Romans 1:1-7

Well, we are continuing our study in the book of Romans. And there’s no way to understand the present, as we ought to understand our times, then by looking back in the eternal word of God to how we should understand the earliest consciousness, experiences, and convictions of the church. And no better place for that than in Romans. It is a thrill to begin our study. We’ve anticipated this for a long time. 

The book of Romans stands right there in the center of the New Testament as that great book without which we would not know so much. Every single word of Scripture is inspired and every word is fully inspired. There’s no extraneous material. No book is more important than other books in terms of the inspiration. But in terms of helping us to understand the rest of the story, the book of Romans is so essential because it gives us that synthesis we need.

And you know, what a synthesis is, is when the arguments all come together and are laid out in a way that is comprehensive. We can understand that here. Paul is going to give us the big view of the gospel itself, but he’s also going to deal with the actual way the gospel works. And that’s what’s so important. It’s not just enough to say Jesus saves. 

Now you have say that, that’s the very heart of the gospel. But Paul tells us not only that he saves, but Paul goes to great length in this book to tell us how he saves and thus how it is the church is to live as a redeemed people in the world. Last week, we started looking at some of the background issues because there’s no way to understand what’s going on in the book of Romans without understanding why Paul wrote the letter, who Paul was, and where this took place in the chronology of Paul’s ministry.

Now, as you will remember, when we looked at this last week, we talked about the fact that there are internal and external clues as to when Paul wrote this book. And we’re looking at a period between 54 and 58 AD. So this is very early in the life and experience of the early church; you’re talking about in the midpoint of the first century. But this is also something of the midpoint of the Apostle Paul’s career as the Apostle to the Gentiles. What is behind him? 

Well, according to the very last chapter of the book of Romans, in Romans chapter 16, we find out that Paul tells us that what lies behind him is the ministry to the east, the ministry to the churches of Asia Minor. And so we have all these churches from Cortinh to Thessolanica, to Philippi. That’s where Paul has been giving so much of his attention after his conversion.

And we’re gonna trace that in just a moment. After his conversion, he spent so much time there in these missionary journeys, in what we call Asia Minor, or what would today be called Turkey. Now that is completed, it’s completed for two reasons. 

Let’s think about that for a moment. Two reasons. The first reason is that there are churches planted right there. And so Paul can look back at his ministry in Asia Minor and know that he has left churches and they are not only churches that are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. They are churches that are beginning to thrive and they have leadership and they have a grasp of the gospel. And they’re beginning to show the fruit of congregational life. Paul is sending people like Timothy, men he raised up to be the leaders of these churches. And as you follow through the Old Testament, read the letters, and read the book of Acts, you can see that we have in Asia Minor, what we now know is Turkey, are thriving churches. 

There is in Jerusalem a church, and in many ways that is the mother church, of course, of all the rest of the churches that will emerge in the first century. But the other reason Paul’s ministry to the east is finished is because God is giving him an open door to ministry to the west. And that means Rome and points westward from there. And what is west from Rome in the Roman empire is the territory known as Gual, and Gaul is today, mostly what we would call France, but also a good deal of Southern Spain. And it is a tremendous territory in which Europeans are beginning to think of themselves as a part of the Roman empire. And by the end of Paul’s ministry, the gospel had been preached in Gual.

That is an amazing thing, that by the end of the first century, not by Paul, but by others, he would send and would be sent out from these churches, the gospel will reach what we now know as the British Isles. Just imagine that in one century, in the ancient world, the gospel would spread so quickly to the far east, we know the gospel will get as far as what we now call India. And then as far west and north, as not only Gual or modern day France, but also in England, what we would now call the British Isles. 

But we need to pick up on who Paul was. This is where we left off last week, because in order to understand the book of Romans we have to understand its author. Paul’s personality, his testimony, and his chronology is so important. Here. We are reminded that he was born into a Jewish family.

One of the most important aspects of his biography, this is exactly where we left off last week, is the fact that he was a Roman citizen. He was a Roman citizen by birth, which meant that someone in his family in a generation past had done some extraordinary service for the empire and the emperor had, or at least on the emperor’s authority, Roman citizenship had been given to Paul’s family. That was an incredible honor. And as we shall see, it plays out as an enormous privilege or right, for Paul. For instance, a Roman citizen could not be flogged. And a Roman citizen had a right of immediate appeal to Caesar. So if on penalty of death, as Paul was later to face a trial and penalty of death, he’s able to appeal to Caesar. 

Now the Apostle Paul seizes every single moment for the gospel. For example, when he was chained to a member of the Praetorian guard, he says, this is great. This is the most interesting form of evangelism. It’s an unexpected form of evangelism. This guy can’t get away from me. He is chained to me. And not only that, but the man who’s chained to me is a member of Caesar’s household. I am able to evangelize Caesar’s household by Caesar’s accidental plan. And eventually he gets to confront Cesar himself, although that is not given to us at the end of the book of Acts, we know that it’s coming. We do not have a record of exactly what happened there, but Paul was very proud of his Roman citizenship, as well as of his Jewish roots. And as you look at texts like Acts 16:39 and Acts 22:3, and the first chapter of Galatians, Paul will make a great deal out of his Roman citizenship. And he will use it to the fullest, as a way of getting to Rome to see Caesar.

But Paul is also raised as a Jewish boy, a Jewish young man. And both in Tarshish, and later in Jerusalem, he will receive the very finest Jewish education. So what we have in Paul is this incredible intersection of the Roman and Jewish worlds. Now, in the providence of God, who better to minister as the great Apostle to the Gentiles than a man whose life situation and biography will represent the intersection of the Greek and the Jewish worlds. It has to be a man who understands the Jewish world or he can’t possibly be the great missionary to the Gentiles and do that effectively, if he himself is not a Jew. Because he becomes the transitional figure on the basis of his Jewishness to say:  this is a gospel for Gentiles as well. But he also has to have some credibility. He has to have mobility. He has to have the status that the Roman citizenship would give him. It is clear in the providence of God that long before the Apostle Paul ever came to life, God had prepared him for this particular service. Put him in just the right place, born to just the right parents, having just the right education and just the right experiences. But of course, I am speaking somewhat anachronistically here because I am referring to this man as Paul. 

And the reality is of course that if we had known him as a boy, and if we had known him as a young man, we would not have called him Paul, but we would’ve called him Saul. Now he was of the tribe of Benjamin.  Saul, as we have indicated last week, was the most illustrious member of that tribe, the first king of Israel, a man whose reign was marked by both greatness and humiliation, but without doubt, the name Saul was the primary name of the entire tribe.

When you name your boy Saul, and you’re from the tribe of Benjamin, you expect great things from this young man. His parents obviously expected great things from Saul. Saul began his life and was educated, as we’ve said, in Tarshish and in Jerusalem. He studied with Gamaliel, according to the strictest interpretation of the ancestral law, as he himself referred. And then having reached adulthood, it is interesting that his young adulthood coincides with the events concerning Jesus the Christ in Jerusalem. Now it is clear that Saul was on the inside track for leadership in the church. 

You know, every once in a while, you can just look at someone and you are going to know this kid is meant for greatness. I mean, this kid is meant for some kind of leadership. I can remember one time, long ago, getting to know an elementary school principal. And he said, every once in a while you see a kid, and this guy had been in the public schools for 40 years, he said, “every once in a while you see a kid and you know, this guy is going to be the president or the godfather one, or, two, he’s going to run something. He’s either gonna run the mafia or he is going to be a four star general running the military, but one way or another, this kid’s going to go somewhere.”

And that must have been the way that Saul looked to those who observed him. It’s clear that he was on the inside track, not only in terms of education, but also in terms of his leadership potential. But how does he employ that leadership? That’s the big question. How do we come to know Saul in the first place? We know him before his conversion. And that is because he used his leadership, as this young Roman trained, Gamliel trained, Jewish leader, as a persecutor of the church.

The first reference we have to the Apostle Paul, who was then known as Saul, is in the stoning of Stephen, where we are told that Saul had been ransacking the church. And it is at the stoning of Stephen in the book of Acts that Saul actually holds the cloaks of those who do the stoning. Now that is more than symbolic because in the holding of the cloak, that’s a way where Saul doesn’t have to do the dirty work, he just saw to it that it was done. Now that’s an interesting model of leadership right there. He had agitated the crowd in order to stone Steven, but he himself did not throw the stones. Instead, he held the cloaks of those who did the same, but he was known as a persecutor of the church. That’s very important. He talks about it himself. Look at Galatians chapter one.

Paul reveals something about himself in virtually every one of his letters, but in Galatians, probably because he was so agitated at the Galatian church, he’s very honest about these things. Look at verse 13 and following, “For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” 

Now we can follow that through to great profit, but for the sake of time, we’re going to end there and just say that in this very revelatory statement, Paul, referring to his previous life, as Saul, says, he was zealous above all his peers. He was zealous for the traditions of his countrymen. In other words, in Saul’s persecution of the church, you had a combination of what he saw as Jewish patriotism and a zeal to protect the orthodoxy of his day.

And that meant persecuting the church because the temple authorities, the Jewish authorities, had hardened their hearts against Jesus. They had rejected him as the Son of God and as savior. They had been complicit with the Jews in leading to his crucifixion. Saul was out to defend the temple and its authorities and to oppose this new movement known as Christianity. 

We have another indication of this in 1 Corinthians 15, another statement by Paul, this great chapter that of course refers to the resurrection. That’s the central point. In first Corinthians 15, we come across Paul making the argument that the gospel comes with priority. The first priority of the gospel we have in verse three, “For I delivered to you as a first importance, what I also received that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures. And that he was buried. And he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures.” 

Now this is, again, Paul’s absolute irreducible minimum of the gospel. You can’t get the gospel any shorter or smaller than this. You can’t leave anything that Paul has just said out and still have the gospel; it is a first priority. This is what you have to nail down first of all. And of course, this is a direct reputation of everything Paul had stood for during his career as the persecutor of the church, but he’s going to refer to that. He speaks to the appearances of Jesus in verse six. First we want to go back to verse five, “ he appeared to Cephas,” that’s Peter, Cephas meaning rock, “and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James then to all the Apostles,” not look at verse 8 “And last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me also for, I am the least of the Apostles and not fit to be called an Apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am. And his grace toward me did not prove vain, but I labored even more than all of them yet. Not I, but the grace of God with me.” 

Interesting, isn’t it? This is the Apostle Paul’s Popeye verse, “I am what I am” in verse 10, where you have Paul giving his testimony here and saying, listen, I don’t deserve to be an Apostle. I don’t deserve any of this. By definition we do not deserve grace. And Paul says that if there’s anyone who must be reminded that he doesn’t deserve grace it is I. But he says, but I am what I am. By human qualification I shouldn’t mean Apostle. Why should the persecutor of the church become the leader of the church? But this is God’s church, and God does what he pleases in his church. And God pleased to turn the persecutor into the Apostle. And that’s exactly what took place here.

This persecution of the church had been largely localized first in Jerusalem. In Acts chapter eight, we are told that Paul was actually dragging men and women out of their homes and persecuting them there in Jerusalem. Bringing them for trial, harassing them, flogging them, imprisoning them, trying to put it into this movement. 

But Paul’s zeal as a persecutor. And you might even think of him as a prosecutor, just think of him as legally serving something like the function of a district attorney in our legal system; he is out to find criminals and to bring them for trial. The reach of his persecution or prosecution eventually goes beyond Jerusalem. And that is what leads to his conversion. 

Paul was headed to Damascus. Now I should not pass by us very quickly. Damascus is in what is now known as Syria. It’s far to the north, it’s outside Jewish territory. It was actually outside Jewish law. 

You can understand the persecution according to Jewish law in Jerusalem, but this is going far outside Jerusalem, where there was a large Jewish community, nonetheless Damascus, and Saul’s determination to put an end to this Christian movement, this thing known as “The Way” the followers of Jesus Christ, his zeal led him to go to the chief priest with an unusual request for a warrant to go all the way to Damascus in order to round up the Jews who were believers in Christ there, and bring them back to Jerusalem for prosecution. Now, unless you just let that go by you, that is an almost breathtaking act of audacity. Just imagine that this is going that far out of Jerusalem, going into a different country, into a different region, into Gentile territory, just in order to arrest Jews who were followers of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Paul is way out on a limb here, or Saul, way out on a limb here. The extremity, the arrogance of his persecution is now almost on some kind of manic or maniacal level. The chief priest gives him the warrant and he goes to Damascus. But in Acts chapter 9, and it’s good that we should turn there, in Acts chapter 9, what happens is not at all what Saul has planned. It is now that we understand that Saul is going to be a different man. When he gets to Damascus, he will not be a percutor of the church. He will be a member of the church. In Acts chapter 9, we come across Saul’s conversion. “Now Saul, still breathing, threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus so that he found any belonging to the way,” that’s the way the Christians referred to there, “there both men and women. He might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city. And it will be told to you what you must do.’

The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. And leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus and he was three days without sight and neither ate nor drank. Now, there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘Here am I Lord?’” 

Now, that goes all the way back to Samuel. That’s the traditional Jewish way that the Lord gets the man’s attention, through a dream, “Here am I Lord,”  also in Isaiah chapter six. 

“And the Lord said to him, get up and go to the street called Straight and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarshish named Saul for he is praying.” 

Okay, let’s just stop there for a minute. You may have been with us when we went through the book of Acts verse by verse, that was several years ago.

In fact, we were in the book of Acts for several years, but nonetheless, when you look back to Acts chapter nine, here, you have a real sympathy for this man, Annaias. The Lord speaks to you, just imagine in a dream, you know of this fire breathing persecutor of the church, named Saul in Jerusalem, and you’ve heard no doubt that he’s coming to Damascus to arrest Christians. And in the middle of the night, a vision from the Lord comes to you and says, “I want you to see this man named Saul from Tarsus.” That’s no ordinary command. 

“He’s praying, the Lord told Ananais, and he has seen in a vision, a man named Ananais coming in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight. And Ananais answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to your Saint to Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priest to bind all who call on your name.” 

So Ananais does know the church in Damascus had one way or another been alerted to exactly why Saul was coming and what his intention was. “But Ananais said, ‘Lord, I’ve heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priest to bind all who call in your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go for, he is a chosen instrument of mine to bear my name before the Gentiles and Kings and the sons of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’”  

Well, we know the rest of that story. Ananais did what the Lord commanded him to do. And indeed Saul was given his sight. He is then later called Paul to represent the change in his life. Much like Simon is named Peter representing a transition and in some  places and in periods in history of the church, Christians were given new names just to represent this change of life.

But it’s interesting in this command to Ananais, the Lord tells this Jewish man named Ananias in Damascus, why he is to do this. And the commission here is very important, because he says in verse 15, “Go for he is a chosen instrument of mine to bear my name among the Gentiles and Kings and the sons of Israel.” It’s interesting there, look at that commission. Let’s take it apart for a minute. 

He is an instrument of mine to bear my name among whom? Among the Gentiles and Kings and the sons of Israel. So the Apostle Paul will have a ministry to his fellow Jews. That’s the last  part of this commission. And that’s very important because there will actually come a time when Saul, now Paul, is going to have to stare down Peter, the great leader of the church in Jerusalem, on the question of the Gentiles.

So you’re going to have Paul as an authority, as a believer, correcting another believer, establishing the purpose of the gospel there among the Jews as well. But it also says he is going to be an instrument for the gospel among the Gentiles. Paul will become the great Apostle to the Gentiles. He will call himself that. He will come to know that that is why God has called him, transformed him, saved him, redeemed him, and given him this particular commission. It’s because there’s no one else who is situated as he is now to do this. But the third part of this is interesting, is it not? Because we are told that Paul will have a ministry for the sake of the gospel to Kings. To Kings. Now that’s quite a promise, but it literally comes to pass before  Agrippa. Before other Kings, Paul will have the opportunity to share the gospel. And that is also tracked through the book of acts. 

His conversion in chapter nine is not only a transition from being a persecutor of the church to being a leader of the church, it is his regeneration. It is a complete change of life. And in this passage you have this magnificent display of God’s grace in the life of the Apostle Paul. 

Let’s look at Galatians chapter 3 for just a moment. Paul gives us a commentary on this in Galatians chapter 3, look at verse 10 through 14: 

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse for, as it is written ‘cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law to perform them.’ Now we know that no one is justified by the law before God is evident, for the righteous man shall live by faith. However, the law is not of faith. On the contrary, whoever practices them shall live by them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us. For it is written ‘cursed as everyone who hangs on a tree,’ in order that in Christ Jesus, the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles so that we would receive the promise of the spirit through faith.” 

In this little passage, we just read, Paul ends up giving his warrant for going to the Gentiles, but he also does, making clear, and this is what we need to understand up front, that that’s what the Jews should have understood from the beginning. That’s Paul’s point here in Galatians 3:  They should have understood that the gospel was for the Gentiles from the beginning, even in the Abrahamic covenant. God says through Abraham, I will bless all nations through you.

It is a blessing to Israel first, yes, but it’s not just for Israel. It is a blessing that is to go beyond. I wanted us to look at those few verses from Galatians 3, because the man who could write that is a man whose mind has been completely changed from the persecutor of the church to the ambassador of grace to the Gentiles. This is a man whose entire worldview got turned upside down. And now he writes with such forcefulness about the ministry of the gospel over against the ministry of the law. What was old has passed away. It has been fulfilled in Christ. Paul is now the Apostle to the Gentiles, and that will be his role and function in the church. He will lead this westward expansion. He will lead in the establishment of Gentile churches, and eventually he will get to Rome. But before he arrives there, he writes the saints, the church in Rome. And that’s the letter we have. 

And so very quickly let’s begin looking right at the text of the book of Romans. We now know to whom it was written. To a church, as we saw last week, that was at one time largely Jewish but is now largely Gentile because of the expulsion of the Jews from Rome.

We know about when it was written: somewhere between AD 54 and 58. And we know who wrote it. The human instrument of this writing was the Apostle Paul. Now we can look at the text itself. 

“Paul, a bond servant of Christ Jesus called as an Apostle set apart for the gospel of God.” 

First word is Paul. You often hear the letters and the New Testament referred to as the epistles, the epistle of Paul to this, or the epistle of Paul to those. The Greek word for letter is simply epistle. But the whole category of epistles or letters was well known in the ancient world. Letters functioned in that world differently than in hours. 

Now, every once in a while, we communicate something magnificent or major by means of a letter, but let’s face it, we don’t get big news basically by letters. Not in the day of instant communications, not in the day of the telephone, much less now in the day of television and email, and satellite transmission and everything else. Rarely do we open a letter in order to find out some magnificent momentous news. 

But in the ancient world, the letter was the main means whereby communication was made. Now, this is something that people who lived just a hundred years ago could have well understood. As a matter of fact, one of the sad things in terms of a historical perspective is how little is going to be known by reading our letters, because we don’t write that many. Or the letters we write are largely perfunctory or courtesy. There’s not a great deal of material in them in terms of news. But you can’t imagine, I don’t think any of us can imagine, what it was like to live in a world in which you heard so little.

A letter coming from someone like the Apostle Paul would mean everything. In the traditional style of letters in the first century, you began the letter with your own name. Now, frankly, I think that makes more sense than the way we write letters. You know, we put our name at the end. Well, that’s great. But sometimes you have to look to the end to find out who’s writing to you. Not so in the ancient world, you put your name first so that the people reading it would know for whom the letter had come. 

Let’s look at how he identifies him. So he calls himself by his Christian name, Paul, but then he describes himself as a bondservant of Christ Jesus. Paul will, again and again, describe himself in two different ways. He does it right here in this very verse. On the one hand, as an Apostle. And on the other hand as a slave. 

Now, this is so important because we tend to think of authority as a matter of mere privilege, without understanding what Paul saw. And that is that authority in the church as being a form of servanthood. Now, it didn’t mean that he was reluctant to exercise that authority. He will exercise it again and again. He will say, “I am an Apostle. I’m speaking on behalf of the authority of Christ himself. I’m going to define reality. I’m going to tell you what the truth is. This is the gospel, and that’s not the gospel choose you today, which one you’re gonna serve.” 

The Apostle Paul was not reticent to use his authority, but he understood it wasn’t about himself. It’s not about Paul. It is instead about Christ. Just as it was John the Baptist who pointed to Jesus said, “I must decrease that he must increase.”

Paul will say in so many different ways in his letters, “I’m not the point here, I am insignificant. It is Christ who is supremely significant.”  And he will say things like “to live is Christ, to die is gain.”  Just to point out the fact that it is Christ himself who is everything. But just as much as Paul was quick to point out that he was a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, he would all also use this apostolic authority. So you have this going back and forth. Paul puts both of these aspects here in verse one. He is a slave, a dulas. He is so much a slave to Christ that everything he knows, everything he has, everything he knows about himself, everythings he hopes for in the life to come is all due to Christ. He is Christ’s slave 

A bondservant is one who has willingly become a slave. That is one who has sold himself into slavery. Paul says, “I belong to Lord Jesus Christ.” Just like a servant would belong to his master. He identifies Christ by Christ Jesus. Now, sometimes we say Jesus Christ. Another important reminder to us that the names Christ and Jesus are just that they are names. But they are names that come as a title, especially Christ. Jesus, or what you would have as a Yeshua in the Hebrew or Aramaic dialect is a name common to the Old Testament. It’s the same name that is translated as Joshua in the Old Testament. And it’s a word that by itself, declares “savior.”  “Unto you shall be born this day in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord. And his name shall be Jesus, which means savior.” His name was declaring his purpose, but it was a common name. And in the ancient near east, and especially in what we would call Israel, you would find others who would have the same name, the name Jesus or Yeshua, but they would not have the title Christ.

The Christ is the Messiah, the Christos, the anointed one, the promised one, Israel’s consolation. So to say Christ Jesus is to make very clear you’re speaking of the incarnate man known as Jesus Christ, who is also the incarnate God, son of God, who is the Messiah, the anointed one. “A bond servant of Christ Jesus called as an Apostle.” 

Paul didn’t volunteer as an Apostle. What we read from 1 Corinthians 15 reminds us that Paul said I was set apart, I was commissioned, I was called. Now, I’m the least of all. I’m not worthy to be an Apostle, but ladies and gentlemen, I am an Apostle. Not because I’ve declared myself to be one, but because Christ Jesus has made me one. The one whose slave or bond servant  I am, he has made me an Apostle. That is defined as being set apart for the gospel of God. What is Paul’s apostolate all about? His Apostleship, his purpose is for the cause of the gospel. He is set apart for the gospel of God.

In verse two, Paul gives us an extended commentary on that gospel. This is the gospel, which he…Now who’s “he?” This is God the father, as we shall see, “he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures concerning his son who is born of a descendant of David, according to the flesh.” 

Let’s just stop there for a moment. Here is no longer Saul, here’s Paul. How do you see the difference? Saul, the persecutor of the church, made it his business to argue that Jesus was not the son of God, could not be the Messiah, the followers of Christ were illegitimate, they could not be called Jews. They were to be corrected or imprisoned and flogged. They were to be persecuted. Now he’s making the case from the other side on the basis of his own apostolic authority, he describes this gospel saying it was promised beforehand through his prophets and the Holy Scriptures.

Don’t let that pass you by. Here is Paul saying we should have seen it. The Jews universally, all of us, should have recognized in Jesus Christ the absolute fulfillment of all of God’s promises. He had told us beforehand what he was going to do. And he told beforehand, but listen to how he says in his prophets, in the holy Scriptures, he’s referring to the Old Testament Scriptures. That’s right there. He says, ladies and gentlemen, it’s in black and white. We should have known it. These things in verse three “concerning his son.” So what you have in verse one is the title Christ. The anointed one. What you have in verse three is the declaration that this Christ Jesus is none other than the very Son of God. Now it’s just like there in the gospel of Luke. The angels put it all together by saying a babe is born to you, a savior, who is Christ the Lord.

They have all three put together, savior, Christ, Lord, put together in the angelic declaration to the shepherds. Here you have it put together in the apostolic declaration of the Apostle Paul Christ, Jesus, Son, all there in the first three verses. But there’s more: “who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh.” That is according to how you would measure or trace his earthly lineage, by descent of David, that was foretold also in the Scriptures. 

Then look at verse four, who this is, “the son was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ, our Lord.” 

Just in case we missed it all put together in the first three verses, in the next verse, verse four, he puts it all together for us again: “who was declared the Son of God.” In other words, those who were alive at the time and who witnessed his resurrection, saw the Father’s declaration, that this is his son.

The declaration had come already at the baptism., “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” But it was in the resurrection in particular that God universally said to the entire world, “This is my son.” And that is a theme that will come up again and again in the Apostle Paul’s ministry, it is the resurrection that underlines for all time, universally for all peoples and all places, this is God’s son. For Paul the resurrection is everything. That’s why in 1 Corinthians 15, where we just read, he said, “I delivered under you that, which is a first importance, which I also received, that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures. And that he was raised from the dead, according to the Scriptures.” God raised him from the dead. Without the resurrection there is no fulfillment of the prophecy. Without the resurrection there is no power of God demonstrated in him. But with the resurrection, universally, throughout all time, categorically, unquestionably, he is declared to be the Son of God.

And this was revealed to him. How? According to the spirit of holiness through Jesus Christ, our Lord. There you have Jesus, Christ, Lord–all put together. And we’re only four verses into the book of Romans. It’s like he’s loading it on the upfront, right as we get into the book with the serious theology, with all the serious doctrinal content, that’s going to follow. He’s writing to a largely Gentile church. And he said, I’m a Jew. We should have seen it. We’ll declare it now to you. I’m the Apostle to the Gentiles. He’s already said that I am an Apostle. I’m coming to you. And this is the message I send to you, that God showed his salvation, declared his power in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He is the very Son of God. He is the Messiah, the savior Christ Jesus, according to the spirit of holiness, we know him as Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Now in verse five, he’s going to tell us that it is through him, through Christ, “we receive grace and Apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for his name’s sake, among whom you also are called or the called of Jesus Christ to all who are the beloved of God in Rome called to be saints or called as saints, grace to you in peace from God, our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

This is where we’ll pick up next week. Just let me make one comment here. If you wrote a letter in the ancient near east, in this time in the Roman empire, in the first century, you began the letter with your own name, but as you wrote the letter, you will give some kind of greeting. And the traditional greeting and the Greek language was karin, which is graciousness.

It’s just like today we would say something like, “dear,”  is kind of the same thing. Dear Fred, dear Hazel, dear whatever, dear you guys. That’s a gracious thing. You know, the word dear is just kind of a throwaway thing now we don’t give it a whole lot of attention, but it really was intended to mean something. “You are dear to me.” And so you would write the letter that way. 

But in the ancient world, in the Roman world, you begin with something like “graciousness to you.” Well, remember that Paul is the Jew who is the Apostle to the Gentiles. He’s going to show that the gospel is for Jews and for Greeks, it’s going to come very quickly here in Romans chapter 1. And by Greeks, he means Gentiles. He’s going to show that he is a Jew, who is the Apostle commissioned to the Gentiles.

He doesn’t use the greeting charin. Instead he uses the greeting charis. Grace. Not graciousness, but grace. A different thing altogether, grace and peace, peace, shalom. So when you come to the end of verse seven, he greets the church, both Jews and Greeks. He greets them, both Jews and Gentiles. He uses not only grace, but shalom, grace and peace. Shalom was the traditional Jewish way of greeting. Grace, a traditional, or at least a modification of the traditional Roman way of greeting. And here, Paul kind of sets it all up before the church, Jews and Gentiles together, grace and peace to you through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Oh Lord. We pray that you would lead us into the study of your word in a way that will lead us to Christian maturity, to the expansion of your gospel.