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We now come to the final blessing, the final benediction. In this letter, Paul has given us a mere synopsis of his gospel, and that synopsis is overwhelming. If the entire gospel were to be laid out for us all at once, we would be crushed by the glory of it. Never forget that God is in the universe business; we are not servants of some local baal or tribal deity. As Thomas Chalmers once put it, “Regardless of how large, your vision is too small.” Far too small.
“Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord. Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen” (Rom. 16:21-27).
Summary of the Text
Paul has sent his greetings to his friends in Rome, and he now sends greetings from those who are with him. He begins with Timothy, Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater (v. 21). Paul’s secretary, the man who did the actual writing of Romans, a man named Tertius, sent his greetings (v. 22). Gaius, the host of this apostolic entourage, and of the whole church as well, sent his greetings (v. 23). Erastus, a city official, presumably of Corinth, sent his greetings, as did a brother named Quartus (v. 23). Paul appends a benediction to this set of greetings (v. 24). He then turns to deliver a powerful benediction, one encompassing all of them, in accordance with all that he has said thus far (v. 24). He commends everything to Him who has the power to establish the Romans according to Paul’s gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, and this in accordance with the revealing of the mystery, a mystery kept secret from the beginning of the world (v. 25). But that which had been hidden is now made manifest (v. 26). That which was secret is now made known to all nations (so that they might obey) by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God (v. 26). We render glory to the only wise God, and we do so through Jesus Christ, and we will do so forever (v. 27). And amen (v. 27).
You can learn a lot about the center by looking at the group standing around it. You can learn a lot about Paul by looking at the kind of men he collects to work with him. Just as Jesus gathered disparate characters—like Levi the tax collector and Simon the John Bircher—so also with Paul. Timothy had been his co-laborer for many years. We don’t know much about Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater. All we know about Tertius is that he worked as a secretary taking dictation, and that the apostle Paul dictated this letter. Paul was hosted by Gaius, but he was a most hospitable man. He hosted the whole church. There was Quartus, another man we know nothing about, and Erastus, a city official. His position is described as, literally, city economist, probably the treasurer. We can see from this that the Pauline strategy for the Roman Empire as a whole was “infiltration without compromise,” and not, as some would have it, “separation for the sake of perfection.” This kind of thing happens naturally if we pray for, and evangelize, everybody (1 Tim. 2:1-2; Acts 26:29). Politics is dirty, sure enough, but so are monasteries. So is dirt, but we still walk around on it.
Kept Secret in the Types
For the apostle Paul, a mystery is not something we do not yet know. It was something that was not widely or fully known from the creation to the resurrection of Jesus. Some, like angels and prophets, knew it partially (1 Pet. 1: 10-12), but for the most part God kept His plans for the world hidden away in secret. How did He do this? How is it now manifest?
When Christ rose from the dead, and His followers went out to preach that resurrection, they were not simply reporting on a remarkable fact, but were also preaching Christ as the great Antitype of all the types and shadows. When Paul refers to the “mysteries,” he is talking in part about Adam, and David, and Sarah and Hagar, and Abraham and all the other types (1 Cor. 4:1; 1 Cor. 13:2; Eph. 3:9; Eph. 5:32; Col. 1:26-27). A typological reading of the Old Testament is certainly dangerous—and absolutely necessary to the health of gospel preaching. In order to guard ourselves against fantastical interpretations, what do we do? How do we stick close to the interpretive shore? Christ is the shore, and the Scriptures of the prophets are the map. And if it is not aimed at the obedience of faith for all the nations, then it is an erroneous reading of the text.
Eternity in their Hearts
Christians are to be established by the gospel, and not by middle age. Christians are to feed on the preaching of Jesus Christ, Lord of Heaven and earth, and they are to glory in the sweep of God’s redemptive design for the whole world.
God has established eternity in the heart of man. He has put the world in our heart, and He does not want us settling for the petty (Ecc. 3:11). We are certainly to glory in the mundane, knowing that nothing is really ever mundane. So why are so many submerged in their pettiness, and blowing bubbles in it? God created you for more. Lift up your heads.
You will live forever. Shouldn’t your goal be loftier than getting teen-aged boys to look at your body at the pool? How hard could that be? God intends that you be more than a curvy little dope. Shouldn’t your goal be more noble than getting the papers from this side of the desk to that side of the desk? God intended that you do more with your life than just shuffle stuff around. Shouldn’t you be less concerned about the muddy footprints your kid left on the entry mat, and more concerned about the muddy footprints you are leaving on his heart? God intended for you to be great in the law of kindness. We are all of us small, but we were not designed to be petty.
And nothing better than the book of Romans to lift you up out of yourself. Amen and amen.