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Monday, May 20, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 10

A General Survey of the Epistle to the Romans

A Declaration of Paul's Official Relation

His Humanity

Our Lord's humanity, or "flesh", came from the seed of David. "According to the flesh he was made of the seed of David." In the last epistle Paul wrote, he would have us remember "Jesus Christ of the seed of David" (2 Timothy 2:8). When  you open the book of Matthew, the opening sentence refers to "Jesus Christ, the son of David." And when we come to the closing chapter of the New Testament, we hear the voice of the Lord in glory declaring in His final message, "I, Jesus ... I am the root and the offspring of David" (Revelation 22:16). They picture Him as connected with David, the great king of the Old Testament. What is the idea of this emphasis? God would have us never forget that Jesus is the King, and that someday He will come and sit on the throne of his father David. This world needs a king; it needs THE King! Democracy is perhaps the best government that we could have under existing circumstances, but it is not perfect. We need the King today. Men who stand at the helm of nations would be delighted to surrender all the perplexities to the Son of God and let Him settle them.

His Deity

He is "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (1:4). This is the statement of His deity in contrast with His humanity. First came the statement about His humanity, "the seed of David," and now is presented His deity. Notice the contrasting phrases: "According to the flesh" He is "the seed of David"; "According to the spirit of holiness" He is "the Son of God." That expression "spirit of holiness" is certainly not a reference to the Holy Spirit, although the Holy Spirit might be called "the Spirit of Holiness." It is an expression used to designate the being or essence of God, for God is first of all spirit. Jesus taught that God is Spirit and God is holy (John 4:24; 17:11). Therefore, that divine essence of which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are partake is "the Spirit of Holiness." "According to the flesh" He is human, "the seed of David," but "according to the spirit of holiness," or His divine nature, He is 'the Son of God."

There is a striking contrast between the verbs used. As to His humanity, He was made of the seed of David, but as to His deity, He was declared. Humanity is a created thing but deity is uncreated. The human nature, or flesh of Christ, was made at a definite point in human history, but His divine nature was existing from eternity and needed only to be declared that men might see it.

The word "declared" means literally "to mark out by sure signs." He was declared deity by the resurrection. There was need for such a sign. John said, "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own and his own received him not" (John 1:10-11). One day the Jews came to Him and said, "What sign showest thou?" (John 2:18). Here you are, they were saying, doing the works and teaching the teachings that belong to the Messianic office. What sign do you have? He said, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). The sign of the resurrection declared Him to be what He truly was: "the Son of God."

In speaking of the resurrection, the apostle uses a rather puzzling expression: not His resurrection, but "resurrection." The literal translation is this: "by resurrection of the dead," not "from the dead," but Paul does not say that here. Jesus is "declared to be the son of God with power, by resurrection." Paul is not speaking merely of the personal resurrection of Jesus; but he is saying to us that the resurrection of Christ potentially involved and included the resurrection of all other men. Paul said in another place, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22). The same argument arises in the fifth chapter of John, when Jesus comes to the Jews and they seek to kill Him because He called Himself the Son of God. He said God was His Father, thus making himself equal with God. His answer to that accusation: "As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will" (John 5:21). Concerning His life, He further asserted, "I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:18). Christ is the Son of God, and not only is He going to rise from the dead, but potentially everyone shall. Not only is His resurrection accomplished through His power, but also he is going to raise everyone someday. So, He is "declared to be the Son of God with power  by the resurrection of the dead." The resurrection of all mankind will be a confirming sign of His deity.

His Authority

Last, Christ is said to be the channel of grace and apostleship. Paul says, "By whom we have received grace and apostleship" (1:5). Nobody but a risen Christ can dispense the office of the apostleship. "He that descended is the same also that ascended ... and He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers" (Ephesians 4:10-11). Apostleship comes after the resurrection, properly speaking.

The grace that he links up with the apostleship is not the grace that saves men. There is a grace of God that brings salvation. But this grace is God's favor toward Paul in giving him the marvelous privilege of preaching "the unsearchable riches of Christ' (Ephesians 3:8). Preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ is not a hard, disagreeable duty that is placed upon us. It is a grace! "Grace" means God's undeserved, unmerited favor.

This division closes with the purpose, the scope, and the motive of Paul's apostleship (1:5). The purpose is to promote "obedience to the faith." The scope is "among all nations." The motive is "for His name." This statement of motive echoes the original commission of Paul. "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles" (Acts 9:15). Paul goes out "for His name." Speaking of certain missionaries that went out, John said, "For his name's sake they went forth" (3 John 7). That is the missionary motive par excellence. It towers above all others. In the presence of this motive, all other motives fade away and disappear. That is what we ought to work for: "His name's sake."

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 11 - "The Saints of God")

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