Romans 1 – The Gospel of Jesus Christ

Paul packs a lot in to the first lines of Romans.  He begins by defining the Gospel: it is the good news of God, in contrast to any other use of the word “good news” in the Roman culture. Secondly, Paul uses a relative clause to “underline the trustworthiness of the Gospel (Cranfield,  56).”  In the Greco-Roman, anything that was “new” was considered with suspicion.  Therefore by grounding the Gospel of God in the promises of the prophets and the holy scriptures Paul is asserting that this Gospel is not something that is new or recently invented.

Paul stresses the fact that the content of the Gospel is the “Lord Jesus Christ.”  Jesus is described as the Messiah, the descendant of David.  As N. T. Wright reminds us in his Paul: A Fresh Perspective, “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, but rather a title packed with some serious theological assumptions.  While I think that is not too long before the church lost the messianic implication, it is hard for me to imagine that Paul would chose to write “Christ” to a community which is Jewish and would understand the term with its full messianic implications.  The fact that Jesus was descended from David is also a clear Messianic reference.  This is one of only two times that Paul makes reference to Jesus as a son of David.

In contrast to this earthly descent is his spiritual “declaration,” that Jesus is the son of God.  The Greek orgizo is used by Paul only here.  The word means “to come to a definite decision or firm resolve” (Louw & Nida).  This declaration takes place at the resurrection, although that is not to imply that Jesus was a man until he was declared the Son of God.  During Christ’s earthly ministry he was “‘the Son of God in weakness and lowliness’ became by the resurrection the ‘Son of God in power.’” But this too has messianic overtones if read in the light of Psalm 2, a text which was used frequently in the preaching of the apostles.