Paul concludes his letter to the Romans in 15:14-16:27. In this passage he speaks of his intended visit to the church, his Gentile mission strategy and his hoped-for mission to Spain. He requests prayer, gives personal greetings, warns against false teachers and adds a written postscript. Finally, he concludes with a doxology in v25-27, which verses serve as our passage for study.
v25. Paul gives glory to the God who is well able to "establish", to confirm, the Romans in their commitment to the gospel. That is, confirm in the sense of strengthen their commitment to, their belief in, the gospel. The NIV has "establish you by my gospel", but "by" or "through", is probably better translated "according to", "in alignment with". So, Paul gives glory to the God who is well able to keep the Romans in line with gospel truth.
When Paul uses the phrase, "my gospel", he probably means something like "my message", the content of which encapsulates the teachings of Jesus Christ. Then he adds, "and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery". The "and" is better translated "which is." What Paul is doing is explaining something about the content of his message - ie. the gospel. Of the content he says:
i] It is the "proclamation of Jesus Christ" - who Jesus is and what he has done. The gospel focuses on the life and teachings of Jesus, as preached by the apostles.
ii] It is God's revelation.
iii] It is a mystery. It is a truth hidden, but now revealed.
v26. The mystery, now made known in the gospel, is confirmed by the Old Testament scriptures - "made known through the prophetic writings." The gospel represents the fulfillment of the promises detailed in the Old Testament - "The time is fulfilled". Therefore, the Old Testament scriptures confirm and point to the gospel message. This initial revelation, which contained the hidden mystery now revealed in the gospel, was "by the command of the eternal God."
The revelation of the mystery in the gospel serves to bring about faith among all the Gentiles - so that all nations might discover the obedience that comes from faith. God's purpose is to gather a perfected people to himself out of all the world. He made known this intention to Abraham and he fulfilled it in Christ.
v27. Finally, Paul gives an ascription of praise to God. The Greek implies that the ascription is to Jesus, but it is likely that God is intended. Paul gives praise to God, the wise one, the only one, and he does this through Jesus.
Thinking Christianly is something God is ready, willing and able to help us with. To this God, Paul gives praise.
It's probably true that we don't think Christianly. Most people these days are no longer objective thinkers. We no longer think in terms of an objective truth that lies beyond ourselves - a truth we have to search out, recognize and submit to. For most modern people, particularly those under 30, truth is subjective; truth is something that is within.
Yet, the Bible is anything but subjective for it speaks of an objective truth revealed to us by God. This truth is not a matter of opinion, something we can feel about - "I feel it's right", "I feel it's wrong." Divine truth is unchanging and eternal. At the center of this revealed truth is gospel truth, and it is here that we must focus. Our understanding of ourselves and the world must focus on the gospel rather than subjective opinions.
In our passage for study, Paul the apostle gives us an insight into this gospel, and he reminds us that God is able to align our thinking and behavior to it:
i] It is the "proclamation of Jesus Christ." The message concerns the person and work of Jesus. The gospel reveals that the Christian walk is all about following in the footsteps of Christ.
ii] It is God's revelation.
iii] It is a mystery. The secret was in the Old Testament, encapsulated, but hidden in the covenant. The mystery remained hidden for Israel and the world until the coming of Christ.
iv] The mystery is now revealed in the gospel. The wonderful thing about this mystery is that it is a secret thing now revealed, a riddle for which we know the answer.
v] The gospel is confirmed by the Old Testament scriptures - "made known through the prophetic writings." With the key of the New Testament we can now see the mystery hidden in the Old Testament.
vi] Its proclamation is commanded by God. He willed it made known.
vii] It serves to bring about the righteousness which comes through faith among all the peoples of the world. God's intention to gather a perfected people to himself is realized through the gospel.
So then, let us be men and women of gospel truth.
1. Paul describes the gospel as a "proclamation of Jesus Christ." What does he mean by this?
2. Discuss the business of thinking Christianly. Try to identify the way we presently think.