12 Jan 2019
A Commentary by John Stott
Romans 16:25-27. 3). Paul’s doxology.
Paul’s doxology is an eloquent and appropriate conclusion to his letter, for he takes up its central themes summarizes them and relates them to one another. Although the grammar of the doxology is not easy to unravel, it contains profound truths about God and the gospel. It consists of four parts which focus respectively on the power of God, the gospel of Christ, the evangelization of the nations and the praise of God’s wisdom.
First, Paul writes of *the power of God. Now to him who is able (dynameno, has the dynamis) to establish you….* Although this accurately translates the Greek, it is an awkward introduction, and JB does better to begin with a noun: ‘Glory be to him who is able…!’ It can hardly be an accident that Romans begins and ends with a reference to the power of God through the gospel. If the gospel is God’s power to save (1:16), it is also God’s power to establish. *Sterizo* (to establish) is almost a technical term for nurturing new converts and strengthening young churches. Luke uses it in the Acts (or rather the cognate verb *episterizo*) of Paul and his fellow missionaries, who deliberately revisited the churches they had planted, in order to ‘establish’ them (E.g. Acts 14:21f.; 15:41; 18:23). And Paul himself uses the verb in his letters in relation to making Christians firm, strong and stable, whether in their faith (against error), in their holiness (against temptation) or in their courage (against persecution, (E.g. Rom.1:11; 1 Cor.1:8; 2 Cor.1:21; Col.2:7; 1 Thess. 3:2, 13; 2 Thess.2:17; 3:7). So the vision conjured up by the doxology’s opening words is of God’s ability to establish the multi-ethnic church in Rome, of which Paul has been dreaming, and to strengthen its members in truth, holiness and unity.
Secondly, Paul writes of *the gospel of Christ*. For God is able to establish you, he says, by (literally ‘according to’) *my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past (25) but now revealed…* (26a). The Greek sentence has three coordinate clauses, namely ‘according to my gospel’, ‘and [according to] the proclamation of Jesus Christ’, and ‘according to the revelation of the mystery’. But the first two are almost identical, since Paul’s gospel was essentially a proclamation (*kerygma*) of Christ. What Paul is affirming is that God’s power to establish the church is part of his gospel, of his proclamation. This reminds us of the first three verses of his letter, in which he described himself as ‘set apart for the gospel of God…regarding his Son’. Now he refers to ‘the gospel of God’ as ‘my gospel’ (cf. 2:16), because it had been revealed and entrusted to him by God, and the gospel ‘regarding his Son’ he calls ‘the proclamation of Jesus Christ’.
The third coordinate clause (‘according to the revelation of the mystery’) emphasizes the fact that his gospel is revealed truth. It is a ‘mystery’, that is to say, a truth or cluster of truths *hidden for long ages past, but now revealed*. What is included in the ‘mystery’ Paul does not here explain. But he does elsewhere. God’s secret, hitherto concealed but now revealed, is essentially Jesus Christ himself in his fulness (Col.2:2), and in particular Christ for and in the Gentiles (Col.1:27), so that Gentiles now have an equal share with Israel in God’s promise (Eph.3:6ff.; 6:19f.). The mystery also includes good news for Jews as well as Gentiles, namely that one day ‘all Israel will be saved’ (11:25f.). As it looks forward to the future glory (1 Cor.2:7ff.), when God will bring all things together under one head, Christ (Eph.1:9f.). Thus the mystery begins, continues and ends with Christ.
Tomorrow: Romans 16:25-27. 3). Paul’s doxology (continued)