The Messianic Son of God – Romans 1:3

At the beginning of Romans Paul describes the Gospel as concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:3-4). Although part of Paul’s address of the book to Christians in Rome, this is a rich theological description of Jesus which is based on Paul’s reading of the Hebrew Bible.

4q246The phrase “Son of God” is a messianic title, drawn from Psalm 2. Other Second Temple period texts use a similar title for the coming messiah. In Psalm 2, the king of Israel is called the Lord’s anointed one (2:2) and “God’s son” (2:7) as he is enthroned in Zion. This anointed son of God will receive the nations as his inheritance (2:8) and all the kings of the earth (the nations) are to serve the Lord in fear (2:11). 2 Samuel 7:14 may be the source for Psalm 2, since David is promise that his son would rule after him forever.

Paul’s is not far from the language used by the Qumran community to describe a coming king who will rule on behalf of God:

4Q246 He will be called son of God, and they will call him son of the Most High. Like the sparks that you saw, so will their kingdom be; they will rule several year[s] over the earth and crush everything; a people will crush another people, and a province another provi[n]ce. Blank Until the people of God arises and makes everyone rest from the sword. Blank His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom, and all his paths in truth. He will jud[ge] the earth in truth and all will make peace. The sword will cease from the earth, and all the provinces will pay him homage. The great God is his strength, he will wage war for him; he will place the peoples in his hand and cast them all away before him. Martınez and Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (Translations) (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 493-95.

The writer of this document describes a coming king as a “son of God” and a “son of the Most High” (ובר עליון) who will crush the enemies of God’s kingdom and establish an eternal kingdom. The scroll alludes to Psalm 2:9 (“crushing enemies”) and Isaiah 1 (the sword being removed, nations paying homage, but also Ps 2:11). The scroll also resonates with Luke 1:35, Gabriel’s words to Mary announcing she will be overshadowed by “the Most High” so that the child she bears will be called “holy, the son of God.” Not everyone agrees the scroll refers to a messianic figure (see Collins for a survey of the options). The title “son of God” has clear messianic overtones in the New Testament, and as Collins shows, sometimes the phrase was messianic at Qumran (184).

Paul begins Romans by announcing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God. To a Jewish ear, this is a clear statement that Paul believes Jesus is the Messiah and in some ways fulfills the messianic expectations of the Hebrew Bible. But he does not burst into history and destroy Israel’s enemies, crushing them with a rod of iron and ruling over a kingdom of peace. The Gospel is “God’s intervention in Christ” (Moo, Romans, 43), but the action of God in Christ destroys the power of the real enemy, the power of sin and death.

How does this apocalyptic reading of the first line of Romans playout over the rest of the book? How is Jesus “God’s intervention”?


See also:

García Martínez F. “The Eschatological Figure of 4Q246,” in Qumran and Apocalyptic. Studies on the Aramaic Texts from Qumran (STDJ 9; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992) 162–179.

Collins, John J. “The Messiah as the Son of God,” in The Scepter and the Star (Second Edition; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2010) 171–190.

Cross, Frank Moore. “Notes on the Doctrine of the Two Messiahs at Qumran and the Extracanonical Daniel Apocalypse (4Q246),” in D.W. Parry, S.D. Ricks (eds.), Current Research and Technological Developments on the Dead Sea Scrolls (STDJ 20; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996): 1–13.

11 thoughts on “The Messianic Son of God – Romans 1:3

  1. I think Paul definitely believes Jesus is the Messiah and “Son of God”. Romans 1:4, as you said, is very telling, “and through who the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead…” The Jews believed a Messiah would come and destroy their enemies, but that is not exactly how it played out. However, though Jesus did not “conquer” their enemies, he conquered death, so ultimately we can overcome the evils of this world in the end. Looking back at Romans 1:3-4, according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary, “This asserts Christ’s deity as basic to His person and prior to His Incarnation, since His identification with David’s line “came to be”…He was genuinely human too, as His tie with David and His resurrection from the dead show” (Walvoord and Zuck). Jesus is God’s intervention because he made a way for us to come to him freely, breaking the power of sin and granting us salvation through his death. We therefore have victory and authority with the power of his Holy Spirit. Jesus’ resurrection proved that he was the Son of God.

    Works Cited:

    Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck. “The Bible Knowledge Commentary.” The People of the Book. The People of the Book, Inc., 2005. Web.


  2. One reason I believe Jesus is presented in the beginning of Romans as the focal point of the Gospel, because Jew and gentiles are no longer until the Law or the ways of the Torah any more. Jesus became the perfect sacrifice for the atoning of all of our sins (Romans 3:25, NIV). This means Jew no longer had to practice the things of the Law to come into a righteous standing with God. The practices of the Law were still a great example of the right way to live, but the Jews needed to realize too that it was not the way to eternal life (Romans 2:12-16, NIV). Also, Paul concludes the book of Romans by reminding his reader he has made known to them the Gospel which is fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 16:25-27, NIV). Jesus is stated in the first lines of Romans, because He is the one who made it possible to come into a relationship with God without any barriers, for example our sins. Jesus was able to break the barriers between man and God that we may approach God with confidence (Hebrew 4:15-16, NIV).


    • I completely agree with your post. One reason Jesus is presented immediately at the beginning of the letter as the Son of God is because the Jews needed to remember that it is precisely because of Jesus that they are no longer under the law. Romans 6:14 says that we are not under the law but instead under grace. God’s grace is for all people, and the law conversely is dependent on human’s own ability (Romans 8:2-4). However this does not diminish the law completely. Titus 2:11-12 states that the new covenant should make the Jews obey the law, not ignore the law, and as Romans 3:31 says, our faith “upholds the law”.


  3. Since Paul has not visited the Roman church, it would make sense that he would begin the earlier part of his letter in agreement with the church there, or at least make clear of where he stands. Another reason could be, Paul wanted to prove to the Jews he was legitimate and genuinely cared, thus, showing that he has read the Hebrew Bible. In the letter to Corinth Paul states “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews…” (1Cor 9:20) by making this claim Paul shows the Jews he has done his homework. This statement at the beginning in a way gives Paul credibility to the rest of what he has to say. Jesus is God’s intervention because all people have sinned and are condemned (Roman 3:23). Humans had a need to fix this sin problem. Because God is just, humans have to pay for there sins. But at the same time God being full of love and mercy made a way to save his condemned creation. However, someone had to pay the price for the sin of the world. That is where Jesus comes in. God sent his son (God’s intervention) fully man, fully God, to die on a cross and pay for the sins of the world past, present and future.


  4. I believe that Paul presents Jesus at the start of Romans as the focal point of the book to start the book off right so the Romans truly know what He believers and where he is at in his own personal life and to potentially establish credibility within the Roman church with the knowledge that Paul has. I also believe he presents Jesus because then he can validate how Jews and Gentiles are no longer under the old testament laws. As far as God using Jesus as His “intervention” I would say this goes all the way back to Genesis 3 with the fall of Adam and Eve. From that moment God had to articulate a new plan, although he definitely already had it. God knew that the people of the world would need a divine plan for the future and using Jesus to take all sins was God’s way of intervening to make us able to come back to Him and rejoin His family with the hopes of ending up in the New Jerusalem with Him permanently. I also think that sending Jesus down to Earth to intervene was part of God’s divine plan to bring us back to His family and re-adopt us while allowing forgiveness and showing us mercy.


  5. Paul lists his credentials first (v.1) and explaining that the authority behind the letter was given to Him by Jesus Christ, whom he also quickly introduces as the messiah they all waited for (v.2). He talks about the promises and the Holy Scriptures maybe for the purpose as Brenna states to “establish credibility within the Roman Church with the knowledge that Paul has.” Paul studied the Law and was devoted to its obedience for years before his conversion and then still kept up with certain customs to reach certain people. When he makes this statement that Jesus who has come and been resurrected already was the “Son of God” he is saying “Hey, you missed it.”

    What is interesting to me is that the Jews have been an oppressed people group for as long as they have been God’s chosen people. They consistently sin and need God to save them. In the scriptures you can see with Moses and the Law (God’s salvation through the exodus) that God uses Moses who was once a prince of Egypt. A king if you will. Then to Joshua and Judges, (Joshua, who was a warrior and leader) through out the book of Joshua, Israel is being attacked by different nations and needs a savior. And finally with the Prophets and Samuel you see Israel ask for a king. I think truly that the sin that Paul is addressing at the end of Romans 1, idolatry was such a problem for the nation of Israel. They were not happy with a God who they could not see so they built idols. They asked for a king so that they would have a ruler and every king dealt with Idols before God. But at the heart of my argument is that Israel had for herself an idea that a king would come and in the end crush her enemies. It was promised.

    When God sent Christ as the intervention they did not get it. They had expectations that God would send one who was mightier than King David and Jesus came and did not meet their idea of the promises. The gospel is that we can be saved through faith in Jesus. God sending his son as a sacrifice for sins is Paul’s meat of his message. He tries to explain later in (Rom,ch. 1) that Jews are no longer protected under the covenant because God has sent Jesus as the power to destroy death. Getting the Jews and Gentiles to agree to this “good news” was amazing as they both approach Paul’s teaching with history and questions in disbelief and probably unbelief at Paul’s opening lines.
    I believe that Paul’s strategy for the rest of the book of Romans was to explain what Jesus taught and Paul goes into detail about Christ being the intervention. That in the end there is death and only Christ has the power to overcome death. If it is simple enough today that people can read the book of Romans and come to belief in Christ as savior then I wonder if once Paul was present in the Roman church, if he was able to answer questions and then were people able to see Christ clearly as the awaited messiah?


  6. This first statement makes a lot of sense, it lets the Jews in the community know that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah they were expecting from the Law and the prophets. At the same time, it gives the Gentiles a small bit of background as to who Jesus is. Paul is now set up to explain how Jesus has come with power and what His sacrifice means. While not it was not political, Christ’s sacrifice has allowed believers to be a part of a heavenly kingdom. Christ is our intervention, because without His sacrificial life, death, and resurrection, we would all be damned. Pre-Christ, sacrifices only covered people’s sin, but did not forgive it. Now, we are directly reliant on Christ’s sacrifice to save us. He is the turning point.


  7. I find it extremely interesting that all the concepts presented here regarding the term “son of God” are abstract in nature. Of course Jesus was the Messiah and so fulfilled the Jewish idea of a messianic “son of God,” but he also was the very literal, biological, if you will, “son of God.” I don’t think I have ever thought of the term “son of God” referring to his status as one who conquered death, as you say, “in power,” but it is intriguing. It seems that even the more biological component, “son of David” is more to do with the promised eternal ruler more than a matter of bloodline.
    When it comes to leaving Rome be and taking on sin and death instead, I love how people expected fleeting physical freedom from an oppressive government and were gifted instead with eternal freedom from their ultimate enemy. It’s like how you have expected for months that grandma will give you socks for Christmas, because you know grandmas want to keep your feet warm. But when Christmas comes you are distraught to find no socks under the tree until you discover an ultra-soft Snuggie in your favorite color. Now all your warmth needs are covered beyond what you could have imagined.
    Only the Jews wanted something much more violent than socks and got something much better than a Snuggie.


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