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Sunday, August 02, 2015

What's in a Greeting?

I don't know about you, but when I read the epistles, I tend to skip over the greetings. Oh, sure, I read them, but lightly. I mean, what can you find in a "From Paul to ..."? So you can imagine my surprise when I found something deep and serious in a greeting in one of Paul's epistles.
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 1:1-7)
It is, in fact, a lengthy one, isn't it? "Paul". Yeah, yeah, we got that. "To all those in Rome." Okay, good. Can we move on? If you're ready to move on with that little intro, you missed something really big. Sure, sure, it is significant that Paul (you know, the "Super Apostle" who wrote a majority of the New Testament and such) classifies himself as a servant. A δοῦλος -- doulos -- is a bondslave. "I'm no slave!" I hear Christians complain. Well, perhaps, but Paul thought he was ... and he thought you are as well (Rom 6:16). But that's not the part I'm pointing to.

There is that interesting part about "obedience of faith". What's that? Aren't we free from obedience? Doesn't Pauline Dispensationalism say there's nothing we have to do? Haven't we settled that the Bible is not a book of rules? Apparently not. Apparently Paul thought "the obedience of faith" was critical. But that's not the part I'm pointing to.

Take a look at this. Paul says that Christ Jesus was "declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead." Now, we know that the Resurrection is important. It is a necessary component of the essential Gospel. "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." (1 Cor 15:3-4) Born, lived sinless, died for our sins, and rose again ... absolutely the bare minimum. Further, "if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." (1 Cor 15:14) No Resurrection, no Christianity. Why? Because in rising again He was "the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead." (1 Cor 15:20-21) His Resurrection, then, means we have a valid hope for resurrection. Important. Very important.

But in this greeting at the beginning of Paul's epistle to the saints in Rome, we see another critical importance of the Resurrection. Did you see it? According to Paul, the Resurrection of Christ declares Him to be "the Son of God in power." The Resurrection shows Him to be God, the Son. It is proof of deity. Notice that it didn't make Him the Son of God; it declared Him to be. He existed at the beginning (John 1:1-3) and always was God. But this event, His laying down of His life and taking it up again (John 10:17-18), was unique and uniquely God. It declares Him to be God.

There are those who deny the Resurrection. "Oh," they say, "it wasn't actual. Just spiritual, you know. Because everyone knows that no one actually comes back from the dead." Some go so far as to deny it altogether. "Never happened. Just a myth to make a point." (I can point to a pastor in good standing with his denomination who holds this.) To these I say, "You go with that ... but not as a Christian." Absolutely fundamental to Christianity itself is this particular component, the Resurrection of Christ. It is a key part of the Gospel. It is our reason to hope for our own resurrection, our own life after death. And it declares Jesus to be uniquely God Incarnate.

Something to consider on this Sunday, the Lord's Day, when we gather to specifically remember His Resurrection.

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