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Summary: Strengthen in Christ

Paul closes his letter with a liturgical doxology that easily lends itself to a formal worship setting. As much as the letter is a tightly woven piece of logic, so too one finds a structural symmetry to the text that contributes to its overall cohesiveness. Paul’s final thoughts bear a striking similarity to his introductory comments. For example, he speaks of imparting a spiritual gift to strengthen you 1.11 / Now to him who is able to strengthen you 16.25; he describes the good news as the gospel of God in 1.1 / my gospel in 16.25; this gospel was promised beforehand 1.2 / the mystery kept secret for long ages 16.25; through the prophets 1.2 / now disclosed through the prophetic writings 16.26; to bring about obedience of faith 1.5 / to bring about the obedience of faith 16.26. Between the opening and closing of the letter Paul defends his thesis that the righteous shall life by faith (1.17) and that God is at work to bring about the obedience of faith (16.26).

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).

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