NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER SIXTEEN (Lesson XIV)
16:27 All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever and ever. Amen.
After explaining the revelation that Jesus of Nazareth was the awaited Messiah, who came from heaven to carry out God’s plan of salvation, conceived before the world began, what better way to end than with praise to our wise God for making it possible for His Son to come and be our Redeemer, Lord, and Savior. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wishes the believers God’s loving favor and peace, and all because of this: “Christ gave Himself to die for our sins. He did this so we might be saved from this sinful world. This is what God wanted Him to do. May He have all the honor forever. Let it be so.”1
A number of early church scholars share their thoughts on this closing verse. Ambrosiaster believes that without Christ nothing will be understood because all things are to be seen through Him. It is acknowledged that praise is given to God the Father through Him because Ambrosiaster understands the term, “through Christ” to mean “through His Gospel.” This is the only way sinners are saved. Therefore, glory to the Father through the Son is also glory to the Holy Spirit because all are three-in-one and share in their united glory.2
Chrysostom is of the opinion that Paul is not in any way being uncomplimentary to God’s Son. For if all the things whereby God’s wisdom are made apparent through Christ and nothing is done without Him, then He stands equal with the Father in power and authority.3 It is quite plain, for Chrysostom, that the Son is also equal to the Father in wisdom.4 Pelagius shares his thoughts: God required that all the Gentiles to be called should obey and acknowledge Him as the Father. He foreknew when this would one day happen, so to show our love and appreciation we ought to send back our praise to Him through the One He sent. So to Him be glory and honor through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.5
In his remarks at the end of this chapter Charles Hodge makes the point that the Gospel itself is a mystery, that is, a system of truth beyond the power of the human mind to discover on its own which God chose to reveal for our faith and obedience. It was initiated in the beginning in the divine mind of God to be revealed by the prophets and apostles and the preaching of Jesus Christ. In fact, it is by God’s command He made it known to all nations. God alone is omniscient. Therefore, the most profound reverence and the most implicit submission are due to Him. People should not presume to call into question what He revealed, or consider themselves competent to sit in judgment on the truth of His declarations, or the wisdom of His plans.6
Several modern Bible scholars arrive at the conclusion that in this last chapter of Romans Paul greets at least twenty-six individuals and two families. He gives high praise for many of them – men and women alike – for their faithful service to God through Christ. The thing that ties all of these people together is their partnership in the Gospel. They have all been faithful coworkers with Paul in his mission. Paul specifically mentions around eleven individual women as a key part of revealing his attitude toward women serving the church. Indeed, several of the women are praised for their hard work in sharing the Gospel. In fact, Paul placed enough confidence in Phœbe to entrust her with his letter and commend her to the Roman Church. Paul clearly recognized women like Phœbe, Junia, and others as valued and respected coworkers in spreading the Gospel. Regardless of differing opinions about the specific roles that women deserve to have in ministry, all believers – men and women – should seek opportunities to serve to the full extent of their abilities and convictions. 7
Douglas Moo shares some interesting things about how we apply what we’ve read and learned here in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans to our modern-day situation. Concerning the social dimensions of the church, the social composition of the ancient Roman church is of interest to the Bible historian and Scriptural experts but who is to say that knowing it will have any significance on the layperson in the pew. To argue, for instance, that our churches today should have the same social composition as the Roman church would be to indulge in the worst form of trying to make history repeat itself. It is simply not always the case that “as things were then, so must they be now.” That goes for everything to the songs we sing, what translations of the Scriptures we read, or the way we dress. But Moo does point out that there are some principles that must never go out of style in the church during any era. The supremacy of the Gospel; Christ as the most important person in God’s plan of salvation; concern for the lost around us, including the poor and homeless. In other words, the church was to become a mission, not a museum.
Then Moo speaks about the organizational dimensions of the church. The fact that the Roman community was divided into house churches does not mean that the contemporary church should adopt a similar structure. Moo points out that Paul does not teach that the community of believers should be divided into small Bible studies. Indeed, house churches were no doubt a physical necessity in a time before church buildings existed and when other public buildings of any size were not available for Christians. Moo mentions how many local churches compete with each other, often finding some fault so as to persuade their members to switch. Since we all believe the same thing, for the most part, we should recognize one another as part of the larger Body of Christ, and despite our differences present the picture that Christ wanted – that we love one another even as He loves us.
And finally, Moos discusses the gender dimensions of the church. He turns to the matter of the potential significance for the contemporary church seeing women the same way as they were seen back then. There are a couple of things that must be clarified: First, women were an important and public part of the Roman Christian community. The term “public” in this assertion is especially important. In many religions in the ancient world and even some today, women were not allowed to participate directly in church affairs that, up to that point, were assigned only to men. It is obvious that Paul released the bonds on women as they were constituted in Judaism and gave women more freedom in the Christian Church. Paul recognizes women along with men, implying their equality in the community and their participation together in worship was to be accepted.
Moo finishes by noting that he cringes when he hears the modern debate put in terms of “Women in Ministry” – as if there should be any doubt about whether women should be ministers. The Final Covenant is insistent that every believer is a minister, that is, a servant of Christ and the church with important contributions to make to the life of the body. Moo regrets that too much chauvinism still lurks in the corners and hallways of our churches. Women are too often relegated to menial duties in the church even when the Body of Christ is aching because of the absence of gifted, trained women to teach other women, to counsel, to evangelize, and to organize. I agree with Dr. Moo wholeheartedly.8
I found this in an older commentary and thought it would be a good poetic way to close this great Epistle as an addendum to Paul’s doxology. I redacted it for clarity and smoother flow of thought. I pray it touches your heart as it did mine. Read it slowly and let the message sink in deeply.
“O King of ages! O Revealer of the mystery concealed during the ages of eternity! O God eternal, immortal, and invisible! O You who sits atop the lofty mountains of eternity; who, from Your elevated pinnacle surveys our narrow span of life, and of all the centuries gliding beneath Your throne, to You be all honor, and glory, forever and ever!
O You, who by Your victory over death, have thrown open wide to us the gates of a blissful eternity. Grant that we always live with that in mind – rightly, stately, and devoutly – so one day will be partakers of its glory. Grant us to pass through this fleeting moment of life in such a way that by standing strong and standing secure we will be called into Your presence and joy forevermore so we can praise You and celebrate You in the company of all Your saints and angels. O Love Divine! O Beloved Eternity! My God and my All-in-All. Amen! 9”10
The writing of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans was so opportune. It came at the right time when they needed instruction on a better understanding of God’s grace through being Called, Chosen, Redeemed, Justified, Sanctified, Empowered, and Glorified as God’s children in this unenlightened and wicked world. It was a lamp they carried in the darkness to keep them on the right path. And as long as there is an ample supply of supernatural oil the flame of the Gospel will never go out. This requires the need for much studying to ingest the meat of God’s Word given through the Apostle Paul as they mature. We need this just as much, if not more, in the Church today than ever before. May all who take the time to study this masterpiece be blessed and enriched by God’s wisdom to the point of being able, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to show others the way to become obedient to the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, to the glory and honor of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen!
THE END OF CHAPTER SIXTEEN
1 Galatians 1:4-5
2 Ambrosiaster: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
3 Philippians 2:6
4 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 27
5 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit
6 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 703
7 Lexham Bible Guide: Romans by Douglas Mangum, Derek R. Brown, E. Tod Twist (2014). (D. Mangum, Ed.) (Romans 16:1–27). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
8 Douglas J. Moo: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
9 Cornelius À Lapide (1567-1637)
10 From John MacEvilly, An Exposition of the Epistles of St. Paul and of the Catholic Epistles (Vol. 1) Third Edition, Dublin: W. B. Kelly, 1875, pp. 139-140