To God be the Glory! – Romans 16:21-27
Pastor Mark Hardy March 23, 2014
Frances Jane Crosby, commonly called “Fanny” Crosby, was born on March 24, 1820 into a strong Christian home in Putnam County, New York. When she was six weeks old she caught a cold that inflamed her eyes. The country doctor put mustard poul-ti-ces on her head and chest to loosen the congestion. However, the one on her head slipped and mustard got into her eyes, causing her to be totally blind for the rest of her life.
At the age of two Fanny’s grandmother taught her to listen to the stories that she read to her and memorize them. Since Braille had not yet been invented, Fanny learned everything by memorizing what others read to her. When she was eight she wrote her first poem and by age ten she had memorized the first four books of both the Old and New Testaments.
When Fanny was 15 years old her mother enrolled her as a student in the New York Institute for the Blind. She excelled so much that after graduation she joined the faculty of the Institute and taught there for 35 years. Although she wrote over 1,000 secular songs earlier in her life, when Fanny turned 40 she began to write hymns. She became one of the greatest hymn writers of all time, composing over 7,000 hymns. Fanny died on February 12, 1915 at the age of 95.
One of Fanny’s most well-known and loved hymns is To God be the Glory, which is a wonderful hymn of praise and adoration to God. It was originally written around 1872 in America. Ira Sankey, the song leader for Dwight L. Moody’s, heard of it and used it during their 1873-1874 revivals in Great Britain. But it really didn’t become popular until 80 years later, 39 years after Fanny died.
In 1954 Cliff Barrows, the song leader for Billy Graham, heard of it and used it during their London Billy Graham Crusade. The crowd responded so enthusiastically that Barrows used it nearly every night. He again used it that same year in their Crusade in Nashville, Tennessee. The song was so enthusiastically received that it was used regularly in their Crusades. And because of this exposure, the song rapidly became familiar to Christians worldwide and is included in most modern hymnals.
Fanny Crosby clearly understood God’s sovereign grace in salvation and ascribed to Him all the praise and glory for His great redeeming work in Jesus Christ. This song is a good example of verbalizing what the apostle Paul was saying in part of the passage we will be looking at this morning. Turn in your Bible to Romans 16, as we conclude our study of the book of Romans.
In Romans 16:21-27 we see two parts of Paul’s closing comments in his letter to the saints in Rome, which should fill our hearts with praise to God for all He has done for us in Jesus Christ.
The first part of Paul’s closing comments is:
I. The loving Greetings from Associates of Paul
A. Look at v. 21: Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.
1. As we come to vv. 21-23, Paul now passes on greetings from the eight associates who are with him in Corinth. He begins with the most familiar of all of them when he says, “Timothy my fellow worker greets you…”
2. The one Greek word translated “fellow worker” (sunergos) means co-worker in the gospel ministry of Jesus Christ. However, this is a major understatement for Timothy was so much more than that to Paul.
3. He would become Paul’s closest ministry associate. Paul said of him in Philippians 2:20, “For I have no one else of kindred spirit (i.e. one soul) who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” (also v. 22)
4. Timothy’s name is stated 24 times in the New Testament. He is mentioned in ten of Paul’s 13 letters (not Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus), and was the recipient of two of Paul’s letters (1 and 2 Timothy).
5. Now Timothy was a native of Lystra, in South Galatia, who had a Jewish mother and a Greek father (Acts 16:1). Paul led Timothy to the Lord and as his spiritual father considered him as a “beloved and faithful child in the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:2, 18; 2 Tim. 1:2).
6. Timothy joined Paul at the beginning of his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-3; 17:14-15; 18:5) and had undertaken several special missions at Paul’s request. He also met up with Paul again on his third missionary journey (2 Cor. 1:1).
7. And here in Paul’s letter to the Romans we see that he is with Paul in Corinth at the end of that missionary journey (Acts 20:4). Timothy would later be with Paul during his first imprisonment in Rome (Phil. 1:1, 19-23; Col. 1:1; Phlm. 1), and after Paul’s release he worked with him again in the eastern Mediterranean (1 and 2 Timothy).
B. Paul sends greetings from three more men in v. 21: …and so do Lucius and Jason and So-sip-a-ter, my kinsmen.
1. Now this “Lucius” may be the Lucius of Cyrene, who was one of the prophets and teachers in the church at Syrian Antioch ten years earlier that participated in Paul and Barnabas’ commissioning for their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3).
2. Or, “Lucius” may be a varied form of “Luke,” the beloved physician and human author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts (Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Phile. 24), for we can discern that he was with Paul in Corinth by his use of “we” (Acts 16:10) and “us” (20:5) in Acts. However, no one knows for sure!
3. “Jason” may be the man who let Paul stay in his house for awhile at Thessalonica and willingly suffered for it at the hands of the mob (Acts 17:5-9).
4. “Sosipater” is probably the “Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus” who Acts 20:4 says is with Paul in Corinth.
5. Notice that Paul calls all three of these men “my kinsmen,” which means that they were Jewish Christian. Since Doctor Luke was a Gentile, this is one reason for not identifying him as Lucius.
C. Now look at v. 22: I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.
1. There are three things we learn about Tertius from this verse: First, he was Paul’s amanuensis or secretary in Corinth “who [wrote] this letter.” Paul regularly used a secretary to write his letters and his practice was to authenticate it at some point by writing something in his own handwriting (1 Cor. 16:21; Gal. 6:11; Col. 4:18; 2 Thess. 3:17).
2. Remember that since Paul was being inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21; 2 Tim. 3:16), Tertius simply wrote down everything Paul told him to write.
3. Second, Tertius is the only one of Paul’s secretaries who has ever been named and had ever sent his own personal greeting. This is unprecedented in the New Testament, the first and only time this has happened, possibly because he was from Rome or closely associated with the Roman church.
4. Third, Tertius was a Christian since he sends his personal greeting to the Roman believers “in the Lord.”
D. Finally Paul says in v. 23, “Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother.
1. The name “Gaius” was a common name and there are at least three different men with that name in the New Testament. The man Paul is talking about here is probably not Gaius of Derbe (Acts 19:29; 20:4) or “the beloved Gaius” who was a church leader in Asia Minor (3 Jn. 1).
2. He is most likely the Gaius of Corinth, whose full name was Gaius Titius Justus. He was one of the first believers to come to saving faith in Christ through Paul’s ministry in Corinth, and was one of the two men whom Paul baptized personally (1 Cor. 1:14).
3. Paul describes him saying, “…host to me and to the whole church.” The word “host” (xenos) speaks of his gracious hospitality.
4. Earlier, Gaius extended the hospitality of his house to Paul when the fledgling church of Corinth was expelled from the synagogue next door in Acts 18:7. Presently, Paul is probably writing this letter as he stays with Gaius.
5. When Paul says he is a host “to the whole church” this can mean he shows hospitality to all Christians traveling through Corinth, or he shows hospitality to the whole church in that he has a house-church meeting in his house, or both. He is believed to be wealthy to have a house large enough to do this.
6. What a great thing to be immortalized in God’s Word as one who practiced hospitality (12:13). One day people will sum up our lives in one sentence. What do you want them to say about you?
7. Paul says, “Erastus, the city treasurer greets you.” Since this was a common name in New Testament times there is a lot of confusion about who this is.
8. He is probably not the same Erastus who traveled with Paul mentioned in Acts 19:22 and 2 Timothy 4:20, for a city official could not be away from his job for such a long period of time.
9. Some say he is the Erastus whose name was found in 1931 inscribed in Latin on a marble paving block in the ruins of old Corinth dated back to Paul’s day. However, this man was a city official in charge of public works (i.e. aedile) while Paul says here he was the “city treasurer” (oikonomos). Whereas he could have held both offices at different times, no one can be sure.
10. What we do know about this Erastus is that as a Christian he held a prominent position in the city government. Paul told the Corinthians in 1:26, “…not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” put their faith in Jesus Christ, the gospel did reach some in high places in Corinth.
11. Paul then says that the final greeting to the Roman believers in v. 23 comes from, “…Quartus, the brother.” The word “brother” (adelphos) here means that he was a brother in Christ, and the fact that he is simply called “the brother” may suggest that he was well-known to the Roman believers.
12. There are two lessons that we can learn from this list of greetings from Paul’s associates with him in Corinth: First, no one can fully do their work without the help of others.
13. Therefore, as a body of believers we must function together as a team, helping and supporting one another if we are going to accomplish what the Lord has called us to do.
14. Second, since we are greatly influenced by the values and priorities of those we consistently spend time with we must spend time with the right people. Paul’s commitment to loving relationships had a tremendous impact on all of his associates and they followed his example as he followed Christ.
15. May we be an example that others can follow!
E. Now look at v. 24: [The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.] 1. This third short benediction (15:33; 16:20b) is not adequately supported by textual evidence and is considered by most scholars to have been inserted.
2. This is why it is bracketed in the NASB and footnoted in the NASB and NKJV saying that the earliest Greek manuscripts do not contain this verse. The NIV leaves it out altogether.
3. We now come to the second part of Paul’s closing comments, which is:
II. The magnificent Doxology that Exclaims God’s Praise
A. Look at vv. 25-27, which is one long sentence in the Greek: Now to Him (i.e. God the Father) who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.”
1. Wow! This eloquent doxology, which is an expression of praise to God, is Paul’s worshipful exclamation point to his letter.
2. It is one of the finest of Paul’s many doxologies (Rom. 11:33-36; Gal. 1:5; Eph. 3:20-21; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2 Tim. 4:18. Others seen in 1 Pet. 4:11; 2 Pet. 3:18; Heb. 13:20-21; Jude 24-25).
3. In this doxology there is a remarkable relationship between these three verses and 1:1-11. This doxology sums up the major themes seen in those eleven verses and throughout this letter and expresses them in praise to God.
4. Let’s look at three facets of this doxology:
B. The first facet is: Paul praises God for His power. Look again at v. 25: Now to Him who is able to establish you… (Stop there)
1. The word “able” (dunameno) speaks of the almighty “can do” power of God to make happen whatever He wills, which is stated twelve times in this letter (1:4, 16, 20; 4:21; 9:17, 22; 11:23; 14:4; 15:13, 19 [twice]; 16:25) and is also seen elsewhere in Scripture (2 Cor. 9:8; Eph. 3:20; 2 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 2:18; 7:25; Jude 24).
2. Paul says God is able “…to establish you.” The word “establish” (sterizai) here means to strengthen, to make firm and constant.
3. This entire doxology centers in God’s powerful ability to strengthen His people. God never intended us as believers to try to live our Christian lives in our own strength and resources, but rather promises to strengthen us with His power as we depend on Him.
4. God strengthens us to grow in our Christian faith (Rom. 1:11; Eph. 3:16-19; 1 Thess. 3:2, 13; 2 Thess. 2:17), to resist temptations (1 Cor. 10:13), to endure trials and suffering (2 Cor. 12:9-10; 1 Pet. 5:10), to stand firm against the schemes of the devil (Eph. 6:11; 2 Thess. 3:3), and to accomplish the ministry He has called and gifted us to do (Phil. 4:13).
5. Beloved, whatever it is that you need right now spiritually in your life, remember that God is able! Praise Him for that like Paul!
C. The second facet of this doxology is: Paul praises God for the gospel. Look again at v. 25: Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, (Verse 26) but now is manifested… (Stop there)
1. Here we see that God powerfully strengthens His people by means of the gospel. Notice that Paul calls it “my gospel” (euaggelion mou), not because he originated it, but because it was revealed and entrusted to him directly by God, and therefore, it is what he preached (1:1; 1 Cor. 15:1; Gal. 1:11; 2:2, 7; Eph. 3:6; 1 Thess. 2:4; 1 Tim. 1:11).
2. Now as we have seen throughout Romans, the “gospel” (euaggelion) is the Good News of salvation and is the major theme of this epistle (1:1, 9, 15, 16; 2:16; 11:28; 15:16, 19, 20; 16:25). Not only is it God’s power to save (1:16), but it is also God’s power to strengthen.
3. Paul goes on to further define the gospel when he says, “…and the preaching of Jesus Christ.” This is synonymous with the gospel!
4. The word “preaching” (kerugma) here refers to the message proclaimed, and “Jesus Christ” is its substance (1:2-4; 1 Cor. 1:21-24; 15:1-4; 2:4; 15:14; 2 Cor. 4:5-6). In other words, Paul’s gospel is the proclamation of Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, which is the same gospel as the other apostles.
5. He said to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 1:23; 2 Cor. 4:5; 2 Tim. 2:8)
6. Paul then says about his gospel, the message of Christ proclaimed, that it is “…according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested…”
7. The word “mystery” (musterion) means something hidden in former times but now is revealed. There are many references in the New Testament to mystery’s revealed (Mk. 4:11; Rom. 11:25; 1 Cor. 2:7-10; 4:1; 15:51; Eph. 1:9; 3:3-6, 9; 5:32; 6:19; Col. 1:26-27; 2:2-3; 4:3; 2 Thess. 2:7-8; 1 Tim. 3:9, 16; Tit. 3:9, 16; Rev. 1:20; 10:7; 17:5, 7).
8. However, the “revelation of the mystery” here is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is what unites believing Jews and Gentiles as co-sharers of God’s saving promises (Rom. 11:11-32) and as the one body of Christ, the church.
9. Concerning this mystery of the gospel of Christ, Paul says, it “has been kept secret for long ages past.” The one Greek word translated “kept secret” (sesigemenou) means hidden, covered, and concealed.
10. And the phrase “long ages past” (chronois aioniois) refers to eternity past, before the foundation of the world (2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:2). Here we see that although God’s plan of salvation in Christ, the Messiah, designed in eternity past was always there in the Old Testament, it was veiled from clear view.
11. However, in God’s perfect time He revealed the mystery of the gospel of Christ in time, space, and history. Look at the first part of v. 26, “but now is manifested…”
12. The word “manifested” (phanerothentos) means to make known, visible, and clear. Here Paul marks the division between two ages or epics—the time of God’s revelation of the mystery and the time that precedes it.
13. Before the mystery of the gospel of Christ was hidden, but now it is revealed to the world (Col. 1:26; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; Tit. 1:2-3; 1 Pet. 1:20).
D. Notice the four ways the mystery of the gospel of Christ was manifested:
1. The first way in v. 26 is “…by the Scriptures of the prophets.” This refers to the Old Testament Scriptures.
2. Although the mystery of God’s work in Christ was not fully experienced or understood during Old Testament times because it was hidden, nevertheless the Old Testament Scriptures did testify to it (1:2; 3:21; 9-11). The real meaning of the Old Testament has become apparent through the New Testament.
3. In other words, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, which Paul proclaimed was not some new innovation in the redemptive plan of God, but was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies (Isa. 9:6; 53; Jer. 23; 31:31-34; Ezek. 11:19; 36:26-27; Mic. 5).
4. Paul says the second way in v. 26 is “…according to the commandment of the eternal God.”
5. This means that gospel of Christ was manifested at the exact time in salvation history that the eternal God (Gen. 21:33; Isa. 26:4; 40:28; 1 Tim. 1:17) commanded, determined or decreed.
6. Never forget that the unfolding of human history is not by chance. The sovereign and eternal God is behind the scenes and has revealed His plan of salvation (designed in eternity past) in time, space, and history at the proper time! Only an all-powerful God can do that!
7. The third way in v. 26 is that the gospel of Christ “…has been made known (gnoristhentos—basically synonymous with “manifest”) to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith.”
8. This is God’s goal in making known the mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that it will be proclaimed to all the nations of the world, to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. In that way everyone who believes can participate in God’s saving promises to Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 22:18) and experience the obedience that flows from true saving faith (1:5).
9. Since the gospel is for the whole world, may we as the people of God be responsible to faithfully share it with them (Isa. 42:6; 49:6, 22; 54:3; 60:3-5; 62:2; 66:19; Matt. 28:19-20; Act 1:8).
E. The third facet of this doxology is: Paul praises God for His wisdom. Look at v. 27, “to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.”
1. This is the grand finale! Notice that God the Father is called “the only wise God.”
2. Reflecting on how the one and only God who designed His plan of redemption in eternity past (Deut. 29:29; Isa. 55:8-9), has now revealed it at His determined time, Paul is totally overwhelmed with awe at the infinite wisdom of God.
3. And notice that His wise plan of salvation is “through Jesus Christ” (1:3-4, 8). We are told in 2 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
4. Salvation is only through Jesus Christ! He is the only way; there is no other (Jn. 10:9; 14:6; Acts 4:12). Also, every blessing showered upon believers comes only through Him (Eph. 1:3).
5. Paul’s awe then erupts as he exclaims God’s praise saying, “…be the glory forever.” Since God the Father has done all of these great things in the gospel of Christ, He deserves all the praise, worship, and glory.
6. And as His people, it is our great privilege and responsibility to give Him praise, worship, and glory both now and forever throughout all eternity (Rev. 7:12).
7. Paul then concludes this marvelous letter with the solemn and enthusiastic affirmation, “Amen,” meaning “So let it be!”
In closing, as we think about the gospel of God’s sovereign grace through faith alone in Christ alone revealed in the book of Romans, like Paul, may our hearts be filled with praise to God for all He has done for us in Jesus Christ. There is no more fitting response to the book than to wholeheartedly proclaim the worshipful words so insightfully penned by Fanny Crosby, “To God be the glory, great things He has done!”