Romans Lesson 4 - A Forest of Truth
In Romans 1:4, the Apostle Paul says that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power! But what was that declaration like? Was it given with words or actions? In this message, Stephen takes us back to that remarkable scene where Jesus proved his Deity once and for all.
Our text for today is Romans chapter 1 verse 4. Speaking of Jesus Christ it reads, “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.”
G. Campbell Morgan wrote two generations ago, “Jesus Christ was the God-Man. Not God indwelling man – all Christians are indwelt by God. And not man who has become God. Of such there have been none except in the myths of pagan religions; but God and man, combining in one personality two natures; a perpetual mystery, baffling the possibility of explanation.”
I agree. Having agreed it is impossible to explain it, I will, nevertheless now spend 30 minutes trying to explain it.
I will do it because truth is still truth, whether or not it is fully understood.
In fact, truth that is not believed, does not become any less truth. Just as believing in something that is not true does not make it true.
There are people who believe Elvis Presley is still alive – there are weekly sightings.
There are people who sincerely believe that the earth is flat. There is actually a “Flat Earth Society.” But their belief that the earth is flat does in no way affect the truth of the earth’s shape.
Then there’s that age old question, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise.
Yes, because the laws or truth of creation, do not even need an audience for it to be the truth.
The more difficult question is one I read recently, “If a man says something in the forest and his wife isn’t there to hear him, is he still wrong?”
Let’s see, our text said nothing about trees.
But it did deliver a forest of truth.
Deep Christological truth. Truth about the nature and person of Christ our divine redeemer. Too deep to fully grasp – yet too wonderful to not try.
Let’s begin back in the beginning of the Paul’s opening sentence in verse 1 and I will amplify it’s translation to reveal some of the things we’ve already learned:
“Paul, a devoted slave of Christ Jesus, appointed by God an apostle, set apart and surrendered with total passion for the sake of the gospel who’s source is God, this gospel which is not new, but was promised long before by the prophets in the inspired scripture as they delivered the good news that God’s Son was born a direct descendant and legal heir to the throne of David according to the flesh.” “Davey Unofficial Amplified Version”
These verses reveal several things about the subject of the gospel who is none other than Jesus Christ.
He is the legitimate heir to the throne of David.
Having discovered the importance of Christ’s genealogy, that is, in order to claim the throne as Israel’s Messiah, he had to fulfill the prophecy of descending from the tribe of Judah – a direct descendant of David. Both Mary and His adoptive father Joseph were descendants of David – Mary through Nathan, Solomon’s older brother and Joseph through Solomon – thus both of these lines converged and granted Jesus both by law and royal blood, the right to fulfill the human condition of the Messiah.
But, He is not only the legitimate heir to the throne of David.
He is the second person of the Godhead.
You must notice two different verbs which are used for Jesus Christ. Verse 3 – who was born, of a descendant of David. And verse 4 – who
was declared the Son of God with power.
Those two verbs – born and declared speak of Christ’s two natures.
He was born – that refers to his human nature
He was declared – that refers to his Divine nature
Jesus Christ has always been the Son of God. But there was a point in time when He was born, a child, into the human race.
And the Biblical record of Christ’s life doesn’t hesitate to combine the twin truths of His humanity and His deity in the same passages.
For instance in the gospel of Mark the Lord had been busy all day with ministry. This was the day when he had pronounced judgement on unbelief; this was the same day his family had come to take him away because they thought he had lost his mind. This was the first day he began to speak in parables – this was an exhausting day. And at the end of the day, they went down got into a boat to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus fell fast asleep on a cushion. Jesus, the man was worn out and he slept as someone totally weak from fatigue. Then a storm came up that was so terrific the disciples thought they would capsize and drown. They had to wake Jesus up – he was so tired he was sleeping right through it. Is there anything more human than that? His disciples awakened him and he immediately stood up and rebuked the wind and the waves and they obeyed him and immediately grew calm. Humanity and deity within the same lines of scripture.
What about the time in Matthew 17 when Peter got his tax bill and Jesus told him to go drop a hook in the water, and the first fish that he caught would have a shekel in his mouth – just enough to pay the taxes for both Peter and Jesus. What a system.
Wouldn’t you love to pay your taxes by going fishing? You got your fishing rod and your tackle box and your wife says, “And where might you be going?” You can say, “I’ve going to take care of our taxes.”
Peter we need to pay our taxes – what a human thing to have to do. But go get your fishing pole and you’ll find our tax money in the mouth of the first fish you catch. What a divine way of coming up with the money.
But now, how do we know that Jesus was truly Divine?
Well, for one thing, In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is named “Emmanuel . . . God with us.” In other words, God has come to live with us!
In John chapter 1 verse 1 – “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.”
Jesus himself claimed to be deity.
In John 14 he claimed to have been one with God the Father. In John 8 he claimed to have been in existence from eternity when he told the infuriated leaders of Israel, “Truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Ego eimi – I am – an incredibly significant choice of words – so significant that the leaders attempted to stone him to death for saying them. Why?
Well if you go back to the Book of Exodus and to that moment when Moses met with God, Moses asked God, “Lord, what shall I tell the people your name is.” And God responded, "Tell them my name is I AM". In the Septuagint those Greek words are "Ego eimi". In the Hebrew Bible, the consonants from that same verb form the name Yahweh.
Tell them my name is Yahweh – my name is “I am.”
Now Jesus is saying, “Before Abraham existed, the father of this entire nation, I existed.” If you translated his words back into Hebrew he said nothing less than “My name is Yahweh.” That’s why they tried to stone Him. And rightly so – because either Jesus Christ was truly God, or he was a lying, deceiving, dishonorable, blasphemous Jewish man.
Just before the crucifixion, when that mob of men arrived at the Garden to arrest him, in John chapter 18; the soldiers came accompanied by the chief priests and religious leaders and Judas. Jesus walked toward them and said, “Who are you looking for?” 5. They answered Him, Jesus the Nazarene. He said to them, "I am (ego eimi)." 6. When therefore He said to them, "I am He," they drew back, and fell to the ground.
You need to understand, this is more than simply identifying that He's the one they're looking for. He used the title of Yahweh – the eternally existent God. And they all fell down before Him.
One breath of omnipotence, one word of His sovereignty, one expression of his eternal godhood slammed them flat on the ground!
It's as if, Jesus Christ pulled back the curtain on his deity for one brief second and that crowd all did what everyone will do in the presence of almighty God - fall prostrate before Him.
He was not arrested by them and forced up Golgatha’s hill, He led them there.
And he answers the Old Testament questions fully, “Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name and what is His son’s name?” Proverbs 30:4
Paul gives the full answer in the fourth verse of Romans 1 – this eternally existent One who has been declared the powerful Son of God has a name – latter part of verse 4 – and His name is Jesus Christ our Lord.
By the way, did you notice the reference to all three members of the Trinity in the first few verses in Romans 1.
In verse 1 and 2 is an obvious reference to God the Father. In verse 3 a reference to God the Son and in verse 4 a reference to the Holy Spirit.
It is not 1 person + 1 + 1 = 3 gods; but 1 person x 1 x 1 = 1 God. And I stand in the shadow of Daniel Webster who was once chided by an agnostic because he believed in the Trinity of the Godhead and he answered, “I do not even pretend to fully understand the arithmetic of Heaven.”
Now, in Romans 1:4 we discover four significant names or
designations for the second person of the Godhead.
Significant titles or names that reveal his purpose.
1) The first one is, Son of God – a name that reveals his
eternal co-existence with God the Father
The term Son has nothing to do with Him being created. The term son – relates to his essence, his nature, not that he’s a little boy who grew up in heaven. In fact, the term “begotten” literally refers to his unique status.
So you could translate John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”
2) Jesus – a name that reveals his redemptive purpose
Remember the promise - the angel came to Joseph and told him that Mary would bear a son - and that he, Joseph was to name him Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." The name “Jesus” was the Greek counterpart of the Hebrew name Joshua - they both meant deliverer - savior. Luke made it clear that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost.
It's interesting that in Matthews account of the trial of Christ, Pilate refers to Jesus as "Jesus who is referred to as the Christ". Why the designation - Jesus was a common name - like Steve or Bob or John - lots of little Jewish boys were called Jesus - it was the Old Testament name Yeshua - or Joshua - it would be the hope of the parents that their little boy would grow up and be a deliverer - a strong godly man.
Doesn’t this name suggest that Jesus was a mere mortal who achieved special status from God and, by his obedience climbed the ladder up to becoming deity?
Aryanism taught that in the 3rd century and it has been taught in a myriad of forms since then, up to this generation as Aryanism has been repackaged in Mormonism which basically teaches that Jesus was created by God like everybody else is a procreated child of God, but because of Jesus’ faithfulness to the will of God, he became worthy of deified status.
However, in the Book of Philippians we discover that Jesus Christ was equal to God the Father before his birth – He was co-equal with God the Father, not after a life of faithfulness, but before he ever walked on planet earth.
In Philippians chapter 2 we read that Jesus condescended in at least 4 ways:
First of all, he condescended to no longer (while on earth) live like God.
You might hold your finger in Romans and turn to Philippians chapter 2.
In verse 6 we read, who [Jesus Christ], although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (clung to) – the implication is that He had equality with God the Father – but he didn’t hang on to it – instead He v. 7 emptied Himself taking the form of a bondservant.
God became a servant.
Imagine leaving the splendor of eternity and the service and worship of the angelic hosts and living the life of a human being.
In other words, Jesus Christ had all the rights, honors and privileges of Godhood. According to this verse, He had equal rights with the Father; yet we read He did not grasp them. He literally gave up His favored position with God the Father and the Spirit.
Second, he condescended to no longer act like God.
Can you imagine the all-powerful God in the clothes of an ordinary man, truly able at any moment to leap tall buildings, fly through the air and perform other superhuman feats?! Jesus could have smashed His way through history. If anyone treated Him wrong, He could have turned them into French fries. Then again, He could have manipulated everything to His own liking from the way things worked to the weatherman's report. "I don't think I want rain today... it's a little too warm this afternoon . . . let's delay winter another month . . . "
Think about it...why would he work and sweat over a carpenter’s workbench with a hammer and saw when He could have simply snapped his fingers and wallah – the job is finished. I would have! And just think of what He could have done for the family carpentry business!
But that's the point! Jesus condescended in that He gave up the right to act like the omnipotent God that He was. He was willing to grow to manhood in a miserable little town named Nazareth. He was willing to be an unknown carpenter without any halo around his head or Superman suit underneath His robe. He was so ordinary that, when He announced who He was, even His half brothers and sisters did not believe Him ... not a chance ... Him ... God?
Once again, the Bible explains:
"He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond- servant." Philippians2:7
Don't miss this! In the first century a bondservant never really owned anything. He was totally dependent on those whom he served.
Okay then, was Jesus really a bond-servant? Just how did He measure up to that title?
Consider these facts:
- a place to be born
- a place to sleep - did not own a house
- a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee
- an animal to ride into Jerusalem upon
- a room in which to eat with His disciples
- a tomb in which He was buried
He borrowed everything!!
He was the only person to walk the face of the earth with the right to have anything He wanted. Yet He never took advantage nor claim special privilege. He gave up the right to act like God.
Third, he condescended to no longer look like God.
The last part of verse 7 reads: "...being made in the likeness
of man. "
Before His incarnation, Christ was clothed with the glory of divine splendor, invisible to the human eye as was the Father and the Holy Spirit. Now He has taken on flesh. The result? He looks like any human male of Jewish descent!
Now, if you were God and could actually select the way you would look, just imagine! You could actually pick the size of your biceps, your nose, your hair color... wouldn't you be a heartthrob? All of you ladies would choose to look like some super models or Miss America. All of you men would choose to look just like your pastor. . .of worship! (with a few slight modifications!)
So what did Jesus choose to look like? Remember, being pre-existent creator God, Jesus could choose the exact way He wanted to look as a man.
What did He choose to look like? Well, the only detailed, physical description of Jesus Christ is found in Isaiah. He wrote about the coming Messiah and actually described Him: Isaiah 53:1-3
For He [speaking of the Messiah] grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has not stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him; 3b He was despised and we did not esteem Him. (we did not think he was anything at all significant).
He didn’t turn any heads. He wasn’t considered distinguished – God chose to look, not just like any ordinary male of Jewish descent, but He chose to be physically unattractive!
Fourth, He condescended in not being treated like God.
"And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even
death on a cross." Philippians 2:8
What Paul seems to highlight here is the cruelty of the cross. He says, "He became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
Why? So that He could fulfill, as it were, the meaning of His name – Jesus means deliverer, rescuer, savior.
His arms were stretched out on that cross as if to symbolize to all of humanity the invitation of the gospel – whosoever will may come!
Now, back in Romans chapter 1 there is another name for this Son of God.
3) It is the name Christ – a name that reflects his Messianic anointing – in fact, Christ means anointing.
We know from history that there were numerous false messiah’s who had tried to claim the throne of David and Israel’s loyalty.
One was a man named Theudas, who garnered a following through his teaching and preaching. He once told the Jews that he had the power to part the waters of the Jordan River. And he went out to the Jordan River with all of his followers and, after giving a sermon, he took his rod and hit the water commanding it to part. Nothing happened. He hit it again and nothing happened. After a few more times, the people left and he, in disgrace, went into exile and disappeared.
Simon the magician, the man mentioned in the book of Acts who tried to buy the power of the Holy Spirit from Paul, is recorded in historical tradition that he himself later in life, believed he did have supernatural power and was himself the Messiah. He went to the pinnacle of the same temple where Jesus had been taken during his temptation, and Simon jumped from it, quoting the verse from Psalm 91, “And He will give His angels charge over thee, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” That was the last verse he ever quoted.
Have the Jewish people stopped looking . . . stopped hoping? No!
Just a few years ago, a rabbi named Schneerson was being hailed by many as the true Messiah. He was said to have healed the sick, and many of his predictions about the future supposedly came true. His followers said the Moses was the first redeemer and Rabbi Schneerson is the last. Even after this 91 year old Rabbi suffered a stroke and became paralyzed on one side - unable to speak, The Friends of Israel ministry estimated that nearly 300,000 Jews believed this Rabbi was the Messiah. He has since died, and his tomb is visited regularly by faithful Jews who believe he will rise again from the dead.
Is it any wonder then, that after Paul declares Jesus Christ to be a human being of flesh and blood, born a rightful heir to the Messianic throne – that he delivers the next part of the gospel which sets Jesus Christ apart from any other claimant to the throne.
Did you see the uniqueness in verse 4 – read it again. Who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.
Nobody visits Jesus’ tomb and wishes it was empty. No one throws flowers on his tombstone and hopes that one day the decayed dust of Christ’s body would somehow resurrect.
In fact, all that the unbelievers’ in the first century and onward had to do was produce the body of Jesus, and Christianity would have crumbled into dust and ashes.
But they never produced the body.
So in Romans 1:4 we read that the gospel of God came on the heels of this declaration. The declaration that the Son of God is all powerful as demonstrated by His resurrection from the dead.
The Gospel truth then is good news. It has to do with a living Messiah. A living reigning Son of God who conquered death and hell.
4th - The last name found in Paul’s introduction of the Gospel truth is “Lord”
This is the name that reveals his exalted Supremacy.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers in I Corinthians 12:3, “No man can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”
If you’re here and you’ve never accepted Jesus as the Christ – that is, as your redeemer Messiah, we don’t expect you to be able to acknowledge Him as sovereign Lord.
All three names are used throughout the Epistles - the LORD JESUS CHRIST.
When combined, that name delivers the gospel truth that Jesus was both human and divine. He was both fully man and fully God. He is both Messiah and supreme Lord.
Is it important that He be both God and man?!
If Jesus Christ had not been born a human male, then He lied. He could not be a son of David and occupy the throne of Israel.
If He was not a man, He cannot identify with us nor
can He truly be touched with the feelings of our
If he was not a man, then He could not have experienced death and separation from God the Father.
But if He was not God, He would also have lied for He claimed to be Yahweh in the flesh.
Furthermore, if He was not God, He could not have
paid the penalty for the sin of the whole world and
satisfied the eternal penalty of sin and guilt.
If He were not God, He could not have overcome Satan and the world, but would have been at the mercy of sin and Satan as is every man.
If He was not God He could not intercede on our
behalf for how could he ever hear the prayers of
millions of people at the same time from all over
the world and intercede on their behalf unless He
were omniscient, omnipresent God.
And finally, if He were not God then He deceived us in promising to create Heaven for us and take us there one day to live forever.
But the good news of the gospel truth as delivered by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 1 verse 4 is that Jesus Christ was a man, the son of David – and at the same time He was God, exalted in resurrection power and reigning as sovereign Lord.
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