Romans Part 1

by Dave on June 18, 2010

in Theology

Romans begins:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.  NIV

This gets good right away.  Paul identifies himself as a servant of Jesus Christ but what does he mean by Jesus Christ? When Paul says Jesus Christ he is saying that he is the “anointed one” of Israel, God’s chosen people.  In Hebrew the word was Messiah, and in Greek it is Christ.  In either case it is not a name for Jesus, nor is it a title that says Jesus is necessarily divine.

To understand where Paul is going with this, we have to back up a bit into the Jewish history and recognize the role of the Messiah.  Per Wikipedia:

In Jewish messianic tradition and eschatology, messiah refers to a leader anointed by God, and in some cases, a future King of Israel, physically descended from the Davidic line, who will rule the people of a united tribes of Israel[2] and herald the Messianic Age[3] of global peace. In Judaism, the Messiah is not considered to be the literal, physical God or Son of God.

As you can see, we modern (or postmodern, more on that later) Christians immediately assume that the Christ, the Messiah, is equivalent with calling Jesus God.  Even the name of our religion, Christianity, implicitly defines the Christ as being our God.  But that was not the case back in the time of Paul before Jesus came on the scene.  Instead, the Messiah, or anointed one was to be a new leader that will come forth and help Israel regain its lost glory.  Most Jews at the time thought that the messiah was going to be a war king that will wage war on its enemies and defeat them.  This king would not be divine in the sense that our modern Christian minds think of Jesus, instead this Christ was going to build the military and reinstate Israel to its rightful place as God’s chosen people.  God’s chosen people meant that they would win in battles and inhabit the land.  It was an earthly title, the Christ.

But why did the Jews need a messiah?  The history of the Jewish people can be cast in one form as a continual cycle of sin, exile, and redemption through a new covenant.  This started back in the time of Adam where Adam ate from the apple, was exiled from the garden.  This cycle continued over and over from Babel, Noah, Abraham, and the Babylonian exile.  The last stage in this theme occurred over the few centuries before Jesus where the Jewish people where exiles in their own land.  Alexander the Great conquered and occupied the land, and then at the time of Jesus it was the Roman empire.  The people were exiles in their own land living under the domination of an external power.  This was humiliating for God’s chosen people.  Granted, they were not exiles in a foreign country under slavery, but they still did not have control over their own destiny.  The messiah would be a great leader, like Moses, or King David, someone who could restore the former glory of Israel and make it a nation to rule over all other nations.  They would have the King.

Next time I will have to go into a bit of background on Paul…

Dave

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