Chapter 1 Verse 2-6
Romans 1:2-6 (ESV)
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,
We see immediately that isolating a verse, as I did in the previous post is potentially dangerous. Verse 2 continues Paul’s greeting to the Church in Rome and immediately clarifies for us what the Gospel of God is. It is the promises of God (in the Old Testament). These promises were made through his prophets and were written down in the holy scriptures.
The promises of God in the OT were/are many and varied but the golden thread that runs right through the OT right from the third chapter of Genesis is that of a promised saviour. The Jews, certainly first century Jews of Jesus’ time, were hopeful for a saviour that would be a military/political leader that would overthrow the invading forces of the Romans and give them their promised land back in terms of their own rule and autonomy. Even then some far thinking Jews of that time would likely have seen that only as Messiahs first job, the next phase would be the ruling of the nations, (maybe).
Few had caught Gods real vision for the coming messiah. There were one or two, Mary Jesus mother maybe had an inkling. And Joseph was told that the child Mary carried was of God and so perhaps he too had an idea. Simeon certainly had an idea as it had been revealed to him through by the Holy Spirit:
Luke 2:25-32 (ESV)
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
But on the whole the nation was pretty clueless when it came to Gods plan of salvation. The reasons for this are many and again this is something that will be touched upon in later studies as we walk through Romans.
But we, who have the benefit of looking back and over 2000 years of biblical studies and interpretation can see clearly how Jesus was the fulfilment of so so many OT prophecies concerning the promised messiah. This is what Paul is making reference to here.
One of my favourite NT stories is that of the disciples who, (we don’t know who they were), were walking on the road to Emmaus and the resurrected Jesus meets and walks with them. While they walk they do not realise who is with them, but talk to him about recent events and Jesus in response opens up the whole of the OT scriptures concerning the promised messiah. What a bible study that would have been!
But again I digress. You see in these first few verses of Romans Paul is introducing some fundamental and significant doctrines.
- God had a plan of salvation – We have established that. (Verse 2)
- God has a Son (Verse 3) But His Son is a descendant of David (verse 3) and a descendant of God Himself (verse 4) – we will clarify the Father Son relationship in due course.
- The bodily resurrection of Jesus
- Paul introduces the doctrine of Grace
- The idea of evangelism – and the fulfilment of Gods intended purposes for Israel as a nation (but again more on that as we go on). And
- Finally here we see Paul making reference once again to the concept of been called (to belong to Jesus Christ verse 6)
God plan of salvation, whilst clearly the driving force behind Pauls letter(s) in the context in which it is referred to here also teaches us other lessons.
Firstly – God made promises and he kept them – We then can take encouragement in the fact that when God makes you a promise he will keep it and fulfil it. Oftentimes what the “problem” is with Gods promises is that, like His plan of salvation, His way of fulfilling them to us is far above what our minds can conceive and always so much more wonderful than what we can imagine. Israel’s view on salvation, if indeed they had any was that they were Gods chosen people and pretty much that was it. If you were born into the Jewish culture then, for those that believed in the resurrection (which the sect of the Sadducee didn’t), then you were okay and would be part of the resurrection. They had lost sight of the fact that God wanted no one to perish and that they were to be light to the nations.
But Gods idea was bigger, better, more inclusive, and much more universal than that, and, he had a plan!
The next really big idea that Paul introduces us to here and this is a big one, is Jesus dual nature. He was fully human – a descendant of David and he was fully divine – he was begotten of God This, Paul tells us, was proven by Jesus resurrection from the dead. And even more profoundly Paul also introduces us here to the idea that today we call the trinity. Because here in these two verses 3 and 4 we have God, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Salvation was executed by all three each with a different emphasis but each in one accord. Again we shall be making references to the triune nature of God as we go through various studies.
Also fundamentally here is Paul’s confidence that Jesus was resurrected. A bodily, physical, miraculous, resurrection, but certainly not, absolutely not a spiritualisation of the resurrection. As we will see, even though Paul only saw Jesus after Jesus had ascended and the Holy Spirit had come and fallen on the believers at Pentecost, Paul was convinced beyond doubt that Jesus sat up and walked out of that tomb on Sunday morning after having been tortured, hung and having died on the cross the previous Friday.
The next real, really, really big idea that Paul introduces us to is that of Grace.
Grace, a classic definition is “unmerited favour” you receive something from someone for which you have not paid, indeed cannot pay for, something that you have not earned, indeed cannot earn, something for which even if you were “a good person” you simply do not deserve! Amazing grace. Outrageous grace.
Paul here tells us that we as believers have received this grace. If you are unsure then pray about it, go and seek God about it, but one of the reasons people are so joyous when they “are saved” is because of this profound realisation that they have received this most precious gift imaginable, through grace. It is one of the cornerstones of the Christian faith, the concept of grace, you and I, no one ever in the whole wide world can achieve anything of any lasting worth towards God, except through the gift of grace!
Evangelism – Does that word scare you? Are you afraid of “been called” to some distant third world country? Maybe that is Gods plan for you and indeed if it is He will speak to you about it, but Evangelism is about so much more than that.
Look at your neighbours,
Look at your work colleagues,
Look at your family members,
Look at the stranger in the street,
Look at that person who seems to have it all together and is materially wealthy
Look at the beggar on the street corner
Look at your friends,
Look at anyone who you have contact with even if it is fleeting
The potential to share the good news of Jesus Christ is with us all day every day
We are blessed in the UK we don’t have to go to all the nations, the nations have come to us. There are so many potential openings to share with people of other faiths. Oftentimes as well you will find that people of other faiths are actually more open to talk constructively about your faith as they at least have a concept of ‘a god’. People who have been raised in our secular god banning society who have little Bible literacy are often the most difficult to talk to because often they think they have it all sorted. Until of course, they realise that they don’t.
But evangelism in its widest sense is not about missions and preaching but about sharing your daily faith daily with those around you. through your words deeds and actions preferring others needs in front of your own, loving others as you love yourself.
And again Paul introduces the concept of “been called”. This time however he broadens it out. Been called isn’t just for the elite, the intelligent, the wealthy, the ones in the know (although there is a sense where this is true) but it is for everyone. Realise that you are called and as Paul says you are called to belong to Jesus Christ. Let me assure you there is no higher calling that you could wish for!