Summary: God's good news comes from God and is about God the Son.
The Gospel of God
In the introduction to this series, we saw three ways which Paul introduces himself and his call to the Roman congregation. He called himself “a slave of Jesus Christ”, a “called apostle,” and “separated unto the Gospel of God. Today we will zero in on what the “Gospel of God” is. We know that Paul emphatically states his total commitment to this gospel. But what exactly is this gospel.
The Greek at the end of verse one immediately presents us with an apparent dilemma. Greek, like the English translation “of God” presents two possibilities. One of these possibilities is that the Gospel of God is the good news about God. It certainly seems to be “good news” if we discover a God who is willing to pardon rather than just judge our sin. The other possibility is that it is good news from God. In this view, God is the author of the plan of salvation. This too, seems plausible.
Perhaps it isn’t a dilemma at all. Perhaps it is both, a Gospel about God from God. The fact is that only God can reveal Himself. This is what Paul will affirm. This revelation comes from both the created order and from Scripture. So if anything is to be known about God, it is known directly or indirectly from God. So any gospel or “good news” must come from God Himself. But the content of the Gospel is about what God has done. God has demonstrated both His wrath and His willingness to pardon in action. So the gospel is about God as well. So instead of an either-or proposition, we should affirm both as true.
In verse 2, Paul reveals how God has revealed the Gospel. The Gospel does not begin with the book of Matthew. Rather it begins in the Old Testament. Many Christians today make the capital mistake of starting in the New Testament and reducing the Old Testament to secondary status at best. But Paul’s first statement about the Gospel was that it was preached in advance of Christ’s coming and recorded in the Old Testament. In reality, the Gospel actually begins immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden in, the Gospel begins with God seeking out Adam and Eve in the Garden. They ran and hid and covered themselves. Sinners cannot look into the face of a holy and righteous God. But God, instead of striking them down dead immediately, instead sought out Adam and Eve. Yes there was curse and severe judgment. But God also came with words of promise. One of the descendants of Eve would have a Son whose heel would be bruised by Satan, but in return this son would deal a death-blow to the head of Satan. Here you have the Gospel in a nutshell. A suffering human would defeat Satan and remove the curse. See it for yourself in Genesis 3:15. This is where the Gospel truly begins.
The rest of the Old Testament, the Holy Scripture to which Paul refers here, is in a sense mere commentary on this passage. It narrows the scope of this promise to one particular Son, Jesus. By the way, Jesus constantly challenged His hearers to search the Scripture. He opened the eyes of the Apostles as well as the Emmaus disciples so that they could see the good news in the Old Testament, and that His own vicarious suffering and resurrection was prophesied in what we call the “Old Testament.” Psalms 22 and 118 as will as Isaiah 53 most prominently bring this out, but there are many other places where Jesus can be found in the Old Testament. There were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. They ate and drank with Jesus. Paul in 1 Corinthians states that more than 500 saw Him after the resurrection. Peter in Acts reminds the Jews that Jesus went around doing good. The miracles and works that He did which no other man did testify about Jesus. Jesus’ own teaching testifies about Himself. The Holy Spirit and the mighty deeds the early church empowered by the Holy Spirit did testify of Jesus. A little later in Romans, Paul will even assert that nature testifies about Him. Nevertheless, what is stated as first among these evidences is the evidence from the Old Testament.
The content of this good news is about God’s Son. Paul in the following verses may be quoting from a common Christian confession. Paul may well be assuring the Roman church which probably had Jewish origins and probably still contained many Jews that the Gospel he preached was the same gospel that the other Apostles like Peter preached.
The first of these assertions about God’s Son is that Jesus was the Son of David according to the flesh. This is a statement of Jesus’ humanity. It is one assertion that Jewish opponents did not challenge. If they could discredit this statement about Jesus, or they certainly would have. The Pharisees believed that the delivering Messiah was to be a descendant of David. The Scriptures clearly demonstrate this necessity. There was some talk of a priestly Messiah, especially in the Qumran community who would suffer for his people. We Christians do not separate the two Messiah’s but see Christ as fulfilling both roles, although the right of priesthood was not established in the Levitical priesthood, but rather in that of Melchizedek who is mentioned in Psalm 110 which talks about a descendant of David: “You are a Priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”