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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 4

Verse 4. And declared. In the margin, determined. tou orisyentov. The ancient Syriac has, "And he was known to be the Son of God by might and by the Holy Spirit, who rose from the house of the dead." The Latin Vulgate, "Who was predestinated the Son of God," etc. The Arabic, "The Son of God destined by power peculiar to the Holy Spirit," etc. The word translated "declared to be" means, properly, to bound, to fix limits to, as to a field, to determine its proper limits or boundaries, to define, etc. Ac 17:26, "And hath determined the bounds of their habitation." Hence it means, to determine, constitute, ordain, decree; i.e., to fix or designate the proper boundaries of a truth, or a doctrine; to distinguish its lines and marks from error; or to show or declare a thing to be so by any action. Lu 22:22, "The Son of man goeth as it was determined," as it was fixed, purposed, defined, in the purpose of God, and declared in the prophets. Ac 2:23, "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel," the definite, constituted will, or design of God. Ac 4:28; Heb 4:7, "He limiteth a certain day," fixes it, defines it. In this sense it is clearly used in this place. The act of raising him from the dead designated him, or constituted him the Son of God. It was such an act as in the circumstances of the case showed that he was the Son of God in regard to a nature which was not "according to the flesh." The ordinary resurrection of a man, like that of Lazarus, would not show that he was the Son of God; but in the circumstances of Jesus Christ it did; for he had claimed to be so; he had taught it; and God now attested the truth of his teaching by raising him from the dead.

The Son of God. The word son is used in a great variety of senses, denoting literally a son, then a descendant, posterity near or remote, a disciple or ward, an adopted son, or one that imitates or resembles another. See Barnes "Mt 1:1".

The expression sons of God, or son of God, is used in an almost equal latitude of signification. It is

(1.) applied to Adam, as being immediately created by God, without an earthly father, Lu 3:38.

(2.) It is applied to saints or Christians, as being adopted into his family, and sustaining to him the relation of children, Joh 1:12,13; 1 Jo 3:1,2, etc. This name is given to them because they resemble him in their moral character, Mt 5:45.

(3.) It is given to strong men as resembling God in strength. Ge 6:2, "The sons of God saw the daughters of men," etc. Here these men of violence and strength are called sons of God, just as the high hills are called hills of God, the lofty trees of Lebanon are called cedars of God, etc.

(4.) Kings are sometimes called his sons, as resembling him in dominion and power, Ps 82:6.

(5.) The name is given to angels, because they resemble God; because he is their Creator and Father, etc., Job 1:6; 2:1; Da 3:25.


But the name THE Son of God is, in the New Testament, given by way of eminence to the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the common and favourite name by which the apostles designated him. The expression Son of God is applied to him no less than twenty-seven times in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, and fifteen times in the Epistles and the Revelation. The expression my Son, and his Son, thy Son, etc., is applied to him in his peculiar relation to God, times almost without number. The other most common appellation which is given to him is Son of man. By this name he commonly designated himself. There can be no doubt that that was assumed to denote that he was a man, that he sustained a peculiar relation to man, and that he chose to speak of himself as a man. The first, the most obvious, impression on the use of the name Son of man is, that he was truly a man; and it was used, doubtless, to guard against the impression that one who manifested so many other qualities, and did so many things like a celestial being, was not truly a human being. The phrase Son of God stands in contrast with the title Son of man; and as the natural and obvious import of that is that he was a man, so the natural and obvious import of the title Son of God is that he was Divine; or that he sustained relations to God, designated by the name Son of God, corresponding to the relations which he sustained to man, designated by the name Son of Man. The natural idea of the term Son of God therefore is, that he sustained a relation to God in his nature which implied more than was human or angelic; which implied equality with God. Accordingly, this idea was naturally suggested to the Jews by his calling God his Father: Joh 5:18, "But said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God." This idea Jesus immediately proceeded to confirm. See Barnes "Joh 5:19" and Joh 5:20-30. The same idea is also suggested in Joh 10:29,30,31,33,36, "Say ye of him whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, thou blasphemest: because I said I am the Son of God?" There is, in these places, the fullest proof that the title suggested naturally the idea of equality with God; or the idea of his sustaining a relation to God corresponding to the relation of equality to man, suggested by the title Son of man. This view is still further sustained in the first chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, Heb 1:1,2. God hath spoken unto US BY HIS SON. He is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, Heb 1:3. He is higher than the angels, and they are required to worship him, Heb 1:4,5,6.

He is called God, and his throne is for ever and ever, Heb 1:8. He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and is IMMUTABLY THE SAME, Heb 1:10-12. Thus the rank, or title, of the Son of God, suggests the ideas and attributes of the Divinity. This idea is sustained throughout the New Testament. See Joh 14:9, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;" Joh 5:23, "That all men should honour the Son even as they honour the father." Col 1:19, "It hath pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;" Col 2:9, "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Php 2:2-11; Re 5:13,14; Re 21:23. It is not affirmed that this title was given to the Second Person of the Trinity before he became incarnate, or to suggest the idea of any derivation or extraction before he was made flesh. There is no instance in which the appellation is not conferred to express the relation after he assumed human flesh. Of any derivation from God, or emanation from him in eternity, the Scriptures are silent. The title is conferred on him, it is supposed, with reference to his condition in this world as the Messiah. And it is conferred, it is believed, for the following reasons, or to denote the following thing, viz:

(1.) To designate his peculiar relation to God, as equal with him, (Joh 1:14,18; Mt 11:27; Lu 10:22; 3:22; 2 Pe 1:17; ) or as sustaining a most intimate and close connexion with him, such as neither man nor angels could do—an acquaintance with his nature, (Mt 11:27,) plans, and counsels, such as no being but one who was equal with God could possess. In this sense I regard it as conferred on him in the passage under consideration.

(2.) It designates him as the anointed King, or the Messiah. In this sense it accords with the use of the word in Ps 82:6. See Mt 16:16, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Mt 26:63, "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God." Mr 14:61; Lu 22:70; Joh 1:34; Ac 9:20, "He preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God."

(3.) It was conferred on him to denote his miraculous conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Lu 1:35, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, THEREFORE (dio) also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."

With power. en dunamei. By some, this expression has been supposed to mean in power or authority, after his resurrection from the dead. It is said, that he was before a man of sorrows; now he was clothed with power and authority. But I have seen no instance in which the expression in power denotes office, or authority. It denotes physical energy and might—and this was bestowed on Jesus before his resurrection as well as after. Ac 10:38, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power." Ro 15:19; 1 Co 15:43. With such power Jesus will come to judgment, Mt 24:30. If there is any passage in which the word power means authority, office, etc., it is Mt 28:18, "All power in heaven and earth is given unto me." But this is not a power which was given unto him after his resurrection, or which he did not possess before. The same authority to commission his disciples he had exercised before this on the same ground, Mt 10:7,8. I am inclined to believe, therefore, that the expression means powerfully, efficiently; he was with great power, or conclusiveness, shown to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. Thus the phrase in power is used to qualify a verb in Col 1:29, "Which worketh in me mightily"—Greek, in power i.e., operating in me effectually, or powerfully. The ancient versions seem to have understood it in the same way. Syriac, "He was known to be the Son of God by power, and by the Holy Ghost." AEthiopic, "Whom he declared to be the Son of God by his own power, and by his Holy Spirit," etc. Arabic, "Designated the Son of God by power appropriate to the Holy Spirit."

According to the spirit of holiness. kata pneuma agiwsunhv. This expression has been variously understood. We may arrive at its meaning by the following considerations.

(1.) It is not the Third Person in the Trinity that is referred to here. The designation of that person is always in a different form. It is the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost— pneuma agion, or to pneuma to agion; never the Spirit of holiness.

(2.) It stands in contrast with the flesh, Ro 1:3, "According to the flesh, the seed of David: according to the spirit of holiness, the Son of God." As the former refers doubtless to his human nature, so this must refer to the nature designated by the title Son of God, that is, to his superior or Divine nature.

(3.) The expression is altogether peculiar to the Lord Jesus Christ. Nowhere in the Scriptures, or in any other writings, is there an affirmation like this. What would be meant by it if affirmed of a mere man?

(4.) It cannot mean that the Holy Spirit, the Third Person in the Trinity, showed that Jesus was the Son of God by raising him from the dead, because that act is nowhere attributed to him. It is uniformly ascribed either to God, as God, (Ac 2:24,32; 3:15,26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,33,34; 17:31; Ro 10:9; Eph 1:20,) or to the rather, (Ro 6:4,) or to Jesus himself, (Joh 10:18.) In no instance is this act ascribed to the Holy Ghost.

(5.) It indicates a state far more elevated than any human dignity, or honour. In regard to his earthly descent, he was of a royal race; in regard to the Spirit of holiness, much more than that, he was the Son of God.

(6.) The word Spirit is used often to designate God, the holy God, as distinguished from all the material forms of idol worship, Joh 4:24.

(7.) The word Spirit is applied to the Messiah in his more elevated or Divine nature. 1 Co 15:45, "The last Adam was made a quickening Spirit." 2 Co 3:17, "Now the Lord (Jesus) is that Spirit." Heb 9:14, Christ is said to have "offered himself through the eternal Spirit." 1 Pe 3:18, he is said to have been "put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." 1 Ti 3:16, he is said to have been "justified in the Spirit." In most of these passages there is the same contrast noticed between his flesh, his human nature, and his other state, which occurs in Ro 1:3,4. In all these instances, the design is, doubtless, to speak of him as a man, and as something more than a man; he was one thing as a man; he was another thing in his other nature. In the one, he was of David; was put to death, etc. In the other, he was of God; he was manifested to be such; he was restored to the elevation which he had sustained before his incarnation and death, Joh 17:1-5; Php 2:2-11. The expression, according to the spirit of holiness, does not indeed of itself imply Divinity. It denotes that holy and more exalted nature which he possessed as distinguished from the human. What that is, is to be learned from other declarations. This expression implies simply that it was such as to make proper the appellation, the Son of God. Other places, as we have seen, show that that designation naturally implied Divinity. And that this was the true idea couched under the expression, according to the spirit of holiness, appears from those numerous texts of Scripture which explicitly assert his Divinity. See Joh 1:1, etc., and See Barnes "Joh 1:1".

By the resurrection from the dead. This has been also variously understood. Some have maintained that the word byex—denotes AFTER. He was declared to be the Son of God in power after he rose from the dead; that is, he was solemnly invested with the dignity that became the Son of God after he had been so long in a state of voluntary humiliation. But to this view there are some insuperable objections.

(1.) It is not the natural and usual meaning of the word by.

(2.) It is not the object of the apostle to state the time when the thing was done, or the order, but evidently to declare the fact, and the evidence of the fact. If such had been his design, he would have said, that previous to his death he was shown to be of the seed of David, but afterwards that he was invested with power.

(3.) Though it must be admitted that the preposition by ex sometimes means AFTER, (Mt 19:20; Lu 8:27; 23:8) yet its proper and usual meaning is to denote the efficient cause, or the agent, or origin of a thing. Mt 1:3,18; 21:25; Joh 3:5; Ro 5:16; Ro 11:36.

"Of him are all things." 1 Co 8:6, "One God, the Father, of whom are all things," etc. In this sense I suppose it is used here; and that the apostle means to affirm that he was clearly or decisively shown to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. But here it will be asked, how did his resurrection show this? Was not Lazarus raised from the dead? And did not many saints rise also after Jesus? And were not the dead raised by the apostles, by Elijah, by the bones of Elisha, and by Christ himself? And did their being raised prove that they were the sons of God? I answer, that the mere fact of the resurrection of the body proves nothing in itself about the character and rank of the being that is raised. But in the circumstances in which Jesus was placed it might show it conclusively. When Lazarus was raised, it was not in attestation of anything which he had taught or done. It was a mere display of the power and benevolence of Christ. But, in regard to the resurrection of Jesus, let the following circumstances be taken into the account.

(1.) He came as the Messiah.

(2.) He uniformly taught that he was the Son of God.

(3.) He maintained that God was his Father in such a sense as to imply equality with him, Joh 5:17-30; Joh 10:36.

(4.) He claimed authority to abolish the laws of the Jews, to change their customs, and to be himself absolved from the observance of those laws, even as his Father was, Joh 5:1-17; Mr 2:28.

(5.) When God raised Him up, therefore, it was not an ordinary event. It was a public attestation, in the face of the universe, of the truth of his claims to be the Son of God. God would not sanction the doings and doctrines of an impostor. And when, therefore, he raised up Jesus, he, by this act, showed the truth of his claims, that he was the Son of God. Further; in the view of the apostles, the resurrection was intimately connected with the ascension and exaltation of Jesus. The one made the other certain. And it is not improbable that, when they spoke of his resurrection, they meant to include not merely that single act, but the entire series of doings of which that was the first, and which was the pledge of the elevation and majesty of the Son of God. Hence, when they had proved his resurrection, they assumed that all the others would follow. That involved and supposed all And the series, of which that was the first, proved that he was the Son of God. See Ac 17:31: "He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given ASSURANCE, unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." The one involves the other. See Ac 1:6. Thus Peter, (Ac 2:22-32) having proved that Jesus was raised up, adds, Ac 2:33, "THEREFORE being by the right hand exalted, he hath shed forth this," etc.; and Ac 2:36, "THEREFORE let all the house of Israel KNOW ASSUREDLY, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, Both LORD AND CHRIST."

This verse is a remarkable instance of the apostle Paul's manner of writing. Having mentioned a subject, his mind seems to catch fire; he presents it in new forms, and amplifies it, until he seems to forget for a time the subject on which he was writing. It is from this cause that his writings abound so with parentheses, and that there is so much difficulty in following and understanding him.

{1} "declared" or "determined" {e} "to be the Son" Ac 13:33,34; Re 1:18

{f} "to the spirit" Heb 9:14

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