The Gospel and Redemptive History
Romans 1:1-51Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,2which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,4who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake,Sometimes the biggest obstacles to learning are the things we think we already know. If we think we understand someone else’s perspective, these preconceptions will cloud our ability to actually hear what is being said. When reading the bible or studying a book like the book of Romans, it is familiarity with the gospel and protestant teachings that can become the biggest obstacle to hearing what Paul is actually saying.
We often interpret the book of Romans in light of the monumental debates of the protestant reformation. How is a person justified before God? What is the relationship between faith and works? How can a person be assured of their eternal salvation? These are important questions and these questions are clearly answered in the book of Romans, but are these really the primary concerns of Paul? Is Paul answering people’s questions about how to get to heaven or how to be right before God? Or instead, is Paul’s argument about justification through faith for both Jews and gentiles part of a deeper, more profound question?
If we look at the opening verses and we think from the mindset of a Jewish apostle living in the 1st Century, if we look actually at the context in which Paul was living and preaching the Gospel, we hear these words with a fresh perspective.
Paul, as a Jew, longed for God to vindicate His name, defeat evil, and bring liberation to His people. The question looming in the minds of 1st century Jews was how is God going to defeat pagan unrighteousness and bring glory to His name. In this light, Paul, then, is asking and answering the question, “How is God conquering evil and glorifying His name through the gospel of the cross?” Paul’s heart beats with the Jewish hope for the victory of God. But how could a defeated crucified Messiah be bringing about this conquering of evil? The weakness of the cross is a stumbling block to the Jews. How could the “defeated” Jesus be the promised Messiah? In light of this paradox of a crucified Messiah, Paul begins this majestic presentation of the gospel.
Paul opens with these almost ecstatic words concerning the powerful Christ.
Romans 1:1-51Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,2which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,4who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake,
Paul lists the key characteristics of the Gospel, this Good Proclamation, that He is commissioned to preach.
- The Gospel was promised before hand by the prophets in the holy scriptures.
- The Gospel is concerning God’s son who is of the Messianic lineage of David
- The Gospel proclaims Jesus the Son of God with power through the resurrection from the dead.
- The gospel has a purpose to bring about the obedience of faith among ALL the gentiles.
Before his conversion, Paul was violently opposed to the Christian idea of a crucified defeated Messiah. To the pre-christian Paul, the Christian message was anathema to the Old Testament promise of God’s victory over evil through the Messiah. If the Messiah is defeated, if the Messiah is powerless to defeat evil, then God does not get the victory in human history. So, the question which a Jew confronted with the Gospel of the cross must answer is “How is this message concerning this crucified Christ going to defeat evil and bring glory to God and therefore fulfill the prophetic promise of the victory of God and God’s people?”
Well , the answer or at least the outline of Paul’s answer is right here in these opening thematic verses. The gospel of the cross is the gospel of power and victory amongst both the Jews and gentiles in fulfillment of the words of the prophets.
When a Jewish believer thought of David, it was David the conqueror. Paul is proclaiming Jesus the greater David, the greater conqueror.
When a 1st century believer heard the term Son of God, he or she thought of Caesar. Paul is saying that one more powerful than Caesar has come and is alive. He is the Savior and the one we are to place our hope for victory.
When Paul speaks of the resurrection He is speaking to a people persecuted and fearful of death. Well, there is one stronger and mightier than even death, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Christ has come to destroy evil and exalt the name of God through faith in Him and obedience to His teachings. The gospel is winning and turning men and women around the world from rebellion to the obedience of faith. Through the Gospel, Christ is proclaimed as king and His teachings as the way of God’s kingdom. Through the cross both Gentiles and Jews are invited and converted, and the people of God are united, forgiven, free and powerful.