1-2-5 - The Gospel of God 5-30
MBC - 5/30/2004 - Pastor Doug Thompson
“The Gospel of God”
ROM 1:1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
ROM 1:2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,
ROM 1:3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,
ROM 1:4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,
ROM 1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake,
ROM 1:6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
ROM 1:7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This morning we’re just going to look at vv.2-4, but I want you to consider that this is 3X the number of verses we covered last week! We are moving at warp speed through Romans! But it’s essential that we understand the terms Paul uses in these first 7 verses because Paul is laying the foundation for the rest of this letter. Every word and phrase is packed with significance because they contain in seed form what Paul will spend the rest of Romans unpacking. And the “seed” this passage is presenting is “the gospel of God.” The word for Gospel: euanggelion, occurs 60X in these 16 chapters. And it means “good news.”
The Gospel is Good News! I am reminded of that so often when I hear about the mess that sin makes of people’s lives--
Jesus said He came to give His sheep abundant life, and eternal life. The antidote to selfishness, guilt, meaningless, and hopelessness, and the antidote to death and judgment.
But can we trust the gospel? Is it real, is it true--does it have power to save us and transform us and take us to heaven? The answer is yes, because the gospel is rooted and grounded in the Promise of the gospel in Scripture, and the Person of the gospel in Jesus Christ. I.e. the Gospel is established on the rock of Sola Scriptura, and Solus Christus.
I. The Promise of the Gospel.
Ø v.1,2: . . .the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, [If you’ve ever wondered why your Bible says “Holy Bible,” it comes from this verse.]
Why does Paul say this--why do his readers need to know that the gospel was promised in the OT Scriptures?
They need to know that this gospel is not new. It’s not novel. There is perfect continuity between what God said about the gospel in the OT Scriptures and what Paul is going to explain about the gospel in the NT Scriptures. The Gospel is the story of the Bible! It begins with Paradise lost, and ends with Paradise regained. It is the story of seeking and salving lost man.
Ø A couple of weeks ago someone asked me after church if we had a lost and found, and I thought, “That describes most of the people here! They once were lost but now they’re found.”
And the gospel is the fulfillment of the entire OT. Doesn’t this take us right back to Hebrews, where we saw for 13 chapters, how all of the OT, all of the Jewish religion, all pointed forward to Jesus Christ and Who He would be, and what He would do for His people?
Ø I was talking to someone this last week in the office about their Bible reading, and they were saying how Leviticus was heavy-sledding--a lot of stuff that seems very foreign and strange to us. I said, “So what does Leviticus leave you thinking or feeling?” They said, “I’m so glad that now with Jesus, we don’t have to do all of that stuff!” And I said, “That’s exactly what God wants you to get out of Leviticus!” That is the message for those of us living under the New Covenant: “Jesus has fulfilled all the types and shadows, and sacrifices and rituals--now we rest in His sacrifice for our sins, and His righteousness imputed to us.”
But why would Paul need to remind his readers that the gospel was promised by God in the OT Scriptures? I.e., Why would he have to establish the scriptural authority of the Gospel?
Romans is written primarily to a Gentile audience, but we’re going to see that there was a heavy Jewish influence among the Christians living in Rome (We should know that if Hebrews was written to Jewish-Christian believers living in Rome--right?) So the Gentile Christians, with this Jewish influence, should have already known all about the gospel in the OT Scriptures, right? Not necessarily--
Paul deliberately says “the holy Scriptures” because he wants to establish the authority of the gospel, it comes from the Word of God, not the teachings of the Rabbis, which the Jews of his day studied more than they studied the Scriptures. The rabbinical writings said little or nothing about the gospel of God, but the holy Scrip-tures said a lot about it.
Mishna and Talmud--
Let me take just a minute to explain this: From about 200 B.C., to 135 A.D., the Jewish Rabbis began to write down their commentary on the Law of Moses. This was called the Mishna. But don’t get the idea that this was like the footnotes in your study Bible! The Mishna actually told the Jews how they were to obey the laws of Moses--and where Moses wasn’t specific--the Mishna was! I.e., it added laws and rules and regulations. Later, from about 250 to 500 A.D., Jewish scholars in Jerusalem and in Babylon began writing out a commentary on the Mishna, which they called the Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud is 36 volumes and 36,000 pages!
Ø What happened to the holy Scriptures? For many Jews, they almost got lost in the pile of rabbinic traditions. Do you remember in the Gospels how many times Jesus had to contrast the Word of God with the “traditions of men?” This is what He was talking about, the teachings of the Mishna: how far you could walk on the Sabbath, or what constituted work on the Sabbath; how to wash your hands in certain ways before you ate; using certain utensils for certain foods--none of that was in Scripture--it was in their Mishna. The Mishna was meant to be a hedge around the Law protecting it from being broken--so it took on a sacred significance, to the point that many Rabbis regarded these traditions as greater than the Scriptures, The Scriptures themselves were looked upon as more of a sacred relic--but if you wanted spiritual guidance, you went to the writings of the rabbis!
Paul is laying a foundation here, the authority of the gospel comes from holy Scripture and the authority of holy Scripture is God Himself! It doesn’t spring from the traditions or opinions of men, and it doesn’t even spring from Paul’s own experience of the gospel--and if anyone ever experienced the gospel, it was Paul!
No! The gospel was in the mind of God before time began. And He Himself promised this good news in His own Word, long before it was personified in the coming of Jesus Christ. What are some examples of God promising the gospel in the OT Scriptures?:
Ø GEN 3:15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."
Ø GEN 22:18 "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
Ø GEN 49:10 [Jacob’s blessing on Judah--the tribe that David came from, and Jesus] "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” [Shiloh means, “the One to whom it belongs”]
Ø NUM 21:9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.
Ø PSA 16:10 For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
Ø ISA 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Ø ISA 9:7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
Ø ISA 52:13 Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.
Ø MIC 5:2 "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity."
Ø ZEC 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The Gospel was promised by God beforehand in the holy Scriptures--and what we are going to see is that even more specifically--get this--the doctrine of justification by grace through faith comes from OT Scripture--God’s sov. in election, comes from OT Scripture. (You might sit down as a family this week and look through Romans for the OT citations--the capitalized passages--and see how Paul found the gospel in the OT.)
So what is the point of v.2--mark it: Paul is establishing his authority, and what is it? Sola Scriptura--Scripture alone! Paul is going to argue with the scribes and rabbis in Romans, but he is never going to cite them or appeal to their opinions. His authority is the book from God, Holy Scripture.
II. The Person of the Gospel.
Ø ROM 1:3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,
Ø ROM 1:4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,
So what is the gospel about--and what did all the promises of Scripture point to? Connect the end of v. one: “the gospel of God--with the beginning of v.3--“concerning His Son.” The Gospel is concerned with Jesus Christ. God’s solution to mankind’s spiritual disaster was to send a flesh and blood Person, His own Son--
Ø Jn.3:16 says that “God loved so loved the world”--or “God loved the world in this way: He gave up His Son!”
Never forget that the Gospel is concerned with a Person, and that Person is God’s Son! When you have the opportunity to present the Gospel, Jesus Christ should occupy center stage in your presentation. How bad you were before you were saved is not the point of the gospel. How happy you can be once you get saved is not the point of the gospel. Even the faith that God commands you to have in His Son is not the main point of the gospel--what is?
Ø 1CO 15:1-4 [Paul said] I make known to you, brethren, the gospel . . . Christ died for our sins, He was buried, He was raised on the third day . . .
Now maybe this sounds very basic, like “I think we know this already,” but the simplicity is the point! Remember, in these first few verses, Paul is laying the foundation for the rest of his argument in Romans: The Pharisees made salvation a complicate thing. Salvation was a partnership between man and God: God contributes His mercy and grace, but man must contribute his own efforts and lawkeeping--and of course you couldn’t possibly navigate through all of the laws (traditions of men) without the help of scribes, Pharisees, and rabbis. That’s exactly what Roman Catholicism and every false cult and religion teaches in one form or another: “man + God = salvation.” Paul is saying in Romans, “That’s not the Gospel.” The gospel of God concerns--what?
His Son--and His Son alone--“Solus Christus”
Ø What we are going to see in Romans is that the Gospel has 100% to do with Christ did and 0% to do with what we do. The justification of the sinner before God depends solely upon what Christ accomplished for us, outside of us--2,000 years ago--which means, without us! It has nothing to do with our hearts, our inner experience of Him, or our Christian life.”
The gospel of God concerns His Son. And there are two truths about His Son that Paul brings out here. John Calvin said, “Two things must be found in Christ, in order that we may obtain salvation in Him, even divinity and humanity.” He is man, He is God. As a man, He was born at a point in time, from a specific family tree--as God, He showed His divine credentials, with power, in His resurrection.
A. His perfect humanity--
God the Son has existed for all of eternity, but the eternal Son of God entered time and space and finiteness to be born as baby Jesus:
Ø GAL 4:4 But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,
Ø HEB 2:14 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil;
Jesus’ humanity is crucial to the Gospel because only a man could offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins--the blood of bulls and goats wouldn’t do. Only a man could die for men. And only a man who was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin could sympathize with our weaknesses.
Ø This is news you can share with unbelievers! Tell them that the Savior you are talking about was and is flesh and blood like they are. He understands and sympathizes with the weakness of their flesh. He experienced hunger, and thirst, and exhaustion, and pain, and heat and cold, and every aspect of the curse. And He knew human emotion: anger, joy, grief--tell them about the time He stood sobbing at the graveside of his good friend, Lazarus; tell them about how He rode into Jerusalem sobbing over the hard hearts of the people He came for. Tell them that Jesus is a man!
B. His Messianic credentials--
But more than just a man: God’s Son was “born of a descendant--lit., seed (spermatos)--of David according to the flesh.” Jesus’ natural mother, Mary, and his legal father, Joseph, were both descendants of David.
Why is this important? Paul wants to establish Jesus’ messianic credentials--this could be why he calls Him Christ Jesus in v.1 instead of Jesus Christ--he wants to emphasize His Kingship. And he wants his readers to know that Jesus fulfills the OT prophecies that the Messiah would be the seed of David. The Davidic covenant is in:
Ø 2SA 7:12 [God said to David] "When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.
Ø 2SA 7:13 "He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. [This looks beyond Solomon, doesn’t it?]
Ø PSA 89:34 "My covenant I will not violate, Nor will I alter the utterance of My lips.
Ø PSA 89:35 "Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David.
Ø PSA 89:36 "His descendants shall endure forever, And his throne as the sun before Me.
Ø PSA 89:37 "It shall be established forever like the moon, And the witness in the sky is faithful."
Ø JER 23:5 "Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord, "When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land.
Ø JER 23:6 "In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, 'The Lord our righteousness.' [Jehovah-tsidkenu = God Himself will be our rtnss. Theological note: there are people today who are saying that the imputed rtnss. of Christ is nowhere to be found in Scripture--it’s a myth. I see it right here!]
C. His Divine credentials--
So the Gospel concerns God’s Son--who was born as a real Man, but more than just a Man, the one who is the promised seed of David, the Messiah. But look at the last part of v.3: This is who Jesus is “according to the flesh.” You get the idea that Paul is saying this, “But this isn’t the whole picture of who Jesus is--there is much more!”
Ø ROM 1:4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,
Declared ‘orizo = that word for horizon again--Jesus was marked off, set apart, powerfully separated out from all other men as being the Son of God by the res. from the dead. Paul is declaring right at the beginning of this letter: “If there is any doubt that Jesus is God, His resurrection from the dead and unto glorification, marks Him off as clearly as the horizon divides the earth from the sky! The res. distinguishes Jesus from all other human beings!”
And it does it “with power--dunamis--dynamite, explosive power!” Do you see that? Now there is debate as to whether or not “with power” goes with “declared”, or with “the Son of God,” i.e., is it saying that the res. powerfully declared that Jesus is the Son of God, or is it saying that the res. declared Jesus to be the powerful Son of God? There really isn’t much difference, is there? And both are true. The res. was like a dynamite blast, declaring that Jesus is the omnipotent, death-defeating, King of Kings and Lord of Lords! This declaration is like a trumpet blast throughout the Book of Acts!
You can deny the res. of Christ, you can ignore it, or try to suppress it, but you can’t disprove it, because it is true (you can’t disprove something that is true!) And it powerfully declares: Jesus is Lord!
Ø I’ll never forget the time I was flying to Germany on my way to Romania, and I was sitting next to a very gregarious Muslim business-man from Kuwait. He wasn’t a very devout Muslim as he was sluggin’ down those little airline bottles of booze, one after another. But he saw me reading my Bible, and he began to extol the wonders of Islam, and why it is such a wonderful religion--the best! So as we began to talk about the Bible versus Islam, he invited another Muslim man to join us. Then a Yogi teacher from India was walking down the aisle to go to the bathroom, and he invited him to join us too! I was slightly outnumbered. But I turned to John 14:6, and read it to them: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father but through Me.” Then I said, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proved that He was who He claimed to be, the divine, Son of God, and the only way to God.” Silence. They had nothing to say.
Beloved, don’t shrink back from declaring the truth of the Resurrection: It is explosive proof that that God came to earth in the flesh, defeated sin and death, rose from the dead, ascended to the right hand of the Father, and you can have eternal life if you trust in Him!
So here is the Person of the Gospel: He is called Christ Jesus, He is called God’s Son, the seed of David, the powerful Son of God, and Jesus Christ our Lord! And the Good news of the Gospel rests upon these twin truths that He is fully man (born a descen-dant of David) and fully God (declared to be the Son of God). Both are essential to the Gospel message, deny either one and you deny Christ and forfeit salvation. But--
Ø ROM 10:9 --if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;
The Gospel is about a Person, a man who was also God, and both of those truths are precious to us, aren’t they? Think with me how Jesus’ humanness and His divinity were both portrayed throughout His ministry:
Ø When He was asked to pay His taxes, Jesus complied. He explained to Peter that, as God’s Son and the rightful ruler of the universe, including the Roman Empire, He was rightfully exempt from taxation. “But lest we give them offense, go to the sea, and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a stater. Take that and give it to them for you and Me” (Matt. 17:27). In His humanness He willingly paid taxes, but in His divinity He provided the payment supernaturally.
Ø One evening after a long day of teaching Jesus got into a boat with the disciples and they set out for the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He was so exhausted that He fell asleep, and when a storm arose and threatened to capsize the boat, Jesus was still sleeping. The disciples were frantic, and they woke Him up: “ ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ And being aroused, He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush, be still.’ And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm” (Mark 4:38–39). In His humanness Jesus was dead tired--just the way you and I get--but in His deity, He spoke a word and the wind and the waves obeyed Him.
And as He hung on the cross, Jesus was bleeding and in horrible pain because of His humanness. But at the same time, in His diety He had the authority to grant eternal life to that repentant thief who hung beside Him. (Luke 23:42–43).
Eternal life hangs on the gospel--can it be trusted? Yes, because it is rooted and grounded upon the Promise of God in Scripture and the Person of Christ.
And who is He? V.4: Jesus Christ our Lord: Jesus means Savior--Jehovah saves, Christ means Anointed One, and Lord means sovereign ruler. He is Jesus because He saves His people from their sin. He is Christ because He has been anointed by God as King and Priest. He is Lord because He is God and is the sovereign ruler of the universe.
Tell others about Him! Tell them how He existed with God as God from all of eternity, and then tell them how His Father sent Him to earth as a real man so that He might die on a cross to take the punishment of those who would trust in Him. Tell them that He rose from the dead, that He is alive, at the right hand of the Father in heaven, ready to save all who call on His name--
A Man there is, a real man,
With wounds, still gaping wide,
From which rich streams of blood once ran,
From hands, and feet, and side.
‘Tis no wild fancy of our brains,
No metaphor we speak,
The same dear Man in heaven now reigns,
That suffered for our sake.
This wondrous Man of whom we tell,
Is true, Almighty God.
He bought our souls from death and hell,
The price? His own heart’s blood.
That human heart, He still retains,
Though throned in highest bliss,
And feels each tempted member’s pain,
For our afflictions—His!