Romans 16:21-27

We have come to the end of the book of Romans, and in his final words of farewell, Paul again shows his concern for the believers in Rome.

In his introduction to the letter, Paul gives his reason for writing and expresses a strong desire to see the Church in Rome. In Romans 1:11, he says:
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— (Romans 1:11 ESV)

His longing to see the Church in Rome is tied to his desire to strengthen them. This intense desire to strengthen the Church flows through the book of Romans and is also expressed in his final words of farewell.

The Church is made up of individuals, and the process of strengthening the body involves the strengthening of the individual members of the body. In Romans 16:25, Paul says, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you...” He is talking about strengthening the body by strengthening the individuals in the body. The book of Romans begins and ends with this idea of strengthening. Paul’s concern and desire for the believers in Rome was that they might be strengthened.

What does he mean by “strengthen,” and why is it so important to him?

The word he uses for “strengthen” in Romans 1:11 and 16:25 can also be translated “establish” or to “fix firmly.” The root of the word means “to stand.” The idea of strengthening comes from buttressing a wall or pillar so that it stands firm. It shares this concept of standing with Ephesians 6:13-14 which says:
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, (Ephesians 6:13-14 ESV)

“Strengthening” or “establishing” therefore, in this context, means to make strong so something can stand. The something in our subject today is you and I. It is the individual believers that together make up the body of Christ, the Church.

This strengthening as a subject begins and ends Paul’s letter to the Romans, and encompasses the whole of his purpose and subject matter.

Why is this strengthening so significant to Paul?

In Romans 16, Paul has warned us to be aware of those who cause divisions and raise obstacles. He does this out of concern for our well-being.

Please notice the kinds of issues Paul wrote to confront in the churches of his day. The Galatians were deserting the Gospel for a religion of works righteousness. The Corinthians were embracing incest as an expression of their freedom in Christ. The Colossians were adopting philosophical expansions of the Gospel that boasted of “special” knowledge. Compare this with what we confront today. We face these same challenges to our faith and in ever-increasing variety. The basics do not change, but the same lies are presented creatively so that they seem new. In addition to threats from within, the Church of Paul’s day faced opposition from the outside. The government and religions of his day opposed the Gospel and Paul’s preaching. The same challenges face the Church today. Our media and universities tend to be hostile to the gospel, and many of our churches have deserted the Gospel. Our culture and many of our churches are embracing sexual practices that defy God and what He calls sin.

With the devil roaming about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, Paul had reason to be concerned that his spiritual children should stand. The same devil and the same attacks are in the world today. The tactics and schemes of the devil have not changed, and Paul’s warnings and instructions are as applicable today as they were 2,000 years ago. The battle is real. Not everyone stands. Among our children, among our families and in our community are those who are being mauled by the devil.

Romans 16:25 says:
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 (Romans 16:25 ESV)

Take time to look carefully at the first phrase of this passage. It says, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you.” This statement is clear. God is able to strengthen/establish us. God is able. He is not lacking in power or wisdom to deal with what is confronting us today. 1 John 4:4 tells us that the One who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world. It says, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them.” Therefore, it is clear that we are not to live in fear of what confronts us. We are able to stand because God is able to make us stand.

While we are not called on to stand in our own strength, we are called on to stand in the strength that God provides. The passage quoted above from Ephesians 6 is an excellent example of our call to stand. Ephesians 6:13-14 calls upon us to stand. We are to stand in the strength and with the tools that God provides. Romans 16:25 tells us what God uses to strengthen/establish us. It says:
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 (Romans 16:25 ESV)

According to this verse, God uses the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ. The preaching of Jesus Christ is the gospel. Jesus Christ is the One that the gospel tells about. Any gospel that denies or focuses on any person’s work other than Jesus Christ’s is no gospel at all. Paul is careful to say “my gospel,” because many come with variations of the gospel. There are even those who claim to be the Messiah. This is why Paul found it necessary to say “and the preaching of Jesus Christ. Paul did not own the gospel. In Galatians, he even says that if he were to preach a different gospel than the one he presented, then he should be cursed. (Galatians 1:8) There is only one gospel. However, there are many distortions of the gospel. The purpose of the book of Romans was and is to establish the gospel forever. John 3:16 is the gospel in a nutshell. Romans is the gospel defined and outlined.

To be strengthened/established, we dare not take away from the gospel. The first chapters of Romans explain sin. We must have a clear understanding of sin, and any attempt to deal with sin apart from the gospel is to take away from the gospel. Romans goes on to talk about faith, the Holy Spirit, God’s sovereignty and our service. Every aspect of our lives is affected by the gospel, and every truth of the gospel is important. Some try to simplify the gospel down to its John 3:16 form. The truth of John 3:16 is precious to us as believers. In it, we have the gospel in all its fullness. However, this is not where we stop. There are depths to the gospel that we desire to plunge into and grow in understanding. For example, an understanding of sin makes the truth of God’s love and the giving of His Son that much more precious to us. So also, an understanding of faith, God’s sovereignty, and our service also make the truth of God’s love and the giving of His Son that much more precious to us. It is essential that we do not take away from the gospel.

In the same way, it is essential we do not add to the gospel. Many would like to add rules. The devil has used this trap effectively since Paul’s day. In different ages, he has used different rules. You have to be circumcised. You should not play cards. You should not smoke. You should not dance. Rules may seem to be of benefit. After all, health is important, and lust needs to be restrained. However, the gospel is not about rules.

Children, we are talking about the gospel, not your parents’ rules. Wise, loving parents set up rules for your protection and growth. We live in a world where rules are necessary, even for us adults. We all have speed limits, taxes and jobs, all governed by rules. However, it is vital that we not confuse our rules with the gospel. Rules are a part of life, and as such, tend to enter into our understanding of the gospel.

I have now introduced two dangers with the gospel. We can take truths out of the gospel to fit our emotions or simplify our understanding, or we can add things to the gospel to fit our emotions and our understanding.

How are we to avoid these dangers?

Paul has already pointed us to the answer. He said, “My gospel and the preach of Jesus Christ.” However, he does not end with these words. He continues to give more information. Romans 16:25-26 says:
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— (Romans 16:25-26 ESV)

If we pay careful attention to what Paul is saying, we see that his gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ is according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages. The gospel is the mystery that has been revealed. We know that it was kept secret. The Old Testament is the beginning and foundation of the revelation of this mystery. 1 Peter 1:10-12 explains:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:10-12 ESV)

This mystery is so great that even angels long to look into it. According to Romans 16 and 1 Peter, this mystery has now been made known. Romans 16:26 says it has been “disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations.”

The prophetic writings refer to the Hebrew Scriptures that we call the Old Testament. A thorough understanding of the Old Testament is necessary for an understanding of the gospel. We must begin with an understanding of God as creator and man as His creation. We must understand what took place in the Garden of Eden and who the serpent is in order to understand the gospel. We must understand God’s promises to Abraham and the children of Israel in order to understand God’s plan and design for the future. God has commanded that all these things be made known in order to bring about the obedience of faith.

We must not fall. We must stand.

God is able to make us stand. He is able to strengthen us.

God uses the gospel, the preaching of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures to strengthen us so that we can stand.

I cannot stress to you enough how important the Bible is for our spiritual growth and strength. I want to leave you with a thought from Hebrews 4:11-12:
Let us, therefore, strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:11-12 ESV)


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