Reprint from June 1977 Word & Work

The gospel of God, which He promised afore through the prophets in the holy scriptures.” In this way Paul closes the first verse and opens a new subject in verse two of the first chapter of Romans. But because verse three adds concerning his Son so often students of Romans will concentrate on anything prophesied about the Lord Jesus Christ and overlook that the specific type of prophecy that Paul is talking about is that which told beforehand of the gospel. The gospel is not the birth of Christ, nor is it His life. Paul tells us himself what he means by “the gospel” when he says, in 1 Corinthians 15, Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures” and then goes on to list some of His appearances during the forty post-resurrection days on earth and then His appearance to Paul after His ascension. So, Paul in Romans 1:1-2 is telling us that the prophets prophesied of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord as the means of providing men with the good news that they can be saved through faith in that resurrected Son.

Possibly we should also note that the term ‘the prophets does not necessarily confine itself to the books we call books of prophecy. In Hebrews 1:1 the writer speaks of Cod’s speaking “unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners” and he is obviously including all the Old Testament in that term “the prophets. I believe Paul is here using the term that way.

 In order to prophesy the gospel, the predictions had to include Christ’s coming into the world. Probably these are the best known of the prophecies-His being the seed of the woman (Gen. 3: 15); His being born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), His being born as a child but given as a Son (Isa. 9:6), His being from everlasting (Micah 5:2) and then prophecies of his work of preaching, healing, and many other details too numerous to list here. But let us turn for a moment to the specific prophecies of His providing our salvation through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.

I suppose that the first, somewhat obscure when spoken prophecy along these lines was that the serpent would bruise His heel (Gen. 3:16). For lack of space we will skip over many passages and include two from the Psalms. The first is Psalm 16:8-11, where His death and quick resurrection are set forth briefly but clearly, the resurrection to be followed with “fullness of joy” and “pleasures for evermore.” But even more important to most students is the remarkable setting forth of His death by crucifixion in Psalm 22, a description given long before crucifixion became the means used by the Homan government to put to death non-Roman criminals.  And, again, after the death, beginning from verse 22 we have a statement of things to happen, thereby necessitating the resurrection.

 To me the most important of all the passages setting forth our Lord’s substitutionary death is that beginning in Isaiah 52:13 and running through the fifty-third chapter. It not only describes somewhat of the effects of crucifixion on His person (especially 52:14), it also speaks of His being “despised, and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’ and many such details; but it also points out that “he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” and that “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah then sets forth His actions when He was brought to trial and then crucified, even to the detail of dying with the wicked and buried with a rich man (in Joseph’s grave, that is). Then, again, after His death, which is described as “an offering for sin,” He is said to “prolong his days,” to “see the travail of His soul” and “by the knowledge of himself shall my righteous servant justify many.” From death to resurrection and being able to justify. No wonder chapter 55 then can invite us to come to Jehovah for pardon!

I wish there were space to speak of His being called “Jehovah our righteousness,” His cleansing Israel, and many other such prophecies, and space to dwell on the sacrifices of the Old Testament, especially the Passover, as setting forth in advance the gospel, but let us stop now and praise the Lord for His wonderful salvation to undeserving men. And let us go forth with greater conviction as we see that God truly set this forth in advance and fulfilled it in detail nearly two thousand years ago. May we continue to preach that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” until He comes again into the world to gather those saved sinners together for a wonderful eternity.


Ernest Lyon went to be with his Lord in 2005. He was long time minister for the Highland Church of Christ in Louisville, Ky, and was Professor of Music at the University of Louisville until his retirement after 47 years..