Declared the Son of God – Romans 1:2-4
All righty, Romans 1:1 was a success. I’ve yet to hear how this helped our interpreters, but hopefully it did a great deal of good for them. In keeping with posting the upcoming Sunday’s sermon, let us move now to Romans 1:2-4 and the topic of the day, “Declared to be the Son of God.” Once again you’ll need SIL Greek font (see sidebar for permanent link) to read the Greek parts. Feel free to critique in the commnts!
ê proepjgge°lato di tòn profjtòn aÇtoÂ n grafa²v g°aiv per± toÂ u³oÂ aÇtoÂ toÂ genomnou k sprmatov Dau±d kat srka toÂ érisqntov u³oÂ qeoÂ n dunmei kat pneÂma giwsÀnjv x nastsewv nekròn HIjsoÂ CristoÂ toÂ kur°ou Ómòn
“Which he promised before through his prophets in holy writings concerning his son, who became flesh from David’s seed, who had been declared Son of God in power according to a spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord”
Having given us an explicit statement of who he was and what he was doing here (unlike Stockdale, who couldn’t), Paul now turns to the what of his mission, the Gospel. Today I would like for us to learn what Paul has to say about the Gospel in verses 2-4.
A Promise From the Lord
Paul first tells us that the Gospel is something that was promised a long time ago (though fortunately not in a galaxy far, far away). This is signified by the word proepjgge°lato. It contains a preposition at the beginning of the word, pro, which gives the meaning “before.” We see this in words in modern usage such as “prologue.” The remaining word is translated “to promise” or “he promised,” in this specific configuration. So we arrive at “he promised before (or beforehand).”
Paul then tells us who the promise was made to. The promise of the Gospel was given to the prophets of Israel, who in turn wrote it down in what would become the Old Testament. Given that the entire Old Testament contains prophetic references to the Gospel, we can say that every biblical writer was in this respect a prophet. The Bible is not just a history book or a book of legend (as some in the world would have us believe); it is a promise which has been handed down to successive generations over three to four thousand years. The promise is still given today to all who do not believe, and is realized and lived out by all who have placed their hope and trust in it.
Paul now is ready to tell us what the promise is about in which we are to hope and trust. The promise is about God’s Son. This son was to become flesh. That means it was to become a human being. Not only that, His Son was to be born from one of David’s descendants. To a first-century Jew, the name David would evoke images of none other than the great King David of history. That meant that God’s Son would be descended from the royal line of Israel, from an anointed ruler. Perhaps this is a reason why messiah translates “anointed one,” because just as their greatest king was an anointed one, so the final ruler of history was to be an anointed one as well.
Declared the Son of God
Having told us who the promise is about, Paul now looks to tell us how we would know the promise would be fulfilled. Paul uses an interesting word to describe this prophecy’s fulfillment. He says the Son of God would be toÂ érisqntov, declared, to be what he is. He would not simply show up and assume his mantle. He would make himself known to Israel and the world. The Greek word used here is an Aorist middle participle, and is translated roughly as “the one who had been declared.” So the Promised One would also be a Declared One. Such a pronouncement brings to mind the story of Jesus’ birth, with an angelic announcement that he had been born. What a declaration!
But Paul says the promise was specific about how the Son of God would be declared. He would be declared in three ways:
1. In Power. The Son of God was to be declared in power. This son would wield incredible power. The Jews considered this power to be largely political, one that would bring freedom and autonomy to their oft-oppressed nation. But the Old Testament, according to Paul, painted a different picture. The Son of God’s power would be a spiritual power, one that would bring to an end all rebellion against God and would bring God’s people into a right relationship with Him. Certainly, as the Son of God, he had vast material power that no ruler could possibly stand against. But as Paul would later explain in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
2. According to the spirit of holiness. An interesting turn of phrase once again. Instead of simply saying “Holy Spirit,” Paul brings us a brand new term. It is never seen anywhere else in Scripture. The Son of God would be known for his personal holiness. But I would like to make a distinction here. As flesh, this person could never be holy on his own. As God, this person could be infinitely holy. As God, this person certainly had access to the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, and as such the Son of God’s spirit would be one of marked holiness and virtue, not of himself, but by way of the Holy Spirit who led him. He would be the standard by which God declared, “Be holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:26).” Since we sinful, fallen humans could never reach this standard, the Son of God, having access to the Holy Spirit, demonstrates that our personal holiness comes not from ourselves but from God.
If we want to translate this as “Holy Spirit,” we need look no further than Jesus’ baptism, where the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove. “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:16-17).”
3. By resurrection from the dead. The final declaration of the Son of God would be the most magnificent of all. He would be raised from death. Immediately this tells us that the Promised One would suffer death, but even death would not be enough to defeat the promise of God. Everything that God had promised would come to pass, even though it meant the Promised One had to die. The fact that God had declared it so means that it was 100% necessary for the Son of God to die.
And God declared this long before we were born, as we saw in Romans 1:1 and Galatians. The Son of God did not die because of anything you and I have done. He died, quite simply, because God said so. It was God’s holy plan for His Son to die and be raised, that His name might be declared and glorified. It is foolish for us to presume that God reacts to what we have done. Rather, it is God who declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-11); history has no choice but to obey His decrees.
Jesus Christ our Lord
Finally, Paul reveals who the Son of God is. We have been breathlessly waiting on the edge of our seats for the identity of such a spectacular individual. Surely he is the greatest of all people!
The Promised One, the Declared One, says Paul, is Jesus who is called the Christ. Even the Roman authorities knew who he was, having written about it by the time of the writing of Romans or soon after. What an offensive notion! Not only to Romans, but to Jews as well! A man who was crucified as an instigator of rebellion, condemned by his own religious authorities as a heretic, is the Son of God? Outlandish! Hogwash! Pass the Guinness! If Jesus is the Messiah, I’m a knock-down drag-out rip-roarin’ drunkard!
“But wait!” Paul says. “Listen carefully to the Gospel. He fulfilled each of these declarations perfectly. He performed miracles, witnesses to which are still alive. He was a person of unimpeachable holiness. None could rightly accuse him of impropriety or sin! Not only that, the Holy Spirit himself came down upon him when he was baptized, and a voice from heaven outright declared Jesus to be the Son of God! There are still witnesses alive to that as well! And if you were to go to his tomb today, you would find it empty. That in and of itself, while unremarkable, is made to fulfill the promise because he is truly risen. He appeared to me. He appeared to James and Peter. And he appeared to 500 others, many of whom are still alive! I tell you, Jesus is the Promised One, the Declared One, the Son of God in whom we have salvation!”
I can imagine, in the eye of my mind, people silencing their snickering to listen a little more closely. Maybe he isn’t really crazy. Maybe he’s telling the truth. “We will think on these things,” they might say. A few might stay after the sermon to ask more questions. Still more might be convinced, and by the power of the Spirit place their trust in Jesus.
Is that true of you? If you belong to God, there is no doubt in my mind that you are convinced. You believe what I have just told you. You believe what Paul has written. You believe the promise which God gave to his prophets all those thousands of years ago and passed down to me. I haven’t done anything to convince you of the truth. You know it is the truth because of that same spirit of holiness that resided in Jesus. That same spirit of holiness, if you belong to God, is calling you to trust Him and His Son today. All you must do is repent of your sins. Confess them, turn away from them, and place your trust in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It really is that simple!
If you belong to God, you will do this. Just ask Him for the faith to believe and trust in Jesus. Will you do that today?