NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER SIXTEEN (Lesson XII)
16:25-26 Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as the Gospel I preach says He will. This message about Jesus Christ I’ve shared with you reveals His plan for you who are not Jews, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time. But now as the prophets foretold and as our eternal God commanded, I’m making this message known to all non-Jews everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey Him.
Here the Apostle Paul sums up his whole reason for writing this letter and what he intended to accomplish when he wrote it. These words are a perfect benediction to a masterful book that became the central focus of Christian Doctrinal Theology. It gives us the definition of “Righteousness.” It includes the doctrines of Justification, Salvation, Sanctification, and Glorification. Paul emphasizes the need for Christian tolerance and unity. In my opinion, no Preacher or Bible Teacher should consider themselves minimally prepared to share the whole Gospel with others until they read and study this wonderful document written under the inspiration and anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Paul wished and prayed for nothing more than that he be allowed to leave this world knowing that all those to whom he brought the message of salvation through Yeshua the Messiah would be left in good hands when he departed to be with the Lord. We see this same sentiment when Paul said a tearful goodbye to the leaders of Ephesus church: “And now, my brothers, I give you over to God and to the word of His love. It is able to make you strong and to give you what you are to have, along with all those who are set apart for God.”1 We are told that after he gave this emotional farewell, he got down on his knees and prayed with them all. They cried and put their arms around Paul and gave him a Holy Kiss. What made them sad most of all was when he said that they would never see his face again. It may be that Paul wasn’t sure if he would ever see the believers in Rome, and wanted them to know how he felt about them.
We don’t know how many times Paul experienced this emotion, but we do know that he firmly believed that this was just the beginning of greater things for the glory of God and His Kingdom. He told the Ephesians: “God is able to do much more than we ask or think through His power working in us. May we see His shining-greatness in the church. May all people in all time honor Christ Jesus. Let it be so.”2 And to the Thessalonians he wrote: “May our God and Father make your hearts strong and without blame. May your hearts be without sin in God’s sight when our Lord Jesus comes again with all those who belong to Him.”3
So how does Paul get the believers in Rome and other places to know which Gospel they should pay attention to? He warns them that he is not talking about just any gospel, but only the Gospel he taught them. It is the same good news he brought to the Thessalonians.4 And to the Corinthians Paul said: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”5 He told the Galatians: “As for me, may I never boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world was crucified to me, and I to the world.”6 Not only that, but earlier in this letter Paul told the Romans: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”7 And he reminded young Timothy: “Remember this! Jesus Christ, Who was born from the early family of David, was raised from the dead! This is the Gospel I preach.”8
As a matter of fact, shortly after Paul converted to Christianity he began preaching in synagogues in and around Damascus that Yeshua of Nazareth was the Son of God and the awaited Messiah.9 Also, he reminded the Corinthians: “When I came to you, I did not preach the secrets of God with big sounding words or make it sound as if I were so wise. I made up my mind that while I was with you I would speak of nothing except Jesus Christ and of His death on the cross.”10 Later, he mentioned to them: “We do not play with the Word of God or use it in a false way. Because we are telling the truth, we want men’s hearts to listen to us.”11
It was important to Paul that what he preached would not be mistaken as some mystery like the various pagan religions and philosophies being spread around in his day. He told the Corinthians: “What we preach is God’s wisdom. It was a secret until now. God planned for us to have this honor before the world began.”12 He also shared this with the Ephesians: “God told us the secret of what He wanted to do. It is this: In loving thought, He planned long ago to send Christ into the world.”13 And to the Colossians he wrote: “This great secret was hidden to the people of times past, but it is now made known to those who belong to Christ. God wants these great riches of the hidden truth to be made known to the people who are not Jews. The secret is this: Christ in you brings hope of all the great things to come.”14 So the Gospel that Paul preached was not something he thought up while sitting in a cave or meditating under a fig tree. It was a revelation of something God planned before the world began. What greater honor is there than to be chosen by God Himself to spread this good news?
But now the secret is out, and Paul can’t wait to spread the Good News far and wide. Paul told the Ephesians: “Let us honor and thank the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He already gave us a taste of what heaven is like… He was so willing to give all of this to us. He did this with wisdom and understanding.” And Paul encouraged Timothy not to be ashamed of spreading the good news that came with Christ. Although it was known by God from the beginning, Paul says: “We know about it now because of the coming of Jesus Christ, the One Who saves.”16 And to Titus Paul wrote: “God promised this before the world began. He cannot lie. He made this known at the right time through His Word. God, the One Who saves.”17
It’s not that God tried to hide all of this. Paul says if we examine what the prophets said it is crystal clear what God’s plan was. So the revelation was not what God planned to do in order to save mankind from the penalty of Adam’s sin, but the revelation that His Son was the One being sent from heaven to carry it out. We are reminded of the Ethiopian who read the Scriptures as he made his way back home after his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit told Philip to find this man and explain to him what he was reading. After Philip caught up with him and heard him reading from Isaiah 53, he asked him if he understood what the Prophet was saying. The man from Ethiopia asked Philip: “Is the prophet talking about, himself, or someone else?” So Philip started with this part of the Holy Writings and taught the Good News of Yeshua the Messiah to him.18 So the revelation of the secret now is, who Yeshua the Messiah really is. And that same revelation must be preached until He comes again.
The same situation occurred when a Roman soldier named Cornelius sought to know God better. So one afternoon an angel appeared to him and instructed him to send for a man named Peter who was staying in Joppa at the house of a man who worked with leather. That this Peter would reveal to him all he really needed to know. After Peter arrived and understood what was going on, he told Cornelius and his household all about Yeshua, and that all the early prophets spoke of this. Therefore, everyone who puts their trust in Christ will have their sins forgiven.19 So again, Jesus is the secret revelation of how salvation was brought to whosoever believes in Him.
Then, after Paul’s arrest following his arrival in Jerusalem and being brought before King Agrippa, in defense of his right to preach the Gospel he told Agrippa all about Jesus. When his opponents objected, Paul said to Agrippa: “I have told only what the early prophets and Moses said would happen. It was that Christ must suffer and be the first to rise from the dead. He would give light to the Jews and to the other nations.”20 Once again, God’s plan of sending a Messiah to be the Savior of all mankind who were bound and imprisoned by sin was already known to the prophets. The revelation of the secret was that Yeshua of Nazareth was this Messiah.
On the Revelation that was kept secret of which Paul speaks, Origen feels that Paul wants to explain the two ways in which those who believe in the Gospel are strengthened in their faith. One is by way of preaching, which is the preaching of Christ’s passion and resurrection. The other is by the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages and which is now revealed in Christ. That is the mystery of salvation by grace and not by works. All of this was done with plenty of suitable witnesses and the backing of the prophetic Scriptures.21
Origen goes on to point out that those who advance in their knowledge of the Gospel do not treat the things written in the Torah and the Prophets with disrespect. On the contrary, they bestow even greater honor upon them, showing what a depth of wise and incomprehensible truths are contained in these writings, which were not fully comprehended by the Jews who treated them superficially, even to the point that although everybody had their opinion of what it meant, the mystery of what it really meant would never be solved without help from God.22 That’s why the clarification came upon the arrival of the Son of God, the Messiah. Unfortunately, some modern preachers commit the same error. Instead of thinking of the First Covenant as mystical with new things coming to light every day, they treat it as being out-of-date and irrelevant to today’s Christian lifestyle.
1 Acts of the Apostles 20:32
2 Ephesians 3:20-21
3 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
4 2 Thessalonians 2:14
5 1 Corinthians 1:23
6 Galatians 6:14
7 Romans 1:16
8 2 Timothy 2:8
9 Acts of the Apostles 9:20
10 1 Corinthians 2:1-2
11 2 Corinthians 4:2
12 1 Corinthians 2:7
13 Ephesians 1:9
14 Colossians 1:26-27
15 Ephesians 1:3, 8-9
16 2 Timothy 1:10
17 Titus 1:2-3
18 Acts of the Apostles 8:34
19 Ibid. 10:43
20 Ibid. 26:22-23
21 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
22 Origen: Against Celsus 2.4