Romans 16:21-27 - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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Romans 16:21-27


Outbursts of Praise

I come into the category of being an armchair sportsman. That is I belong to the category of people who are reasonably knowledgeable about sport but instead of playing we sit and watch it on the TV. Of course it goes without saying that we could have picked a better team than Roy Hodgson did in Brazil and we would never have played a drop shot like that at Wimbledon…

We might not sweat as much as those who prefer running around but we do get passionately involved. The England winger is racing towards the All Black's line and we shout at the screen encouraging him to run, run. Then suddenly there is a wonderful piece of soccer skill and it draws a gasp of astonishment from our lips or there is a slice of tennis magic and again we cry out in appreciation. If there is someone else in the room, they know something special has happened as we invite them to come and watch the replay.

We armchair sportsmen can get very excited and outbursts are not manufactured or artificially constructed – we can be genuinely moved by what we observe.

But am I genuinely moved by what moved the apostle Paul? Are you?

As Paul considered what God had done for sinful men and women he often broke out in spontaneous praise to magnify this glorious God. Paul had come to know and love this God and how he admired him! The religious word for a spontaneous outburst of praise is "doxology" and in Paul's letters we find seven of them – two of which are in this letter to the Romans. The last of these, which brings this magnificent letter to a great and worthy close, will be the focus of our attention this morning.

But before we can get there I want to say just a few words about Paul's companions who are mentioned in vv.21-23.

Paul's Companions send their Greetings vv.21-23
Paul had already passed on his own personal greetings to a large number of individual Christians who were living in Rome and now, before he ends his letter, he passes on the greetings of some of his companions and allows a man called Tertius to add his own.

But who was this Tertius who claimed to have written the letter? Some have suggested that because his name was Latin that he had relatives living in Rome but as this is the only occasion in the Bible that Tertius is mentioned by name we can't be certain of anything beyond the fact that he was Paul's secretary.

When we read details about Paul's physical health elsewhere in the NT it seems likely that he suffered from some painful eye condition. Of course such a condition would make writing an uncomfortable and difficult matter so Paul used Tertius as his amanuensis or scribe. Universities and colleges allow certain categories of students to do the same and to use a scribe when they sit their exams and this is what Royal Holloway College says about them in its guidelines:

"a scribe will not interpret the information being given. They will write exactly what is dictated to them."

And that describes exactly what Tertius' role was – he wrote down just what Paul told him to. Because of this service the big-hearted Paul was happy to allow Tertius to add his own Christian greetings and in so doing the name of Tertius lives on down through the centuries of the Christian era.

What about the other people who are mentioned – Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Gaius, Erasmus and Quartus? All in all they represent quite a mix.

Well perhaps the first thing to underline one more time that Paul although a pioneer missionary with a strong personality was nevertheless a great team player – he was no go-it-alone Christian who saw no need of Christian fellowship. Some of those listed as being on Paul's team were well-known and important but others were largely anonymous – there is room for all types in Christian service, so let us make every effort to be good team players too!

Timothy of course is the best known name on this list. He was probably Paul's favourite co-worker and Paul not only held him in high regard but had a soft spot for him as well.

It is possible that the Lucius, Jason and Sosipater mentioned here are referred to elsewhere in the NT but with the case of Jason the name was very popular and could very easily refer to another person.

Gaius was in all probability one of the few people that Paul baptised in Corinth.

Erastus is identified as the treasurer of the city (of Corinth) and as such was an important, influential official. The fact that he was a converted man illustrates that the gospel had impacted various different levels of society and was not confined to outcasts and social discontents.

The last person Paul included was Quartus – we know no more than that he was a Christian – some have suggested that he, Quartus, whose name means the fourth was a brother of Tertius, the third, but this owes more to the fanciful imagination of some commentators than to anything more reliable.

A Word about Doxologies
When Paul had finished reflecting on all the glorious doctrines that he had to share with the Christians in Rome he had interrupted his flow with a shout of praise:

Rom.11:33-36a "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things."

Paul continued with what has come to be known as a doxology:

v.36b "To him be glory forever. Amen."

Now here at the end of ch.16 Paul has finished the practical and personal application section of his letter and once more he concludes with an outburst of praise in the form of another doxology.

Rom.16:25-27 "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 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 – to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen."

Doxologies are usually short, spontaneous declarations of praise whereby honour is credited to God.

  • They were used in the formal worship of Israel in the OT

Eg. Ps.41:13 "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen."

  • They were used as a means of pronouncing a blessing:

Eg. Heb 13:20-21 "Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."

  • And they are used in heavenly worship:

Rev 5:13-14 "And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!" And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped."

Comparing the different doxologies that Paul used a threefold structure emerges:

  • the person to whom praise is ascribed is mentioned

  • the word of praise, usually "glory," or an equivalent is present

  • the doxology concludes with a temporal description, normally an eternity formula ("for ever and ever") and in most cases the doxology is followed by "amen."

The first element in these NT ascriptions of praise is the most variable:

  • Sometimes a pronoun is used: eg. "to him" Rom.11:36

  • Sometimes it is a noun: eg. "to our God and Father" Phil.4:20

  • Sometimes it is a description of the One to whom praise is being ascribed: eg. "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him…" Eph.3:20

The second element of the doxology is the ascription of "glory" (honour, greatness or power) which properly belongs to God and is, therefore, rightly ascribed to him.

To give God glory is not to add something to him; rather, it is an active acknowledgment or extolling of what he is or has already done:

Eg. Ps 29:2 "Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendour of holiness."

Doxology is then an affirmation rather than a wish.

The third feature of Paul’s doxologies is the temporal expression "for ever and ever" (literally, "to the ages of the ages").

This eternity formula is unique to the NT. (Paul’s ascription of glory to God is not restricted to "this age" but belongs to "the age to come" as well.

This final doxology found in vv.25-27 is a masterpiece drawing together as it does the various themes that Paul had introduced at the beginning of his letter and then developed in the body of it:

The following themes jump out as we compare ch.1 and the closing verses of ch.16:

  • the Scriptures

  • preaching

  • the gospel of Christ

  • the obedience of faith

  • the power of God

  • all nations

Small wonder, when those are the themes on Paul's mind, that he simply can't resist bursting out in praise! Surely that ought to be the heart response of all of us who profess to be Christians! It really is a terrific thing to be a Christian – God has done such great things for such unworthy people that praise becomes us!

Ps.147:1 "Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting."

Highlights of the Final Outburst
Paul celebrates a God who is not remote but who is closely involved with his people.

This God is Eternal, wise and powerful.

His power makes him able to give needed strength and support to any and to all of his children. If you are a Christian then you have no need to fear that you will be over-whelmed and destroyed by superior forces that may come against you. You are in a battle, you do have an enemy (a cruel and powerful enemy) but you have omnipotence standing ready to meet your need of strength.

When the going gets tough in the Christian life – and make no mistake, at times it can get very tough indeed - It can be tempting to look at our meagre resources and to conclude that we haven't a hope. But that is to forget that our resources include the friendship of an all-powerful God and with such a God nothing is impossible!

But you say how can this be so?

Paul has a ready answer: it is all bound up with Jesus Christ who is preached to you. It is Jesus who makes up the gospel, who constitutes the gospel. Just as God planned it all so long ago and revealed the details of his plan and purposes little by little so when Jesus came into the world he fully accomplished and of God's purposes. What had been only vaguely perceived beforehand now with Jesus became crystal clear for those who have eyes to see.

You were brought to the obedience of faith by hearing about Jesus Christ and what he had done for sinners and in coming to him by faith you were turned around and given a new life. The preaching of Christ proved to be life-changing and destiny-altering for you. The preaching of that same Jesus is the means by which God strengthens us – to go on in the path of discipleship, to resist temptation and to fight the devil!

God's wisdom is a great and wonderful wisdom. He formulated and carried out a wonderfully fitting and appropriate plan of salvation. And in doing so he did not forget that we are weak and would need his strength to get through. How foolish God would turn out to be if he had carefully prepared a salvation but not the means whereby that salvation might be enjoyed! But our God is not foolish – no he is wise, he is strong and he is full of power.

Small wonder then that Paul wanted to conclude with shouts of praise to his God! Is there anything of this same desire in your heart?

May it please the Lord that he bring us each one individually to the obedience of faith as we hear about and understand what Jesus has done for poor sinners like ourselves and may the response of hearts be with similar outbursts of praise to God our Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ.


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