An Ancient Promise Fulfilled

An Ancient Promise Fulfilled

Studies In Paul’s Letter to the Romans
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Lesson 03: Romans 1:2-7

We hear bad news every day. There are accidents, disasters, diseases, crime, children shooting children, doctors killing the unborn, storms devastating communities, epidemics, resistant strains of bacteria threatening our health, and violent law breakers taking what is not theirs and terrorizing the lives of others.

To the world, without an understanding of God’s revealed truth, none of it makes any sense. People ask, “What possible good could there be in all this suffering, struggle, and pain?”

According to the common view today, man is alone in a meaningless universe. There is no God and no purpose to anything except what we make of it. Chance alone is believed to govern nature. Personal choice is believed to be all that governs individuals. This would mean that nothing is certain or has any real purpose. Often people make this pure rationalism the basis of all their thinking.

The religion of much of our modern world is Humanism. According to that view, man answers to nothing above himself. God is seen as a helpful fantasy invented by weak minded people. In the Humanist Manifesto II it states its own view of salvation for mankind: “No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.” (Paragraph 4 in the section about “Religion”)

Yet the manifesto begins by recounting the history of this human race that is supposed to save itself. It mentions the Nazis, police states, and racism. How can members of such a race of humans really save themselves? There is not much hope to offer, if we are on our own.

However, man is a created being, therefore he cannot live consistently as if there was no reality beyond the physical. For that reason many turn to mysticism and imagine all sorts of supernatural and superstitious realities. Even considering that, they can not account for why things are the way they are. One mystic believes one thing and another believes the opposite. One vision says God wants one thing, another vision or miracle shows the opposite. Contradictions become so common that the hope of real truth is abandoned.

Because of this abandonment of God, and of any absolute standard of truth and morality, despair and a sense of emptiness has become the norm.

In reality things are even worse than just bad news reports and man’s confusing philosophies. The Bible shows that at its root the fallen human soul is sick with sin and spiritually dead. As a result, the fallen dead soul is unable to rightly admit its own condition. It knows that no matter what is believed or done, no one can stop the bad news. There is no promise of a meaningful way through calamities, disasters, disease, or human crime.

We need a remedy for the cause of the underlying problem, not a tranquilizer for its symptoms. We don’t need pain killers, we need a cure. We don’t need to feel better, we need to get better. We don’t need to believe we are right, we need to be right. There is too much is at stake. Our world needs good news.

According to God’s word there really is good news.

While we may not be able to eliminate the tell-tale symptoms of a sin sick world, we can eliminate how they impact us. The individual soul can be delivered from the turmoil his inescapable sufferings can bring. Meaning and hope can be put back into struggling, empty lives.

The real good news is that there is a plan. There is a purpose to it all. The Greek word for “good news” is euangelion (ευαγγελιον). We translate it “gospel.” As Paul begins his letter to the Romans, the first chapter gives us the main theme. It is a letter all about the “gospel”, a word which appears four times in this first chapter.

In the opening sentence the author shows
what is at the center of his own mission in life.

Romans 1:1, “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God”

The Gospel of Christ deals with the most basic problem in man’s struggle. The major theme developed in the first 5 chapters of Romans is that we are restored to fellowship with God only by what Jesus Christ accomplished. As people restored to fellowship with God we have great hope and assurance.

First he shows us that this good news is not some new innovation.

Romans 1:2, “which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,”

Christianity was not a new idea born in the first century. The same gospel was promised long ago by God’s Prophets in Scripture. Paul doesn’t just mean the Major and Minor prophetic books in the Old Testament. He includes all who spoke from God and whose words have been preserved in Scripture; Moses, David, and all the others.

No idea invented by man is certain enough to give us confidence in this world. This good news comes from God by his specially revealed word.

Paul and those to whom he wrote in Rome evidently knew these ancient promises of the Bible. He speaks of them without explaining what he meant. The Old Testament is the foundation for the New Testament. Without understanding the ancient promises and the terms used long before, we are bound to fail to fully appreciate the words and work of Christ.

Because there is such a poor understanding of the Old Testament in the Christian community today, many don’t understand the unified message of the Bible. They see a different God in the Old Testament than in the New. They see a different way of salvation, and a different answer to the problems of the world. But that cannot be. God does not change. He never needed to improve his perfect plan.

So Paul begins his gospel message by declaring the unity of God’s plan. When he introduces his theme in verse 17 we will saw in our last study that he bases it on an Old Testament text.

The center of the gospel is Jesus Christ.
There is no hope of good news without him.

Romans 1:3-4, “concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,”

From the first promise in Eden to the actual life of Jesus on earth, the coming of Messiah has always been the focus of the gospel.

Since the human race had fallen into sin through Adam, it would take a second Adam to redeem it. Jesus was born to be that second Adam. He took on a real human nature. As a real human he was fit to stand as a representative for his people. Of course there was a very important difference: Jesus did not inherit the sin of the first Adam as the rest of us have. He took on all our human attributes but without the corruption of inherited sin.

He fulfilled the ancient promises as to how that would be accomplished. Jesus was born of the seed of a woman as promised in Genesis 3:15. He was born of a virgin by the Holy Spirit of God as Isaiah predicted. He was born in Bethlehem of the tribe of Judah. And very importantly he was of the family of King David. This was a promise made directly in Isaiah 9:7, “Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Jesus came to reveal his Kingdom in a grander earthly form.

Jesus is also revealed as having a complete divine nature. He is called the Son of God. Many can be called sons of God in a general sense of loving God as their Father. However, it took on a special technical meaning in the prophets. When Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) the next verse tells us that the Jews took up stones to stone Him (John 10:31). Jesus then explained their reaction in verse 36, “do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” The Jews understood what this term meant because they knew the words of the prophets.

Jesus didn’t become the Son of God at his resurrection. He was always God the Son. but his eternal Sonship was declared with power by the resurrection.

Jesus was one person who could draw from two natures: both human and divine. Only a Redeemer that was fully human could stand for man and his infinite sin and guilt. Only an infinitely holy and powerful God could pay that infinite price to redeem a fallen race. We will see as our studies in Romans continues, that when Jesus died he did not just make a way of salvation, or make salvation a possibility. He actually satisfied God’s justice for the moral crimes of his people and did all that was needed to fully restore them to fellowship with God forever.

Jesus was all that God had promised the Messiah would be. His eternal divine nature was united with an unfallen human nature to become the Savior.

This was not a new idea. It was the ancient gospel promised from the beginning. After the resurrection of Jesus he appeared to the two disciples along the road to Emmaus. There he pointed out how the whole of the Scriptures had spoken of him. In Luke 24:25-27 it says, “And He said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”

This good news involves both God’s promise and our duty.

Romans 1:5-6, “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;”

The grace of God and the appointment of Paul as an Apostle had a purpose. God called Paul to bring about the obedience of faith. In particular he ministered the good news specially to the Gentiles. If the Old and New Testaments are separated into two gospels with two separate messages, the unity which was spoken of by Jesus, Paul and the others is lost. The New Testament becomes isolated from all the verses it quotes from the Old Testament Scriptures. A crippled message emerges which is not defined by God’s word as a whole. It becomes a tapestry woven by man’s own imagination. Terms are defined by theologians instead of by the inspired words of the Holy Spirit. In doing this, contemporary Christianity has obscured important truth, the truth that makes the news to be good.

Our faith and obedience are not the cause of God’s grace being extended to us. If it was earned by us, or caused by our decisions or choices, then it would not be grace. Grace is by definition something unearned and undeserved.

If we had to act first to stir God to apply his promises to us, there would be no hope at all. We are fallen sinners and if left to ourselves we would never embrace Christ. All who come humbly to him and who trust in his work alone for their salvation have been brought to him by an overwhelming grace that makes them willing to come.

It was this grace that re-claimed Paul on his trip to Damascus and made him a believer. It was this grace that called a proud Pharisee to be an obedient Apostle and servant of Christ. It is this grace that rescues even Gentiles and changes their fallen hearts so that they will trust what God has said and strive to obey him in their thoughts and lives.

Our obedience to the faith revealed by the Prophets and Apostles is the evidence, not the cause, of the grace of God at work in our lives. Our obedience to and trust in the truth which God has revealed in his word brings glory to him, to his name, not to us.

Those in Rome, or those of us here wherever we maybe, show that we are the called of God when this obedience of faith is seen in us toward Christ.

What good news! While we flounder to know truth and to find a standard of living, God delivers us by his own power and promise. Salvation does not depend upon what we do. It depends upon what Christ, the infinite and almighty God in human flesh has done.

These are not vague generalities.
They are specific promises to all those blessed by God’s grace.

Romans 1:7, “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul reminds these readers in Rome that they are beloved of God and called saints. They are beloved of God because his grace has made them partakers of the ancient promises. He reminds them that this grace which applies the work of Christ to them makes them saints.

These were not perfect believers. Paul’s letter corrects several errors among them. Yet, in Christ, all who are redeemed are declared free from the guilt of their sins. It is in this way that we all who are made to trust in Christ for our salvation are called “saints.”

The writer of the book of Hebrews explained the work of Christ as the sacrifice for sin. In Hebrews 10:10 he writes, “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

In this wonderful good news, the gospel of Christ, sinners are made into saints, slaves to sin are made into slaves of the Creator. This is a marvelous transformation of grace.

There is real good news here for our floundering world. There is a powerful Gospel. It is an ancient hope as old as the human race itself. It is a perfect hope founded upon the promise of God himself, and the work of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer.

When we see all the bad news closing in around us, or even when we become the victims of a world plunged into rebellion against its Creator, God does not give us pain killers, he gives us a cure. He does not just make us feel better, he cures us of the sickness itself. God doesn’t ask us to just convince ourselves we are right, he reveals what is right and true.

There is a plan and purpose to it all even if we don’t see how it all fits together. Our duty is to trust in this good news, and represent it in our words and lives to others. God’s promise is to deliver his people from the pain of sin and from the agony of disaster. God’s promise cannot fail.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)

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About Bob Burridge

I've taught Science, Bible, Math, Computer Programming and served 25 years as Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Pinellas Park, Florida. I'm now Executive Director of the ministry of the Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies

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