Romans 1:1–7 (ESV) — 1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 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, 5 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, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I love Paul’s introductions.
- It is very difficult for him not to get straight to the point.
- He somehow always manages to interlace the niceties of his introduction with some subtle (or not so subtle) hints of the recipients’ need for a serious Gospel schooling.
- The “schooling”, by the way, will be about “the coming together of Jews and Gentiles” in Christ – N.T. Wright.
Paul begins his letter to Rome with a defense of his apostleship.
- This makes sense – he didn’t plant the church at Rome.
- He says he is “a servant of Christ Jesus” (vs. 1).
- When Paul uses the word “Christ”, he is not using it as a proper name.
- He is using it as a title – The Messiah – N.T. Wright and Tom Schreiner.
- He notes that he was “called to be an apostle” (vs. 1).
- “one among that unique group appointed by Christ himself to have the salvation-historical role as the ‘foundation’ of the church” – Douglas Moo.
- He claims that he was “set apart for the gospel of God” (vs. 1).
- Similar to – Galatians 1:15 (ESV) — 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,
How was Paul set apart and called to be an apostle?
- Acts 9:15 (ESV) — 15 But the Lord said to him [Ananias in Damascus], “Go, for he [Paul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
- Paul witnessed the risen Jesus and was presumably taught by Him through the Spirit.
- “Any reading of this great theological treatise that ignores this claim to authority will fail to come to grips with the ultimate purpose of its writing” – Douglas Moo.
- I know a few that have.
Right away this should make us aware of something rather significant.
- Paul will be addressing important Gospel related issues within the church at Rome.
- It is crucial that Rome (and us) understand he has been given the authority from the risen Lord Himself.
- He was “called to be an apostle”.
- Unlike others, perhaps, who may have been muddying the waters at the Roman Church.
After his apostolic defense, Paul highlights some aspects of this “gospel of God”.
- The “gospel of God” was “promised beforehand” (vs. 2)
- A promise revealed “through his prophets” (vs. 2).
- A promise contained in the Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament.
- Something Paul calls “holy Scriptures” (vs. 2).
This OT promise – the “gospel of God” – is about God’s Son – Jesus Christ
- Israel’s king who necessarily was (as declared by the prophets) “descended from David” (vs. 3).
- 2 Samuel 7:12 (ESV) — 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.
- Who, because of his “resurrection from the dead” (vs. 4), can rightly be declared “the Son of God” (vs. 4).
When Paul refers to Jesus as the “Son of God” (vs. 4), we need to embrace fully what he is conveying.
- It is important for where Paul is going in Romans.
- When he uses this language, “Paul now assigns to Jesus the designation for Israel as God’s son” – Tom Schreiner.
In other words, Israel had the designation of God’s Son.
- Exodus 4:22–23 (ESV) — 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’ ”
- Jeremiah 31:9 (ESV) — 9 With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
- Hosea 11:1 (ESV) — 1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
Now Paul is radically redefining this Sonship around Jesus.
- It is Jesus who is the Son of God!
- This, then, “designates Jesus as the true Israel” – Tom Schreiner.
It is no wonder that the first thing Paul taught about Jesus in Acts 9 was…
- Acts 9:20 (ESV) — 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
This is incredibly important for one reason.
- “If Jesus is God’s true Son, then membership in the people of God depends on being rightly related to Jesus” – Tom Schreiner.
“God’s saving promises for Israel and the Gentiles have become a reality in him” – Tom Schreiner.
We must note here too:
The “gospel of his Son” (vs. 9) “…is primarily good news about something that has happened, events through which the world is now a different place. It is about what God has done in Jesus, the Messiah, Israel’s true king, the world’s true Lord” – N.T. Wright.
- The indicatives!
BTW – Why would a declaration that Jesus is “the Son of God” be an incredibly provocative claim to make – especially in Rome?
Paul goes on to highlight an interesting contrast in his introduction.
- “according to the flesh” vs. “according to the Spirit” (vss. 3 or 4).
Douglas Moo explains:
“The contrast of ‘flesh’ and ‘Spirit’ is part of Paul’s larger salvation-historical framework, in which two ‘aeons’ or eras are set over against one another: the old era, dominated by sin, death, and the flesh, and the new era, characterized by righteousness, life, and the eschatological gift of the Holy Spirit” – Douglas Moo.
- In other words, this is Kingdom language.
And note that Paul can’t speak of the Gospel without citing its special meaning for him.
- Through “Jesus Christ our Lord…we have received grace and apostleship” (vs. 5).
- Some suggest that “grace and apostleship” in the Greek really means “gracious apostleship” – Tom Schreiner.
- In other words, Paul says that he received from Jesus a “gracious apostleship”.
BTW – “The word ‘gospel’ doesn’t occur very often in the letter, but it lies underneath everything Paul says” – N.T. Wright.
Paul then begins to address the responsibilities of one “called to be an apostle” (vs. 1) – those who have “received grace and apostleship” (vs. 5).
- Paul says he is called to “bring about the obedience of faith” (vs. 5).
- And he is to do so “among all the nations” – or “among the Gentiles”.
- Including those in the church at Rome – those “called to belong to Jesus Christ” (vs. 6) and “called to be saints” (vs. 7).
Interestingly, Paul says the main reason he is obedient to his “gracious apostleship” is not for the salvation of people.
- But, “for the sake of his name” (vs. 5).
“The ultimate reason for a mission to the Gentiles was not the salvation of the Gentiles but the proclamation of the name of Jesus Christ. What was fundamental for Paul was the glory and praise of Jesus Christ” – Tom Schreiner.
- The Gospel is not us, nor is it about us!
Does this have any implications for what we are trying to do when speaking the Gospel?
So, Paul is preparing the church at Rome to receive the truth he is about to speak.
- He is a called apostle.
- As such, he has certain God given responsibilities that center on who Jesus is and what He has done.
- In his letter to Rome, he is about to exercise his responsibilities.
(1) When Paul says Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God…by his resurrection from the dead” (vs. 4), what is he saying about the relationship between Jesus’ Sonship and his resurrection?
- How are the two related?
- In other words, how do we know that Paul is not teaching that the human Jesus did not become the divine Son of God by his resurrection – an exaltation to deity?
The answer is in the context.
- As we know, throughout the Gospels Jesus’ divinity was declared before His resurrection.
- And here the context involves Jesus’ installation as the Davidic King and Lord – not His divinity.
- Jesus “descended from David…and was declared to be the Son of God…by his resurrection” (vs. 4).
For Paul, Jesus as Son of God is always Jesus as Davidic Messiah and King.
- So, “the appointment of Jesus being described here is his appointment as the messianic king” – Tom Schreiner.
- It is not an appointment or declaration of divinity.
Douglas Moo sums this up well:
- “We must remember that the Son is the subject of the entire statement in vv. 3–4: It is the Son who is ‘appointed’ Son. The tautologous nature of this statement reveals that being appointed Son has to do not with a change in essence—as if a person or human messiah becomes Son of God for the first time—but with a change in status or function” – Douglas Moo.
“The transition from v. 3 to v. 4, then, is not a transition from a human messiah to a divine Son of God (adoptionism) but from the Son as Messiah to the Son as both Messiah and powerful, reigning Lord” – Douglas Moo.
(2) Who is the “we” in verse 5?
- At the very least, the “we” are those who have received “grace and apostleship” (vs. 5).
- Or as we said earlier, his “gracious apostleship”.
- So the “we” does not include the Romans – his audience.
In fact, some take this exclusive use of “we” even further.
- What apostle was called to bring the Gospel to “all the nations/Gentiles” (vs. 5)?
- Who is writing the letter?
- Answer – Paul.
- Therefore “we” is what is called the first person plural.
- Similar to when my Dad would say, “We are going to work in the yard today”.
- He meant me.
(3) What is “the obedience of faith” from verse 5?
- As we hinted in Part 4 of “The Grace in Which We Stand” lesson…
- Obedience and belief are often synonymous – inward conformity.
To that end, Tom Schreiner says of “obedience of faith” (vs. 5)…
- It is “the missionary thrust of Paul’s call to the Gentiles” – Tom Schreiner.
- And this thrust – the “obedience of faith” (vs. 5)…
- Is “to bring Gentiles to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” – Tom Schreiner.
- “The obedience that is faith” (last weeks inward conformity) – Tom Schreiner.
“It is appropriate to summarize the theological implications of the opening. Paul implicitly redraws the lines of what constitutes the true people of God. Israel as Yahweh’s elect was God’s son through whom he had promised to bless the world…[therefore] Paul contends that Jesus is the true Son of God. He is the true Israel. The OT promises regarding the vindication of Israel have been fulfilled through him” – Tom Schreiner.
- This bears directly on our opening, “the coming together of Jews and Gentiles” in Christ – N.T. Wright.
How are Gentiles “grafted in” to Jewish Israel’s inheritance of God’s promises?
- The answer depends on who Israel is now.
- And for Paul, if the answer to this question doesn’t center on Jesus as Israel, then serious problems arise.