Romans 1:1-7 (ESV)
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 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, 5 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, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7 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.
Paul, a slave of the King, Joshua, called to be a general in the service of establishing the culture of heaven on earth, the culture God has always offered to humanity, even through the ancient prophets, which we can read about in the Hebrew Scriptures, concerning the seed of God, who in the flesh of his body is the seed of King David and who was revealed as the seed of God by submitting solely/exclusively to the spirit of God who only begets whole children, children unsubmitted to and unaffected by death, who inevitably produce life, Joshua, our King, the one we follow. This King, our King Joshua, has given us both an assignment and the power to carry out that assignment. What is that assignment? To bring all peoples into an encounter with His love so that each person has the opportunity to decide for themselves whether they wish to live in His love, just like you have encountered and chosen to belong our King Joshua.
To all of you in Rome who are loved by God and have accepted his invitation to believe the identity God speaks over you.
I bless you with all the benefits and resources of who God is, now that you live in relationship to Him as your loving Father (and Mother) and to Joshua as your King, the only King worth following.
This term means first and foremost a slave. Slavery, however worked quite differently in the first century Roman/Greek world. There were economic and social realities to people who wound up in indentured servitude. People more accurately to be called bond-servants. Make no mistake though, owners had the power of life and death over these bond-servants.
Why Did Jesus Call His Leaders Apostles?
One thousand years before the Greeks used the word Apostle the Syro-Phonecians who led ships into battle were called Admirals and that word became the word Apostle.
To the Greeks an Apostle was also an Ambassador; one who was sent by a Ruler or a God. The Apostle was therefore the “personification” or “voice” of that Ruler or God.
To the Romans an Apostle was a General who led troops into battle. And those Apostles were Generals who were actually “adopted” by Caesar as his “sons” to rule over a territory that Rome had conquered.
Pontius Pilate was the General/Apostle over Judea and he was the supreme ruler there in Caesar’s stead. Only he had the power to condemn Jesus.
Now, Jesus could have called his Leaders Prophets, Rabbi’s, Teachers, Shepherds, etc. These were titles that the people understood and were used to BUT He chose to call them Apostles because of what it meant.
He was saying: “You men are my Generals. You will lead my troops into battle and take the Gospel to the whole world.”
Jesus used this word that the Greeks and Romans had used to describe special envoys that were sent out for the purpose of expanding the dominion of an empire. These Greek and Roman Apostles or Generals had proven themselves in battle.
These “sent ones” went out to advance and establish the Greek or Roman culture in the region they were sent to. They were also responsible for teaching and training the new subjects in the laws and culture of the kingdom.
Apostles are “commissioned”. To commission means to authorize, appoint, charge, empower, dispatch and entrust with a mission. Apostles were given the authority and the power to accomplish the task. Apostles were sent to Cities, Regions or to Nations.
As their counterparts in the “natural”, Jesus commissioned Apostles to advance and establish His Kingdom. They were responsible to:
Advance the Kingdom by subduing and conquering “spiritual territories”.
They were to establish the Kingdom by converting people and then instructing and training them to be “citizens” of the Kingdom of God.
So, when He called them “Apostles” those men knew exactly what Jesus was doing… He was “Declaring War” on the kingdom of darkness and through them He was going to Advance and Establish His Kingdom!
Literally good news. What for Paul, was this good news? God’s constant and eternal objective to fill the His creation with powerful, whole people living in intimacy with Him.
Please hear me out on this. What I need you to hear is most likely not currently an option to you as an orthodox, western Christian. As soon as we use a word to describe a concept, the concept becomes colored with every other way we use that word. For instance, forty years ago the word “gay” was used commonly to describe celebration, happiness and joy. Today with repeated usage the concept that this word invokes is radically different. How did this exchange of meaning occur? We took a label, a place holder, and began to use it to represent a different concept. With enough time and enough usage the same exact word has come to represent an entirely different concept. Please note, this exchange of meaning took place over a short period of only 4 decades, within the same language and the same culture.
Is it any wonder that over 2000 years and more, and across the divide of countless translations and cultural shifts that we might read Biblical words with limited and distorted understanding of the author’s intent? Something we should think about.
The word “son” seems clear enough. Our English Bibles speak of Jesus (actually Joshua) as the “son” of God. Let’s consider a few related ideas before we attempt to translate the word “son” into a concept.
* “Son of God” was a concept used to represent the rulers of the Roman Empire – namely, the Caesars. The Greek word that is translated into English as Gospel was the same word used of the effect and authority of the Caesars. Caesar was declared out loud and in public thousands of times every day to be Lord. An honest Scriptural student would be hard pressed to see no association between Paul’s (and other NT authors) usage of the term “son of God” and the public and pervasive narrative about the most powerful human ruler on the planet.
* The oldest and most pervasive theme of Scripture is one of progenitors. In other words “who begat who?”
Our creation account is chock full of “reproducing after their own kind”.
Humanity is made in God’s likeness and in God’s image.
We are bombarded with genealogies throughout the text of the Bible.
Metaphors and word pictures using seeds, trees, vines, gardens, fruit, sons and daughters are the most numerous in all of Scripture.
* The term “son of God” is used in scripture to refer to people other than Jesus. (Gen. 6:2, Matt. 5:9, Luke 3:38, Luke 20:36, John 10:34)
* While I understand the conversation and the theological arguments that went into the development of our orthodox doctrine of the trinity I have two objections to accepting trinitarian theology as the final and complete word in our understanding of the relationship between God the Father (the YHWH of the Hebrew Scriptures) and Jesus (commonly referred to as God the Son) in Church history.
1. How does a spirit being beget a son? Is this not a human metaphor that is the most likely thing we can think of to represent the idea that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3, John 14:5-11) and has come from the Father?
2. Greeks and Romans who are the cultural birthplace and political controllers of the western/European church have their religious roots firmly planted in polytheism (a whole pantheon of gods that serve different purposes and have different realms of authority in the world). Is it possible that Greek thought and Roman religious tendencies have caused our final resting place regarding the theology of the plurality of God to lean too far toward the three and have not given enough weight to the Jewish tradition of oneness or wholeness?
“Descended from David according to the flesh”
I find it fascinating that wherever Scripture begins the story of the good news and speaks of the seed or seeds that have resulted in the Messiah, the Holy one of Israel, the Immanuel, the King of the Jews, the Redeemer of the whole world, we have both a human line of progeny and a divine line of progeny. Please, let’s not overlook these important pieces of data as we discuss together who the Bible writers say Jesus is.
Too much of our conversation focuses on his divinity. An overwhelming theme of Scripture is that a seed of Abraham, a human, a son of man (Daniel 7:13) would come and bring salvation to Israel and redemption to the nations.
Yes, Jesus was and is divine, but much of the gospel narrative speaks of Jesus as though he was the firstborn of many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:29) and that we were designed to have the same relationship with God that Jesus has (John 17:20-26).
We think of holiness as an abstract quality assigned to God and the things of God. I’m betting that if you asked most church goers what “holiness” means you would get a lot of language about perfection, obedience, the absence of sin and something that is exclusively God’s.
The Greek word that is translated “holy” or “holiness” also contains the concept of oneness. Hebrew thinking on this concept of “holiness” is clearly and consistently a discussion of oneness or wholeness.
Whenever you see this concept in scripture ask yourself “Why is God holy?”
“What makes God holy?” The answer you will eventually arrive at if you dig in Scripture will be that God is one (Deut. 6:4). He is whole in every way. There is nothing fragmented about God. He is who He is. He has always been who He is and He will always be who He is. His name, given to Moses at the burning bush is literally, “I will be what I am”.
We would do well to read the English word “holiness” in our bibles as “wholeness”.
“Resurrection from the dead”
The fulcrum moment of human history is often thought to be the death of Jesus. It is not. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the moment human history changed forever. In the interest of avoiding a full scale war against the concept I wish us to restore to a place of prominence in the gospel, I will say what I want to say like this: without the resurrection the crucifixion is powerless. Many men in the centuries before and after Jesus were proclaimed to be the Messiah. Many of them, like Jesus of Nazareth wound up on a Roman cross. The uniqueness of Jesus, the authenticating moment of the catalytic presence of Jesus in human history was his victory over death.
The revelation of Jesus is a story not a series of doctrines.
What did he teach?
Why did he die?
How did he defeat death?
These are all important and all interrelated. Paul however, asserts that it is the futility of death as a player in the story of Jesus that declares that Jesus has come from God. You see, there is no death in the realm of heaven. Nothing about God or around God has anything to do with death. If this rabbi from Nazareth is really sent from God, if he truly represents God, if he and God are one, if you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father, if Jesus is the word of God become flesh than death has no business being where Jesus is.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead declares to all humanity and every spirit being that death as the nuclear weapon of human empire and human authority is impotent.
Paul is writing to Rome. Across the river from where many of the Christians live are the luxurious palaces of the Roman Caesars. Their authority is established on and maintained by the threat and regular execution of death.
Paul believes that Jesus and his brothers and sisters step out from under the tyranny of this greatest of human fears and become monogamously faithful to the heart, will and reality of who God is. God is life!
We have heard this name so many times many of us have forgotten the amazing story that these two words represent.
First, “Jesus” is an English rendering of the Hebrew name “Joshua”. “Joshua” is a Hebrew word that combines the name of God, “Yahweh” with the Hebrew word “yasha”. This Word means to open wide or free something; to deliver or make safe; to help, preserve, rescue; to achieve the victory.
As a compound word “Joshua” means – YHWH brings the victory.
Names functioned quite differently in Israel in the first century than they do today. We call out a name and that name is a label for the individual we are referring to. In Israel, in the first century, the parents would have called Jesus in to dinner by yelling out, “Yahweh brings the victory, dinner time!” Every mention of his name was a prophetic declaration of his identity and what his life was destined to achieve. We use the label “Jesus” and miss the telling and retelling of the story of our Savior’s identity.
Second, “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name. It is the English rendering of the Greek word “christos”. This Greek word is the translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah”. This term, “Messiah” invokes an entire storyline in the history of Israel. To summarize, the Hebrew word “Messiah” invokes four major themes.
1. A Davidic King. After Ezra and Nehemiah and the return of some of the exiles from captivity in Babylon, the disparity between Israel’s current condition and the promises of the prophets was enormous. The unimpressive rebuilt temple, the oppression of foreign rule, the absence of a Davidic descendant to lead the people of Israel, and the lack of purity in the hearts and conduct of the Jewish people caused a growing attention to the prophets who had foreseen a return of the King. Not just any King, a King from the line of David. This King would drive out foreign oppressors and return Israel to her former glory.
2. This King would also bring JUSTICE back to Israel. The oppressed would be vindicated and the captives would be set free. The oppressors would be judged and God’s justice would once again be the culture and operating system in Israel.
3. The office of King in the ancient world was a representative function. It could be said that the King was the nation and that the success or failure of the King was the success or failure of the people. Picture two kings locked in mortal battle. Hand to hand combat. If your King wins you continue to live as you are and will enjoy the spoils and wealth of gaining dominance over another people. If your King loses you descend into the place of oppression or possible slavery, watching the wealth of your land run through your fingers, landing in the pockets of those who are your conquerors.
4. A Davidic King brought with him the blessing and partnership of the God of Israel. The story of Israel contains centuries of interaction between her people and the manifest presence of Yahweh, the great I Am. The pillar of fire, clouds of smoke, the glory that filled Solomon’s temple, and the hand of God that fought on behalf of His people had departed from Israel. The return of the Messiah, the Davidic King would be partnered with the manifest glory of God returning to Israel.
What am I saying? The short phrase “Jesus Christ” is the Gospel. It contains within it the expectation of God setting everything to right. Please, let us not hurry past these two English words, but rather let’s pay attention to the good news, the story of redemption. “Jesus Christ” literally means, “Yahweh brings the victory through the Davidic King who stands in for the entirety of the Jewish people, bringing justice and the manifest presence of God back to Israel”.
We throw this English word around lightly in our age of freedom, democracy, and presidents. For a Jew in the first century, writing in Greek, under the dominion of Rome to use the term “Lord” is to say an awful lot. “Caesar is Lord” was the rallying cry of the Roman Empire. “Jesus is Lord” is to declare autonomy from Rome and allegiance to a different King. This of course, uttered in the wrong place at the wrong time was a death sentence. Today, we as Christians, opt in and opt out of this concept of “Lordship” on a regular basis.
There is a very real effect to Christ following being built upon a death first followed by a subsequent resurrection. Leaving everything to follow Jesus was a much more dramatic change of allegiance and lifestyle than most of us in the western world in the 21st century could imagine.
We define “grace” as the benefit of the manifest presence of the person of Jesus in, around and through the life of the believer. This manifest presence includes his love, his life, his resources, his sacrifice, his authority over sin, death and the grave, and his power.
“Obedience of faith”
Because the story of the Gospel has been taught from an authoritative perspective we often read Paul’s language through this authoritative lens and consequently read Paul incorrectly.
Imagine a church that does not have centralized authority. The good news is spreading like wild fire and those leading must run to keep up with the work of Holy Spirit which has been poured out on ALL flesh. Church leaders are servant leaders, enduring much hardship and exercising supernatural power to undo the works of the enemy. Authority, in the first few centuries, still looks like the posture of our King, who came not to be served but to serve. How would we read the phrase “obedience of faith” in a church culture of divine identity, servant authority, the honor and promotion of others, and the supernatural invitation to journey with your brothers and sisters into wholeness?
It would sound like this: “if you can keep your eyes on Jesus, believe him over every other voice in your life, your life with begin to develop the functional, powerful rhythms of the teachings of Jesus”.
Obedience in the family of God is the fruit of faith, not the high bar we strive to reach to prove our faith.
I could write for hours about the theme of NAMING as it develops throughout scripture. But here I will summarize. NAMING something or someone in Scripture was a creative act giving identity and purpose to the person or thing being named. To posture yourself as a representative of someone’s NAME was to claim the authority and values of the one being NAMED.
To “come in the name of the King” demands a treatment of the carrier of the King’s name to be a reflection of how the King would be treated if he were present. We see this concept mirrored in national interests today as we fly our national flags over key points on the globe. The flag represents the NAME of the country it represents and declares the allegiance, sovereignty, authority, and values of that country. In the same way Biblical authors use the word NAME to reflect this concept.
From the beginning of redemptive history the promises God has made to
Abraham and Sarah have always been pointed at every family, every people group and every nation. You cannot find a Biblical description of what God is doing on the planet through Israel and subsequently through Jesus that does not have as its target the redemption of “the nations”.
Same root word as used in verse 4 that is translated “holiness”.
This word would be more accurately translated “holy” or “whole”
The verse would read, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be WHOLE”.
The concept of peace is the largest concept used in the Old Testament to describe who God is and what He does. The ancient high priestly prayer that God instructed Aaron and his sons to pray over the people of
God. . .
Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
This “peace” the “shalom” of God carried with it the expectation of wholeness in body, soul and spirit. The expectation was for physical health, numerous offspring, success in agriculture (financial prosperity), harmony in relationships, intimacy with God, and success at the things God’s people put their hands toward.
It is my opinion that “peace” or “shalom” is the Old Testament equivalent of the New Testament word “salvation” or in Greek “sozo”.
This is the end of the orphan spirit here at the Dwelling Place.
Today is the day Holy Spirit is removing the lie that AUTHORITY is dangerous, oppressive and constraining.
Today is the day you can hear, maybe for the first time, that you are invited to enter into covenant with God.
You are invited to enter into covenant with the body of Christ.
You are invited to enter into covenant relationship with spiritual authority.
Pray this prayer with me. . .
Father, I am tired of being an orphan.
Papa God I need permanency in your love.
I give you permission to lead me all of the time.
When I disagree with you or I am afraid to follow you into something I don’t understand I declare here and now that I will submit to your authority in my life.
Would you show me where I live in fear and resistance to your authority.
I give you permission to rule where I am in rebellion to your kingship in my life.
Would you show me where you are connecting me to the body of Christ and who you are giving me as traveling companions to exercise authority in my life.
I receive the reality of being your son. . .your daughter.
I will cultivate my relationship to you as my Father.
I will trust your heart for me and I will protect your heart with my choices.