SUNDAY NIGHT CROSSTRAINING NOTES
The Deeper the Theology, the Purer the Worship
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Sunday, January 24, 2010 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1341
Pastor Don Horban

Romans 16:21-27 - “Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. [22] I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord. [23] Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you. [25] Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages [26] but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— [27] to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

We’ve come to our last session in the book of Romans. We’ve been studying this great letter for well over a year - sixty-four weeks. How does Paul sign off? He does it in a way that recycles some of the main concerns and themes of the whole letter. There is nothing accidental about this great closing:

1) PAUL EMPHASIZES THE UNITY OF THE BODY OF CHRIST - Romans 16:21-23 - “Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. [22] I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord. [23] Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.”

Paul sends greetings from people who had met him, but had probably never met any of the Romans to whom he wrote. Why does he do this? What would be accomplished by sending greetings from Erastus, the city treasurer in Corinth? These seem like insignificant gestures of politeness, but they’re more. These Christians in Rome were having quite a tough time of it. And when you’re under the heat of trial your world shrinks. You forget that there are horizons beyond your own pain and loss.

So Paul introduces the Romans to Christians outside the framework of Rome. The work of Jesus and transforming power of the Spirit extend beyond the boundaries of Rome and the power of the emperor. God’s work is a big work. They may not know these Christians whom Paul names in his greetings to them, but they are all brothers and sisters in God’s family. Nothing can erase or diminish that reality.

2) THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TERTIUS’ INSERTED GREETING - Romans 16:22 - “I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.”

I know this is a short verse, but I think we need to pause over it for a minute. We know Paul regularly wrote his letters with a secretary of some sort - an amanuensis, is the more technical term. We know this because at least four times he tells us he signed off his letter “in his own hand”, implying that the rest of the letter was written with someone else’s hand writing (1 Corinthians 16:21, Galatians 6:11, Colossians 4:18, 2 Thessalonians 2:17).

Yet, in spite of this fact, Paul still regularly begins his letters saying he is the author. The words and ideas are Paul’s, and not those of someone else (see 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, Galatians 1:1-2, Colossians 1:1-2, Romans 1:1,7)

And the idea I find forming in my mind is this: the will of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in inspiring the text continues so sovereignly that it isn’t diminished by whose hand holds the pen. In other words, the ideas are no less Paul’s just because a secretary held the pen. Paul still considers the words and ideas his own. Tertius writes his own greeting with the blessing and supervision of Paul. And in just the same way, the words of the text that Paul uttered are the words of the Spirit of God, even though expressed through the person of Paul. So thank God for an inspired Bible!

3) JUST AS WE CAN’T INITIATE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE ON OUR OWN, WE CAN’T BE STRENGTHENED IN IT ON OUR OWN EITHER - Romans 16:25 - “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ....”

How shall we continue to grow in the faith? That’s the issue. The emphasis here is “Unto him who is able to strengthen you....” And we immediately hear echos of Jesus’ command, “Abide in me....For apart from me you can do nothing!” Not nothing in the sense of not being able to tie our own shoes or earn a living, but nothing that can generate spiritual life. We can do nothing to grow our own souls.

So here is Paul’s reminder. We are so quick to create systems and create mechanical procedures. Organized religion can be death-dealing to spiritual life. Paul urges ongoing dependance on the Holy Spirit. Please remember that for all our emphasis on the importance of sound teaching and doctrine and learning, there will always be this portion of discipleship that is never learned in any final sense. This Jesus called, “becoming like little children.”

4) THE LENGTHS TO WHICH GOD GOES TO DRAW OUT OUR TRUST - Romans 16:25b-26 - “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages [26] but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith....”

Because God is absolutely sovereign, He could have accomplished redemption instantly rather than by, to use Paul’s words, unfolding a “mystery.” In fact, verses 25 and 26 almost appear contradictory. Verse 25 talks about the “revelation” that has been disclosed in the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ. Then verse 26 says this mystery has been spoken about for centuries through the “prophetic writings.” And you feel like saying, “Which is it, Paul?” Is this news old, or is it new?

And the answer is, it’s both. Perhaps the apostle Peter gives the clearest statement as to how the mystery is both new and old at the same time: 1 Peter 1:10-12 - “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, [11] inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. [12] It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”

The prophets knew they were writing for a later audience (12). They knew they had great news, but didn’t have a full picture of the details. They wrote with anticipation. We read with the full accomplishment of history and gratitude rather then guesswork.

And what that means is we should glorify God all the more because of our understanding of the full scope of divine revelation. Consider the revelation we have of the patience of God. We can see how He waited with all the blunders and failures and unfaithfulness of His people. Yet He still sent His Son, Jesus, at the appointed time.

And then there’s God’s faithfulness. We see His hand revealed over and over again - through centuries - when it looked like nothing would ever come of the promise made to Abraham. Or consider the revelation of just how central the gospel is in the plan of God. Everything, from the temple to the priesthood and the sacrificial system, found its ultimate meaning in the person of Jesus Christ and His substitutionary redemption for you and me. This was not some small afterthought in the plan of God. This was the goal of all of creation.

So, Paul reminds the Christians at Rome, and us as well, that God not only accomplished redemption, He prepared the world to recognize it when it took place. Behold the love of God for us! We are given enough preparatory revelation through the prophets to look back and see that the accomplishments of Christ Jesus weren’t just a coincidence. God was unfolding the meaning of creation in a way we could recognize.

5) GOD ALONE DESERVES GLORY BECAUSE HE ALONE IS WISE - Romans 16:27 - “....to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

Immediately we’re called back in our thoughts to Paul’s biting description of human sin in Romans 1:22-25 - “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. [24] Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, [25] because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”

Sin is giving glory to someone else, or something else, rather than God. The depth of human sin is measured by what elicits your admiration and praise. What makes your jaw drop defines your worship. And fallen people worship things and people like themselves - “....and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator....”(1:15).

Paul says only God deserves worship. And then he picks one attribute out of many - wisdom. It’s to the “only wise God” that glory is due (16:27). And the reason Paul singles out God’s wisdom is, I think, profound. Wisdom is the capacity to know the meaning, the purpose of something. It’s more than knowledge. It really has to do with the goal of something, the end or direction to which something is designed and intended. So God deserves all glory because God - and only God - knows the purpose of all creation. God is the polar opposite of the self-destructive tendency of mankind who fails to see the purpose of its own existence in its confusion of worshiping the creature rather than the Creator.

When we glorify God understanding His inexhaustible, unsearchable wisdom - when we worship Him with that attribute fixed in our minds - we will order our lives properly. We will line up our lives and our worlds with His divine purpose. We will not complain or second guess. We won’t fill our lives with trinkets and distractions. We won’t follow empty examples. We won’t blindly live for the moment, turning our back on God’s plan for eternity. Our God is the only wise God. In a world where people clamor after blank substitutes for God, He alone is wise. He knows what He is doing in and through Jesus Christ. His revelation is certain. And the better we grasp this - the deeper our theology - the purer will be our worship. This is what makes Romans one of the most profitable studies going. Read it over and over. Then bow your head in doxology.