The word “doxology” means a word of glory to God. That’s what theology aims to lead us to–doxology. Not only deeper thinking about gospel doctrines, but also higher praise to the God of the gospel through Jesus Christ. Paul will take us there. But he’s got a warning about divisions and a list of hellos from friends first . . .
“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you” (16:17-20).
Judaizers are Jewish (professed) Christians who insist Gentiles be circumcised to be justified. They often trouble Paul’s churches. Are they whom he warns Romans to watch out for? Whether they or others, Paul sees their division-causing and obstacle-putting as the work of Satan. Soon, Paul promises, the “God of peace will . . . crush Satan under your feet”. Soon when? Either Paul expects this particular Satanic attack will end soon or he is promising God’s eschatological Judgment Day to dawn shortly. Having disarmed Satan at the cross (“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”–Colossians 2:16), at the end, the Lord will throw him into hell (“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
Paul could be describing some TV evangelists, who pervert the plain truths of the gospel. On the other hand, denominations, as well as “independent” churches, have been birthed over doctrinal differences. And, sadly, churches have split over secondary issues or because slanderous tongues sliced up fellow believers. After 2000 years, we are still struggling to be one in Christ.
Having greeted friends in Rome (16:3-16), Paul now sends greeting from friends with him . . .
“Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives. I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen” (16:21-24).
“Timothy” was probably Paul’s closest associate in ministry. We know him best from the two New Testament letters that bear his name. “Lucius” may be a variant on Luke or he may be the Antioch prophets and teachers mentioned in Acts 13:1. “Jason” is probably the Jason who hosted Paul in Thessalonica and got beat up for it (Acts 17:5-9). And “Sosipater” is likely the Sosipater who accompanied Paul from Berea (Acts 20:5). Why does Paul call the last three men “my relatives”? Probably because they were fellow Jews, perhaps from Gentile churches, traveling with Paul to deliver the offering for the poor Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem.
“Tertius” is a scribe. As was customary then, Paul dictated, Tertius wrote (and said hello). “Gaius” is probably the Gaius Paul baptized in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14) and who is now hosting him. “Erastus” is likely the man Paul sent with Timothy from Ephesus to Macedonia (Acts 19:22). He is also Corinth’s “director of public works”. “Quartus” is a mystery man mentioned nowhere else in Scripture.
After the family grace prayer-wish and the final “So be it (“Amen”), comes the concluding . . .
“Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him–to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen” (16:25-27).
Thus Paul expresses glory to God—“Now to him . . . be glory forever through Jesus Christ!” Between beginning and end come a catalogue of reasons for giving glory to God . . .
He “is able”; that is, he has the power . . .
“to establish you”; that is, to fix you so you cannot be moved . . .
“by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ; that is, the good news proclaimed throughout this letter is the means God will powerfully use to fix you immovable . . .
“according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past through the prophetic writings”; that is, this gospel lines up with the “mysterious” words of the prophets and it comes . . .
“by the command of the eternal God”; that is, the gospel has been long hidden by the decree of the God who has no beginning or ending . . .
“so all nations might believe and obey him”; that is, God’s purpose in the gospel proclaimed is that, not only Jews, but from among all Gentile nations, might come a people who will believe and obey him . . .
“to the only wise God”; that is, the only God whose judgments are unsearchable, whose ways can’t be traced out, who needs no counselor. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever!” (11:36).
To this God be glory forever through Jesus Christ. Amen.”
* * *
I’ve often thought that our Sunday service order is backwards. Theology (preaching of God’s Word as Paul did in Romans) should lead to doxology (glorifying God for his Word). I tried the reverse once or twice. It didn’t seem to “work”. So back to backwards. I think we needed more time, repeated reversals, to “flow” with theology to doxology, preaching to worship.
Doxology is where Romans should bring us. Well and good to dig deeper into the doctrines. But when we finally reach the end of such theologically rich writing, we should be driven to our knees with hands lifted to heaven and our lips singing glory to God . . .