – An Exposition of Chapter 1, Verses 2-4

Verses 2-4 – which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

Exposition

1) which He promised before (2a)

Paul having declared he had been “separated to the gospel of God” now goes on in his introduction to tell the Roman church what that message entailed. But before doing so, he purposed to declare its origin. Paul did this by writing to them it is the “gospel of God” that he seeks to preach. The “gospel of God” he preached, was not his own message, but one given to him that originated with God. Paul was simply the messenger of it on His behalf, of whom he was now consecrated. Now, it might seem superfluous to some for Paul to make such a point as this, but not when it is possible for someone to preach a message and claim that it comes from God when it doesn’t. This has happened many times in the church. There are always unscrupulous persons who will claim to have a direct revelation from God, when no such thing is true. So Paul intends to state here for the record, that the gospel he is about to proclaim is nothing less than that “which He promised before.” (Verse 2a).

It might then be asked, “promised before” what? The immediate answer is it was before Paul. “It was through His prophets” (verse 2b). The promise of God was revealed “through His prophets.” However, it did not originate with them either. It originated within the eternal council of the triune Godhead. Now few people would argue that its first appearance in Scripture goes as far back as the garden of Eden, where our first parents sinned. There the curse was placed upon them for committing the forbidden act of eating from the tree of which God had said they should not eat (Gen. 3:11). But God also put forth a promise of hope to them (Gen. 3:15). Here, it was promised the woman she would have a Son that would trample the serpent underfoot. This is called the proto-evangel, or the pre gospel message of a Redeemer. From that moment on the theme about this Redeemer and His salvation would develop. Until at last, He arrived on earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, to be the substance of the message Paul referred to in the previous verse as the “the gospel of God.”

But the gospel did not begin in the garden of Eden, as though it were some kind of afterthought to what took place in mankind’s fall from fellowship with the Creator. No, this was something purposed before God had done a single thing “In the beginning” (Gen. 1:1). Isaiah described the origin of the promise according to God’s name.“You, O LORD, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name.” (Is. 63:16). God is an eternal Redeemer before time began or sin entered creation. Moses declared this in his Psalm. “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Ps. 90:1,2). God is the eternal refuge of His people. God made His eternal plan known to Jeremiah. “The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” (Jer. 31:3).

So you see, the gospel was no mere afterthought, but something which “He promised before” time began. The gospel is the product of an immutable, as well as an eternal oath (Heb. 6:17,18). God swore an oath to redeem by His own unchangeable nature. This oath was to send His Son into the world to redeem those whom He eternally loved. The two things by which God swore this oath are His word and His eternal Being. Some might say it is an oath between the Father and the Son. As the Son is revealed to be the Word of God (Logos, John 1:1), however, it is exactly the same thing either way. The Word of God pertains to God’s divinity, in that it is as eternal and immutable as He is. In other words, the Word of God is One with Him. Therefore, the gospel as the promise of God to save, is original to Him, rather than to any mere man.

2) through His prophets (2b)

God had disclosed the gospel promise Paul now preached to and “through His prophets” in time past. The title of prophet was given to a specific class of men in the Old Testament dispensation. As a school and office under that economy, there was a continual succession of officially recognized men that began with Samuel, and ended with John the Baptist (Acts 3:24). A prophet was specially called of God to receive instruction from Him regarding both present and future things. As such, the prophets served the purpose of being an inspired conduit of God’s revelation. Although Samuel is credited with the distinction of being the first in a continuing line of prophets, it would be wrong to suppose that the function of a prophet began with Him (Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21). Noah was a prophet, who warned the world of the impending judgement of God for sin, in the coming deluge, while he constructed the ark (Heb. 11:7). Moses acted as a prophet too, speaking on behalf of God to His people in the giving of the law (Deut. 34:10). And Aaron, Moses brother, served God as a prophet too, though in a more restricted way (Ex. 7:1).

Paul is careful to define these prophets as “His prophets,” meaning they are God’s servants. Paul uses this term to distinguish between true and false prophets. That there has been, and will be, many false prophets throughout history are made abundantly clear from Scripture (Jer. 14:14; Lam. 2:14; Ez. 22:28; Matt. 7:15, 24:11,24: II Pet. 2:1; I John 4:1). But this raises the question, how is a legitimate prophet to be determined? Fortunately, this question was asked by the Israelites long ago, and answered by God (Deut. 18:20-22). That which the Lord has spoken will come to pass, this is the test of a true prophet sent from God. Now many things do come to pass that false prophets say, but here is the important point for discernment. The false prophet does not speak in order to glorify God. This is what make them false. They speak lies in order to mislead people away from God. So, the words of the false prophet are never consistent with the overall analogy of faith revealed in the whole of the Bible. In Moses day, the Bible consisted of those books which were written by him called the Pentateuch. That is the beginning point of reference for this test.

The true prophet, one chosen of God and given His words to speak, always speaks so as to glorify Him. This means that he never contradicts what God has said in the past. This is an important principle regarding Paul, and his concern to defend the gospel. Paul is asserting the gospel has been revealed in the past by God’s prophets. The writer of Hebrews, whom many think is Paul, makes the same assertion in the opening verses of the book (Heb. 1:1,2). These prophets, spread throughout the Old Testament era, all had but one subject in mind when they spoke, the gospel of Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:8). So now, in these last days, Jesus the Divine Prophet, has come and certified all the others. Paul recognized this too, to be the fulfillment of the prophetic words of Moses (Deut. 18:15-19; Mark 6:15; John 6:14, 7:40; Acts 3:18-25, 7:37). There were two types of prophets that Moses was speaking of in Deuteronomy. One was of those chosen of God among sinful men, the other, that one sinless Man, the God Man Christ Jesus.

The entirety of the Old Testament, was referred to by the Jews as the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17, 22:40; Luke 16:16,29,31, 24:27,44; John 1:45; Acts 7:42, 13:15, 24:14, 28:23). Jesus taught His disciples that it was He, and what He had come to do on the cross that was the main theme of the Old Testament Scripture (Luke 24:13-27). Previously, Jesus had scolded the unbelieving Jews that He was what the Scripture was about (John 5:39). But they failed to recognize it, even after He had risen from the dead. But Jesus opened the Scripture to His people, in order to show them that this is exactly what should have happened. It was what the Scripture foresaw. Jesus’ death and resurrection were the natural consequence of all that had been revealed in it, up to that point. And they were the recipients of this revelation in the last days.

Now, Paul had studied the Scriptures just as the other Pharisees had done, so that he understood every point of the law from a natural, man centered perspective. But before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, in His resurrected glory, Paul was spiritually ignorant of what the prophets had been saying. Because Paul in his unregenerate state was false in his thinking, he therefore, falsely judged those who saw and believed the Lord and His words. It was a most telling circumstance that prior to being stoned to death, Stephen preached in the temple this very thing, showing the connection between the prophets and Jesus Christ (Acts 7:1ff). Stephen concluded his discourse with these words. “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” (Verses 51-53).

Resistence to the truth was always the reaction of unbelieving Jews to the words of the prophets. They killed the prophets who called them to repentance, rather than submit to God in faith. Their minds were so perverted by sin and unbelief they were in effect, no different from the Gentile world that collectively rebelled against God too. But those who did know, because they believed they were talking of the Lord and “His Anointed” King, were delighted to “Kiss the Son” and receive Him, especially when He appeared on earth (Ps. 2:2,12). Not only did the Jews kill the prophets, but they killed the Prophet true believers were looking for, whom Stephen called the “the Just One.” This was none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate. And when Pentecost had come, and the Holy Spirit poured out upon a great multitude who believed, their rage against God increased even more.

So they stoned Stephen who had the audacity to stand in the temple and preach Jesus from the Law and the Prophets to them. Luke recorded what happened following this. “Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” (Acts 8:1). Paul was leading this persecution against the church, and why? He did not see Jesus in the Scriptures. What did Paul see when he read them? Paul saw a system of works put forth in the law, one that when meticulously performed, was supposed to justify a man with God. Moses had said that keeping the law was a standard to live by (Lev. 18:5). So Paul, and many before him, misconstrued those words to mean that obedience to God was a means of personal righteousness. But that was never the case, for the law put forth the need for salvation according to a vicarious substitute, sacrificed for sin.

The prophets pointed to the object of those sacrifices as that of a Redeemer (Job 19:25; Ps. 19:14, 78:35; Prov. 23:11; Is. 41:14, 43:14, 44:6,24, 47:4, 48:17, 49:7,26, 54:5,8, 59:20, 60:16, 63:16; Jer. 50:34). However, the concept of redemption in the Old Testament was surrounded by the earthly imagery of the kingdom. So the redeemer of Israel, the Messiah, was thought to be a human political ruler, much like others throughout the world. This ruler, they thought, would come and overthrow the other nations, establishing Israel as the sole world power. This, along with the rebuilding of the temple and nation, is what the prophets seemed to indicate would be their redemption (Ps. 2, 18:43; Is. 13:4, 34:1,2; Jer. 10:10; Ez. 34:28, 37:28; Dan. 7:13,14; Hag. 2:5-9; Zech. 12:9, 14:2,3,14,16,18,19; Mal. 1:11; Luke 1:67-75). But the prophets also presented the Messiah as much more than a human political ruler. They presented Him as a Messiah who would be not only King, but a Savior too, whose personal offering of Himself to God in death, is the only basis of acceptance with Him (Is. 53:1ff; Jer. 23:6).

The promise of the gospel to save from sin, would not be known unless God had revealed it to the prophets. God spoke directly to them at various times, making it known to them of His intention to save. When God spoke to Eve in the garden, promising her a Seed who would crush the head of the serpent, it was made in the context of the fall (Gen. 3:15). Paul, at the end of his letter, reiterated this promise and its fulfillment in reference to the gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom. 16:20). Paul, now fully understanding this, set out to tell the Romans of what “the gospel of God” consisted, in reference to the prophetic expectation. It was the promise of a Redeemer. True, He is a King and a lawgiver too (Gen. 49:10), but not one who does not affect the redemption of His subjects first (verse 11; Matt. 25:2,5,7). This is “the gospel of God” of which he speaks to the Roman Christians. It is the good news of His coming and accomplishing what was promised.

3) in the Holy Scriptures (2c)

The promise of salvation in “the gospel of God” would be no message at all if not revealed to the world. So what God purposed within Himself from eternity, He has made known “through His prophets.” The distinguishing character of Christianity is, that it is revealed religion. No one thought it up of their own mind. The idea that God would save sinful creatures, by the sacrifice of His Son, has never, and would never occur to the natural man (I Cor. 2:6-14). Man devises his own way of personal redemption. This is why it is called “man’s wisdom” (verse 13), for it is suitable to what pleases him rather than God. Man is always satisfied with his own work, his own accomplishment. So he views religion in this manner. Paul did this himself, supposing his religious works to be the ground of his acceptance with God. And Paul had the prophets to look at concerning this. But blinded by the sin of self-righteous natural wisdom, Paul failed to see what they said.

But now, having been regenerated, made alive in Christ by the Holy Spirit and given spiritual eyes, Paul clearly saw the message of Christ “in the Holy Scriptures.” The whole of them came to life in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, whereas before, they were but a dead letter of law. This is the typical “experience” if you will, of anyone who is regenerate. It is not magic as it is, that overtakes an individual who is “born again” (John 3:3-8). It is not an experience in and of itself that occurs either. It is a secret work of God’s Spirit that revives and renews the dead condition of a sinful heart, making it as new and alive as a new born babe. It is silent, mysterious, unfelt and unknown as to when it occurs. However the fruit of it is evident, and is frequently mistaken for the thing itself. One specific, important fruit of the new birth is a change of world view. This goes for those who were religious before, such as Paul was. For when the heart is made alive by the Spirit, it sees “in the Holy Scriptures” the revelation of God in His Son.

So what are “the Holy Scriptures” and what of them did Paul have? “The Holy Scriptures” is not a single book, although it is put together as such today for our practical use. It is rather a library of books. Most unregenerate people in our day are untaught, and therefore, ignorant of what the Bible contains. They see the Bible as a book of unrelated stories, that make little if any sense to them. To the Jew of old such as Paul, there were a common theme and unity to them. But it was one that seemed to center upon the earthly kingdom of Israel. Of course, that kingdom consisted of the prophetic promises given in relation to the coming Messiah, who would, in their minds institute this grand scheme of world domination for them some day. They were utterly offended, for the most part, when Jesus appeared and seemed to present a different idea of this and the kingdom than they expected.

So “the Holy Scriptures” alluded to here in these words to the Roman Christians were those books of the Old Testament. That was the library of the Jews. It was their Bible. The word “Scriptures” are writings or words in those writings. The Greek word Paul used here is “Graphe” which literally means the content or statement of a document. This at once points to something extremely important to understand about the Christian faith. Its message is not one that is dependant on the oral transmission of men, in spite of the fact that God indeed did communicate His revelation through men in that way. But it is a message that is recorded in a book. It is put into language on the printed page that can be preserved, propagated, and studied. Oral communication is forgotten or changed as it passes from one person to another. So God intended His revelation to be preserved in a book for posterity.

These writings were made “Holy” by two things. First, that they came from God. The words of the “prophets” were given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Peter wrote about them in the same manner saying, “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (II Pet. 1:20,21). The “Scriptures” as coming from God were “Holy” because of it. The writing of them was superintended by the Holy Spirit, from whom they came. Second, they were “Holy” because they were recognized as such by the Jews. They were esteemed as coming from God, and therefore, “Holy.” So, from the standpoint of God, these writings were set apart unto them as His Testament (John 17:17). From their standpoint, these writings were to be received and respected as that by which every man of God has his being (Deut. 8:3). This distinguished them from any other writings they might have.

“The Holy Scriptures” is the sacred collection of books put together in a single Canon. The Jewish Canon consists of twenty-four books. This particular Canon or library was the work of God’s inspired Prophet and Priest, Ezra the scribe. Ezra was charged with the task of maintaining “the Holy Scriptures” of the Jews, during and after their captivity in Babylon. Until the time of Ezra, these books were loosely held together as a collection of individual writings. Ezra not only wrote several new books under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but collected these books together as a single Testament of God, of which several more beside his were added. In doing this, Ezra gave to them a certain organization that became known to the Jews as the Law of Moses, the former and latter Prophets, and the Writings. Jesus made this very reference to them, as He explained them to His disciples, showing their testimony of Him (Luke 24:44).

4) concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord (3a)

It is from these “Holy Scriptures” that Paul derived his doctrine of the gospel, more aptly stated as the doctrines of grace. It is this doctrine of grace that Paul seeks to unfold to the Roman Christians throughout his letter to them. But here, Paul must first introduce the single object of that doctrine, as it is “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” Herein are the first and most important thing to understand about the gospel. The gospel is a message from God “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” Today it is often said that the message and the Person of Christ are one and the same thing, the emphasis being placed upon the Person. Paul does not do that, and here is why. It has already been asserted by Paul that the message of the gospel is “in the Holy Scriptures,” making it a matter of propositional truth. We are called upon to believe, the testimony of “Holy Scriptures,” not some undefined vague notion of an unknown Person. Without that, there is in reality no Person to believe in.

So when Paul says “the gospel of God” is “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord,” he is endeavoring to explain it and Him in theological terms that give it and Him meaning. For whom could ever be known and believed in without doing that? After having stated this to be that “which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,” he now goes on to provide a doctrinal definition, which is designed to fill faith with substance (Heb. 11:1). The message of the gospel therefore, is not a Person, but it is about “His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” It connects that “which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,” to the Person and work “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” Both that and its necessary consequences. By the time one has read the entire letter to the Romans through, they will be fully informed of it, or rather it should be said, their faith will have found its substance.

The next thing Paul introduces here in the text is “concerning His Son.” This is said first in reference to God the Father. The doctrine of God was of primary importance to the Jews. The Jews of old were taught that God is One, as opposed to all the other nations among whom they dwelt (Deut. 6:4). The doctrine of Monotheism was unique to the Jewish nation. They were God’s covenant people, to whom He revealed Himself as the only living and true God. They were to have no other gods, except for this one, a covenant making, covenant keeping God (Deut. 5:1-8). The One true God made it abundantly clear to them that He is jealous of His glory, and therefore, will not share it with another. Notice what God said regarding the worship of other gods to His people in the next verse. “You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” (verse 9).

But now, secondly, Paul informs his readers that God does indeed share His glory with another. He by no means intended to say there is another distinct deity beside Himself, in contradiction of the previous testimony found in “the Holy Scriptures.”. No, this glory is not shared with another being, but with another consubstantial Person, namely “His Son.” While this might have been a concept startling to hear by the Jews, it was not at all inconsistent according to “the Holy Scriptures.” The Jews simply failed to see it. David prophesied of God’s Son who comes forth from Him (Ps. 2:7,12). Isaiah prophesied of this Son being born into this world of a virgin (Is. 7:14, 9:6). And Micah even prophesied of the place “His Son” will be born (Mic. 5:2). But the idea of the One true God consisting of multiple Persons did not appear so plainly in the pages of the Old Testament.

True, the promise of a Messiah was clearly set forth in “the Holy Scriptures.” He would indeed be an extraordinary Person, One who would assume the throne of David and hold it forever (II Sam. 7:12,16). But the exact connection between this human Ruler and the Divine nature was not made fully understood. In fact, when the Messiah was introduced as a suffering Servant by Isaiah the prophet, the Jews were confused as to his exact meaning (Is. 52:13-53:12). So they equated the language regarding a suffering Servant, with the nation itself, according to what was said about this in previous chapters of Isaiah’s prophecy (Is. 41:8,9, 44:1,2,21, 45:4, 48:20, 49:3). Paul seeks here to clarify this misconception of the Jews when he explains “the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son.”

Now, in the opening pages of Paul’s letter to the Romans, the mystery of the Messiah is solved. The Messiah is revealed as not only “His Son,” meaning a Person who is one with God, but also as “Jesus Christ,” meaning a person who is one with mankind. The name “Jesus” (Iesous, Gr.) Is derived from the Hebrew word for Savior. It first appears in connection with the Old Testament figure of Joshua (Yhowshuwa, Heb.), whose name means Jehovah-saved. Joshua is a variation of Hoshea ( ho-shay’-ah, Heb.), meaning a deliverer, which Moses gave to him (Num. 13:16). As a conqueror Joshua was an Old Testament type of the Messiah, who appeared to him as a Man, the Commander of the Lord’s army (Josh. 5:13-15). The name Hoshea appears again as belonging to the prophet Hosea (Hos. 1:1,2). It is also used in the form of a prayer in the book of Psalms. “Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.” (Ps. 118:25). Jesus was so named as the antitype of Joshua and the fulfiller of the prayer (Matt. 1:21).

The one Paul speaks of here in this text as “His Son, Jesus” was the Galilean Rabbi known as “Jesus of Nazareth,” who is also at the same time “the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24). This was what the mystery of the Old Testament entailed regarding the Messiah. God’s eternal Son would come forth from Him and become a Son of Man within the confines of history. As the eternal Son of God Jesus is the true Deliverer of His people. As the Son of Man Jesus is the suffering Servant, who accomplished redemption in Himself. So Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin, satisfying every promise made in time past of “His Son” born of a woman (Gen. 3:15; Gal. 4:4). Paul was identifying the Messiah as someone who was known in the world at that time by many people.

Paul makes a clear assertion of this exalted identity by the words “His Son Jesus Christ.” The word or designation of “Christ” (Christos, Gr.) has reference to the anointed one of God. This was understood by the Jews as Paul saying that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. Now He was shown to be so by God through “miracles, wonders, and signs” (Acts 2:22). But it was the special testimony of God at Jesus’ baptism that truly certified this to be so (Matt. 3:13-17). For when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, and the Divine nature uttered these words “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” no greater proof in heaven or on earth could attest to His authenticity as the Messiah. He was eminently approved of by God for the service He undertook as His Servant. By conception of the Holy Spirit in the virgin’s womb, Jesus was untainted by Adam’s sin. But it was by a special anointing, that Jesus in His humanity undertook the task, of performing all the works necessary unto that which God “promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures.”

Paul also says something else in this text about “Jesus Christ” that is paramount to a proper understanding of the gospel. This is the assertion that Jesus Christ is not only “His Son,” but He is also “our Lord.” If we are to know and worship God, it must be in connection with “His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now this was a revolutionary concept for Paul to come to terms with concerning his own conversion. He had himself sought to oppose the followers of Jesus, on the ground that they were not only schismatics to the Jewish faith, but that they regarded this Man Jesus as “our Lord.” The idea that Jesus should be worshiped as God was a great offense to the Jews. Their scathing condemnation against Him was that “He made Himself the Son of God.” (John 19:7). But it was not the Man Jesus who made Himself to be anything. God the Son indeed took on human flesh and came as Man for men to see. This is why Paul could say “His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

5) who was born of the seed of David (3b)

Now that Paul revealed the mystery of “His Son Jesus Christ our Lord,” it remained for him to show the connection of it to the historical figure Jesus of Nazareth. The original promise of a Messiah Seed had been transferred to Abraham, who became the father of the Jewish people. But Paul, wanting to show this connection, did not start with Abraham, since he used this phrase “who was born of the seed of David.” By starting there, it was as though Paul had picked up where Matthew had left off at the beginning of his gospel (Matt. 1:1). He did this to show, as Matthew did, that Jesus was the son of King David. Why was this such an important thing to do? It is simply this, it was to counter the inaccurate charge that could be made of illegitimacy. This was done on two accounts. The first one regarded the miraculous birth of Jesus, the second regarded his kingly identity.

The Son of God “who was born,” was through normal human means, excepting of course, for the Divine conception of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20). The entrance of the Spirit of God into the womb of Mary, conceiving the child Jesus, accomplished two things. The conception was forever Divine, and yet, it was forever human. Jesus is both God and Man, unmixed in nature, yet, One Person. The conception being of God, ensured that it was sinless offspring. At the same time, it was human offspring. The angel revealing this to Joseph, Mary’s betrothed husband, assured him of the Divine purity of the conception. Matthew recorded this in the first chapter of his gospel to dispel any rumor or innuendo to the contrary. Joseph adopted Jesus as his own, and Matthew showed his rightful connection to King David, through the family genealogy.

This however, only shows us a title to David’s family through Joseph’s name. Since there is no biological connection to David through Joseph, an obvious problem emerges. It is solved by the fact that Mary too, is a direct relative of David (Luke 3:23-38). So Jesus has both the title and the biology “of the seed of David.” The title “seed of David” is associated with his family name by way of inheritance. The fact that He was adopted is irrelevant. According to the law of inheritance, a title of possession is maintained through a man’s family (Num. 27:1-11). Now it may be observed that this law is in reference to ownership of land. But the right of title according to a family name is the main governing principle. According to Luke’s genealogy, Jesus is “the seed of David” biologically through His mother Mary. This satisfied the right of family inheritance.

But it was not land in physical Canaan that Jesus inherited. No, it was the eschatological kingdom of God that is intended (Heb. 1:4). Canaan was but a type of this. It is the new heavens and the new earth which are in view, the restored paradise of God (Rev. 2:7). Only God could inherit this. The reasons should be obvious. The first Paradise was eminently suited for our first parents, as a place of meeting and interaction with the Creator. The most they could hope for in it however, was the maintenance of the arrangement, through obedience to God. If the eternal maintenance of their lot was in view, it would be no better over time than when it began. The Paradise of God inherited by Jesus as the God Man is something far better and greater. It involves a reconstituted creation, both of nature and men. This is made so by the personal perfecting work of “His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” He is someone who is born of God, but also is one “who was born of the seed of David.”

The importance of Jesus being “born of the seed of David” is in that he that is David, was a type of the Messiah. As a type David foreshadowed the kingly preeminence of His greater Son “Jesus Christ our Lord.” That being the case, David and what he represents in Scripture is that of no ordinary King. David’s throne was situated in Jerusalem, high upon a hill referred to as “the City of David, which is Zion” (I Kings 8:1; II Chron. 5:2). It was also understood to be the seat of God’s eternal presence and rule on earth. Therefore, it is called “the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High” (Ps. 46:4). So Jesus as “the seed of David” came to occupy that place as the antitypical Messiah. Peter made this connection to David in his preaching on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:25-36). There, Peter showed that Jesus was David’s Redeemer, as well as his son, and the One who would rule the throne. So Zion as the eternal dwelling place of God, is the church of Jesus Christ, and He is its temple (Heb. 12:22; I Pet. 2:6; Rev. 14:1).

6) according to the flesh (3c)

As “the seed of David” Jesus the Messiah was born “according to the flesh.” The identification of the Son of God with our humanity was and is essential to the work of redemption. In it, “the flesh” that is, the Messiah entered our world in the humblest manner. He was not born in magisterial display, but in absolute obscurity. He was not born into an immediate family of great notoriety, but one of poverty. Indeed, as “the seed of David” Jesus did not appear to be any son of great promise. But He did appear at a time, and in a way that was suitable to the Divine purpose. Israel was no longer a nation or a kingdom. No one in Israel had ruled upon David’s throne for centuries. In fact, God had been silent to Israel for so long, that Zacharias was utterly taken by surprise in the temple by the appearance of the angel (Luke 1:11,12). This was a time and a circumstance reminiscent of that recorded in Scripture concerning Eli and Samuel (I Sam. 3:1). God was about to act in a most unexpected manner.

It was this time in world history that God would send His Messiah “according to the flesh.” This was a time in which the great Roman empire ruled. A pagan nation, Rome was the epitome of idolatrous religion. And what was the state of Israel, the nation who possessed the law of Moses? It was a captive nation ruled within by a council of liberal Sadducees and legalistic Pharisees. A cult of mystical Jews lived out in the wilderness, thinking their asceticism would restore Israel to its former glory. A group of political zealots who conspired within had for several generations tried to overthrow the rule of others for the same reason. There was no witness of God to the nations, save for a small handful of remnant believers (Luke 1:25-38). It was then at this time, and in this circumstance that God sent “The Deliverer” of Israel to them (Rom. 11:26).

So Jesus lived as the carpenter’s son from Nazareth until at thirty years of age he embarked on His ministry that would lead Him to the cross. There is little said in Scripture about the upbringing or life of Jesus “according to the flesh.” One thing is for certain, as the sinless Son of God, Jesus was an obedient child “according to the flesh.” But being the incarnated Son of God did present its problems. There is one particular incident that highlights this which is given to us of Him in Scripture (Luke 2:41-52). As a youth, Jesus was found “in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.” (Verse 46). Even more astounding we are told “And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” (Verse 47). Aside from Jesus’ un excused absence, try to imagine any other twelve-year-old boy troubling his parents on account of this reason (verse 48).

That Jesus was born “according to the flesh” carries important salvific significance. It was in “the flesh” that Jesus would “fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt. 3:15). These words were spoken in connection with God’s covenant. John the Baptist hesitated to baptize Jesus, recognizing that He was the Messiah who was here to save. So Jesus assured John of the fittingness of it by stating it was a matter of righteousness to do so. By Jesus being baptized, He identified with the covenant He came to fulfill. But even more important, Jesus identified with us who are the believing redeemed members of the covenant. How is this so? Well, there are two important aspects to the way Jesus did “fulfill all righteousness.” One involved an active righteousness on His part, the other involved a passive righteousness.

The first aspect of righteousness is Jesus’ identity with us in all that the law requires. The original covenant relationship mankind had with God, was based on obedience to His law. Mankind broke this rather than fulfill it. Jesus however, fulfilled all the righteousness of the law while living in our flesh. Jesus’ baptism was an act of obedience that certified His official public ministry (Matt. 3:15; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21,22; John 1:32,33). The first great test of Jesus’ righteousness “according to the flesh,” came in the form of the Devil’s temptation, which He overcame (Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12,13; Luke 4:1-13). Though sinless already, this event took place in order for Jesus to “fulfill all righteousness” according to the law. Of course, it was one of many temptations that would follow, but most certainly it highlighted the active obedience of Jesus to God. It did so by His faithful reliance upon God’s word (Matt. 4:4,7,10; Luke 4:4,8,13). The temptation was an attempt to subvert it, and therefore, to disqualify Jesus (Matt. 4:5,6; Luke 4:9-11). It was the same temptation as that which mankind faced in the garden, in which he succumbed (Gen. 3:1-6).

The second aspect of righteousness is, having identified with us as humans according to the law, Jesus was then eminently qualified to suffer for us as a Savior “according to the flesh.” This was a passive obedience to God. Jesus’ sufferings were twofold in nature. First, Jesus suffered the indignities of this fallen world while serving and glorifying God in His sinless humanity. This means that Jesus experienced the pain and distress that sin brings to the world. However, what He suffered of this was in no way mixed with any inherent sin of His own. It was an offense external to Him, yet suffered by Him. The offense of sin was an assault upon His holy character. Everywhere Jesus went, the Jewish religious leaders assailed Him. They denounced Him as a fraud, seeking to turn the people away from listening or going to Him. Even His human brothers rejected Him (John 7:1-5).

But secondly, Jesus suffered the death of a malefactor nonetheless, upon the cross. This was a vicarious death that occurred. It was not for anything He did, but for the sins of others that He died. Jesus was the antitypical sacrifice prefigured in the Mosaic law (Is. 53:7,10). As a substitute, Jesus satisfied the wrath of God due to sinners in Himself. Sin having been dealt with by Jesus “according to the flesh,” it was the completion of His ministry, the fulfillment of the task for which He came. The penal sufferings of Christ “according to the flesh” were the righteousness of God through the vindication of His broken law. Jesus first fulfilled the law in order to do this. But He second, also suffered the penalty of its violation. “The gospel of God” reveals that without this taking place, no man can be forgiven or just with God.

7) and declared to be the Son of God (4a)

Although Jesus was truly man, suffering “according to the flesh,” He was and remained truly God. This was the mystery of the hypo statical union of the two natures in the One Person of Christ revealed. Therefore, Paul was quick to add the caveat “and declared to be the Son of God” to his previous statement regarding Jesus being “born of the seed of David according to the flesh.” Paul returns to the fact that “His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” was preeminently coeternal with God, being present and active in the very work of creation (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15). The key word to understanding the restatement of this is the word “and” in the phrase. Here he adds something new to the proposition, something not said before. So what was this something new of which Paul now speaks? It was simply this. Jesus Christ is “declared to be the Son of God.” That being said, it might now be asked, by whom? The answer to that is by God Himself.

Now why would a formal declaration of this matter be necessary, beyond what had already been said? After all, what Paul said “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” was indeed the inspired declaration of God too. In order to answer this, let us consider the word “declared” in reference to God, to be something done in the past, relative to Paul’s writing of this letter. This is a formal declaration from God “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is a statement about something that took place in the past, as revealed in Scripture. The first appearing of it in the Old Testament is a declaration regarding the eternal begotteness of God’s Son. “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘ You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” (Ps. 2:7). The exact meaning of the word “begotten” has often been debated. But its meaning in terms of coexistence with God is clearly made known in the verse. It is coexistent with the eternal decree of God. Although the word “begotten” implies the origin, the word “decree” establishes when it took place, in eternity.

Next, we have the verbal declaration of God “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” on two occasions in the New Testament. The first was given exclusively to John the Baptist (Matt. 3:13-17). The second was given to three of Jesus’ disciples (Matt. 17:1-5). Each instance represented a phase of Jesus’ ministry going forward toward the cross. To John the Baptist it represented the conclusion of his ministry, regarding the appearance and proclamation of the Messiah (Mark 1:1-8). He was ordained to announce the long awaited Messiah to the world. Not only was he to announce Him as the Christ, but to make His eternal Lordship known (Is. 40:3-5; John 1:19-23, 29-33). To “Peter, James, and John” it represented an attestation from God that Jesus was “His Son,” the very voice of God to them as His future messengers. This declaration from heaven served as an authentication from God of the prophetic ministry (Heb. 1:1-3; II Pet. 1:16-19).

There was another reason Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God” by the Father. And this reason fell much more into place concerning Paul at the time of his conversion. It concerned the question of whom this Jesus is as the God Man. This has already been taken up in the exposition of verse one of this chapter in Romans, in a preliminary way. It concerned the fundamental question surrounding the rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by the Jews. Claiming to believe in God, they rejected His Son. This they did in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary (Matt. 11:1-6; John 12:37). Paul was opposed to the notion of any man claiming to be God, and rightfully so. But that Jesus was “the Son of God,” was made manifest to him through that incredible meeting that took place with Him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-9). Jesus asked him “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?.” To this Paul answered “Who are You, Lord?” The fundamental problem that Paul and the other Jews had was their ignorance of God.

So “the Son of God” identified Himself to Paul by answering his question with this. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” To reject Jesus as “the Son of God” is to be in opposition to God. Paul had been lacking this knowledge, but now it was his. Paul of course, did not have this declaration made to him beforehand by God, as the other apostles did. So here, in Luke’s account of Paul’s encounter, we see Jesus identifying Himself directly to Paul, that he might be included with them. And it was only to Paul that it was made known (Acts 9:7). The men traveling with Paul, unbelievers as he was before this event, heard an unintelligible voice being spoken, but they saw no one from whom it came. This was because it was only to Paul that Jesus was revealed. His heart was changed, given faith from God to receive this revelation. The conversation between Jesus and Paul was intelligible to them only.

Exactly who Jesus is as “the Son of God” is made known only to God’s people that they will believe. This is what saving knowledge, among other things, does consist of. It is withheld by God from unbelievers. Before the cross Jesus asked His disciples a couple of questions regarding this important matter of identity (Matt. 16:13-17). The first question was put to them thus. “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” They answered His question with the names of several prominent persons from the Bible. Then Jesus asked them this. “But who do you say that I am?” From this question we have a different answer. “Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Verse 16) And then the main point of the question and answer session is stated by Jesus to him and the rest. “Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Verse 17).

An incorrect answer by unbelievers to the question of Jesus’ identity, has always occurred, both at that time and throughout history. Some have said that Jesus is God but not man. Others have said that Jesus is man but not God. There have been variations on both of these errors as well. To the unbeliever who is unacquainted with God and therefore, unknowing of “His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” He is an enigma. To them, Jesus is either an apparition, or a good man who has attained to divinity, or simply nothing at all but a mythical figure. A plethora of heresies regarding the nature and Person of Christ abounded in the centuries following the apostles. These were dealt with by the church through resort to “the Holy Scriptures,” and the sanctified minds of true believers (I Cor. 2:16). To Christians He is known properly as “His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is because He has been “declared to be the Son of God” by the Father, to them.

Now, God spoke this declaration audibly to the apostles, so that they, under His inspiration would preach it to the people. Also, this attestation from God concerning the Sonship of Jesus Christ, was made known that they would write it in their epistles. At the present time, meaning the post apostolic age, we are bidden of God to receive their written testimony as the very mouth of God. Those who do this and believe are saved. Those who don’t will perish, and why? Because those who believe false things about “the Son of God” after God has declared Him to His apostles, are altogether ignorant of salvation. Jesus was accosted by Sadducees with false beliefs on essential points of doctrine, having denied the resurrection (Matt. 22:23). Trying to entrap Him they posed false questions to Him in their unbelief. “Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matt. 22:29). So is everyone who knows not “the Son of God” in truth.

But there is another reason for Paul to say these words “and declared to be the Son of God” about Jesus here. It goes directly to the immediate context of the verse. Paul is after all, declaring the “gospel of God” here to his readers. That message, among other things, is primarily about “the Son of God” and what He did on the cross. If it was about anyone else, it would not be the “gospel of God.” It is said therefore, because of His death on the cross, and subsequent resurrection from the grave. No one but “the Son of God” could make expiation for sin. And no one but “the Son of God” could overcome death because of sin. The message is “the Son of God” has done this. It is the good news of forgiveness for sin because it has been judged by God. And it is the good news of eternal life because of God’s righteousness. This is what it means to be declared to be the Son of God” in reference to the message of the gospel.

8) with power (4b)

Paul adds that not only is Jesus “declared to be the Son of God,” but that He is also invested “with power.” Since Jesus is “the Son of God” supernatural “power” is an essential attribute of His. Since God Himself “declared” the eternal Sonship of “Jesus Christ,” it is only fitting that Paul would include this of Him. “The Son of God” could hardly be coeternal with God without possessing every attribute associated with that Divine, glorious nature. This “power” which Paul spoke of first of all, is that by which God created all things in heaven and on earth (Col. 1:16). Although “the Son of God” is not mentioned by name in the first verses of “the Holy Scriptures,” He is spoken of by the inspired apostle as present and powerful in it (John 1:1-3). “The Son of God” as “the Word was God” was that by which God brought all nature into being (Gen. 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24,26). It was through “Jesus Christ” that the creative “power” of God was wrought.

Second of all, it is “with power” that God upholds all things created by “His Son” (Heb. 1:2,3). Again, it is by “the word of His power” that it is done. This is a “power” that is sovereign, another attribute of the Divine nature. Men speak of the laws of nature. But there is no law above “the Word of God.” And why is this, because it is attended “with power?” Jesus is not subject to any natural laws. Since He is “declared to be the Son of God with power,” He is the law that upholds nature. Observe this in the first verses of John. Not only is it stated “He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:2) at creation, but also “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (verse 4) as well. Mankind is made in the image of God according to Scripture (Gen. 1:26). That image of which it speaks is an innate knowledge of the Creator. It is the very life or spirit God breathed into man (Gen. 2:7). John tells us this is directly attributable to Jesus as God in creation.

Third of all, Paul adds the words “with power,” in order to connect it to the work of salvation, wrought upon the cross by “the Son of God.” Only God has the “power” to punish sin. Sin is unrighteousness and an offense to Him, so therefore, He must punish it. The wrath of God is what is often considered about Jesus’ death. But unless that wrath is accompanied “with power,” it amounts to nothing more than a gesture of displeasure. No, let it be said that God’s “power” is the effective force behind His wrath against sin. It is nothing less than omnipotent, eternal and unrelenting “power” that punishes every transgression against God’s holy law. And so it was meted out to “the Son of God” while he hung upon the cross, bleeding and suffering. But it was that same “power” that overcame death in Jesus’ body, raising Him from the grave.

This “power” is the effective feature of the gospel message. Everything else about it in terms of doctrinal content exists in concept only without it. The message of the gospel contains the qualifier “with power,” to show that “the Son of God” has the ability to affect what is promised in it. Not only does it qualify the good news of the gospel to sinners, but it assures them God deals with sin. So not only is it stated in the past tense, regarding the cross, but it is implied in the future tense regarding judgement. Unbelievers scoff at the warning of future judgement. The power to condemn that is present with “the Son of God” is their eternal downfall. But those who believe in the gospel, the children of God, know that the power of God is at work in this as well as in their own future estate. It has been “declared” to them as attended “with power” in the message.

And finally, it is “with power,” “the Son of God” possesses, that maintains both Him and those who believe in His glory. With Him, it is the eternal state of the hypo statical nature in the Person of Jesus Christ. The “power” of God is present in that mysterious union between the two natures “the Son of God” is endowed with. While that “power” is at work to maintain a permanent union between God and Man in Jesus Christ, it is at work to maintain communion between Him and His people. This communion consists of His mediation on their behalf. It is the application of His righteousness and blood to their account, not only when they are first justified, but it remains eternally so. Jesus is “declared to be the Son of God with power” for He is the eternal Priest and Mediator of their salvation. “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb. 7:25).

9) according to the Spirit of holiness (4c)

The apostle, having spoken of “the Son of God” being endowed “with power,” now furthers the proposition by showing what the cause of it is. He does this by using the words “according to” in making the assertion. Apparently, it is not sufficient for him to simply state the “power,” by itself, but for him also to state the source of it. This is added as a qualification to the designation of Jesus as “the Son of God.” That Jesus has been “declared to be the Son of God” by the word and authority of God the Father is eminently true. Therefore, it is to be received on that authority alone as the inspired revelation of God. But this testimony has much more to say in explaining Jesus as “the Son of God.” For if He was endowed “with power” it must be the power of God, as opposed to any other kind of power found within Himself, “according to the flesh,” that He could lay claim to. It is necessary then to show the source of that power, in order to complete the testimony of its presence.

In doing this, Paul introduces us to yet another Divine Person in this proposition, whom he refers to as “the Spirit of holiness.” This Person is introduced separately and distinctly from both the Father, and “His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” However, as “the Spirit of holiness,” He is revealed to be a Person of equal standing and relationship with God. As such, He is presented by Paul as present and powerful with the other two Persons of the Godhead in all that pertains to “the Son of God.” For it is “according to the Spirit of holiness” Paul says, that “the Son of God” is endowed “with power.” This, being the supernatural power of the eternal God, makes “the Spirit of holiness,” or as He is otherwise known, the Holy Spirit, One with Him in essence and in Being. So it is by the direct influence and enablement of “the Spirit” that the “the Son of God” was able to do all He did, as declared of Him in “the gospel of God.”

Now, Paul presents “the Spirit” here in the text by way of antithesis to what was previously said concerning Jesus “according to the flesh.” That Jesus was and is fully Man and fully God was previously asserted as the hypostasis of His nature, being united together in perfect, yet distinct harmony. But in order to add that what Jesus did by way of His life and death was “with power,” Paul now makes it known how and what that power consists of. It is the supernatural power afforded Him in His relationship to the Triune Godhead. The Holy Spirit being the third Person of the Trinity, He is both the “Spirit of God” and the “Spirit of Christ” at one and the same time (Rom. 8:9). So it is “according to the Spirit” that Jesus is “declared to be the Son of God with power.” That power being spoken of here, is that by which Jesus was able to glorify God in living by faith, casting out demons, healing the sick, forgiving sin, and even raising the dead.

Now Paul refers to the third person of the Trinity here as “the Spirit of holiness” as opposed to the more widely known designation of the Holy Spirit. He does so for a very good reason. There is another power that exists and operates within the realm of God’s creation. It is an unholy power, as is witnessed by the testimony of Scripture, and its fruits in this fallen world (Eph. 2:2,3; Col. 1:13; I Tim. 4:1; I John 4:1; Rev. 18:2). When Jesus performed miracles in testimony of His Sonship of God, the unbelieving Jews accused Him of using demonic means to do this (Matt. 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15). But Jesus rebuked them, showing the inconsistency of their claim against Him (Matt. 12:27; Luke 11:18,19). That He, Jesus that is, was able to cast out demons, showed that He did so by a superior power to them. By this it proved that He was “the Son of God with power.” And it proved the point Jesus made earlier to His disciples (Matt. 10:25).

So the power by which Jesus did this was “according to the Spirit of holiness.” He is called this in reference to His superiority, above all other powers. The designation “of holiness” is unique to God, the Holy Spirit. He is the active powerful member of the Trinity that God works through here on earth, in the fulfillment of His purpose in Jesus Christ. So when Jesus lived unto God in His sinless life, it was “according to the Spirit of holiness.” When Jesus performed any miracle it was “according to the Spirit of holiness.” And when Jesus performed the ultimate work of redemption upon the cross of which He died, it was “according to the Spirit of holiness.” It was by and through this Divine power given to Jesus Christ. For it was through this Divine Person revealed to be “the Spirit of holiness” that He did so. And this was the message of “the gospel of God,” His testimony concerning Jesus that the apostles preached (Acts 4:27, 10:38).

10) by the resurrection from the dead (4d)

The Holy Spirit’s power is evidenced “by the resurrection from the dead.” This final phrase concludes the gospel message in Paul’s proposition. Jesus is “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” It points to His resurrection from the grave. Now it might be argued by some that there was a lack of power present in His death. After all, Jesus went passively to the cross in fulfillment of the Father’s will in our redemption. But so that no one misunderstands the work of God’s Spirit in Christ regarding His death, we read the following statement made by Jesus. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:17,18). The power of God was at work in both Jesus’ death and His resurrection.

The emphasis here in this text however, is in the power of the Holy Spirit working in Jesus to overcome His circumstance at the cross “by the resurrection from the dead.” Now certainly, God did not die at the cross, but it was the Man Christ Jesus who died. We can view the presence of God in the Man Christ Jesus as sanctifying that death unto God. He was presented as a holy sacrifice upon the altar for sin. But it was the Man Jesus who died and not God. But since Christ did not die for any sin He had committed, it would be unjust for Him in His humanity to languish in the grave. For Jesus to remain dead, would by implication mean that His death was not satisfactory to God. For those who perish in their sin do remain eternally dead. Death is the eternal condemnation and wrath of God as punishment for sin.

Now Jesus’ sufferings on the cross though concluded within the space of time, were the equivalent of eternal death for sin. But in what way it is so is not fully revealed. All we know is that it was a satisfaction for sin, according to the Scriptures. God’s wrath against the sin of His elect was satisfied by the death of Jesus Christ, “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood” (Rom. 3:25a). It should be noted here that the death of Christ referred to in the New Testament is “propitiation,” not atonement, although that word is commonly used. The word atonement is an Old Testament concept and does not appear in the New Testament. The difference between the two is that atonement is a temporary covering, as was witnessed in the sacrificial offerings. They looked to and awaited the coming of the Messiah for them to end. Propitiation is an actual payment, a satisfaction rendered for the debt that is owed to God. Therefore, it is final in its value. It need not happen but once.

As important as the death of Christ is, the message referred here by Paul as “the gospel of God” is not complete without stating the conclusion to His sufferings and death. For it is in the context of the power of God that he does so, to wit, that His suffering and death on the cross were vindicated “by the resurrection from the dead.” This is the coup d’état by God in the gospel, the overthrow of the evil arrayed against His Christ. By this act of God in conclusion to the ignominious death of Christ, the powers of darkness have been vanquished, put on notice their end is inevitable. Satan could not succeed in tempting Jesus to abort His mission by failing in His duty and calling to obey God’s word. So he moved his unregenerate minions to arrest Jesus on behalf of the wicked Jews, and condemn Him to death on the cross. Even here, the power of God was at work, by allowing their evil design to occur (John 19:10,11). It was the expressed intent of God that this should happen (Acts 2:23). But that was not the end of the story (verse 24).

Furthermore, it was “by the resurrection from the dead” that God brought about a coup de grâce as well. This was in the release of suffering for those whom He came to save, who lived under the vale of death on account of sin (Heb. 2:9,14,15). Paul later on in his letter states, it is “by the resurrection from the dead” that Christians are justified (Rom. 4:24,25). And it is “by the resurrection from the dead” that we who believe have assurance of eternal life (Rom. 5:10). The importance of “the resurrection from the dead” in the gospel message, is that it declares the work of Jesus Christ on the cross a matter of historical necessity to all who hear it. The faith of God’s people is in the message regarding a historical event that happened within the confines of space and time. The written word of God now serves as the apostolic witness to the world of this event and its consequence.

Not only does it serve as a witness to those who believe, but it serves a word of warning to those who don’t. If the message of the gospel is good news, why doesn’t everyone embrace it? The simple fact is that it is only good news to those whom God has chosen to receive eternal life. The rest He passes by as Jesus stated in His parable of the wedding feast (Matt. 22:1-13). Many were invited to the wedding, but not everyone who received the invitation was accepted in the end. That is something that is left to God alone, who chooses whom He will clothe with the proper attire. “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Verse 14). Therefore, it is “by the resurrection from the dead” that reprobates are assured of their just judgement by God’s King (Matt. 22:13; Acts 17:31). The gospel then is terrible news to those who reject it.

The message of “the resurrection” at the outset of Paul’s letter serves as the chief apologetic method the church has of the Christian faith. What else is it the church witnesses to but hope in “the resurrection from the dead,” based on Scripture testimony? No one who believes in the gospel today was there when Jesus was found to have exited the grave in which He was interred (Matt. 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10). So we have the written word, inspired “according to the Spirit of holiness” that testifies of this historical event. It was the same “Spirit of holiness” at work in all the recorded events surrounding the discovery of the empty tomb. The testimony of “the Spirit” witnesses to the sufficiency and authority of the inspired record of the Bible. It is truth to those who believe in “the gospel of God” and become saved.

 

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