Romans 1, Part 2
Oct 06, 2010
Declared the Son of God
Romans 1:3 speaks of Jesus as a descendant of King David "according to the flesh." This is what made Him "the Son of man," for it was his physical lineage that could be traced back to Adam, the "man." But Paul understood that Jesus Christ was more than the Son of man. He was also the Son of God, as we read in verse 4,
(4) who was declared the Son of God with power by [as a result of] the resurrection from the dead, according to the spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Who declared Him to be the Son of God? When was this declaration made? It occurred on the day of His resurrection, after He ascended to His Father in heaven. Jesus was raised, I believe, about 3:00 a.m., as the temple gate was opened to admit the new course of priests who were coming to minister for the following week. Mary came to the tomb "while it was still dark" (John 20:1) and found that He was already gone from the tomb. He later appeared to her and told her not to touch Him because He had not yet ascended to the Father (20:17). However, later that evening, Jesus showed Himself to the other disciples (20:19).
Jesus had ascended on the third hour of the day after speaking with Mary in the garden, because He had to fulfill the prophecy of the wave-sheaf offering. It was fulfilled when He presented Himself to the Father as the living, resurrected Son of God, the "first-born of all creation" (Col. 1:15).
The priest was to wave the sheaf of barley "on the day after the Sabbath" (Lev. 23:11). It had to be done on the eighth day of the week, because the Law commanded that the first-born sons must be presented to God on the eighth day (Ex. 22:29, 30). Hence, the wave-sheaf offering was always done on the eighth day (or the first day of the week).
This is the Law of the Presentation of Sons. When Jesus was presented to the Father on the eighth day shortly after His resurrection, it was the Father Himself who "declared" Him to be the Son, because of His resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). It was done "according to the spirit of holiness," because holiness has to do with being set apart for divine service. Having attained His position as Son of God through resurrection, as indeed we all must do--for He is but the FIRST-born of all creation--His new form of existence separated Him from the rest of humanity. At that point He stood above humanity, having blazed the trail that others would follow at their appropriate times.
(5) through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the ethnos, for His name's sake.
"The obedience of faith" is actually a compound Greek word that Dr. Bullinger renders as "faith-obedience." This word is of interest, because it connects faith and obedience in much the same manner as the book of James, who says, "faith without works is dead" (James 2:28). In other words, true faith results in obedience (compliance, submission to a command or law). Later, Paul distinguishes between pure faith and obedience (works), but none should think that he was contradicting James. He was merely separating faith-obedience into its component parts to show the purpose of each.
Furthermore, Paul's apostleship was a calling "to bring about the faith-obedience among all the ethnos," and not merely among Jews or Israelites. Here is our first hint in this epistle that the Law was applicable to all the nations and not limited to a certain ethnic group. The Jewish idea that the ethnos are given the so-called Noahide Laws only (Gen. 9:3-7), while the rest of the Law was reserved for the physical seed of Abraham, is contradicted by Paul's gospel. There is only one gospel--the Gospel of the Kingdom. It was given to the seed to Abraham as a revelation in order to equip them to administer its principles of equitable justice to all the ethnos of the earth, so that all the families of the earth might be so blessed (Gen. 12:3, 4).
(6) among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; (7) to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints; Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
They were "called as saints," or as holy-ones, set apart for divine service. They are "beloved of God," as are all the ethnos, Israelite or otherwise. This idea that God actually loved the ethnos was largely foreign to the Jewish mindset, who fancied themselves as the only ones worthy of the love of God. But Paul's apostolic calling was to view the creation itself as the object of God's love, showing (as did Isaiah before him) that He was not only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but also "the God of all the earth" (Isaiah 54:5). God had created all things as an expression of His character, and God is Love. Even as Adam's sin brought the entire creation into the bondage of sin and death (Rom. 8:20), so also has the Last Adam redeemed the entire estate (Rom. 8:21).
The universality of the divine plan forms the backdrop of the entire book of Romans. There is the universal equality of all men as sinners (Rom. 3:23), because all men are accountable to God's Law (3:19) modified only by their level of knowledge (2:12). All men receive the grace of God through faith equally as well (3:28, 29), with no ethnic group having the advantage of God's indulgence on account of their genealogy.
Though the gospel itself had to have a starting point (in Jerusalem), due to the limitations of men, the divine plan was to save all that was lost in Adam (Rom. 5:18). Human limitations and the logistics of geography itself at first restricted the gospel to accessible parts of the world, but this in no way could thwart the divine plan to save all who died before they could be reached with the gospel. God has taken all of this into account from the beginning and has taken personal responsibility for the salvation of His creation.
In the end, all injustice will be corrected, even the injustice of being born in a land that could not hear the gospel of Christ for many centuries. God is good, God is just, and God is equitable in all of His judgments. His judgments, we discover, are corrective in nature and not merely punitive. The purpose of divine justice is to bring all of creation into the glorious liberty of the sons of God (Rom. 8:21).
When we understand the mind of Paul as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, we can more fully appreciate the full panorama of the divine plan as set forth in his epistle to the saints in Rome. It is only when we fail to grasp the universality of the plan and the equitableness of divine justice that we will make excuses for Paul's language and say, "Surely, Paul, thou art mistaken," or "Paul must have meant this" instead of what he says in plain language.
Romans 1:7 ends Paul's introduction to his epistle. From here on, he speaks directly to his audience in Rome and begins to lay out the divine plan in an unprecedented way.
This is the second part of a series titled "Romans 1." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones