THOUGHTS FROM ROMANS

THE GOSPEL ABOUT GOD'S SON

As we saw previously the gospel has a specific origin: it is God's gospel, God's good news. It comes from God. It is designed by God. It is implemented by God. Just as the gospel has a specific origin, it also has a specific content: it is about God's Son, or, as Paul puts it in Romans 1:2, it is 'regarding his Son'. Here the whole content of God's good news is encapsulated in these two words: 'his Son'.

God's good news is about 'his Son', not primarily about the cross and what happened there, not primarily about the salvation of sinners, but primarily, over and above all else, the Gospel is about God's Son. This is stated again in 1:9 where Paul refers to 'the gospel of his Son', again identifying the person of Christ as the centre of the Gospel. If in our supposed telling of the Gospel we have failed to tell people about the divine identity of Jesus Christ, we have in fact not told them the true Gospel at all.

Paul puts before us four important truths about who Jesus is.

The first truth, the truth that was immediately obvious to Jesus' contemporaries, is that Jesus was a human being. His ancestory can be traced in the recorded genealogies right back through David, through Abraham, to Adam (see Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-37). People who met him knew who he was ... the carpenter from down the road. Paul's comment is: 'who as to his human nature was a descendant of David' (verse 3). By this comment he affirms the real humanity of Jesus.

The second truth is that Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 1:2,4). God's gospel is, Paul says 'regarding his Son ... who through the Spirit of holiness was declared to be the Son of God ...' This truth was not immediately obvious to Jesus' contemporaries. They looked at him and saw a human being. And that is all most of them saw. When Jesus began saying things that only God has a right to say, and doing things that only God can do, some  of his followers began to suspect that he was more than just a human. They asked questions like 'What is this? He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.' (Mark 1:27) and 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!' (Mark 4:41). And, for a smaller group, in response to Jesus' actions and teaching, a powerful, at times frightened, awareness developed that they were in the presence of God: 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man' (Luke 5:8), and 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God' (Matthew 16:16). Only those whose eyes had been opened by the Holy Spirit saw past Jesus' real humanity, and recognized his real deity. For the rest... well, we know the story. They heard what he said about his equality with God, and arranged to have him executed for such blasphemy: they said 'you, a mere man, claim to be God' (John 10:33; see also 5:18).

For anyone who has doubts about whether the man Jesus is also, at the same time, truly God, Paul states that through the Holy Spirit, Jesus was 'declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead' (Romans 1:4). And here is an obvious fact: if Jesus had stayed dead, all of his statements about his equality with God are nothing but lies. Death, in biblical terms, is the penalty for sin. If Jesus stayed dead then he was nothing more than the rest of us: he was a human sinner. The resurrection proves that all of his claims about his divine identity are actually true, and not the blasphemy asserted by his enemies: when, for instance, he called God his Father, when he said 'I and the Father are one' (John 10:30); when he said that seeing him was seeing the Father (John 14:9); when he said 'before Abraham was born, I AM' (John 8:58); when he claimed that he was 'the bread of life' (John 6:35), the light of the world (John 8:12), the good shepherd (John 10:10), the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), the truth (John 14:6), these statements were all true. His resurrection validates the truth of these claims to deity. His resurrection proves that he is who he claimed to be.

The third truth about who Jesus is is that he is Jesus Christ (Romans 1:4). The English 'Christ' translates the word 'Christos' which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew 'Messiah'. Again Paul identifies Jesus as the subject of Old Testament prophecies, this time the prophecies concerning the Messiah - the Anointed One, who would come in power and victory to save and lead God's people. This is also affirmed by Paul's reference to Jesus as 'a descendant of David', for God had promised David that out of his descendants would come a king who would be king forever.

The fourth truth Paul mentions about who Jesus is is that he is 'our Lord' (verse 4). The word 'Lord' is so common in both the Old and New Testaments that we stand in danger of overlooking it. In biblical terms, to be 'Lord' is to be God. It is one of the most common Old Testament names or titles of God. God is the Lord. The Lord is God. To say that Jesus is 'our Lord' is to say that Jesus is our God.

If we were for some reason, asked to identify the one most important truth contained in the New Testament, it would have to be this truth: that the real man Jesus is also, at the same time, fully and truly God.

Jesus himself stated: 'If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins' (John 8:24).

Paul affirmed it: 'if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God rasied him from the dead, you will be saved' (Romans 10:9).

John stressed it repeatedly:

'Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ ... No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also' (1John 2:22,23).

'This is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ ...' (1John 3:23).

'If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God' (1John 4:15).

'Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God' (1John 5:1).

This is what the gospel calls us to and what the gospel commands us: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. This is the faith that saves: the faith that confesses 'Jesus Christ is Lord'. It is only to those who believe in him that the promises of salvation are given (John 1:12; 3:16-19).

© Rosemary Bardsley 2019