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26
The Mystery Revealed. Romans 16:25-27.
November 26, 2017

As Canadians, this is a strange weekend. We watch, from afar, our brothers and sisters in the United States, celebrate Thanksgiving. Enjoying many of the same benefits that they enjoy, in many ways we can eco their thanks. Most rightly, we can join them in giving thanks and praise to our Lord as the source of all that is good.

 

When we find this event specifically occurring in scripture it is known as a doxology. The word doxology comes from the Greek words doxa, which means glory, and logos, which means word. So a doxology is a word that ascribes glory to God. The conviction behind New Testament doxologies is that everything exists and everything happens to draw attention to the glory of God (Piper, J. (2014). Sermons from John Piper (2000–2014). Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God.).

 

The book of Romans ends with a beautiful doxology, praising God for what He has done through His Son, Jesus Christ. Doxologies are found throughout Scripture. Sometimes a writer is so overwhelmed with gratitude that he breaks into inspired praise to God for His goodness and grace.  In Romans 16, the doxology sums up all the great ideas of the Epistle. The power of the Gospel which St. Paul was commissioned to preach; the revelation in it of the eternal purpose of God; its contents, faith; its sphere, all the nations of the earth; its author, the one wise God, whose wisdom is thus vindicatedall these thoughts had been continually dwelt on (Sanday, W., & Headlam, A. C. (1897). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle of the Romans (3d ed., p. 436). New York: C. Scribner’s Sons.).

 

As we come to the end of our study of the book of Romans and are coming near the end of 2017, what are we most thankful for? Thankfulness is crucial for praise. If we think that we have enjoyed so much because of our hard work, or worse, just being lucky, we miss the entire story. Behind every deliverance, every gift, every sustaining and every joy, there is God. Understanding this fact is crucial for living a life that praises Him and showing to a selfish world, where the only source of true and lasting joy resides.

 

Paul’s closing doxology in Romans is unique, in that, in his praise of the Lord, he recapitulates major themes of the epistle. Perhaps taking the pen from Tertius (cf. v. 22), the apostle touches on 1) The Gospel that Strengthens Believers (Romans 16:25a), 2) The Gospel that Proclaims Jesus Christ (Romans 16:25b), and 3) The Gospel that Reveals God’s Mystery (Romans 16:25c–27).

 

We can praise God because of:

1)      The Gospel That Strengthens Believers(Romans 16:25a)

Romans 16:25a25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel (and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages) (ESV)

 

First of all, Paul praises God for the gospel that strengthens/establishes. God is able, that is, has sufficient power, to strengthen/establish those who trust in Him according to the true gospel that Paul, and every true preacher and teacher, have clearly set forth. It centered in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the focal point of the gospel. Apart from him there could be no “good newsin the ultimate sense of that term. (Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 282). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

 

Stērizō (to strengthen/establish) means to make firm and stable, to make fast. In this context it refers to being mentally settled, firmly rooted in the truth of the gospel. This reminds us that the gospel is not only the entry point into the Christian life; it is also the way we continue in, grow in and enjoy life with Christ. Paul has shown in Romans how the gospel not only saves us (chapters 1–5), but also how it then changes us (chapters 6–8; 12–15). If we believe the gospel, God is working powerfully through it, in us. We need never move away from it (Keller, T. (2015). Romans 8–16 for You. (C. Laferton, Ed.) (p. 181). The Good Book Company.).

 

Please turn to Ephesians 3 (p.977)

 

Through the gospel, God is able to strengthen/establish the minds and hearts of believers in the truth, to settle us, ground us, and make us firm in Him. No one but a Christian can be certain about God, certain about His truth, certain about His standards of righteousness, certain about His love and care, or certain about being with Him throughout eternity.

 

In praying for God to strengthen/establish the believers at Ephesus, Paul petitioned the Lord:

Ephesians 3:14–21 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

  • When considering the majesty of God’s worldwide work of redemption in Christ, Paul responds in the only appropriate way: humble adoration of God. This amazing reality that stems from the strengthening/establishing of God in believers. When we experience this love, our expression of Love is the natural and necessary outcome of a living faith that is the fruit of Christ’s work in the Christian (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2267). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.)
  • Many people try to squeeze out all the joy and meaning from life that they can, only to discover there is nothing there that satisfies. Life cannot have meaning apart from the Creator and Sustainer of life. Apart from Him, there is no purpose, no meaning, no satisfaction, no joy, no hope. There is only sin, disappointment, and judgment.

 

In referring to my gospel, Paul was not speaking of his own personal view of the gospel. His gospel was the same as Peter’s gospel, John’s gospel, and the gospel preached by the other true apostles and teachersthe divinely-revealed gospel of Jesus Christ. As he explained to the Galatian believers, “I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11–12; cf. 2:2). Through the gospel of Jesus Christ, whenever and by whomever it is rightly proclaimed, God will take a fallen, corrupted, vacillating, drifting, insecure, uncertain, chaotic mind and doomed soul and strengthen/establish it forever in His truth by the power of His Spirit. Paul’s point is that the gospel is the source of the strengthening (Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 938). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

 

Illustration: God can strengthen/establish us and make us strong and steadfast in any circumstance. When he so chooses, he demonstrates this in the physical realm as well. Years ago when Ira Sankey was at the height of his ministry and traveling on a steamer in the Delaware River, he was recognized by some of the people on board. They had seen his picture in the newspaper and knew he was associated with evangelist D. L. Moody. When he was asked to sing one of his own compositions, Sankey said he preferred the hymn by William Bradbury,Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us.” He suggested that everyone should join in the singing. One of the stanzas begins, “We are Thine, do Thou befriend us; be the guardian of our way.” When he finished, a man stepped out of the shadows and inquired, “Were you in the army, Mr. Sankey?” “Yes, I joined up in 1860.” “Did you ever do guard duty at night in Maryland, about 1862?”Yes, I did.” “Well, I was in the Confederate Army,” said the stranger, “and I saw you one night at Sharpsburg. You were wearing your blue uniform, and I had you in my gun sight as you stood there in the light of the full moon. Then just as I was about to pull the trigger, you began to sing.” Sankey was astounded as he recalled the incident.It was the same hymn you sang tonight,” continued the man. “I couldn’t shoot you.” There is no doubt about itGod can make us stand firm under his protection! (Hughes, R. K. (1991). Romans: righteousness from heaven (p. 307). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.)

 

We can praise God because of:

2)      The Gospel That Proclaims Jesus Christ

Romans 16:25b25 (Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel) and the preaching of Jesus Christ, (according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages) (ESV)

 

The only gospel of God that establishes believers is the gospel that proclaims Jesus Christ. The major theme of Romans, like the major theme of all Scripture, is Jesus Christ.  Paul has carefully developed his understanding of the gospel, beginning with the human predicament in sin, dealing with the results of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection and how a person can obtain those by means of obedient faith, continuing to deal with specific questions about God’s strategy (mystery) of Jew-Gentile relationships, and looking toward the future when all of God’s creation will be redeemed. He has then related all of that to the way Christians are to live in the community of faith and in their societies. All of this was apparently involved in his proclamation of Jesus the Christ, a task that he hopes to perform in Rome (Shields, B. (1988). Romans: Unlocking the Scriptures for You (p. 155). Cincinnati, OH: Standard.).

 

Please turn to 2 Corinthians 4 (p.965)

 

The preaching of Jesus Christ was Paul’s supreme life commitment. “We preach Christ crucified,” he said, “to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23–24). The term “preaching” is not to be understood as referring merely to the act of preaching. It refers to the message preached and so “the preaching of Jesus Christis virtually the gospel of which Jesus Christ is the subject (Murray, J. (1968). The Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 2, p. 241). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

 

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, he testified,

2 Corinthians 4:1–6 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (ESV)

  • The Gospel is not something to be marketed. It should never be presented in a bait and switch. It is not even the expression of how God has changed us, although that may lead into a presentation of the Gospel. The Gospel is a clear fact of who Jesus Christ is and what He has done. Not everyone will accept this truth because they are blinded by comfort, self-absorption or even apathy. The Jews sought a light to guide them. The Greeks sought wisdom that would transcend them. The Romans sought glory that would elevate them. For those to whom the Father has drawn unto Himself, the Gospel has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”.

 

Illustration: There is a dramatic story concerning the life and influence of King George V. In the latter years of his reign, it was his custom to broadcast a Christmas message to the empire. During one of these broadcasts, when the ears of the world were waiting to hear the voice of the king, an engineer observed that an important wire had snapped. America was cut off! Time was of the essence. Suddenly, as though nudged by an angel, a mechanic seized the broken wires. Holding one in each hand, he was thus able to complete the circuit which permitted the royal message to be transmitted to the United States. The voice of the king passed through the body of the engineer. In the broken connections of our world, how can the Word of the Lord be heard unless it passes through us? (Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 301). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

 

Finally, we can praise God because of:

3)   The Gospel That Reveals God’s Mystery(Romans 16:25c-27)

Romans 16:25c-2725 (Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ,) according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (ESV)

 

The gospel that establishes us and that proclaims Jesus Christ also reveals God’s divine mystery that was kept secret for long ages. This mystery (mustērion) does not carry the connotation that word has in modern English, as used, for example, of a mystery novel. In the New Testament it refers to something hidden in former times but now made known. Specifically, it refers to a part of God’s truth that was not revealed, or was only partially revealed, in the Old Testament.

 

Please turn to Ephesians 3 (p.977)

 

The most common mystery spoken of in the New Testament relates to God’s providing salvation for Gentiles as well as Jews. Speaking of the divine truth revealed to him as an apostle, Paul wrote:

Ephesians 3:1-7  For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentilesassuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power (ESV)

  • In other words, God’s ultimate plan of redemption has always included the Gentiles in every way as much as the Jews, His specially chosen people under the Old Covenant. Through Jesus Christ, believing Gentiles are as fully saved, as fully the children of God, and as fully citizens of His divine kingdom as are believing Jews. Christ has come to unify Jew and Gentile in one body through the gospel, about which Paul had just written briefly (see the parallels with Eph. 1:9, 17). Christ revealed this mystery to Paul by revelation on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–7) and more fully at other times (cf. Acts 22:17–21; 2 Cor. 12:1–7; Gal. 1:12; 2:2). (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2266). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.)

 

As Paul explains in verse 26, the mystery “has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith” Through Isaiah, God promised that “the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:11). Jeremiah foretold, “ ‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.… I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:31, 33). Through Ezekiel, the Lord said, “I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 11:19). Jews had always thought that such predictions, whatever they may fully have meant, applied only to them, the chosen race of God. Even to God’s inspired prophets under the Old Covenant, the full meaning of their prophecies was a mystery (1 Pt. 1:10-11). The emphasis on God’s sovereignty is pronounced, for it is “the eternal God” who decided that now is the time in which the mystery would be revealed. (Schreiner, T. R. (1998). Romans (Vol. 6, pp. 813–814). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)

 

Finally, Paul crowns this marvelous letter with praise in verse 27 to the only wise God, the God of Jews and of Gentiles, the God of all creation. One may wonder why he does not say, “to the only powerful” or “only loving” or “only gracious” God. He has much to say about those divine attributes in his letters, including this one. Perhaps he calls attention here to God’s wisdom in order to emphasize that only an infinitely wise mind could have designed and accomplished such a plan of redemption (Eph. 3:8–11). It was through Jesus Christ that God supremely revealed not only His great grace but also His great wisdom. To Him, therefore, be the glory forever. There is no cessation of his glory: it is forever. And the Christian knows that glory is to be ascribed to God on the basis of what Christ has done. It is that, that enables us to see what a glorious God this God is(Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (pp. 547–548). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.)

 

The theme of the Protestant Reformation which was born through a study of the book of Romanswas the theme sola deo gloriato God alone the glory. God alone is worthy of our honour and all the glory, dominion and power. It is God who is glorified in this epistle, and Paul concludes the epistle with this final admonition: ‘Give glory to God.’ We glorify God the Father through our obedience and devotion to God the Son who has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Sproul, R. C. (1994). The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (p. 254). Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications.).

Amen.

 

(Format Note: Outline & some base commentary from MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Ro 16:25). Chicago: Moody Press.)

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