Sermon – April 18, 2021
The authority of the apostle was an ongoing issue in many churches, not least among those very churches that he founded (see 1, 2 Cor or Gal). Why would Rome be different? The Roman churches were not started by Paul, nor did Paul’s preaching and understanding form them as they began to take shape. What right does Paul have to write such a letter to them? Why should they listen? Why should we? Anticipating such questions, Paul gives a lengthy introduction to his letter, where his sets his apostleship from Christ as his authoritative stamp from the Lord himself.
1. Who is the messenger?
Paul notes three basic things about himself: he is a slave, called, and set-apart. Each of these, in their own way, puts him on par with the prophets of old. This makes sense, given that he was indeed to announce the fulfillment of what they had promised. While he may be more than a prophet, for he is sent out to the nations, he is no less than one. Let us listen closely to what he says, for in it lie the very words of God.
2. What is the message?
In a word: gospel. And this gospel is first and foremost about Jesus Christ. He was descended from David according to the flesh; he was no ghost, spirit, or apparition, but a fully human descendant. Yet, he was also appointed the Son of God in power when he was resurrected. The use of appointed doesn’t mean that Jesus became divine at that point (cf. 1:3; 8:3) but that the very flesh that was descended from David was transformed. What was mortal, weak, and prone to need was raised imperishable and immortal. While the divine did not become more divine, the man Jesus Christ was appointed the Son of God in power.
3. What is the purpose of the message?
The purpose of the message was to bring about faithful obedience (or, rather, the obedience that is faith) to all the nations for the sake of Jesus’ name. The gospel concerns Jesus and ends in Jesus’ exultation. But, this hardly makes Jesus and God narcissistic or selfish; rather, it is the perfectly natural outcome of such a wonderful, underserved gift. The more we know of our salvation, and find our beauty, happiness, joy, comfort, peace, and prosperity in it, the more the one who provided that gift is glorified. So, may our joy come, that God might get glory through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord!