Paul’s letter to the Romans is the most closely reasoned and compelling book of the New Testament. Its massive theology, so ably argued in the first eleven chapters, logically proceeds from the statement of the gospel in the opening verses in chapter 1 to the need for the gospel because of man’s sin in chapters 1-3. Next it describes the provision of the righteousness that comes by faith in chapters 3-4. Then our position in Christ is beautifully described in chapter 5. The secret of spiritual victory is mapped out in chapters 6-8. And finally, in chapters 9-11, a vindication of God’s work in history is provided. As Paul concludes his argument, his foundational theology gives way to an appropriately rousing doxology in 11:36 – “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” There is simply nothing like the first eleven chapters of Romans.
Then what follows is the properly compelling call to practical Christian living in chapters 12-15. In logical succession Paul encourages us to practice our theology by using our gifts to serve one another in love. We are to subject ourselves to the authority over us, living by the law of love in the Church, offering all of life to God. This section also concludes with a doxology: “May the God of peace be with you all. Amen” (15:33). Then, as we saw in the last chapter, Paul gives his greetings to all the saints in Rome and closes with another doxology: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (16:20b). These are the magnificent structures of the greatest theological treatise ever written. There is nothing like the book of Romans!
Now comes the end. His friends have chimed in with their greetings, and Paul takes the pen in his own hand and writes the last few lines. What did he write? Another doxology, of course, the longest of all his doxologies and one of the most beautiful Paul has written. Paul’s final praise is a model for all times, a model for our song in the Lord. Essentially there are two broad categories of praise: (1) praise for God’s work (vv. 25-26) and (2) praise for God’s wisdom (v. 27).
Paul begins by praising God for His work in strengthening His children (v. 25a). The thrust here at the end of the great theological foundation of Romans is that spiritually God is able to make us stand strong and steadfast. He props His people up so they will not fall. Perhaps Paul is considering his readers’ life in Rome now and in the future, seeing their struggles. Though he cannot do anything for them, he knows God is able to make them stand, and for this he offers doxology. God can establish us and make us strong and steadfast in any circumstance. When He so chooses, He demonstrates this in the physical realm as well.
As Paul further expresses his thought in verse 25, he tells us how God establishes us: “according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.” We were established initially through Jesus Christ, and we are maintained continually by Him. The key to standing is making Jesus the center of everything. Moreover, the story of Jesus should be our constant meditation, as it was for Paul. Then we will be able to stand, for it is Jesus who establishes us. If you have been teetering, focus on Jesus, read about Him, think about Him, and make the Gospels your spiritual meat and potatoes, the sustenance of your life.
The second aspect of our being established is given in verse 25b where Paul says, “according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages.” In other words, we are established when and as the ancient mystery is opened to us. How is this so? Part of the answer lies in the word “mystery,” which in the New Testament does not mean mysterious (as the English word suggests) but rather a secret that was once kept dark but is now revealed.
Here in Romans a great and ancient secret has been thrown wide open to believers by the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the mystery of Jesus, which Paul calls the “mystery, which is Christ” in Colossians 1:27. God has given Jesus to us through the virgin birth, through His absolutely perfect earthly life, through His vicarious death for us, through His breaking the bonds of death and ascending to the right hand of the Father. Thus the mystery has been opened to us. We cannot understand everything, for even in eternity the wonder of it will continue to unfold. There follows from this the grand mystery of the Church, which is like marriage. Ephesians 5:32 says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” The marriage relationship illustrates the great mystery of the personal relationship that exists between each believer and Jesus.
The spiritual understanding of the mystery of the Church, the inner secret that was hidden and now is made known, can be more fully apprehended by meditating on the tiny word “in.” Paul uses this word twelve times in the first fifteen verses of Ephesians concerning us and Jesus Christ: “in Christ Jesus” (v. 1), “in Christ” (v. 3), “in him” (v. 4), “in the Beloved” (v. 6), “in him” (v.7), “in Christ” (v. 9), “in him” (v. 10), “in him” (v. 11), “in Christ” (v. 12), “in him” (twice in v. 13), “in the Lord Jesus” (v. 15). This amazing reciprocal truth is the signature of the Christian life: I am in Christ, and He is in me. No other religion knows anything of this. It is our mystery. The mystery is nothing less than a miracle. God’s salvation extends to all races, and those who receive it are “in” Christ, and He is “in” them. Moreover, all Jewish and Gentile believers are brothers and sisters together.
What a mystery, what a miracle, and what a call to praise God! God is able to prop us up. Actually He is able to do even more. He is able to establish us. His way of doing this is Jesus! When Jesus is the subject of our proclamation, our conversation, our meditation, we stand! And as we live and grow in Jesus, the mystery opens wider and wider, and we become more firmly established. The unfolding mystery of God Incarnate assaults our souls and draws us up to glory. Thus we stand strong! The mystery of our union in the Lord Jesus Christ as bride and groom opens wider and wider. This is not hopeful thinking. This is no pious rhetoric. It is true! Jesus is in me and you, and we are in Him. And this mystery that makes us stand is for all the world. Through Christ, believing Jews and Gentiles stand together and will be established for eternity. This is Paul’s doxology!
Paul fittingly ends Romans with praise to God for His wisdom (v. 27). Our God is the only God. There is none but Him. He is incomprehensible. Our God is also the only wise God. In affirming this, we are reminded that whatever God is He is infinitely. Therefore, God is infinite wisdom. Wisdom, among other things, is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by perfect means. This our God does without limit. In His wisdom He made it possible for those who were once bound to earth by their own sinful depravity to be loosed from their sins and to know the throne of God as eternal home. He has made it possible for men who were lower than the angels to rise higher than the angels. He has made it possible for us to become His own sons and daughters. For all this there can only be doxology – “to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
Romans 16:25-27 Study Questions:
What main themes from the whole letter, reviewed in verses 25-27, have stayed in your mind and heart the most?
What has changed in your life since studying the letter to the Romans?
Spend time praying through verses 25-27. Praise God for all He has done. Praise God for specific ways in which He has changed people through this study.
What does Scripture seem to indicate about Paul’s activity after he wrote this letter?