Romans 1: Gospel Roots (Part 2)

(If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, click here to get caught up first.)

“And was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord”

Scripture is clear that Jesus had always been God’s Son from eternity past (see John 1.1-2), so that’s not the status in view here. It’s the declaration of his son-ship that’s highlighted, and that through the power of his resurrection. Without the resurrection, Jesus would have still been an amazing moral teacher and role model, but we would still be facing an eternal death sentence, as he would have been just as vulnerable to sin and death as we are, having nothing to offer beyond this life. However, God’s delight to raise him out of the grave was his “seal of approval” on who Christ was, an affirmation of all of his teachings and miracles, an immediate fulfillment of his prophecies about his own resurrection, and therefore a promise of future resurrection to all who place their faith in him. The resurrection distinguishes Christianity from every other religious system and leader throughout history. It is the only source of true and ultimate hope in this world.

You may have also noticed that this verse alludes to the Trinity. Though that particular word isn’t found in New Testament, the concept is everywhere, the idea of the “3-in-1-ness” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We see all three of them mentioned here, the Father declaring the Son through the Spirit. All three persons are present at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3.16-17) and are invoked by Jesus himself within the great commission (Matthew 28.19). Many other verses throughout the New Testament allude to the Trinitarian relationship, so it is indeed a well-grounded concept.

One last item here I didn’t catch until this time around (another reason I love God’s Word – I’m always learning) was the parallel around the phrase “according to”. Paul uses it the first time to describe Jesus’ physical lineage, how he was a son “according to the flesh”. The second time he uses it to describe Jesus’ son-ship to the Father, how he was declared in power “according to the Spirit”. Once again we have strong support of the nature of Christ being fully God and fully man, but this also reflects the level of authority that he held, both in physical and spiritual terms. And though his cultural lineage is important, it’s only the work of the Spirit that holds true “power”, to reclaim life from the grasp of death, and to elevate the name of Christ above every other name.

“Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ”

Paul again reminds his readers that it was Jesus Christ who called him into apostleship (see the introduction study). But this time he refers to “we” instead of just himself. Quite possibly he is referring to the other Apostles, but he could also be referring to fellow workers such as Timothy and others (see 16.21). In any case, the task that Christ has given them is to “bring about the obedience of faith”. This shouldn’t be read as “obedience that brings about faith.” That would suggest that faith is not a gift from God but a result of our work. Rather, as the Greek construction affirms, this is “obedience that comes from faith”, or that “belongs to faith”. Faith is the initiator of obedience. You cannot rightly obey God unless you’ve first been regenerated by his Spirit. In direct opposition to any religious system they’ve known, the Gentiles (“the nations”) heard from Paul the extraordinary claim of a religion that isn’t initiated my man’s pursuit of God, but by God’s pursuit of man.

Finally, there’s a little word that’s slipped in at the end: “called”. If you’ve been around theology at all, this may bring to mind the idea of being “chosen”, or even “predestination”. Don’t worry, I don’t plan to dive into this one right now. I just want you to be aware of this idea as it will come up often, especially in chapter 8 where we’ll have a chance to dig much deeper into the concept of election. (That should be a fun discussion!)

All of these themes are central to understanding the gospel in general and the book of Romans in particular. It’s amazing to see how much theology can be crammed into a few verses, but in doing so we tend to take a broader view of each for the sake of time. To be sure, however, we will see many of these again but more thoroughly expounded upon, so get ready to dig deep!

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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