Paul begins this letter by immediately identifying himself as Christ’s “bond-servant” (V.1), owned by the Master and thus not free-lancing with the message about to be revealed. This means he takes his orders from Christ Jesus, the promised Messiah, the one of whom the Law, the Prophets and the Writings spoke. He is “called as an apostle” (V.1b) which means that God had a special specific plan for Paul—to be an apostle—to be a messenger bearing the king’s name heralding the king’s message through the king’s decree.
Paul is “set-apart for the Gospel of God” which is the message of God’s story, God’s good news, not about Paul’s testimony, nor his manner of life but of the Creator’s interaction with His creation. That is, the Gospel of God is God-centered ultimately and makes (rightly so) much of God above and beyond the creature. I say this because too often what passes for Christian ministry and gospel preaching is anything but those things because God’s word is ultimately neglected and self-serving egos are ultimately stroked.
Paul continues and says that this gospel of God is that, “which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures.” (V.2). Here, Paul is affirming that this gospel does not only originate with God but was previously promised by His spokesmen in the written word. In essence, this Gospel of God is fulfilled Scripture. What God said He would do, He did in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Moreover, this means that this message is not new but old and has now come to fruition in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
This Gospel of God was, “concerning His Son who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh” (V.3). That is, this Davidic king from the tribe of Judah, the line from which Messiah must come, is the gospel—He is God! Speaking of Jesus, “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”. (V.4) Here, the vanquishing of death is proof of Christ’s claims to Messiahship, Sonship, and Lordship!
As in Acts, so now in Romans the emphasis is put on what God has done through His Son who is the fulfillment of what Moses and the prophets previously had written. This is center stage, this is the gospel word fulfilled revealed in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It’s this Christ who gave Paul grace and apostleship for a purpose: “to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His names sake” (V.5). He’s at the very least saying that his message has the goal of a faith that’s genuine, true, and real because it is obedient.
Obedient faith is true faith. Obedient faith is trust in action, it’s what new birth produces, it’s what separates the free from the enslaved, it’s what authenticates if one is or is not a kingdom of God person, it’s what separates the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, the lost from the found, and the light from the darkness. All of this is grounded on what God has revealed in Scripture—the Old Testament Hebrew text and the New Testament Greek text (I.e., the Scriptures).
This gospel then, if it’s to be authentic must be sourced in God, reveal God, and thus produce the life of God in those who claim to know God.