I have been meditating on the resurrection of Christ in anticipation of Good Friday and Easter services. As I did my mind was brought back to that unusual expression of Paul in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans. Paul has an exceptionally long introduction to his ultimate greeting in verse 7. And in this introduction, he immediately begins with the summary content of his epistle, calling it “the gospel of God” (v. 1). It is a gospel which was prophesied by Old Testament prophets (v. 2) and concerned God’s Son, the ultimate son of David (1:3).
Now here is where it gets interesting. Paul states regarding God’s Son,
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
What does it mean that Jesus “was declared the Son of God” through his resurrection from the dead? Did his resurrection cause him to become the Son of God as many cults teach? Was he just a man who “emanated up” to become the Son of God? As Moo asks, “is the eternal sonship of Christ being denied?” (Romans, NICNT, 48).
The answer revolves around the verb ὁρίζω used in the participle “declared” (ὁρισθέντος). The verb ὁρίζω is found eight times in the New Testament and has the basic force, “to separate entities and so establish a boundary” (BDAG). And in Romans 1:4 as well as in the other seven uses (Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 10:42; 11:29; 17:26, 31: Heb 4:7), it has the force, determine, appoint, fix, set (BDAG).
It is clear from other passages in the New Testament that in some manner, the resurrection of Christ did cause Christ to be the appointed Son of God. Paul declared,
that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU’ (Acts 13:33).
And in making his point about the superiority of Jesus Christ to the angels, the author of Hebrews wrote,
For to which of the angels did He ever say,
“YOU ARE MY SON,
TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”?
“I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM
AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME”? (Heb 1:5)
So in what way is Jesus Christ “appointed” the Son of God with power by the resurrection of from the dead? The resurrection did not make Jesus the Son of God. It revealed or designated him as such. It wasn’t an ontological issue as much as one of function. The resurrection from the dead validated that he was indeed the Son of God, being very God himself. Only God could have been a suitable Savior for man’s sin. And because he was God’s very own Son, the grave had no claim on him. His death was sufficient. His sacrifice was perfect. And the resurrection made this clear to all creation. Moo is correct when he writes,
In speaking this way, Paul and the other NT authors do not mean to suggest that Jesus becomes the Son only at the time of his resurrection. In this passage, we must remember that the Son is the subject of the entire statement in vv. 3–4: It is the Son who is “appointed” Son. The tautologous nature of this statement reveals that being appointed Son has to do not with a change in essence—as if a person or human messiah becomes Son of God for the first time—but with a change in status or function (Ibid).
So, this Easter, let us worship our risen Savior, the Son of God who is God and the only Savior from our sins.