A (Speed) Reader’s Guide
1 From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.
2 This gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures,
3 concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with reference to the flesh,
4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
5 Through him we have received grace and our apostleship to bring about the obedience
of faith among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name.
6 You also are among them, called to belong to Jesus Christ.
All Christians are slaves of Jesus Christ, so Paul is partially setting an example in referring to himself as one. But he is also asserting his special authority since he often assures Christians that they are not slaves but sons. The point in saying he is a slave is to point out he is serving the King.
“Christ” it should be remembered is a royal title. It means “anointed” which is how prophets designated men in the office of king (For example, Samuel the prophet anointed David as king). So being a slave of the king, indicates that one might have special knowledge and a special commission. Thus Paul goes on to point out that his service makes him an “apostle”–a representative and ambassador. Further, his calling or commission is in reference to proclaiming “the gospel” or good news “of God.”
This Gospel was prophesied in that body of works we now commonly call “the Old Testament.” In verse 3 and 4 Paul spells out the content of the Good news it can be summarized in three points:
A. God sent his Son
B. To live and die as a human and as the royal king of Israel
C. And to raise him as a New Creation and King by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The title “son of God” is ambiguous because it can refer to possessing deity and it can refer to Israel’s king. The reason for this ambiguity can be best understood this way:
A. Adam was made in the Image of God (Genesis 1.26-30).
B. Being in the Image of God and being the Son of God are very closely related (Genesis 5.1-3).
C. Israel was formed to be a new Adam (Compare Genesis 1.28; 8.17; to 35.11; and the terms of promise in Genesis 17.2, 6).
D. The King of Israel represented and embodied the nation of Israel, and thus was a “son of God” (2 Samuel 7.14).
E. Jesus is thus the true image of God and, as Human, was both transfigured more into God’s image by the work of the Holy Spirit as well as established as the human king of creation at God’s right hand (Hebrews 1.1-5; Romans 8)
Paul thus sets out a two-stage life for Jesus, his death and resurrection, that he will use again and again in his letter. The NET Bible I am using is correct in v. 4 to say that Jesus was “appointed the Son of God.” Versions that merely say “declare” make it sound as if the resurrection merely proved something that was already true about Jesus. But Paul is not writing about the resurrection revealing Christ’s divine Sonship, but of his being established in a new reality and office.
Being a son through resurrection implies that the resurrection is a new birth. Paul will make a great deal of this idea in chapter 8. Jesus taught this view in his conflict with the Saducees (Luke 20.36), and it explains the title “Firstborn of the dead” (Colossians 1.18; Revelation 1.5) Also Peter’s first sermon claims that death, for Jesus, involved birthpangs (Acts 2.24; literal translations). Isaiah reveled this same idea when he prophesied Israel’s return from exile as a resurrection from the dead (Isaiah 26.18-19).
This “good news” about a new King in a new glorified life is Paul’s Gospel. Yet it can be explained with a great deal more information–as the rest of Romans proves.
If Jesus is a new King, then he should have people with whom he shares his great fortune, and whom he sends as his ambassadors. Paul has already said he is a slave and an apostleship. In verse 5 he reiterates this point, making it clear that to be take as God’s servant is to receive “grace.” And by that grace or favor, Paul has received the status of an apostle. The purpose of Paul’s calling is to take part in the Great Commission (Matthew 28.18-22). “The obedience of faith” is a term that acknowledge both that Jesus is Lord and that we are commanded to trust him. More specifically, we are to believe the message of the Gospel which tells us that Jesus is now both Lord and Christ (see Acts 2.36).
The Great Commission has already been obeyed and carried out to some extent, which is why the Roman Christians are in a position to receive God’s letter. Just as Paul is called to be an Ambassador to Jesus, so they are called to belong to him. This hints at the obligation that the Romans should willingly participate in Paul’s work as an ambassador bringing about “the obedience of faith” among other nations or Gentiles.