LOOKING TO PRAISE AND WORSHIP JESUS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD. 18 No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known].

Monday, December 10, 2007

Romans One: the gospel in the Salutation

I (Daniel) preached this sermon Yesterday, and Mark asked me to post it here.
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 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,
Do you see how Paul opens his discourse? We know, because we have read the whole epistle before, where Paul is going - but for those in Rome who are receiving it, they do not know where Paul is going with the epistle. Paul’s introduction here is therefore precise, and articulate - full. What Paul says in summary here must agree with, and be flushed out by, what will follow. Paul is therefore careful to inject the truth he plans to elaborate upon concisely in this opening salutation.

The customary epistolary salutation typically had three parts - first the sending party was identified, then the intended receiving party named, and finally, though not always, there was a brief benediction. We see this format in most of the NT epistles, though Hebrews and 1 John do not follow this format.

As Paul begins to identify himself in the first part of the salutation, we see that he immediately goes off on a tangent the moment he mentions the word “gospel.” We want to understand why Paul would do such a thing. Why does Paul in the middle of his own introduction, at the mention of the word “gospel” go off on the tangent does? Instead of simply stating who he is, Paul begins already to inject doctrine into his epistle. Remember that Paul is identifying himself to a church that was most likely started by former Jews and Jewish proselytes who had been converted in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. When these former Jews returned to their homes in Rome, they returned as Christians and began a new fellowship there.

Paul knew that none of Christ’s Apostles had traveled as far as Rome yet. In all likelihood, the church at Rome was doctrinally immature - we see in this knowledge therefore, some good reason for Paul’s tangential foray into doctrine during this, the introduction of himself to the Romans.

We should not dismiss therefore, this doctrinal “aside” in Paul’s introduction of himself - as merely flowery, poetic, or polite and prosy “Christian” nicety. Nor ought we to ignore it completely as we hurry on into the meat of the epistle as though Paul’s tangent here could be skipped on the premise that it is just the eloquent and polite way that Paul is introducing himself. Indeed, I have no doubt that many of us may well who see no more in these opening remarks than polite Christian flattery, and those among us who are of this sort are at risk. First we are at risk of missing the point, and second, having missed the point we are at risk of attempting to parrot in our own conversations, letters, and whatnot - the flavor of Paul’s salutation - as though it is good Christian form to inject such things in our salutations. Paul is not being vain and empty or especially prosy and poetic in his introduction of himself, Paul is qualifying himself in the context of what he is about to discuss..

We must therefore be on guard, not only to understand what Paul is saying, but to understand why Paul is saying it, and why Paul is saying it the way Paul says it! In this way we not only understand the text, but we guard ourselves against such things as vacuously attempting to ape in our own discourses the beautiful, Christ exalting language Paul’s greeting entails, without doing so for any greater purpose than because Paul did it and that makes it seems especially Christian to do so.

Paul is not waxing eloquent here to establish himself as an especially sensitive poet to his readers. Rather Paul, in introducing himself to his Roman readers, anticipates a need to establish the gospel first as the fulfillment of OT promises and secondly as the unifying bond between himself and his readers.
Paul doesn’t leave anything to chance in this introduction.

Paul does not presume his readers in Rome will understand what he means by “a called Apostle” or what it means to have been separated to the gospel, or that it is understood “Who” it was who had separated him to it, or even that his Roman readers understand the gospel within the historical context and prophetic imagery of the Old Testament scriptures.

Paul certainly knows that there are Jewish converts in Rome, but he does not write presuming upon their understanding, instead he writes presuming upon ignorance, beginning as he does, by identifying himself as Paul - the bond slave of Jesus Christ, an emissary who was hand picked by the risen Lord to deliver (as God’s spokesman) God’s message to the nations - the gospel.

We don’t want to miss the import of Paul’s words here by hastening past them - but rather we want to pause at the well and drink. To soak in, as much as the Lord will permit, to grasp as much as we are able, exactly why Paul introduces himself in the way that he does? What does the commission God gave to Paul (and the way Paul expresses) it teach us about our Lord and Savior? What did the Holy Spirit intend for us to understand by influencing Paul to inject doctrine right here in the introduction of himself?

When Paul mentions the gospel that he has been set aside to preach, he cannot leave the mention of the gospel unqualified: Good news? Good news about what?
Now here it does us some good to understand first, [1] who Paul is writing to, and second [2] why that is important when it comes to the word gospel (euaggelion).

We note that Paul is writing this epistle to those who are in Rome, and we note that it is at the word “gospel” that Paul begins to qualify his meaning. We do well therefore to pause here and ask ourselves: why does Paul begin to make these qualifications here? Is there something significant here I should be paying attention to?

I believe that the historical context in which Paul’s epistle was written may shed light on why Paul leaps off the word “gospel” like he does.

After Caesar Augustus died in 14 A.D., the Romans senate declared him to be a god, and Roman citizens were encouraged to worship him. They even renamed the eighth month from Sextilis to August in honor of Augustus.

As an aside, it should strike no Christian observer as coincidental that the declaration of a man as God should come so shortly after the birth of Christ. Is there a more efficient way to discredit the incarnation of God than to flood the market (as it were) with so many incarnations that the neutral observer will gladly receive the idea that if any are fake, they must all be fake. What better way to discredit the genuine than to make it appear to be just one of many false notions?
Augustus had an adopted son - Tiberius. When Augustus died, Tiberius became the Emperor. Because the senate had “made” Augustus a God, some considered Tiberius to be a “living” god - but Tiberius personally refused to be worshipped as such. The reign of Tiberius is mentioned in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 3:1) to identify when John the Baptist began preaching (it was the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius - about 29 A.D.)

Tiberius adopted a man by the name of Germanicus, but the empire didn’t pass to Germanicus when Tiberius died in 37 A.D., instead it passed to the son of Germanicus - to a man history knows as Caligula.

It was Caligula (the predecessor of Claudius) who, more than any other, injected into Roman politics the idea that the Emperor was a living god. Prior to Caligula the worship of a deceased Emperor was common enough, but living men were not being worshipped as gods. Although it was at first controversial, during Caligula’s four year reign, he required all of those in Rome, including the Roman senate to worship him as a living god.

After Caligula’s assassination, his uncle Claudius was named Emperor. It was this same Claudius (we read of in Acts 18:2) who expelled the Jews from Rome as part of his religious reforms. The Roman Emperors linked religion to politics in order to rule more efficiently. Claudius’ reforms were intended to purge Rome of any religion that didn’t contribute politically to Roman rule.

By the time the stepson of Nero became Emperor in 54 A.D. what has come to be known as the Imperial Cult (or the Emperor Cult) was already a prominent religious element in Rome.

At the time of Paul’s writing, because of both the Hellenistic use of the word, and especially because of its use with regards to the Imperial cult -- the word euaggelion (gospel) had many meanings, especially to a Roman citizen.
In the Hellenistic and Roman language of diplomacy - the word euaggelion was used to describe “news of victory” and associated with the reward one received for being the bearer of good news. In Rome, especially with regards to the Imperial cult, the word was used to herald Empirical pronouncements from the god-Emperor.

Paul, having been born in Tarsus - a Roman citizen - would have been fully aware of how the word euaggelion would be understood by a Roman reader. For this reason we consider that as Paul begins to use the word gospel here, he understands the importance of immediately qualifying the use of this word to his Roman readers. Remember, Paul wrote this epistle before John and Luke (and possibly Mark) even penned their gospels, and certainly before Matthews Gospel enjoyed wide circulation - that is, Paul is using this word before it’s association with Christianity has been firmly established.

Paul wants to differentiate for his readers what he means by the gospel of God: he is talking about the God of the Old Testament - it is the good news of the God of the Old Testament, and not a proclamation given by a worldly, self-deified, god-emperor. Paul begins to express the good news of God as the fulfilling of Old Testament promises made by the only God - the proclamation of their fulfillment in this present day and age by the coming of the only Messiah - Jesus Christ.

In introducing himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, separated to the gospel of God, Paul immediately begins to qualify what he means - to distance his use of the word from the common use of the word at the time.

This is, I believe, is the immediate context of his remarks in verses one through five: In order to rightly identify himself to the Roman readers, Paul had to first qualify his use of a word that they were already familiar with in other contexts (euaggelion). He was Christ’s chosen ambassador to the nations, separated to the gospel of God - but if they didn’t understand what Paul meant by the gospel of God, they wouldn’t understand who Paul was claiming to be.

Paul therefore shows, in the most precise language possible, the magnitude of the gulf between the meaning of the word they were most likely familiar with, and the meaning that Paul presumes in using it.

We do well to note that Paul, in presenting himself as a servant of the legitimate “living God”, immediately articulates by what authority he uses the word.

This is Paul’s style - his experiences, as an apostle to the nations, has no doubt taught him by this time the places where a Gentile thinker is likely to find objection. We see therefore in Paul’s anticipation of objection to the use of the word “gospel” - a discerning mind behind this seemingly simple tangent.
Paul is not beginning this doctrinal masterpiece with empty, flowery, speech; but with the precision and strategy of a master planner, a precise thinker, a logical debater, and a seasoned teacher. Whether this is a brilliant but extemporaneous start, or a calculated, seasoned approach matters little - the genius of Paul’s approach is self evident to those who pause long enough to see it.

“Who is this Jesus that I brings good news about?” That is the question Paul begins to answer as he mentions that word “gospel”.

Is Jesus merely a man who has been declared to be a god - like the Roman counterfeits? Has some senate in Rome declared Jesus to be a God? If Jesus is God, how did he come to His divinity - who “declared” him God?

Jesus was not like the Emperor; He was not merely a descendant of some long ago king who named himself a deity in order to more easily facilitate political obedience. Christ’s kingdom was not of this world. It was not spurious - it didn’t spring up in a day, but has been heralded for millennia - this is not some new religion, not some new deity - this is a declaration of the oldest religion, the only true religion.

It is a declaration of the eternal purpose of God. A declaration that is going to show that God’s purpose is not random or extemporaneous; -This- good news is not some mere temporal proclamation - not just the latest word from some self proclaimed Emperor - it is news that what has been waiting since time began has come to pass - it is good news for mankind, and Paul introduces himself as a vessel chosen by God to declare this news to the Nations.

The news is from God and it concerns Jesus Christ - God’s one and only Son. But here too Paul must qualify himself - he must distinguish who this Jesus is.
Why Jesus? Why not some other guy? What is so special about Jesus? How can we be sure that this Jesus is whom He says He is? Upon what authority do we accept any information about Jesus Christ - the very incarnation of God?

Paul is answering such questions when he appeals to the prophets and the Holy Scriptures for authority. Paul begins by identifying Jesus as a descendant of David, but why does he do that? Would it really matter to a Roman citizen that some Jew could trace His lineage back to some other long dead Jewish king? Why does Paul bring king David into the mix? Does he presume all his readers in Rome are converted Jews?

Recall that Paul is establishing that God’s good news is by no means a spur-of-the-moment happenstance. Paul begins by saying that Jesus was born of the seed of King David - a statement pregnant with meaning to anyone who has studied the Old Testament scriptures, because in them we find that God has promised a Messiah from long ago from the lineage of David.

Paul identifies the Lordship of Christ both according to the flesh and also according to the Spirit of Holiness.

According to the law, Jesus (through his stepfather Joseph, as recorded in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel) traced his legal heritage back to David through the Judean line of kings, that is, Christ was a legitimate legal heir to the Judean kingly line through his step father Joseph, though in Jeremiah 22:30 we read the curse that God pronounced on Joseph’s ancestor King Jehoiachin: “30Thus says the LORD: ‘ Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, And ruling anymore in Judah.’”

Even though Jehoiachin had children, God himself disbarred them from the throne, and so Judah’s last king was Jehoiachin’s uncle: Zedekiah. Thus, although Jesus had a legally valid claim to royalty through His stepfather Joseph, He could not ascend the throne of David according to the line of Joseph because of the curse pronounced upon Joseph’s ancestor King Jehoiachin.

Jair is really a son of Judah...In the book of Matthew, Joseph’s father is listed as Jacob. But in the book of Luke Joseph’s father is listed at Heli. The contradiction is only a valid contradiction if both genealogies are indeed describing the lineage of Christ’s stepfather Joseph.
In scripture we read of Jair who is described as a son of Manasseh. “41Also Jair the son of Manasseh went and took its small towns, and called them Havoth Jair” (Numbers 32:41) three times in scripture Jair is described as a son of Manasseh, the other two times are in Deuteronomy 3:14 and 1 Kings 4:13. Jair is called a son of Manasseh because Jair’s grandfather Hezron, although a descendant of Judah, was associated through marriage with the house of Machir who was a descendant of Manasseh. (Chronicles 2:21-23 and 7:14-15)

We see therefore that the term “son” isn’t always used in scripture to describe a physical descendant, but is sometimes used to describe one who is considered by association a member of another’s household.

Jesus, having been conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary, had no earthly father. Luke traces Christ’s lineage therefore, not through Joseph’s line, but through Mary’s. Joseph is therefore referred to here as a son of Heli - Mary’s father in the same way that Jair is referred to as a son of Manasseh.

Joseph is reckoned as a son of Heli - Mary's Father.Christ’s physical ancestors therefore, were not from the line of Joseph, but from the line of Mary. His ancestors were not from the line of Solomon, like Joseph’s ancestors had been, but from the line of Solomon’s older brother Nathan (who is not to be confused with Nathan the prophet!). Thus Christ was, according to the flesh, the son of David physically through Mary, and not the recipient of God’s curse pronounced on Jehoiachin.

In 2 Samuel 7:14-16 God promised David through the prophet Nathan (who is not to be confused with Solomon’s older brother) that one of David’s descendants would build a house for God’s name and establish God’s kingdom forever.

Solomon built God a physical temple, but the temple did not stand forever, nor did the kingdom that Solomon established, for in the very next generation Rehoboam his son lost control of the kingdom.

The house that Christ established - was not a physical house, but a spiritual temple where each believer is a “stone” that Christ himself lays in His own temple - Christ himself being the cornerstone.

Christ’s kingdom -was- established on earth during the incarnation, and even now Christ rules over this spiritual kingdom from heaven where He presently sits on a throne at the right hand of the power of God (c.f. Acts 2:30 and Luke 22:69). Scripture tells us that a day is coming when Christ’s reign will end - on that day, after the final judgment that immediately follows Christ’s return - Christ will relinquish the kingdom to God the father who will rule forevermore. We see this in 1 Corinthians 15:23-25 - “23But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.”
According to the flesh Christ was shown to be the son of David, but according to the Spirit Christ was shown to be the Son of God with Power. In the Greek the preposition is actually “in” - shown to be the Son of God in Power according to the Spirit of Holiness.

It is this same “power” that Christ sits at the right hand of (Luke 22:69). It is this same power that is ascribed to the gospel itself in verse 16. The Greek word used here (dunamiV) describes the idea of having the “ability” to do a thing. We mustn’t imagine that because the word “Dynamite” is derived from this Greek word that Paul envisioned “explosive power” when he used it. We call that a semantic anachronism when we inject into the past a meaning that is only relevant in the future. Until Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, no one would have read back into the Greek the idea of explosive energy.

The power spoken of here has to do with getting the job done. Christ was raised in power according to the Holy Spirit. He sits at the right hand of the same power even now - getting the job done.

The Holy Spirit declared that -this- Jesus whom Paul looks to in identifying himself to the Roman readers - this Jesus was the Christ - the son of God, and the declaration was made not only by prophetic words, but by power - by getting the job done - by raising Jesus from the dead.

That single act was the defining declaration from God through the Holy Spirit that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, that Jesus was indeed the fulfillment of all of God’s promises.

Christ’s earthly lineage supported his claim to be Messiah, and more than this, God’s affirmation of this claim through the resurrection from the dead settled forever the question of authority. We know that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies, not merely because they have all been fulfilled in Christ - but in particular because God raised Christ from the dead (through the Holy Spirit) as an eternal signpost declaring for all time that Jesus Christ alone is the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promises to His people Israel.
People often want all truth to have an application. They want to hear a truth, then be shown how to apply that truth pragmatically in their daily walk. How can we apply the raising of Christ from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit to our lives?

Believe that the same “getting the job done” power that raised Christ from the dead is the power at work in you if indeed Christ is in you. If Christ is in you, he -will- get the job done. The practical application of that is assurance, not some flimsy assurance that you hang on your own feelings, but the assurance of the resurrection itself - looking to the same power that raised Christ, that declared him to be Christ - this same power is working in you to get the job done. And it will be done - not by your might - but by His.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Daniel said...

Even though I never read posts of this length myself, I expect all of you to read it - lol!

December 10, 2007 2:13 PM

 
Blogger Daniel said...

Or at least comment on what you gleaned whilst skimming...

December 10, 2007 7:05 PM

 
Blogger mark pierson said...

Daniel, thanks for posting this here.

I work second shift, 3-11 PM eastern, hence I was unable to respond.

Good points -

. that Christ ultimately was the Son who would build the temple - we being the individual bricks, inhabited by God the Holy Spirit.

. That Christ now rules from the position at the right hand of the Father.

. That He has the power to get things done. (Dynamite hadn't been invented yet, so I won't anachronitize)

December 11, 2007 6:54 AM

 
Blogger Daniel said...

I think the problem with free grace theology that bothers me the most is that those who persist in perpetuating it don't understand what the grace that God gives actually does: free us from sin's power.

It isn't that I am upset that they don't agree with my "opinion" it is that their understanding leaves them powerless to deal with sin, having utterly misunderstood, and thereby ignored the only source of power to do so.

December 11, 2007 7:35 AM

 
Blogger Daniel said...

Here is a link to my thoughts on grace if anyone is interested.

December 11, 2007 8:29 AM

 
Blogger Gayla said...

My dear friend Mark (lovingly) chastised me last week - for one thing, not commenting so much on my team blog. So, I want to say I'm sorry about that. 99.999999% of the time, though, my comment for everything y'all write is simply *ditto.*

"It isn't that I am upset that they don't agree with my "opinion" it is that their understanding leaves them powerless..."

Um...ditto.

I also do not understand the utterly bare, and in my opinion, useless understanding of repentance. That it somehow *adds to* the gospel, making it a *work.*

For the glory of God, and for our own sakes, we'd better be mindful that repentence is not merely changing one's mind, as though we had decided to go to a movie and then decided not to. We'd better be mindful of just who we are before a just, holy and righteous God. (check out any number of people in the Bible and read how they viewed themselves before God. He didn't correct 'em either) Salvation is not *merely* a result of being persuaded by someone's presentation of the gospel - whether that presentation is a bare minimum or a 2-hr dissertation - or even simply reading through a passage of Scripture. Salvation is of God, through the conviction of His Holy Spirit.

We're not saved unless and until God INTERVENES and does it.

Well, sorry for the ramble. There ya go, Mark! ;)

December 11, 2007 9:18 AM

 
Blogger mark pierson said...

Gayla!!!

Yes!!!

Good to see Ya!!!

Even a "Ditto" from you doth add sunshine to a cloudy day. :-)

December 11, 2007 10:49 AM

 
Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

Daniel, it's funny that I started writing a sermon on this text a couple of days ago! I bring out three aspects inherent to the Gospel: (1) It is inherently trinitarian (we see work of all three here); (2) it is inherently christological, in that it involves a specific Jesus who is God and man, and involves the bloody slaughter of Christ; and (3) it is inherently eschatological.

December 11, 2007 9:17 PM

 
Blogger Daniel said...

Just as an announcement to all. I have decided to limit my commenting on all blogs (including my own) to non work hours. My job is such that there is typically plenty of time to make comments and whatnot without interfering in my day to day tasks. Yet, because I am busy lately, and especially because I have found myself commenting sometimes when I don't really have the time - it seems good to me to decisively limit my commenting to non-work hours.

So please forgive me if I don't get back to answer questions as quickly as I used to.

Dan

December 12, 2007 6:55 AM

 

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