The Goal of the Gospel is the Glory of God

“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— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:25–27 ESV).

The Command of God – it Changes Us!

We are saved by trusting in Jesus, not our obedience. But the kind of faith that saves is a kind of faith that changes us. It is the byproduct of the miracle of salvation in our lives. The fruit, not the root. Sadly, millions will miss heaven because they mistook the root for the fruit. You might as well leap the Grand Canyon as obey your way to God. The true gospel is that God leaped the Grand Canyon to get to us.

Hear now, the last words of Romans, “To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:27). Is there a more God-centered book of the Bible than Romans? Here is how he started it, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). How does he end it? “To the only wise God be glory” (Romans 16:27). Starts with God. Ends with God.

He ends with amazement and wonder. Even Paul, who understood these doctrines of God and salvation better than anyone. Even Paul, of whom the Apostle Peter wrote and said, he says things that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16). The other apostles marveled at Paul’s insights. Yet, the one who knew them the best says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33)

I have told this story before but it highlights this point. Years ago when I ministered in Indianapolis, the Lead Professor of the Kidney at IU Medical School was a friend. This is the guy who teaches all the people you and I go to about the kidney. He has an Ivy League doctorate totally focused on the kidney. One day we were having breakfast together, and he drew out the kidney in detail on the napkin. He said, there’s this amazing function and then this does this and that does that and…he gets to the end of his explanation and he said, we actually haven’t even begun to understand the kidney. A world expert on the kidney marvels at it and as much as he knows—more than nearly anyone else—he can only sit in amazement.

That’s the sense here at the end of Romans. The guy who knows the gospel deeper and better than anyone else, the guy who writes the most expansive explanation ever of God’s gospel of salvation, gets to the end of the letter and says, all praise to the all-wise God.

In this way, Romans itself fulfills this overarching purpose, it brings glory to God. You cannot read Romans and think humans are awesome. No, we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God.

But at every point in the story of the gospel, it is God whose mercy, kindness, grace, goodness, and love shines through. It’s almost as if this whole thing was planned to do that very thing, shine through the glory of God. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man? Answer: To glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”[1]

I’m going to end with two music illustrations. The first is Johann Sebastian Bach. Many consider him the greatest composer of all time. Einstein said of him, “This is what I have to say about Bach’s life work: listen, play, love, revere – and keep your trap shut.”[2] Bach was also a protestant Christian who understood theology in music. As he started each new musical piece, he would write JJ at the top of the page. Jesu Juva. “Help me, Jesus.” When he completed the composition, he would write SDG. Soli Deo Gloria. To God be the glory. Listen again to the last words of Romans, “To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:27). What is it? Paul writing, SDG. To God alone be the glory.

The second is a story that I searched and searched for, but I couldn’t find it, so I have to tell it from memory. There was a famous conductor of a world-famous symphony. They were performing a piece by Bach or Beethoven, I can’t remember. As the symphony concluded the deeply moving and beautiful piece, the crowd exploded in response, rose to their feet, cheering and cheering and clapping and clapping. The conductor turned to them and waited for silence. He then said through tears, “I am nothing. Beethoven is everything.”[3]

This is how Romans ends too. If we have taught well at all, all our hearts should arrive at the same place. Even the brilliance of Paul in what he wrote is dwarfed by the wisdom and glory of God. It’s as if Paul ends with, I am nothing. We are nothing. God is everything!

And the church says, Amen.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2021 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] The Assembly of Divines at Westminster, The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647).

[2] Albert Einstein, as quoted by John Eliot Gardiner, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2013). Preface.

[3] Source Unknown.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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