Sunday, 2 March 2014
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began… Romans 16:25
Paul now begins his closing verses of the epistle with a doxology. This is actually the only epistle that he ends with one. Others contain one or more doxologies, but this one is unique in this way. And so he begins with “Now to Him…” This is speaking of Jesus Christ as noted in verse 20, just before Tertius’ insert greetings. It is He “who is able to establish you.” This sentiment is found in Ephesians 3:20 –
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…”
The work that Christ has begun in us as recipients of His offering of grace, He is fully capable of establishing and continuing in us. Back in Romans 1:11, 12, Paul wrote these words concerning this very precept –
“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
His hope was to “impart some spiritual gift that you may be established.” Now he notes that it is the Lord who in fact is able to so establish them. And, this is “according to my gospel.” In other words, the doctrines which were set forth in this epistle, written by him. This gospel is entirely Christ centered: We were predestined for salvation, because God foreknew us (Romans 8:29); our calling is of the Lord (Romans 8:30); salvation is of the Lord (Romans 10:9); justification is of the Lord (Romans 3:24); sanctification is of the Lord; this came through the work of the Holy Spirit who testifies to the work of Christ (Romans 15:16) ); and glorification is of the Lord (Romans 8:30).
After noting that the Romans can be established through the words of his epistle, he adds “and the preaching of Jesus Christ.” Paul was personally instructed by the Lord. He also had the testimony of the other apostles concerning the words of the Lord. But care must be taken here to understand what Paul is speaking of. The majority of Jesus’ recorded words in the gospels were spoken to Israel, under the law. There is a separation between these words and the words which speak of the church age. The two are not to be mixed. If what Jesus said under the law was enough to establish us, there would be no need for New Testament epistles. But there is because the church age and the kingdom age as spoken to Israel are, in fact, separate dispensations. Mixing these two then often leads to erroneous doctrine.
And this is absolutely certain because Paul’s “gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ” mentioned here are “according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began.” This is how God does things in redemptive history. He progressively reveals His intentions for us. Until Paul revealed these mysteries (and those in his other epistles) they were entirely unknown. Paul, being the apostle to the Gentiles, wrote back and forth in this letter to Jew and then to Gentile, showing that both are acceptable to Christ, and both are in need of Christ. This mystery, or hidden truth, is revealed through Paul. Before that, it was unknown “since the world began.” The word used here literally means “in times eternal.”
There were in fact hints of the dispensational model given all the way back in Genesis, such as clues that the Gentiles would, for a certain time, assume the banner of redemption; the Church Age. But these hints were concealed until the events came about. Only in hindsight can we fully grasp what the allusions we were given back there actually meant. The mystery was secure until it was fully revealed after the coming of Christ. This concept of hiding and revealing things is actually noted right in Deuteronomy. There it says –
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29
God, in His infinite wisdom, has taken man through various dispensations in order to show us that in any situation we are utterly dependent on Him and His open hand of grace and mercy.
Life application: All hail the work of Jesus Christ which reconciles us to God.
Heavenly Father, Your word is beyond compare. Though we have searched it carefully for thousands of years, still new insights and hidden truths are revealed as the days go by. How wonderfully glorious is this superior Word which You have given us. Help us to not forsake it for life’s trivial pursuits, but to search it out and hold fast to it all our days. Amen.