Rom1:1-4 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
Introduction to the epistle
We use formulas to greet each other – How do you do, How’s the family, Dear Sir, To whom it may concern, etc. We don’t really mean anything by them. As Paul began his greeting to the Romans, he did not merely throw together a few random, gratuitous spiritual polite remarks to begin a letter. Rom 1:1-4 forms an outline of ch. 1-8, a summary statement about the content of what is to follow. Paul referred to his call to the Gospel, but he quickly turns attention away from himself and onto the Gospel. Vs. 2 and vs. 3-4 form a definition that refers back to the gospel of God.
The Biblical foundation of the Gospel
Vs. 2 is a statement about the epistemological1 basis of the Gospel. The proof of the validity of the Gospel lies in the prophecies of Christ’s coming scattered throughout the scope of time and Scripture. There is no way that the various writers of Scripture with their differing temperaments and callings could have conspired to provide a scenario for the distant future to anticipate the time of the Christ. There is no way for Jesus to have manipulated the circumstances of His birth, life, and death to fulfill the prophecies.
The Gospel of the new birth
Vs.3,4 describe the coming of the Christ of prophecy. According to the Gospel, Jesus had a fleshly birth (vs. 3) and, in His resurrection, a spiritual rebirth (vs. 4). This is reflected in Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus:
John3:3-7 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
For us, the rebirth is in two phases – our spirit when we are saved and then completed in the resurrection of our body.
1Cor 15:35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
1Cor 15:42-44 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
Since Jesus did not need a spiritual rebirth, He only had a rebirth of His physical body. Vs. 4 is usually interpreted to be a reference to a proof of Christ’s deity. This does not reconcile the verse with its context. Vs. 4 is not a reference to His eternal Sonship as God the Son. It is more in line with the sonship as a resurrected being described in Acts 13:
Acts13:22-23 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.
23 Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:
Acts13:29-33 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.
30 But God raised him from the dead:
31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.
32 And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,
33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
Acts 13:22-23 corresponds to Rom 1:3 (born of the seed of David) and Acts 13:29-33 corresponds to Rom 1:4 (rebirth of the body in the resurrection). This day have I begotten thee is not a reference to the eternal Sonship of Jesus, but the resurrection sonship. This is the sense of sonship in Rom 8 –
Rom 8:17-23,29 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
We are joint heirs with Jesus of the glorified body that will be revealed in us which we receive in the adoption, the resurrection of our body. This is how Jesus is the firstborn among the brethren. He does not have the status of being firstborn as in primogeniture2, but He is the first one who was resurrected from among the dead.
Vs. 3,4 form a summary statement of what follows in chapters 1-8.
- Chapter 3 – Our birth physically
- Chapter 4-5 – Our rebirth spiritually
- Chapter 6-7 – Our sanctification until the rebirth physically
- Chapter 8 – Our rebirth physically, the resurrection
1Related to the philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.
2The custom of the oldest son in a family having greater inheritance rights than any of his siblings. Passages such as Col 1:15, Heb 1:6, and Rev 1:5 are better understood as references to the resurrection of Christ, not a right of superior standing. This is a better argument against those that claim that Christ was a created being.