Is Paul's intent to deliberately present the person of Christ before explaining the gospel of Christ, perhaps because that one has to be believed in first before his gospel can be believed?
A - The intent of the authors of the NT writings :
- Matthew 2. Mark 3. Luke 4. John 5. Peter 6. James 7. Jude 8. Hebrews 9 . Revelation
B - The intent of Paul in his Epistles
C - The intent of Paul in Romans
Matthew records Jesus’ generation, 1:1ff, his birth, 1:18ff, the response of a king to ‘the king of the Jews’, 2:1ff , and his baptism, 4:1ff, making clear the manner of his coming and whom he is, before one single word of his discourses or parables is documented.
The person whose words are then reported is ‘the son of David’ yet not the son of Joseph. He is the King of the Jews, but not the reigning king. He is the Son of God, as identified by a voice from heaven, not as so presented by any body on earth.
Thus the kingdom of the heavens (literal), which he preaches, is not of this present world.
Matthew introduces the Person (of the King), and thereafter introduces the concept (of the kingdom).
In his first verses, Mark highlights the prophecy of Malachi and thereby alludes to the Messenger of the Covenant, who is ’the Lord himself’. The rest of the book, its mode of writing and its content, express the Message which the Messenger brings.
Luke documents the visitation of Gabriel, the enunciation, the birth, the preparatory ministry of John, the genealogy of Jesus (through Joseph) back to Adam, and Jesus’ formative years in Nazareth. This is one come of woman, who, though heralded like none other, is one among us : a Saviour.
Only seen as such, does he speak.
In chapter one, John sets forth The Logos, 1:1, God, 1:1, The Light, 1:6, The Monogenes, 1:18, The Lamb of God, 1:29, The Son of God, 1:34, a Master, 1:38, The Messiah, 1:41, The King of Israel, 1:49, and The Son of man (The Son, come of man), 1:51.
Ten titles, before John even begins to unfold the seven signs which make up the book. The signs signify Him. And it is He who is believed on, John 20:31, not the signs for their own sake.
In his epistles, Peter states immediately that his status (apostleship) derives from the person of Jesus Christ 1:1:1 and he then defines that person as ‘Saviour’, 2:1:1, then as ‘Lord’, 1:3:1 and 2:1:2, and further makes clear that the remainder of his second epistle is a matter of ‘the knowledge of Him’, 2:1:3 - not the bare knowledge of doctrinal facts.
James addresses the diaspora and his is a ‘transitional’ epistle written to scattered Jews and introducing the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ which he does not begin to write of until the second chapter. Rather, he identifies, right at the beginning, that Jesus of Nazareth is both ‘Lord’ and ‘Christ’.
Anything further is within that context, even though many of those scattered persons he addresses would have no deep understanding of Christian doctrine, at that time.
They had, however, something of value. And that in ‘much every way‘. They had influences upon them, as Jews in Israel. Progress from that to something greater, and better, would only be through Him who is ‘Lord’ and ‘Christ’.
Jude, in the opening of his epistle, addresses those who are ‘preserved in Jesus Christ. and he closes the epistle saying ‘unto him that is able to keep you from falling’. All of his warnings and exhortations are bracketed within this acknowledgment : that Jesus Christ, in Person, is the only one who can preserve believers and can keep them from falling.
Outside of that protection - of He who protects - there is no safety.
The first three chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews are an extensive consideration of just whom is the one through whom God now speaks, in these last days. Chapter after chapter, comparisons are made : with angels and with Moses : before anything is considered about the actual content of that speech.
At the very outset, the book is put into context. It is the Revelation not of things to come, not of future historical details : it is the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Everything in the book is centred upon him who stands upon Mount Zion. Ultimately, it is to him that the nations gather and it is He who, once judgment is fully effected, is in the midst.
B - Paul’s intent in his epistles
In First Corinthians, in the first three verses, Paul draws attention to Jesus Christ, to Christ Jesus, to Jesus Christ our Lord and to the Lord Jesus Christ. The subtle differences of title indicate different aspects of the one Person, appropriate to the following epistle..
Then he beseeches them to unity, and asks ‘Is Christ divided ?’ Paul’s focus is on the Person of Christ in regard to unity. He sees a divided Church as a divided Christ.
Galatians begins with Christ giving himself to deliver before going on to explain, in full, the doctrine of deliverance.
Ephesians begins with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fact that we only have a God and a Father at all, within Christ, before the blessings of that God and the blessings of that Father are seen in detail.
Philippians unfolds with the servants of Christ, the day of Jesus Christ, the bowels of Jesus Christ, the day, again, of Jesus Christ, my bonds in Christ, brethren in the Lord, the preaching of Christ, the Spirit of Jesus Christ . . . . Indeed, to me to live is Christ.
Everything is of Christ, everything is in Christ.
Time fails to cover all the epistles of Paul.
Thus to Romans, to focus fully on the latter part of the question.
The Intent of Paul in Romans
It is noticeable that Romans begins with Paul’s appeal to antiquity, that the gospel had been promised afore by the prophets and within the context of scripture itself. And what an appeal that is, that the gospel preached by Paul was not only promised by prophetic utterance but that that utterance was, itself, scripture.
Yet the content of that gospel, which Paul was about to lay out in a unique way (as nowhere else has it ever been spread forth in detail in any other document upon earth) that gospel he asserts - that of antiquity, that of prophetic promise, that of scripture itself - concerns the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
The gospel which God himself had promised in antiquity, via the prophets, conveyed in scripture, has this content : Jesus Christ. And not only seen and titled as such, but, more precisely identified : his Son.
Before plunging into the two chapters which, majestically and masterfully, sweep across the entire world - past, present and future - and bring every human upon earth to a point where each single individual is without excuse, is proved to be under sin, is demonstrated to be utterly indebted to the Creator, and is without any righteousness of their own : and before uttering this devastating and universal condemnation of the entire human race, Paul first - first before addressing the ghastly, the horrific, the crushing and truly slaughtering condemnation of all the seed of Adam - first he focuses on the one whom the gospel actually concerns - the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Were it not so, were the gospel focused on the ghastly and shattering state of all humanity on earth, then would one despair indeed, right at the start and one would collapse, morally, spiritually, and possibly physically, with the impossible situation within which one might well give up all hope of any salvation whatsoever.
But not so, for the gospel is not come to expose humanity and leave it bereft.
It is come to express the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
And so it does, page after page, dictated to Tertius by the one-time Pharisee who kicked against the goads and sought to destroy the church, and hailed men and women into prison for following Jesus of Nazareth.
This One stood before Saul on the way to Damascus.
And now Paul sets this One forth, the Son of God Jesus Christ, as he opens his epistle : for the gospel is about Him, His person first - and then is expounded how this Person has wrought salvation on behalf of others.
Thank God, that it is so.
Thanks be to God.