How do you end a study like this? 6 years and 2 months, including breaks of course for Christmas and Easter and our summer series.
Our study through Romans began in our in our former church building down the street.
Since then we’ve added a lot of people to this flock and the ministries have multiplied in depth and breadth in more ways than we could ever account.
More than likely many of you began coming sometime in the last 6 years while we’ve studied Romans.
In fact, if you began attending Colonial sometime during the exposition of the Book of Romans, would you stand. (remain standing)
Contemporary church growth advisors are telling pastors through satellite conferences and magazine articles that if they do not address the trends and topics of contemporary culture; if they are not clever and state of the art and non-confrontational; if they do not discover what their community wants to hear and then deliver it – like some ecclesiastical delivery service – the church will never grow.
Those of you who stood – in fact, nearly half the population of our church family – have proven that advice false – if not downright dangerous to the integrity of the gospel and the character of the church.
Can I tell you though, as a personal aside, that I am so blessed to be your pastor/teacher. I am actually very spoiled. So many of my contemporaries pace their studies, wondering what to preach that will build attendance – interest their audience.
And I have had the welcome reception of preaching the next chapter and the next verse – and sometimes the next word in scripture.
I must confess that I was influenced by this corrupt church growth advice early on in my ministry. Colonial was about 3 years old at the time, and I can remember walking around my study asking that rather deficient question – what text could I preach that would be interesting?
I had preached through Nehemiah, James and the Gospel of Mark.
They were observably exciting and interesting books. But now I had only recently finished the Gospel of Mark and was in a quandary. What would the congregation be interested in hearing? What’s interesting to preach from scripture?
I will never forget that moment when the Spirit of God convicted my spirit like I had just been electrocuted. I stopped pacing and froze. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but to my mind came the searing, piercing question from God’s Spirit, “Who are you to say what it is of My word which is interesting? What do you know about my word to ask that question?”
I immediately remembered Paul’s reminder to another young pastor named Timothy as he wrote, “All scripture is profitable.”
All of it. All of it!
And so, that next Sunday, September of 1988, we began with Genesis chapter 1 verse 1.
I have a copy of that first sermon and on page one of my notes I told the congregation about what happened in my study and what we were going to embark upon; I said, “Today, we are going to begin a Book by Book study of the entire Bible. I can almost hear the sighs – ‘Uh, oh, this sounds kind of long.’ Well, I don’t know how long it will take [to get through the whole Bible] – I imagine it will take somewhere between 5 to 7 years.”
If I were a prophet, I would have been stoned to death long ago for making a false prophecy.
Instead, 17 years later, I am blessed as a preacher of the word. I have been able to have carved into this pulpit – not the latest sound bite – the latest anecdote – but the truth upon which this church is built – the scriptures alone.
I am deeply grateful for you – you have made it easy for me to fulfill my divine calling to preach the word, in season and out of season – that is, when it is acceptable and when it is unfashionable.
You have joined me in this quest for truth. We have been able to grow together and discover together that in His word He is revealed. And in that revelation there is light and hope and strength and life.
So what better way to reach this particular milestone in our journey together, by ending our study of Romans right where Paul ended it – praising and glorifying the Chief Shepherd of the church – our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
If you were with us in our last session, we began the final doxology of Paul in verse 25.
These are moments when Paul probably raised his eyes toward the heavens and uttered these great inspired doxas, or doxologies.
There have been several throughout this letter to Christians living in Rome, Italy.
When Paul finished declaring that the promises of God to Israel would not go unfulfilled, he breaks into his first doxology where he writes in chapter 11, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (11:36)
As Paul wrapped up his teaching in chapter 15, he stops and lifts his heart toward heaven and writes, “The God of peace be with you all. Amen.” (Romans 15:33).
Then as he finished sending his greetings to the saints in Rome he again can’t help but stop and offer a doxology of praise to God as he writes, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (16:24).
And now, with uninhibited praise in one final, lengthy doxology, the great Apostle seems to say, “And now it is time for the very last word – the final song of praise to the glory of God.”
Adapted from Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans: Volume 4 (Eerdmans, 1964), p. 189
In our last session I reminded you that the word doxology comes from the Greek word, doxa, which originally meant “opinion.” Some of that etymology lingers on . . . when you praise someone you are expressing your opinion that they are worthy of praise.
Paul says, “This is my opinion of God!”
Verse 25. Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26. but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith.
This is my opinion of God!
In our last session we divided this doxology into 4 stanzas where Paul praised God for his might; His message; His mystery and His ministry.
Now, in one final exclamation point, Paul ends with these magnificent lyrics, “to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.”
Paul’s praise is first to God – but wait – it is to the only God!
He is exclusively incomparable.
Every other God is a dead stump or rock or figment of the imagination – our God, as revealed in scripture is the only God.
To the only wise God.
Paul isn’t writing this doxology to his favorite God . . . his God of the month . . . the God who had the most followers . . . the God receiving the most favorable press on the planet.
We live in an era where we hear about many faiths; people of other faiths.
Ladies and Gentlemen, while it might be increasingly politically incorrect to say it, there are not many faiths – there is only one faith. All others are speculations . . . myths . . . man-made religions . . . false hope.
But there is only one Lord and there is only one faith (Eph. 4:5)
There are false Christ’s and false apostles (Matthew 24:24)
There are false prophets (2 Corinthians 11:13)
There are even false visions (Lamentations 2) and false brethren (Galatians 2) and false teachers (2 Peter 2).
We do not say, there are many Christ’s in the world today, because there is only one true Christ.
Likewise, centuries earlier, Isaiah wrote, “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me. And who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; (in other words, to any other god out there, show your face). Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, from the time that I established the ancient nation. Do not tremble and do not be afraid; have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none. (Isaiah 44:6-8)
Paul sings his doxology to the exclusively incomparable God.
For those of you looking for that perfect gift, here’s one that perhaps speaks more of our world than gift-giving. It’s a doll that comes in an attractively packaged box, with exciting information printed on the front and sides and back. But the box is empty.
The Wall Street Journal (online) article I read recently talked about Invisible Jim – an action toy man no one can see. As Jim’s box describes him, he is completely devoid of darting eyes” . . . he has non-gripping hands as “not seen on TV.” Camouflage suit sold separately.
The reporter wrote, “Of course, the notion of paying something for nothing has taken a minute to catch the imagination, but interest has taken off as increased media attention has help improve Invisible Jim’s visibility. For nearly 3 dollars you can buy your own
The toy – or the box, I should say – is being distributed by New York wholesaler and is set to make a splash at gift shows this summer.
Rather tongue in cheek, the Wall Street article came with the headline that read, “Invisible Jim Proves That Even Nothing Can Sell.”
“Invisible Jim” by Cassell Bryan-Low, Staff reporter, Wall Street Journal Online
But imagine this – a media splash; great packaging; innovative marketing . . . and people are buying an empty box.
There is only one faith – one true God – and everything else is an empty box. Don’t be fooled by innovative marketing; don’t be lured by beautiful packaging . . . a media splash.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you follow a gospel other than faith in Christ alone and you are following a false gospel which will lead you to hell; follow the gospel of Christ and you will go to heaven; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16)
To the only wise God – that is, God is exclusively incomparable
Why the reference to this particular attribute of God – his wisdom?
Perhaps it is because it is the wisdom of God that has so designed and accomplished the plan of redemption, outlined and illustrated and expounded in this letter to the Romans.
You say, but there are other religions of great wisdom. Look to the east – the orient, which is venerated for it’s wisdom.
All truth originates in the wisdom of God, for He is truth. In so far as anyone speak truth, he is speaking the truth of God, whether he knows it or acknowledges the source of truth or not.
Jesus Christ said, “I am the way the truth and the life.”
But the religions of the orient preceded Christ.
Religions may have preceded the birth of Christ, but they did not precede the declaration of the gospel.
The gospel was given to Moses and it was preached to Abraham. The coming Messiah was promised to Adam and Eve.
When Noah disembarked and from his three sons, the nations of the world were born, they had the gospel . . . they knew the truth of the gospel.
And everywhere you go, and in every religion you study, you see kernels of similarity . . . kernels of truth. They may lead to false conclusions and error, but they include elements of the truth.
A Chinese believer in our church handed me a couple of sheets of paper a few weeks ago; on her way to a Bible study where she was showing her students the wisdom of God, found even in the Chinese characters and ancient words of the Orient.
The Chinese word for Creation was made of 4 symbols. The symbol for dust plus the symbol for life plus the symbol for mouth plus the symbol for motion = Creation.
Kernels of truth – dust from the ground plus the breath plus from the mouth of God plus motion = creation.
The Chinese word for Forbidden is made up of 3 symbols – a tree plus another tree plus the symbol for command = forbidden.
Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – but because they disobeyed the command, they were ultimately booted out of the Garden of Eden and kept away from another tree known as the tree of life.
Two trees and a command from God = forbidden
One more – the Chinese word for righteousness is made up of only two symbols. The symbol representing a person or “me” and above that symbol the symbol for a lamb.
A lamb over me = righteousness.
This is the wisdom of God . . . here it is – not in kernel but in completion.
In chapter 1 we have the wisdom of God in the gospel.
In chapter 2 the wisdom of God in judgment.
In chapter 3 the wisdom of God in justification.
In chapter 4 the wisdom of God in His promise.
In chapter 5 the wisdom of God in His peace.
In chapter 6 we see the wisdom of God in His free gift.
In chapter 7, it’s the wisdom of God in our union with Christ.
In chapter 8 the wisdom of God in our security
In chapter 9 the wisdom of God in His mercy
In chapter 10 the wisdom of God in evangelism
In chapter 11, the wisdom of God in Israel’s future
In chapter 12, the wisdom of God for our transformation
In chapter 13, the wisdom of God in government
In chapter 14, the wisdom of God is seen in His grace
In chapter 15, the wisdom of God is seen in His church.
In chapter 16, the wisdom of God is seen in His glory.
Now to the only wise God!
He is exclusively incomparable.
There’s more . . . He is also entirely accessible.
Paul goes on to sing, “to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ.”
It is only through Christ that the triune God can be known
Christ, equal with the Father, of the same divine essence, took on human form (Philippians 2) and came to earth so that we could behold the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14)
One day when you and I will look upon the face of God and live – we will be looking into the face of Jesus Christ – who is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15)
It is only through Christ that the triune God can be worshipped
He is the only mediator between God and man (I Timothy 2:5). He is the mediator of this new covenant (Hebrews 12:24)
It is only through Christ that the God can be approached, explained, enjoyed, worshipped and embraced.
I am the door, if anyone enters through me he shall be saved (John 10:9).
Do you remember when Jesus Christ was about to leave His disciples and in that Upper Room He revealed the truth that He was about to leave and go back to the Father. He said to them, “And you know the way where I am going.” And Thomas said to Him what every one of us would have said, “Lord, we don’t know where You are going and we certainly don’t know the way there.” And Jesus answered, “I am the way the truth and the life, no cone comes to the Father except through Me.” And then Jesus adds those words, “From now on you know Him and have seen Him.” And this time it’s Phillip who speaks up and says, “Lord, show us the Father, and we’ll be satisfied.”
And Jesus said, “Do you not believe that I am in the father and the Father is in Me – later Paul will explain that Jesus is the image of the invisible God – the Father and the Spirit are invisible members of the Godhead – Christ has taken on fleshly form. Then Jesus adds, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:4-10)
In other words, you want to know what God is like? Watch Jesus Christ.
Adapted from James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume 4 (Baker, 1995), p. 1972
Do you want to see God the Father one day? You’ll be looking into the face of Jesus Christ.
One author (David Elkind) talked about a time when he was visiting his middle sons’ nursery school class, a the request of his teacher, so that he could observe the class. It just so happened, he wrote, that I was sitting and observing a group of boys, including my own son, who sat in a circle nearby talking. One child said, “My daddy is a doctor and he makes a lot of money and we have a swimming pool.” Another child chimed in, “My daddy is a lawyer and he flies to Washington and talks to the President of the United States.” Yet another boy said, “My daddy owns a company and we have our own airplane.” Then my son said something that could not be topped by any of them. He pointed in my direction and said, “My daddy is here.”
It’s one thing to talk about the glory and splendor and majesty and power of our Father who might be a universe or two away – so what!
But through Christ – our Father is here!
Do you want to fellowship with the triune God? Then fellowship and walk with and talk to God through Jesus Christ.
You do that instinctively when you pray to your Heavenly Father and end your prayer by saying, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
We are coming to God through Christ;
We are coming to God in Christ;
We are coming to God by way of Christ;
We are coming to God because we can – through Christ.
Through Jesus Christ we can say, Our Father – is here!
Paul goes further in this text to say,
5. To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever.
Our God is exclusively incomparable;
He is entirely accessible,
And He is exceedingly commendable.
Since he is the only true God;
And since He is sovereign in His wisdom;
And since He has redeemed us through Jesus
Christ, can we do anything less than consider
Him worthy of all glory.
To Him be the doxa – this is our opinion of God – He is worthy to be praised.
In your opinion, Paul, how long is God worthy of praise?
This doxology will never end. It is unending praise. It is never ceasing glory and honor to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ.
It will be our joy, without the impediment of sin and self to give Him:
What more can we say to that?
Paul has one final word – Amen.
This isn’t a word Paul just threw in there because he was a good Baptist.
What does it mean to say, Amen?
The word is actually a Hebrew word, transliterated into Greek and English, and just about every other language. No matter where I travel, Christians use the word “Amen”.
In the Bible the word means truth. It is used of God as the God of truth – literally, the God of Amen. (Deuteronomy 7:9).
His word is sure – literally His word is “amen” (Psalm 19:7).
When Amen is said by God is means, “it is so and is will come to pass.”
W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Thomas Nelson, 1997), p. 45
When we say “Amen” we’re saying that what God has said is the truth and we will bring it to pass . . . we will obey it . . . we will honor it . . . we will submit to it.
Amen means, “Right on!” Sounds like the 70’s!
Amen means, “I’m with you!” “I agree!” “It’s the truth!”
Amen is a verbal commitment that says, “Let’s live it out!”
And so Paul comes to the end of this great revelation of God in His grace and glory – not just of this final paragraph but of this entire letter – and he says as it were to the God whom he has revealed, “I agree . . . I’m with you . . . it’s the truth . . . I will strive to live it out!”
Oh that we might do the same . . . Oh Lord, help us to not be hearers of the word only, but doers . . . to learn from this letter and then say with Paul, Amen . . . it’s the truth . . . we agree . . . by your grace and power we will endeavor to live it out!
Thank You for the Apostle Paul . . . thank You for the Book of Romans . . . thank You for the church which you redeemed . . . thank You for this church which you have uniquely blessed . . . and above all else, thank You for You – you are the only wise God, and through Jesus Christ we have come to know you and give you glory, both now and forevermore . . . and all the people said, Amen!
Thus ends our exposition of the wonderful Book of Romans.
Closing comments/prayer: choir enters during comments/prayer