Who Is Jesus Christ?
Romans 1:2-4, “which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendent of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Biblical Christianity is unique because the founder is unique. In other religions, not so much. In Confucianism and Buddhism it’s the teachings and the principles of Confucius and Buddha that represent the essence of those religions, rather than the teachers who taught them. In Islam, the preeminent figure is Muhammed and he is significant because of the supposedly divine revelation which he received from God and wrote down in the Qur’an. The Muslim would point to the Book and the Traditions, rather than to Muhammed himself, as the source of revelation.
In contrast to this is Biblical Christianity. John Stott wrote: “The person and work of Christ are the rock upon which the Christian religion is built. If He is not who He said He was, and if He did not do what He said He had come to do, the foundation is undermined and the whole superstructure will collapse. Take Christ from Christianity, and you disembowel it; there is practically nothing left. Christ is the center of Christianity; all else is circumference.”
So, who is Jesus Christ? Paul answers this question in verse 3, “His Son.” Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. Today, mostly as a result of Christian liberalism, the term “Son of God” is understood in large measure in its generic meaning. Most people take it to mean any human being. Liberal theology holds that we are all sons of God and daughters of God. This is heresy and it is one that the writers of the New Testament would have rejected. When they used the phrase “Son of God” they were not referring to the supposed divine characteristics of human beings or even of some special relationship that we all supposedly have with God. They meant deity itself. They meant that He who was being addressed as the “Son of God” was uniquely divine. In other words, Jesus was and always had been God.
The great confession of Peter is an example of this. In Matthew 16:13 Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They give Him a variety of answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets.
In verse 15 Jesus asks a follow-up question: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answers for the whole group in verse 16, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That answer from Peter set Jesus apart from the human figures who the people were suggesting. It identified Jesus as the divine Messiah. More importantly, Jesus accepted the designation and assured Peter and the others that this insight from Peter was not the result of human observation but it was a special revelation from God the Father. It was God who gave Peter the discernment to understand who Jesus was. Just as He grants every believer the insight and discernment to understand who His Son is and to call on His name.
Jesus explicitly taught this. In John 10:30 He said, “I and the Father are one.” In John 8:58 He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
When Thomas fell and worshiped the Lord Jesus after His resurrection, he confessed Him in John 20:28 as, “My Lord and my God” and Jesus accepted that designation. Then he gently chided Thomas, not for his worship but for his earlier unbelief.
This is what Paul is doing here in Romans 1:2-4 as he begins to unpack the content of the gospel. Already he has called it “the gospel of God,” meaning that God is the real source of salvation. He then adds that this gospel concerns “His Son,” the Son of God. This means that Jesus is the unique Son of God and that the person and work of this divine Jesus are the gospel’s substance. This is where we start. We cannot tolerate the nonsense of a “Christless Christianity.” We begin with the eternal Son of God, and we confess that everything we believe and are as Biblical Christians centers in the person and work of the unique man, Jesus Christ.