A Commentary by John Stott
Romans 16:25-27. 3. Paul’s doxology (continued).
Thirdly, Paul writes of *the evangelization of the nations*. It is important to grasp that Paul is stating three truths about the mystery, which are summed up by the verbs *hidden, revealed* and *made known*. It is not just that the mystery was long concealed, but has now been revealed, namely through the life, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus. The third fact is that this good news must be, and is already being, made known throughout the world: *made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him* (26b).
Consider now four significant features of the universal ‘making known’ of the gospel mystery, which are strongly reminiscent of the letter’s opening paragraph (1:1-5). Both passages (the introduction and the doxology) refer to the Scriptures, the commission of God to evangelize, the obedience of faith, and all the nations.
First, the mystery is being made known *through the prophetic writings*, which must mean Old Testament Scripture. But how can God be making known his mystery through the Old Testament now, when it has been in existence for centuries? The answer seems to be that, following the saving events of Christ, God has given his people a new Christological understanding of the Old Testament as bearing witness to Christ (cf. 1:2; 3:21). In consequence, it is through the apostolic declaration that ‘the Christ is Jesus’ (cf. Acts 17:1ff.) that the gospel is spreading.
Second, the clause *by the command of the eternal God* must refer to the universal commission to preach the gospel, for behind the risen Christ who gave it there stood the eternal God, whose everlasting purpose it is to save and unite Jews and Gentiles in Christ.
Third, the clause ‘unto obedience of faith’ (translated *might believe and obey him*) comes next to the Greek text. It is identical with 1:5. The proper response to the gospel is faith, as Paul has stressed throughout his letter, but it is a faith which itself is obedient and which issues in a life of obedience.
Fourth, the contemporary ‘making known’ of God’s mystery is for *all nations*, so that they will believe and obey. No limit is placed on the beneficiaries of the gospel; it is intended for everybody.
So this fourfold scheme of the making known of the gospel through Scripture, by God’s command, unto obedience of faith, for all nations, exactly corresponds to the letter’s opening, which refers to the gospel as being, among other things, according to the Scriptures, through the grace and apostleship given to Paul and others, unto obedience of faith, and for all the nations.
Finally, Paul concludes *in praise of God’s wisdom: to the only wise God be glory for ever through Jesus Christ! Amen* (27). God’s wisdom is seen in Christ himself, ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Col.2:3; cf. 1 Cor.1:30), above all in his cross which, though foolish to human beings, is the wisdom of God (1 Cor.1:24), in God’s decision to save the world not through its own wisdom but through the folly of the gospel (1 Cor.1:21), in the extraordinary phenomenon of the emerging multiracial, multicultural church (Eph.3:10); and in his purpose ultimately to unite everything under Christ (Eph.1:8ff.). No wonder Paul has already broken out in praise of God’s wisdom: ‘Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!’ (11:33). No wonder he does it again at the end of his letter. Indeed, God’s redeemed people will spend eternity ascribing to him ‘praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength’ (Rev. 7:12). That is, they will worship him for his power and wisdom displayed in salvation.
It is fair then to say that the major themes of Paul’s letter are encapsulated in the doxology: the power of God to save and to establish; the gospel and the mystery, once hidden and now revealed, which are Christ crucified and risen; the Christ-centred witness of Old Testament Scripture; the commission of God to make the good news universally known; the summons to all the nations to respond with the obedience of faith and the saving wisdom of God, to whom all glory is due for ever
Tomorrow: We have come to the end of our study in Romans. Tomorrow we start on the Epistle to the Galatians.