Summary: The power of praise.
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ … to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Paul ends his letter with a doxology (glory to God). It is not uncommon to find Paul’s letters interrupted with declarations of praise to the glory of God. Romans 11.34-36 is a doxology that concludes Paul’s excursus about the sovereignty of God in salvation: For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? 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. To him be glory forever. Amen (cp. Ephesians 3.21; Philippians 4.20). The primary purpose of a doxology is to evoke worship in the reader by focusing his attention on the glory of God. This is invariably accomplished by highlighting some attribute(s) of God’s glorious person. The Reformation writers championed five essential truths as necessary for a sound biblical theology: sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), sola fide (faith alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola gratia (grace alone) and the last of the five solas is soli Deo gloria (to God alone be the glory). It is the glory of God that is central to both Christian theology and Christian living. It is the first subject addressed by the Westminster Larger Catechism: “What is the chief and highest end of man? Answer: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him for ever.” So too in Paul’s letters: he accents the glory of God.
STRENGTHENED BY MY GOSPEL (16.25)
At the very heart of Paul’s doxology is the revelation of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. This good news fulfills the ancient prophecies about the coming Messiah. Preaching Jesus Christ is essential to salvation: But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10.14-15). Hearing the proclamation that Christ’s death is a propitiating sacrifice that satisfies God’s just requirement for man’s sin (Romans 3.21-26) is a necessary precursor to salvation. Everyone who confesses Jesus Christ is Lord having, believed in his heart that God raised him from the dead, will be saved (Romans 10.9-13). The gospel is the culmination of God’s plan of salvation. It was a mystery kept secret for long ages, but it was God’s plan all along (cp. 2 Timothy 1.8-10). The thread of the gospel is woven throughout the Old Testament, but it was only fully understood in the life, death and resurrection of God’s Son the Messiah.
The gospel is a source of strength for Christians. Salvation is not a consequence of good deeds, it is applied to the life of the believer by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, God assures the believer of his salvation by taking up residence in his heart through his Spirit (Ephesians 1.13; cp. John 14.26; 16.7). The dramatic effect of the gospel in the life of believers is described by Paul in his prayer for them that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1.17-23; cp. 1 Thessalonians 5.23-24). Such is the power of the gospel.
THE RELIABILITY OF SCRIPTURE (16.26a)
Though the Old Testament prophets anticipate the coming Messiah and God’s deliverance, the means of his salvation was obscure to all. Paul declares that this is no longer true. Of course, no one can claim to be utterly ignorant about God: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made so they are without excuse (Romans 1.18-20; cp. Psalm 19.1-6). Even a very cursory understanding of the cosmos ought to produce a sense wonder and awe at the majesty of God’s power (Job 26; 38-41). Natural revelation, however, is not enough; it is wordless and though it may lead the contemplative person to deduce God’s existence, even eliciting a sense of wonder, without propositional revelation there can be no salvation (cp. Psalm 19.7-14). God intervenes in history and his supreme intervention was in the sending of his Son (Hebrews 1.1-4).