NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER ONE (Part IV)
Another early church commentary named for Ambrosiaster has this to say: “In order to prove that the hope of faith was fulfilled and completed in Christ, Paul says that Christ’s Gospel was already promised by God beforehand, so that on the basis of that promise Paul could teach that Christ was the perfect author of [eternal] life. ‘Through His prophets.’ In order to show even more clearly that the coming of Christ was a saving event, Paul also pointed to the people through whom God gave His promise so that it might be seen from them just how true and magnificent the promise is. For nobody uses great forerunners to announce some minor thing. Paul added this on top of his argument in order to give greater confidence to believers and show his approval of the law. The Scriptures are holy because they condemn sins and because in them is contained the covenant of the one God and the incarnation of the Son of God for the salvation of mankind, by the evidence of numerous signs.”1 It is clear that this early Catholic scholar saw no other path to God except through Jesus Christ. Not through the church nor the saints, but only by way of Christ Jesus.
Reformer Martin Luther focuses on the importance of having witnesses to the Gospel. He writes: “The most convincing and persuasive proof of the Gospel is the fact that it was witnessed by the Law and the Prophets. The Gospel proclaims to us only that which it was to proclaim according to the divine promise. This proves that God’s counsel of salvation was foreordained in detail before it was carried into effect. So all glory for this doctrine must be ascribed to God and none to our merits and efforts; for before we ever existed, it was already ordained according to Proverbs 8:23; ‘I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth existed.’”2 Luther is more or less saying that mankind can add nothing to, nor insert any new steps or requirements to God’s plan of salvation that was written in heaven before the earth was formed and man was created.
Fellow reformer John Calvin comments: “We may learn from this passage what the gospel is: he [Paul] teaches us, not that it was promulgated by the Prophets but only promised. If then the Prophets promised the gospel, it follows, that it was revealed, when our Lord was at length manifested in the flesh. They are then mistaken who confound the promises with the gospel since the gospel is properly the appointed preaching of Christ as manifested, in whom the promises themselves are exhibited.”3 And Wesleyan theologian Adam Clarke says: “Both in the law and in the prophets God showed His purpose to introduce into the world a more perfect and glorious state of things; which state was to take place by and under the influence of the Messiah, who should bring life and immortality to light by His Gospel.”4 So when Jesus appeared, the full plan of salvation promised was revealed for the first time. Not only was Christ the light of salvation when He came, but He is the same light today and cannot be replaced.
American scholar Albert Barnes notes: “In the writings of the Old Testament. They were called holy because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and were regarded as separated from all other writings, and worthy of all reverence. The apostle here declares that he was not about to advance anything new. His doctrines were in accordance with the acknowledged oracles of God. Though they might appear to be new, yet he regarded the gospel as entirely consistent with all that had been declared in the Jewish dispensation, and not only consistent but as actually promised there.”5 And, English evangelical leader John Stott testifies to the same thought by saying: “We have reason, then, to be thankful that the gospel of God has a double attestation, namely the prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New. Both bear witness to Jesus Christ.”6 And NT scholar Douglas Moo adds: “It is doubtful whether Paul has any particular OT passages in mind here; his purpose is general and principal, to allay possible suspicion about ‘his’ gospel as new and innovative by asserting its organic relationship to the OT.”7 I once heard, and there still may be, some preachers who refused to preach sermons based on OT texts because they believed it was replaced by the NT and therefore irrelevant to the Gospel. They don’t realize that they just called Jesus, Peter, James, John, Paul and others false teachers because that was the Bible from which they preached.
Canadian Bible teacher Harry A. Ironside shares his view of the Gospel: “This gospel is not a new law. It is not a code of morals or ethics. It is not a creed to be accepted. It is not a system of religion to be adhered to. It is not good advice to be followed. It is a divinely given message concerning a divine Person, the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. This glorious Being is true Man, yet very God. He is the Branch that grew out of the root of David, therefore true Man. But He is also the Son of God, the virgin-born, who had no human father, and this His works of power demonstrate. To this blessed fact the Spirit of Holiness bare witness when He raised dead persons to life. The expression, ‘By the resurrection from the dead,’ is literally, ‘By resurrection of dead persons.’ It includes His own resurrection, of course: but it also takes in the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus, of the widow’s son, and of Lazarus. He who could thus rob death of its prey was God and man in one blessed, adorable Person, worthy of all worship and praise, now and for evermore.”8
Princeton Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge makes this observation: “The Gospel which Paul was sent to preach, was the same system of grace and truth, which from the beginning had been predicted and partially unfolded in the writings of the Old Testament. The reason why the apostle here adverts to that fact probably was, that one of the strongest proofs of the divine origin of the gospel is found in the prophecies of the Old Testament. The advent, the character, the work, the kingdom of the Messiah, are there predicted, and it was therefore out of the Scriptures that the apostles reasoned, to convince the people that Jesus is the Christ; and to this connection between the two dispensations they constantly refer, in proof of their doctrines.”9
British Independent Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon makes an interesting point here. He says: “They quoted the old Testament, and delighted to make it a kind of basis for the New Testament: ‘which He [God] had promised before by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures.’ All the gospel is in the Old Testament as well as in the New, for the gospel which Paul was called to preach was promised before by the prophets in the Holy Scriptures.”10 Scottish Bible scholar F. F. Bruce points out: “This statement is amplified in 1:17; 3:21; 4:3, 6–25; 10:5–20; 15:9–12, 21.”11 This is important to consider that in Paul’s mind whatever he says here in the NT is validated over and over again by what God said through the prophets in the OT.
Verses 3-4: The Good News is about God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. As a human, He was born from the family of David, but spiritually He was shown to be God’s powerful Son when He was raised from death.
Just in case some of his readers were not sure about what he meant by the phrase “Good News,” Paul is happy to explain. He begins by reinforcing what his fellow apostle Peter declared, by way of a revelation from God in heaven, that Jesus of Nazareth was, in fact, the Son of the Living God.12 He does so by pointing to what, as he just said, the prophets in the Scriptures had to say: “Today I have become your father, and you are my Son.”13 But more than that, what the voice from heaven announced: “This is my Son, the one I love. I am very pleased with Him.”14
For some, this was not enough. As Jesus stood before the high priest he was angrily confronted: “I command you by the power of the living God to tell us the truth. Tell us, are you the Messiah, the Son of God? Jesus answered, ‘Yes, that’s right.’”15 That authentication by Christ as to His Sonship with God was not lost once the trial was over. While standing by the cross and watching Him suffer, some of those who delighted in His pain and agony said: “So let God save Him now, if God really wants Him. He Himself said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”16
Whether or not they knew it, they were not just making fun of Jesus, they were calling the angel who visited Mary a liar. The angel told her: “The Holy Spirit will come to you, and the power of the Most High God will cover you. The baby will be holy and will be called the Son of God.”17 So it should be no surprise when we read about all the positive reactions to the birth of Jesus Mary’s family. Therefore, we must believe that John the Baptizer, the son of Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, would tell everyone: “He is the Son of God.”18
Sometime after Jesus’ baptism, Nathanael met Jesus and he too was convinced, and said: “Teacher, you are the Son of God.”19 But the one declaration that has affected the message of the Gospel more than any other was made by John the disciple of Jesus: “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him would not be lost but have eternal life.”20 But some of the Jewish religious leaders were still not convinced. So when they continued to deride and mock Him, Jesus turned to them and said: “Why do you accuse me of insulting God for saying, ‘I am God’s Son’? I am the one God chose and sent into the world.”21 It was with this same conviction that John finished writing his Gospel: “These are written so that you can believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.”22
That, then, became the hallmark of the Gospel. When the Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip if he could be baptized, the apostle said to him: “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I do believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”23 So this strong belief in Jesus as God’s Son was already part of the apostolic message, and after his conversion, Paul made it part of his message as well. Luke tells us this about Paul: “Soon he began to go to the synagogues and tell people about Jesus. He told the people, ‘Jesus is the Son of God!’”24 So this brings us full circle back to what Paul is writing to the body of believers in Rome.
1 Ambrosiaster: Commentary on Paul’s Epistles, loc. cit.
2 Martin Luther: op. cit.,loc., cit., p.34
3 John Calvin: op. cit., loc. cit.
4 Adam Clarke: op. cit., loc. cit.
5 Albert Barnes: Notes on the Whole Bible, On Romans, loc. cit.
6 John Stott: op. cit., loc. cit.
7 Douglas Moo: On Romans, The New International Commentary on the N.T., Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1996 loc. cit.
8 H. A. Ironside: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
9 Charles Hodge: op. cit., loc. cit., p. 23
10 Charles Spurgeon, op. cit., loc. cit.
11 F. F. Bruce: On Romans, Vol. 6, p. 78
12 Matthew 16:16
13 Psalm 2:7
14 Matthew 3:17
15 Ibid. 26:63-64
16 Ibid. 27:43
17 Luke 1:35
18 John 1:34
19 Ibid. 1:49
20 Ibid. 3:16
21 Ibid. 10:36
22 Ibid. 20:31
23 Acts of the Apostles 8:37
24 Ibid. 9:20