“Here is something marvelous: the Son of God descended from heaven in such a way that, without leaving heaven, he willed to be borne in the virgin’s womb, to go about the earth, and to hang upon the cross; yet he continuously filled the world even as he had done from the beginning!”
John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.xiii.4.
Romans 1:1-4 (NKJV)
1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
Today is Easter – the most significant of the various holy days in the Church calendar. More pivotal than Christmas, more central than Pentecost, more crucial than Epiphany – Easter celebrates the single most world transforming event in all human history. Because of the resurrection, we have the Gospel. Because of the resurrection, we have iphones. Because of the resurrection, we have new life, forgiveness, peace with God. All because of the resurrection.
Paul highlights the world transforming nature of the resurrection in our text today. After assuring us that Christ’s coming was proclaimed beforehand by the prophets and that he came as was foretold a son of David, Paul goes on to declare that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection of the dead. What does he mean by this turn of phrase?
Many have supposed that Paul is here outlining the two natures of Christ – according to his human nature he was of the seed of David but he was also the Son of God, had a divine nature. Now while it is true that Jesus is both God and man, this text does not prove it. After all, our text declares that the resurrection signals some sort of change in Jesus as the Son of God. But Jesus’ divine nature has never changed. He has and ever will be the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. When Paul says that in the resurrection Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power, he is not speaking of Jesus’ deity.
So what is Paul saying? He is telling us about the transformation that has occurred in Jesus’ calling as a result of the resurrection. First, note that Paul tells us that Jesus was born of the seed of David. In other words, Jesus possessed the natural right to rule as King. He had a legitimate claim to David’s throne. But simply having a legitimate claim does not make one the ruler. Bonnie Prince Charlie may have had a rightful claim to the throne of England; but a mere claim means little if one does not actually have the throne. So it is this that Paul addresses with the next phrase. Not only was Jesus born to be King – not only did he have a legitimate claimto the throne – by the resurrection from the dead He was declared to be the Son of God, the King of Israel, with power– that is, the resurrection was Jesus’ coronation as King. God, as Peter says elsewhere, made Jesus to be both Lord and Christ by the resurrection from the dead.
What is the significance of Easter then? On this day we celebrate the coronation of our King. Nearly two thousand years ago he was crowned King of the Universe, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him and this includes, because He conquered death, authority over death itself. He has the keys of death and hell. He opens and no one shuts. So death is conquered; death is destroyed. Christ is risen and those in Him shall arise as well. Death is no more the final word.
Is this not good news? Brethren, Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed!) Let us shout Alleluia! (Alleluia!)
And so reminded that Jesus is Lord, let us kneel and acknowledge our rightful King, asking His forgiveness for our sins against Him.
“So the work of Christ is the source of all human salvation from sin: the salvation of Adam and Eve, of Noah, of Abraham, of Moses, of David, and of all God’s people in every age, past, present, or future. Everyone who has ever been saved has been saved through the new covenant in Christ. Everyone who is saved receives a new heart, a heart of obedience, through the new covenant work of Christ. So though it is a new covenant, it is also the oldest, the temporal expression of the pactum salutis [the covenant of peace between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in eternity].”
John Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 80.
“When the Apostle says of the Jews that they crucified the Lord of Glory, and when the Son of man being on earth affirms that the Son of man was in heaven at the same instant, there is in these two speeches that mutual [sharing] before mentioned. In the one, there is attributed to God or the Lord of Glory death, whereof Divine nature is not capable; in the other ubiquity unto man which human nature admitteth not. Therefore by the Lord of Glory we must needs understand the whole person of Christ, who being Lord of Glory, was indeed crucified, but not in that nature for which he is termed the Lord of Glory. In like manner by the Son of man the whole person of Christ must necessarily be meant, who being man upon earth, filled heaven with his glorious presence, but not according to that nature for which the title of man is given Him.”
Hooker as quoted footnote 3 of Cassian’s Seven Books in NPNF, p. 577.
“Tell me then, before the Lord Jesus Christ was born of His mother Mary, had God a Son or had He not? You cannot deny that He had, for never yet was there either a son without a father, or a father without a son: because as a son is so called with reference to a father, so is a father so named with reference to a son.”
John Cassian (c. 360-485), The Seven Books of John Cassian on the Incarnation of our Lord, Against Nestorius, NPNF, p. 574.