Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
As Paul moves on from 15:19b-16:24, he makes personal comments about his upcoming plans very similar to what he said in chapter 1, and then gives a series of personal greetings to individuals, finally coming to these verses with which he closes the letter. These verses, considered by most scholars to be a doxology express Paul’s praise to God for his ministry and for the message of the Gospel that he has brought to the Gentiles. I’ve been wondering for a couple of weeks now how best to treat this last section in Romans; how to conclude this study, and until yesterday morning I had no clue what I would do at this point.
Yesterday morning, I was teaching a class from Hebrews 8, and near the end, a woman asked me a question. It was a really hard question, not so much because of its complexity, but because she phrased it in a way that I wasn’t sure what she was asking. It struck me at the time that she was thinking out loud; that perhaps she wasn’t completely sure what she was asking, or of how to put it into words. There was something in it about a rather difficult neighbor and weeding flower beds near his property…
That’s when I had the answer to the question that I wasn’t sure she had actually asked, and that answer really sums up Paul’s message about Jesus Christ here in Romans…
Grace has a twofold effect: It is available to anyone who will accept it and follow Jesus, and when we accept it, our sins are forgiven and taken away entirely, which is the first effect of having received grace. The second effect is that it begs a response, but that response is not simply a legal requirement of some sort, it is a response of love. Our loving response to grace is that we let the ways of this world go and follow Jesus Christ in selfless service to Him and through Him to those around us. This means that we let Him be first in us.
That difficult neighbor was the key in my mind yesterday, so I told the woman that since Jesus is within us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and we are His Ambassadors, the closest thing to meeting Jesus face to face that the neighbor is ever likely to experience in this life is meeting you: When he meets you, in effect, he is meeting Jesus. If this is our attitude, we need not worry about an encounter with a difficult neighbor, or anyone else for that matter, for it will be Him in us who does the talking, we will know exactly what to do; get out of His way.
I think that more than anything else, this is Paul’s message in Romans, for this is love in action, and it is that mystery that was hidden in ages past, but that has now become known; to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Now, dear reader, all we need to do is to let Him reign in our lives.