With Dale Ratzlaff
Last week we looked only at the first verse of Romans. This week we continue our study. I am quoting verse one again because the thought of the paragraph continues without a break:
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as 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 born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 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. 1:1-4).
Paul is often called the theologian of the Christian Church. He writes with an amazing insight and clarity. Note how he states that the gospel of Christ was (1) promised beforehand, (2) through the prophets, (3) in the holy Scriptures. Christ appeared to Paul personally on the Damascus road, and He also revealed the gospel directly to Paul. However, Paul does not put forward his experiences as the basis for belief in the gospel message that he will develop in his letter to the Romans. Rather, he directs them to examine the Old Testament record and see how it points them to God’s Son. Paul follows very closely the way Jesus presented the truth of the resurrection to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus on Resurrection Sunday. Christ could have appeared in blazing light, and these disciples would have immediately believed. However, The risen Lord chose to direct them to the Scriptures for the foundation of their belief.
And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures (Lk. 24:25-27).
Next Paul states that Christ was born “a descendant of David according to the flesh”. Here Paul very clearly supports the facts of Christ’s person. He was a real human being “according to the flesh.” This added-on phrase is vital to Christian theology. Years later, one of the heresies that false teachers brought into the church was that Christ only “appeared” to be a man, but was really a phantom.
Paul does not stop describing Christ as a real human being according to the flesh, but immediately adds, “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.” Here Paul gives the other aspect of Christ’s person. He was not only a real human being, but also the divine Son of God. He was fully man and fully God, and Paul’s teachings are clear on this point—clear enough to show the error of another heresy that years later entered the church by other false teachers. They taught that Jesus was not God. Paul shuts out this heresy by his statement that Christ “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection.”
Some have questioned the eternal nature of Christ. The Arian heresy taught that Christ was not eternally God but was exalted to be equal with God at some time in the past. Some have presented the idea that Christ was really not the Son of God until His resurrection. However, Paul is not stating that Christ became the Son of God by the resurrection, rather that Christ was always the Son of God, equal to the Father, but the power of resurrection made it clear to us that Jesus was indeed divine and had the power to lay down his life and take it up again. Paul also states that the miraculous event of the resurrection was according to the Spirit of holiness. Here we have the foundation blocks for the theology of the Trinity. God the Father, Christ the Son, according to the Spirit of Holiness.
Today there are many promoting varying methods of obtaining “spirituality” by some mystical experience. How timely and up to date is Paul’s admonition to build our theology on God’s word. There are many Christians who have experienced some level of divine, even supernatural, guidance and insight, and I don’t discount these. Yet their experience and insight must not be the norm, or the foundation of truth.
In the early church most of the heresies dealt with some erroneous teaching regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ. The devil knows that a precise understanding of the nature of Christ is vital to a correct faith and vibrant Christian life. Today, Satan’s schemes have not changed. You may have two nice appearing young men come to your door. If you took the time to listen to their teachings you would find that they teach a “Christ” that is the brother of Satan. You may also have either two men or two women knock on your door stating that Christ is not “God” but only “a god”. Yes, there are others who still teach that Christ was not co-eternal with the other members of the Trinity. Paul ends this verse with, “according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Therefore as we seek to become more mature Christians let us base our belief and practice on what Scripture teaches about the person and work of the Trinity: God the Father, Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit—not some malevolent spirit that leads us away from the center and source of Life.
Father, I acknowledge that Jesus is Eternal God with you and the Holy Spirit. Guide me in my study of the Scriptures that I might come to know you more. Give me direction in finding my specific role in making the saving gospel real to others.
In Jesus name.
1 Acts 9
2 Gal. 1:12