Exposition of Romans 1:1-6 — The significance of the resurrected Son

This post begins a series on Romans 1-5. The subtitle is “The Significance of the Resurrected Son.” I hope you enjoy it!

Partial Outline of the Romans 1–6 (C.E.B. Cranfield)

I.          Superscription, address and salutation (1:1-7)

II.         Paul and the Roman church (1:8-16a)

III.       The theme of the epistle is stated (1:16b-17)

IV.       The revelation of the righteousness which is from God by faith alone — “He who is righteous by faith” expounded (1:18-4:25)

1. In the light of the gospel there is no question of men’s being righteous before God otherwise than by faith (1:18-3.20)

a. Man under the judgment of the gospel (1:18-32)

b. Jewish man is no exception (2:1-3:20)

2. The manifestation of the righteousness that is from God in the gospel events (3:21-26)

3. All glorying is excluded (3:27-31)

4. The case of Abraham as confirmation of the statement that glorying has been excluded (4:1-25)

V.         The life promised for those who are righteous by faith — “shall live” expounded (5:1-8:39)

1. A life characterized by peace with God (5:1-21)

a. Peace with God (5:1-11)

b. Christ and Adam (5:12-21)

2. A Life characterized by sanctification (6:1-23)

The significance of the resurrected Son

If we look at church steeples or at interior areas near the pastor, we will see the cross, the symbol of Christ’s death. Nowhere will we see any symbol of Jesus’ resurrection. God’s good news for humankind has always been about both the cross and the resurrected Son, yet Christ’s church has been slow to grasp this.

The cure for this imbalance is not to put less emphasis on the cross but to enhance understanding of how important the resurrection really is. The resurrection of Jesus Christ authenticated his sacrificial death for our sins and provided the power to resist sin (Rom. 6). Further, it is as our risen Lord that Jesus intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 7:25).

(ESV) Romans 1:1-6  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,

This remarkable letter begins with a name that stands among the top ten in human history ? Paul. In calling himself “slave” (1:1, NET), he immediately declares his utter commitment to the one who summoned him ? Christ Jesus. New Testament scholar Douglas Moo says: “’Slave of Christ Jesus’ is patterned after the familiar OT phrase ‘slave’ or ‘servant’ of Yahweh.”[1] That puts Paul in the company Moses, David and the prophets.

In saying he has been “set apart for the gospel of God” (1:1), Paul mentions the likely theme of his letter ? the gospel, a term not accurately understood by many Christians. In evangelical circles, “the gospel” is often seen as a brief set of ideas shared with non-Christians to which they may respond with faith in Jesus as their savior. That understanding of the word gospel is far too narrow to fit Paul’s meaning.

To understand the word gospel as Paul used it, we will first look at its lexical meaning. The Greek euangelion means “good news,”[2] originally news of victory. Both NLT and HCSB use the phrase “good news” in their translation of Romans 1:1. [We get our English word “evangelism” from the Greek euangelion.]

It is obviously important to consider what gospel would have meant to Roman citizens. NT scholar C.E.B. Cranfield says, “For the inhabitants of the Roman Empire it had special associations with the Emperor-cult [worship of the Emperor as a god], since the announcements of such events as the birth of an heir to the Emperor, his coming-of-age, and his accession, were referred to as [euangelia].”[3] Since gospel had these secular associations for Romans, Paul expressed it as the “gospel of God” (1:1) to distinguish it from the Roman civil idea; then he elaborated the broader meaning in the immediately following verses.

Summarizing Paul’s statements about the gospel in Romans 1:2-4, NT scholar Grant Osborne says: “First, he tells us it was promised beforehand in the Old Testament. . . . Second, the heart of the gospel is the Son of God as descended from David. . . . The gospel centers on God’s designation (better than NIV’s declared) of Jesus as his divine Son.”[4] To this we should add some other things — chiefly justification by faith — but to show the breadth of Paul’s concept of gospel we must consider that he even adds judgment when he speaks of the “day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (2:16).

Moo delivers what I consider the correct conclusion about the theme of Romans when he says, “My own outline reflects what I think is the theme of the letter: the gospel.”[5] The ESV Study Bible says, “The theme of Romans is the revelation of God’s judging and saving righteousness in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[6] The NIV Study Bible agrees: “Paul’s primary theme in Romans is the basic gospel, God’s plan of salvation for all peoples, Jew and Gentile alike.”[7]

Now that we have considered the theme of Romans — the gospel concerning Jesus Christ — we will focus our attention on Romans 1:3. Above all else, what God promised beforehand in the holy Scriptures was “concerning his Son.” The remainder of 1:3 focuses on Jesus’ physical descent from David, which was necessary for him to qualify as the promised Messiah (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Isa. 11:1, 11:10). Using his famous contrast between flesh and Spirit, Paul next adds to Jesus’ title of Messiah another title that comes in the spiritual realm; NET says that Jesus was “appointed the
Son-of-God-in-power” (1:4, NET) by virtue of his resurrection from the dead.[8]

This is a very important point: Jesus has eternally been the Son of God, but he took on added authority after his resurrection. Moo summarizes, “What Paul is claiming, then, is that the preexistent Son, who entered into human experience as the promised Messiah, was appointed on the basis of . . . the resurrection to a new and more powerful position in relation to the world.”[9] This explains why Jesus appeared to his disciples after the resurrection to say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mat. 28:18). He was announcing his new status!

Osborne notes that “Jesus Christ our Lord” culminates verses 3-4,” and then he adds: “This incredible passage tells us that the Gospel is all about Jesus — Messiah, Son of God and Lord of all creation.”[10]

If you think Paul has merely been exercising his theological skills, get ready for his powerful application. Paul has revealed the supreme power of the resurrected Jesus. Now he reminds his Roman readers that this exalted Lord has appointed Paul his apostle “to bring about the obedience of faith” (1:5) among all nations, including the Christians in Rome! Zap! Roman Christians certainly understood imperial politics, and Paul represents a ruler far above the emperor.

The phrase “obedience of faith” (1:5) is subject to various interpretations. Osborne summarizes the most probable one: “Obedience is the natural result of a faith relationship with Christ, and faith always produces obedience.”[11] NT scholar Ernst Käsemann says, “When the revelation of Christ is accepted [faith], the rebellious world submits again to its Lord [obedience].”[12]

The Son-of-God-in-power

Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). Jesus made this audacious statement because he knew that he would rise from the dead and that our faith in him would bring us the same result.

1. Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-22. How important does Paul say the resurrection is to your faith?

2. Read Psalm 2 about the enthronement of Christ as King. How is the Son-of-God-in-power received by the rulers and nations? What does the final verse mean to you personally?

In the days of the Roman Empire men and women would aspire to be named a “friend of Caesar.” We have the greater privilege of being the friends of Jesus Christ, the Son-of-God-in-power. That is worth celebrating!

 [1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 40-41.

[2] BDAG-3, euangelion, good news, q.v.

[3] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 55.

[4] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 29.

[5] Moo, Romans, 32.

[6] ESV Study Bible (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2151.

[7] Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008) 1736.

[8] TNIV corrects NIV (1984) in Romans 1:4 so that it reads “appointed the Son of God in power.”

[9] Moo, Romans, 48-49.

[10] Osborne, Romans, 32.

[11] Osborne, Romans, 33.

[12] Ernst Käsemann, Romans, Trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980) 15.

Copyright © 2011 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.