This morning, I don’t intend to preach about disunity, party spirits or denominationalism. I want to go back to the one foundation which has to undergird every Christian’s theology. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” And the scripture which I’d like to use in this task is the introduction to the Book of Romans.
This Epistle of Paul to the Romans was written with a variety of purposes, but its great theme is salvation. This is an explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to which the Lord had called and separated Paul. It begins in the need of the gospel and describes some of the blessings of the gospel. It explains the inner workings of salvation, along with some of the upper workings and the downward workings. Much of the conclusion of the book is practical and vital to, and from, the outworking of the gospel. And it must be said from the beginning, and emphasized and re-emphasized, that the foundation of both the Book of Romans and the Gospel – is the Lord Jesus Christ. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
I don’t want to suggest that there isn’t more that could be said or should be said about Christ, but Paul begins this letter by touching, in passing, some of the highlights of Saviour. And it’s these highlights that I’d like us to consider a little more in depth here this morning than he did. Jesus Christ is God’s Son, Paul’s Sovereign, David’s Seed and the Saint’s Solicitor.
Four times in these seven verses Paul mentions the name and title “Jesus Christ.” From there he goes on to the four other things that I’ve already suggested. But before we get to those, we are obligated to consider “Jesus Christ.”
We could say that “Jesus” is nothing more than the name of the baby born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. God the Father sent His angel to Joseph of Nazareth, and revealed that his financé was going to bring the long-awaited Messiah into the world – before their marriage. Joseph would have the privilege and responsibility to protect both Mary and the Child. He was being given the opportunity to raise the Christ child as if he one of his own sons. And that angel specifically told him to give the baby a name not common in his family – “Jesus.” “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” We could say that “Jesus” is nothing more than the given name of Mary’s first born son. It was the New Testament equivalent of the very honorable Hebrew name of “Joshua.” But “Jesus” is far more significant than just a name, because it has a direct relationship to salvation. “And thou shalt call his name JESUS: FOR he shall save his people from their sins.” Paul wasn’t referring to the baby of Bethlehem when he mentioned “Jesus Christ” on these four occasions. And he wasn’t talking about the man of Nazareth, the cousin of John the Baptist. Paul was talking about the One Who is the focal point of the gospel, the Saviour. The name “Jesus” refers directly to Christ’s great work – salvation.
Furthermore, he called Him “the Christ” just as many times in this scripture. The title “Christ” is the New Testament equivalent to the Old Testament word “Messiah.” They both mean “anointed one.” And that takes us back into old Hebrew customs and purposes. It was a common Old Testament scene: A man being sprinkled with oil, or having oil applied or poured on him – with the specific purpose of setting him apart for some specific purpose. The priests had special oil placed or sprinkled upon them, and kings had oil poured onto their heads.
But there are several scriptures which prophesied one very special Person, anointed to an extra special task. It was to the God-given task of saving God’s chosen people from their sins. Did you know that the word “Messiah” is found in only one passage of the Old Testament in our King James Bibles? It is Daniel 9, and it is impossible to read without realizing that it refers to Christ Jesus. “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” In the New Testament there is the word “Messias” and it is found twice. In John 1 after he had met Jesus, Andrew found his brother, Simon Peter, and said, “We have found the Messias.” And then in John 4, after Jesus told the Samaritan woman that God is a spirit and that he must be worshiped in spirit and in truth, she told Him that she believed that the Messias would come and teach them what that meant. Then Jesus replied, “I that speak unto thee am he.”
When Paul made reference to Jesus Christ here in Romans, he was talking about the anointed Saviour. He was talking about the only Person – the only Being – set apart by God the Father to save His people from their sins. Jesus is the Messiah of the Old Testament and the Christ of the New Testament. He is the divinely appointed and divinely anointed Saviour.
But Paul specifically added that Jesus Christ is also THE SON OF GOD.
The gospel of God restricts its focus on God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord. And through it, Jesus Christ is declared to be the Son of God with power.
I mentioned to you last week that I had the privilege of giving a short gospel-related devotional to our extended family at Judy’s family reunion. There were a wide variety of Christians present, but a host of unbelievers as well. I prefaced my words by saying that I was going to describe how I learned something about the sacrifice of Christ from Gary Richmond’s experiences at the Los Angeles Zoo. Then I went ahead with the rhino and kudu stories that you heard at camp. Later I heard of a surprising criticism from one of the Christian members of the family. He said that I shouldn’t have mentioned Christ in my opening remarks, because that gave several people an excuse not to stay to listen. Having now had a few weeks to consider what that man said, if I was to do it again, I would begin exactly the same way. In essence that is exactly the way that Paul began this letter.
This Epistle to the Romans, despite being loved by tens of thousands of God’s saints during the last two millennia, has been hated by a great many people for a great many reasons. Not the least of the acrimony against it, has come from Paul’s own people – the Jews. They had been the world’s most vocal monotheists for centuries – “there is but one God.” And when Jesus came along saying and proving that He was divine, they hated Him for it. When He said that He was the Son of God, they picked up stones to kill Him for blasphemy. They knew, as we all should know, that to be God’s Son is to be divine – the image of God. When the Jews finally came to the point of bringing Jesus to Pilate for execution, that blasphemy was a part of the charge – the negative charge – in their hearts against him. But we notice that in laying the proper foundation for his letter, Paul didn’t try to hide Jesus’ deity in the slightest way. He jumped right into it, with two feet, declaring it twice in his opening remarks. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” It didn’t trouble Paul at all to immediately declare the true nature of the Son of God, even if it did offend some people.
Of course, this subject of Jesus’ relationship to God the Father is huge and could fill volumes. All that I can do is touch on some of the highlights. But that is just fine, because Paul didn’t even do that. He assumed that the Christians to whom he was writing were well aware of Jesus’ divine Sonship. I should assume the same thing, although when it comes to our children that could be a mistake.
The Jews should have listened to the songs that they sang from their own Psalter. How many thousands of times did the nation sing Psalm two, for example? “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens – (Jehovah – God) shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
At Jesus’ baptism, a couple of unusual things took place, which were witnessed by many. First, the Holy Spirit was somehow manifest before them and came upon Christ. And then there was a mysterious voice, a divine voice. “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” That statement from Heaven should have awakened the melodious memories of many of those Jews. It sounded very much like that Psalm they often sang.
And then when Jesus was later transfigured right in front of Peter, James and John… “Behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” And later as the Apostle Paul was preaching to a group Jews in the city of Antioch, Pisidea, he said: “We declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”
Brethren, the gospels declare it, and Paul reiterated it here and in Antioch – “Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the Creator and the One who sustains all things. He is the Center of the gospel and the Object of our faith. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Jesus is what Christianity is all about, and it is He who makes the sinner a Christian. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
The second thing that he said about Jesus Christ was that He was PAUL’S MASTER.
The Apostle Paul called himself the “servant of Jesus Christ.” He was the “doulos” – “the bond-slave” – of Christ. He considered himself subject to all the whims, desires and commands of Christ. Despite being one of the most important men in human history, Paul was not even close to being the equal to Christ. How could any mere man, no matter how great, be on the same level as the Son of God?
I will undoubtedly have more to say about this relationship later, so I won’t go too deeply into it right now. But Jesus Christ was Paul’s sovereign. As Christ’s slave, Paul was obligated to follow his Lord’s eye, watch every move of his hand, listen to every command and every sigh, and to carry out His every suggestive gesture. Jesus Christ isn’t another Moses or Hammurabi; He wasn’t just another founder of religion. He was not the brother of Satan as the Mormon doctrine declares. He is not someone to whom we will become equals when we inherit our worlds, as he inherited this one. Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Those who have a modicum of sense will throw themselves at the feet of Jesus and profess to being His eternal slave. And if the Lord should chose to make us anything more than slaves, it would be nothing but pure grace.
I often quote Philippians 2:9-11 – “God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Are you aware that this isn’t the only time that Paul used this kind of language? We have it in Romans 14 as well – “Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” And we notice in Romans 14 that this is an Old Testament quotation. It comes from Isaiah 45:22-24 – “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.”
Jesus Christ was, and still is, Paul’s Sovereign.
He is also the SEED OF DAVID.
Despite being the Son of God, “Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.” I am sure that Paul wasn’t being particularly crafty with his words. There was no attempt to deceive or to mislead or to cover any thing up. And yet the words that he used to remind us of Jesus’ incarnation, are perfect – and perfectly applicable.
Jesus Christ was “declared to be the Son of God,” verse 4. He was “declared to be the Son of God WITH POWER.” This is not saying that He is the Son of God who has power, in contrast to sons who don’t have power. Nor is it saying that Jesus Christ is the Son of God because of His power. It is saying that He was declared to be the Son of God IN power.
And the word “declared” is quite interesting. The Greek word is the source for our English word “horizon.” It is speaking of limits and definitions of something. Jesus Christ can be defined as the Son of God. In a sense He is limited to being the Son of God, as silly as that sounds. He has always been the Son of God and He will always be the Son of God.
But He was also “made of the seed of David.” “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Sometime in eternity past, God chose a young Hebrew woman to be the mother of His incarnation. And it was ordained that she would be a descendent of the great King David. David was given a promise to that effect which was recorded in II Samuel 7. In Isaiah and Jeremiah and Amos that promise was repeated and expounded. Then in the Book of Acts those promises were explained as fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. The Book of Matthew begins: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Both Mary and her husband Joseph, were direct descendants of David. Matthew 1:6 – “And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias.” Matthew 1:16 – “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
Throughout Jesus’ ministry there were references to His Davidic lineage. Matthew 9 – “And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.” Matthew 12 – “And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?” Matthew 15 – “And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.”
One of the greatest and most important pair of verses in the great Book of Isaiah are found in chapter 9. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Notice once again that there was a child BORN in Bethlehem, but the Son of God was GIVEN.
This Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, and who is the Sovereign of all Creation, became a child. He came through the seed of David, becoming in every way as much a man, as He was God. And through that mysterious dichotomy, that hypostatic union, He became all that was necessary to save us from the guilt of our sins. Upon His death on the cross, He saved multitudes, some of whom lived in Rome two thousand years ago.
The final thing that Paul says about Jesus Christ here is that He is the SAINT’S SOLICITOR.
“Among whom are ye also the CALLED of Jesus Christ.” The next verse says that the people to whom Paul was writing were “CALLED to become saints.” That means that they were invited to a very special relationship with God through Christ Jesus.
The people to whom this letter was sent were no different than any other on the face of the earth. Other than the outward trappings of language, and clothing, and culture, they were just like us. They were born as sinners into a sin-dying world; they were doomed to the Lake of Fire, as are all men. But Jesus Christ had called, or invited, them to become saints, and they responded. They became saints of God, because Jesus’ call was an effectual one – guaranteed for success.
And those people whom the Lord called responded in the way that they were commanded. They repented of their sins before God. And they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. As helpless and doomed sinners, they put all their hope and trust for deliverance in the divine Person whom Paul was describing here in this letter. There is no other way of salvation – not for them – and not for us. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” as well.