“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” (vv. 1–3).
If we were to list the biblical texts that are most frequently read and preached on during the Christmas season, we would not likely include today’s passage. After all, it contains no story of the birth of Christ or details about His mother, Mary, or His adoptive father, Joseph. Still, Romans 1:1–7 includes key information about our Lord’s first advent, information that helps us remember His significance in the plan of God. First, the Apostle Paul refers to “the gospel of God . . . concerning his Son” (vv. 1–3). The phrase gospel of God does not mean the “gospel about God,” although the good news indeed tells us something about our Creator, especially regarding His love and mercy for His people. Instead, the phrase is possessive. We could reword the phrase as “God’s gospel.” In other words, God owns the gospel. It is His good news, not a message that was invented by human beings. The story of our Lord’s entrance into this world is not a manmade fable but the truth of God revealed by His Spirit (2 Peter 1:16). Second, God promised this gospel “beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures” (Rom. 1:2). While the work of Christ represented a new act of God in an important sense, we cannot regard His ministry as something entirely new in the sense of something entirely unexpected. Actually, the Lord prepared His people for millennia before the coming of the Messiah via the ministries of the Old Testament prophets. To find the first prediction of the Messiah, we must go all the way back to the beginning of human history, to the curse of God upon the Serpent shortly after Adam and Eve fell from grace. Genesis 3:15 features the intriguing and cryptic promise that the Serpent will bruise the heel of the seed of the woman while the seed of the woman will bruise the head of the Serpent. This is often called the protoevangel—”first gospel”—because it contains the heart of the gospel promise that is unfolded throughout the rest of redemptive history. The first gospel tells us that the war between the Serpent and humanity will not last forever, that the “seed” of the woman and representative of God’s people must destroy sin and Satan. But the seed of the woman will not escape unharmed, for He will suffer in the process of defeating the Enemy. This prophecy is fulfilled in Christ, who had to die in order to defeat the Devil, and who rose again from the dead to prove His triumph and secure our justification (Rom. 1:4; Col. 2:13–15).
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
Today, we expect the second advent of Christ to judge the living and the dead (Acts 1:11; 2 Tim. 4:1). Sometimes we are tempted to be discouraged, to doubt that He is coming back, because it has been almost two thousand years since His ascension. But the people of God had to wait millennia for His first advent, and their faith was vindicated when He was born in Bethlehem. Our faith will be vindicated as well when our Savior comes in glory.