The Cross Waves Higher Than The Flag

Those words from the Steve Camp song, Justice, ring in my head when I read the first chapter of Romans. Just how much sovereignty do we attribute to God?

When was the last time you read scripture and saw in its words the extolling of Christ to a position higher than any government, any ruler, any person, ever? As I read scripture I see God’s sovereignty everywhere—but especially in Romans.

In chapter one of Romans the Apostle Paul uses political language to describe our commitment to Christ and his authority with the church body. Look at these words:

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 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, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the gentiles for his name’s sake, among whom you also are called of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1-6).

In case you missed it, Paul’s writing in his introduction to Romans not only carries political overtones, it might even be read as a challenge to human government. Consider what he said, and to whom he said it, and when he said it. Specifically consider his claim that Jesus was “a descendent of David.” This is pure political language. Paul is essentially saying that Jesus carries all political authority as one who is in the line of succession to kingship. Not only that, but as an Apostle, Paul claims the power to “bring about the obedience” of the church. Obedience was expected of citizens and subjects.

Imagine being a Roman official reading this letter, a person who is part of the greatest political empire the world had ever seen up until that time. Here is a jewish foreigner, writing to the capital city of the empire he has never visited, saying that Jesus is king and that he had all the authority necessary to bring about their obedience to that king. There could be no mistaking his words. In six short verses Paul sent his most dangerous letter to the Christians in the capital city, in its opening words, right up front where it can’t be missed, that essentially says that Jesus is greater that Caesar.

Off with his head!

At what level do you place Jesus Christ in your life? Is he a mere part of your life or does he occupy the central place in your life? Is he Sunday church and morning prayers only or is he the all encompassing relationship in your life?

Paul knew what he was doing. He wrote bold-faced about God’s sovereignty to the very heart of the empire that would take his life. Such a letter, which goes on to actually repudiate many of the pagan practices of the empire in its first chapter, was a dangerous one. It could have placed Christians in the capital in great danger. It was a challenge. Jesus is above all.

Though Paul endured great trials and pains he never wavered from keeping Christ as the central focus of his life. Christ, to Paul, was more than a job and a calling—he was life itself. Recognizing this sovereignty of Christ was central to the victorious life that Paul led—no matter what happened to him. Paul did more than write theology to the Romans. He put into proper perspective the role that Christ is to occupy in the believer’s life. In fact, in order to properly understand the rest of what Paul wrote in Romans we have to have a proper understanding of his opening words. His opening words set the tone for everything else that follows. It doesn’t matter where you live, what you do, and who the authorities are above you. In the end, Christ is superior, supreme, and higher than all. This is the Christ that saved us on the cross and without this Christ there can be no salvation.

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