25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation about Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept silent for long ages 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God to advance the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles— 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ — to him be the glory forever! Amen. — Romans 16:25-27
Is An Enormous Shift an Optional Challenge?
by Derek Bell
Do you ever need to read a section of scripture several times to grasp the enormity of it? I’ll never forget the time I read about the veil in the temple being torn from top to bottom and what that meant for God’s people—a totally new day in the way we could approach God.
The book of Romans proclaims at least one enormous idea that would forever change the Body of Christ.
In Romans 1:5 we see Paul state this enormous idea for the first time: “We have received grace and apostleship through Him to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations.” Then, as Paul often does, he summarizes his ideas in the last chapter of his book, “…according to the commands of the eternal God to advance the obedience of faith among all nations…” The people reading Paul’s letter in those days would know immediately that “all nations” meant “the Gentiles,” which in turn communicated God’s inclusion of non-Jews. What scandalous grace!
Throughout Romans, Paul is working to help his fellow Jews understand that with Christ’s incarnation, God the Father was ushering in a new day when racial and ethnic heritage no longer assured God’s blessing...or lack of it. This sea-change meant that the label of “His people” only came with salvation through Jesus.
This “mystery” that God is making clear (going back to Hosea and Isaiah) means that there is one body, one church made up of Jews and Gentiles alike—no more ethnic privilege. What an enormous shift, a new and clear revelation that the good news was for all people independent of skin color, family heritage, education, economic standing or even a seemingly “good life." God’s only discriminating factor is the heart of an individual.
Some of us (especially the “more mature” of us) lived in a time like Paul where it was socially acceptable to assume or create divisions among us, especially with people who looked different from us. It was simply normal to see things as "US and THEM"—whether that be racially or ethnically defined. Of course, younger generations who live on this side of the United States’ civil rights movement (equivalent to Paul’s new inclusion of Gentiles) find it hard to believe there was once an "US and THEM." While race and ethnic dynamics are complex and definitely still exist today, scripture is teaching us that we are all the same—people who are formed in the image of our God. Thankfully in Romans, God used Paul to make it clear that His gospel is for EVERYONE.
One question still looms: do you read Paul’s word as an optional challenge? Is this enormous shift taking place in the New Testament optional for you to embrace? Or do we all have a proactive part to play in taking the gospel to the “Gentiles” of our day (anyone different from us)? Verse 26 doesn’t sound like an optional deal. “But now revealed and made known through the prophetic scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God to advance the obedience of faith around all nations….” Command is a pretty straightforward word, especially when it comes from the One “who has power to strengthen you" (verse 25).
- Do you see divisions in God’s people that don’t make sense some 2,000 years after Paul articulated God’s idea for a unified Body of Christ?
- If God made it clear thousands of years ago that He intended for there to be one united body of Christ, how do we champion that idea today?
- How does this monumental idea change the way you live your life as a follower of Christ?
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.