Theology of this Text
This is a rich doxological ending to Paul’s magnum opus. These are true words of praise that Paul pens in response to the mystery that was revealed throughout his letter and the faith it called the Romans to. Some have argued that these can’t be the words of Paul in this ending largely because it doesn’t sound similar to the Pauline style from other letters. Yet, the depth of Romans is unlike any of his other letters either, for that matter. For Paul, a monotheistic Jew who has believed in one God his whole life, to write a letter with faith in Jesus at the middle of it, who became the new Adam and opened the door for all so vividly, this doxology is a fitting response to the words inked previously. Therefore, Paul ends his letter with this thorough synopsis with words of praise to Yahweh, revealed in Jesus to both Jew and Gentile alike.
Context of this Text
At the time Paul was writing this ending to the Romans, Rome was an embattled world where Christian Gentiles were facing off with non-Christian Jews, and also where Christian Gentiles and Christian Jews were figuring out how to coexist in the early church that had been established. And this was just in the church! Outside of it, the Jewish population had been forced out of Rome by Emperor Claudius, and that decision was in large part celebrated by the Gentiles, especially given the anti-Semitism of the context. Some Gentile Christians even wondered if God was working this as part of Gods plan! However, Nero reversed his predecessor’s order and the Jews were welcomed back. It is to this tense world that Paul was writing a letter based on the fact that faith in Christ was what mattered and nothing else about the make-up or background of the person.
Notes on this Text
Paul notes here something that he has stated throughout the rest of the letter, and that is that God is a God of power. In this case, that power is able to strengthen the Romans according to the gospel of Jesus that has become Paul’s that is now being revealed in Jesus. Furthermore, it is the power of God that can accomplish the work of confirming us and strengthening us in our belief and obedience in the Gospel. Paul has taken the opportunity to so tune his heart to this gospel of Jesus that he is able to claim it as his own as he’s been entrusted to share it with others. We too are in turn entrusted to share this gospel with others. The mystery is of course that Christ lived, died, and was raised for us to enter into salvation by faith in him alone. That mystery was kept hidden through God’s relationship with God’s people up until this time of revelation in Christ, which of course is the proclamation we claim as Christians!
The Old Testament has found meaning in the Messiah that had been prophesied in all of its prophetic writings. Both the revealing of Jesus and Paul’s preaching of that revelation took place because God deemed it so. One of the rich pieces of this verse and letter is that humanity doesn’t find salvation by obeying the commands of God, but rather the message of salvation by faith is proclaimed so that all nations might believe and obey Jesus.
Paul closes off the doxology by reminding us that it is to the only wise God through Jesus Christ that we have received the revelation from, that glory is due forever. This is a powerful monotheistic reminder that God and Jesus are one, and that it is to this one God that we give praise and glory, to which everyone who hears the letter may respond with a hearty amen.
Reflections on this Text
Paul’s final words to the Romans definitely have an Advent flair to them with some Epiphany lavishly dolloped on top. It is never easy to wait or to expect something to come. The Israelite people knew this all too well as they waited for their Messiah to come for long ages! An important reminder from this passage, and this is where the Epiphany comes in, is that he has come and has been revealed, yes even to those Gentiles! The problem is that the Jewish and Gentile people in Rome desperately didn’t want to be a unified people or a unified church. Of course, there were theological reasons for this, but there were also societal reasons. Romans weren’t very fond of Jews. Perhaps the people of your nation find themselves in the same place this Advent season. Maybe the emperor of your nation has stated that some people are no longer welcome within your borders, and thus your version of Claudius is attempting to kick out certain people from your nation. It is to such a hostile context that Paul wrote. Urging them to see that what mattered was their faith in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, the one who came in the flesh to save all through faith.
We, like Paul, have been entrusted with this Gospel to go out into a broken world, perhaps even a broken faith community and declare that the Gospel is open to all. This Advent season, perhaps those in your world are longing, waiting, and/or expecting light to break in, but they are not seeing it. It is not easy to enter into those broken places. But we can be encouraged to know that God will strengthen us for the journey! God is able to do it for sure, has done it in the past, and will do it again! There is a weary world out there in this Advent season of 2017 that needs to have that mystery revealed to them again. Are you willing to unveil it?