NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER ONE (Part V)
The Roman believers were not the first congregation to whom Paul expressed his belief in the divinity of Jesus. He told the Corinthians: “God is faithful. He is the one who has chosen you to share life with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”1 In fact, Paul says something similar to the believers in Galatia as he does here to the Romans: “When the right time came, God sent His Son, who was born from a woman and lived under the law.”2 Then to the Colossians Paul wrote: “God made us free from the power of darkness. And He brought us into the kingdom of His dear Son.”3 And Paul is encouraged by what he heard about the Thessalonians: “You began waiting for God’s Son to come from heaven—the Son God raised from death. He is Jesus.”4 So we can see that Paul had this sonship of Christ firmly anchored in his soul as a reality.
At the same time, Paul did not want to overlook Jesus’ humanity. It was necessary for the Roman believers to stay focused on the dual nature of the Messiah; that He was both God and man. For their own satisfaction, Paul, a man dedicated to Jewish Scriptures, traced the point he was making back to what the prophets, such as Isaiah, said: “The Lord will still show you this sign: A young woman will become pregnant and will give birth to a son. She will name Him Immanuel… When this special child is born, God will be giving us a son who will be responsible for leading the people. His name will be ‘Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace.’ ”5
Paul also pointed this out to young Timothy: “Christ was shown to us in human form; the Spirit proved that He was right; He was seen by angels. The message about Him was told to the nations; people in the world believed in Him; He was taken up to heaven in glory.”6 But the one factor that Paul always wanted to emphasized was this: “Remember Jesus Christ. He is from the family of David. After Jesus died, He was raised from death. This is the Good News that I tell people.”7 For Paul, this was the surest and most powerful way that God could prove that Jesus of Nazareth was, in fact, His Son, the true Messiah.
On the Day of Pentecost, when Peter stood up to explain what had just happened in the Upper Room, he made sure to include this in his message that day: “Jesus suffered the pain of death, but God made Him free. He raised Him from death. There was no way for death to hold Him… So Jesus is the one God raised from death. We are all witnesses of this. We saw Him. Jesus was lifted up to heaven. Now He is with God, at God’s right side. The Father has given the Holy Spirit to Him, as He promised.”8 So it was not Paul alone who made this point, again and again, it was a big part of the Good News.
No doubt that’s why when Paul and Barnabas were sent out as missionaries, when they reached Antioch in the province of Pisidia and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, in his message to the Jews there Paul said: “God raised Jesus from death. Jesus will never go back to the grave and become dust.”9 And on another missionary trip with Silas and Timothy, when they went up to the Areopagus in Athens and spoke to the council, Paul made sure they understood this about Jesus: “He [God] has decided on a day when He will judge all the people in the world in a way that is fair. To do this He will use a man He chose long ago. And He has proven to everyone that this is the man to do it. He proved it by raising Him from death!”10
In the death and resurrection of Christ, Paul saw a metaphor of his own life. He told the Corinthians: “It is true that Christ was weak when He was killed on the cross, but He lives now by God’s power. It is also true that we share His weakness, but in dealing with you, we will be alive in Him by God’s power.”11 And when writing to the Ephesians, Paul used Christ’s resurrection again as an example for hope: “You will know that God’s power is very great for us who believe. It is the same as the mighty power He used to raise Christ from death and put Him at His right side in the heavenly places.”12
In Paul’s mind, one infallible proof that Jesus was the Son of God, was His resurrection from the dead. The same is true today. It sets Him apart from Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, and others who are considered divine by their followers. This does not mean that His other claims should be disregarded, rather, they are validated by this act of being raised to life again. Paul was adamant about keeping the resurrection of Christ a centerpiece of the Gospel. As he told the Corinthians: “If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.”13 So let the world attack the other tenets of the Gospel, even calling them myths or allegories. But until they disprove this Passover miracle, every word concerning His divinity will stand forever.
Chrysostom, the great early church preacher, makes this observation of Paul’s human and spiritual genealogy of Jesus: “Paul is here hinting that there is also a generation of Christ according to the Spirit. Why then did he begin from the flesh, and not from the higher principle? First, it was because that was where Matthew, Luke, and Mark started from too. Anyone who wants to lead men by hand to heaven must lead them upward from below. This was the way the actual dispensation [of grace] was ordered. First, they saw Christ as a man on earth, and then later they understood that He is God. His disciple, therefore, followed the same order in which Christ Himself had framed His teaching. Thus the generation according to the flesh comes first, not because it was first in actual fact but because he [Paul] was leading his hearers upward from one thing to the other.”14
When it comes to how the spiritual side of Christ’s genealogy was confirmed, early church bishop Theodoret says this: “Before His crucifixion and death, the Lord Jesus Christ did not appear to be God either to the Jews or even to the disciples. For they were offended by human things, as when they saw Him eating and drinking and sleeping and urinating, and not even His miracles made them change their minds. So, for instance, when they saw the miracle which He performed with the sea, they said: ‘Who is this, that even the sea and the winds obey Him?’15 … But after He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and the Holy Spirit came, and after miracles of every kind which they performed by calling on His adorable name, all those who believed recognized that He was God and the only begotten Son of God.”16 As a spokesman for the School of theology in Antioch, Theodoret found himself in the thick of the controversy about Christ’s humanity and divinity and how they were related in the person of Jesus. The emphasis of this early church scholar was on the distinctness and completeness of the human and divine natures of Christ.
Martin Luther gave his assessment of Paul’s wording here: “The meaning of these words, in my opinion, is this: The Content, or Object of the Gospel, or as some put it, the Subject, is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of the seed of David, according to the flesh, and now appointed to be King and Lord of all things with power, and this according to the Holy Spirit who raised Him from the dead.”17 In other words, there is no preaching of the Gospel unless Jesus the risen Christ is the center of the message. Bible scholar Albert Barnes echoes Luther’s words: “The gospel of God concerning his Son. The design of the gospel was to make a communication relative to His Son Jesus Christ. This is the whole of it. There is no good news’ to man respecting salvation except what comes by Jesus Christ.”18
John Calvin has some views on what Paul means by Christ being shown to be God’s Son. He writes: “[It is] as though he [Paul] had said, that the power, by which He was raised from the dead, was something like a decree by which He was proclaimed the Son of God, according to what is said in Psalms, ‘I have this day begotten thee:’19 for this begetting refers to what was made known. Though some indeed find here three separate evidences of the divinity of Christ — ‘power,’ understanding thereby miracles — then the ‘testimony of the Spirit’ — and, lastly, ‘the resurrection from the dead’ — I yet prefer to connect them together, and to reduce these three things to one, in this manner — that Christ was declared the Son of God by openly exercising a real celestial power, that is, the power of the Spirit, when He rose from the dead; but that this power is comprehended, when a conviction of it is imprinted on our hearts by the same Spirit.”20
Adam Clark says: “The word which we render ‘declared’, comes from: to bound, define, determine, or limit, and hence our [English] word horizon, the line that determines the farthest visible part of the earth, in reference to the heavens. In this place, the word signifies such a manifest and complete exhibition of the subject as to render it beyond doubt. The resurrection of Christ from the dead was such a manifest proof of our Lord‘s innocence, the truth of His doctrine, and the fulfillment of all that the prophets had spoken, as to leave no doubt on any considerate and candid mind.”21
And Charles Hodge says this to those who believe that Jesus was such a holy person that His disciples, like most Jews of their day,22 declared Him to be a Son of God: “Declared to be the Son of God. The word “horizō” means 1. To limit, or bound, and, in reference to ideas, to define. 2. To determine. Luke 22:22, Acts 2:23, Hebrews 4:7. 8. To appoint, or constitute. Acts 10:42; 17:31. The apostle would then say that Christ was appointed, or constituted the Son of God, by or after His resurrection, But this is inconsistent with what he elsewhere teaches, viz that Christ was the Son of God before the foundation of the world.23 As shown above, Son of God is not a title of office, but of nature, and therefore Christ cannot be said to have been constituted the Son of God. This interpretation also would involve the latter part of the verse in great difficulties. Hence even those commentators who most strenuously insist on adhering to the signification of words, arc constrained to understand “appointed” here declaratively, or in reference to the knowledge of men. That is when Christ is said to be constituted the Son of God, we are not to understand that He became or was made Son, but was, in the view of men, so determined [by the powers He displayed and His being raised from the dead].”24
1 1 Corinthians 1:9
2 Galatians 4:4
3 Colossians 1:13
4 1 Thessalonians 1:10
5 Isaiah 7:14; 9:6
6 1 Timothy 3:16
7 2 Timothy 2:8
8 Acts of the Apostles 2:24, 32-33, Cf. 3:15; 4:10; 5:30-32
9 Ibid. 13:34
10 Ibid. 17:31
11 2 Corinthians 13:4
12 Ephesians 1:19-20
13 1 Corinthians 15:14
14 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans, loc. cit.
15 Matthew 8:27
16 Theodoret of Cyr: Interpretation of Romans, loc. cit.
17 Martin Luther: op. cit., loc. cit., p. 35
18 Albert Barnes: op. cit., loc. cit.
19 Psalm 2:7
20 John Calvin: op. cit., loc. cit.
21 Adam Clarke: op. cit., loc. cit.,
22 See “Son of God” in Jewish Encyclopedia
23 Colossians 1:15
24 Charles Hodge: op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 26-27