For the Love of God, Volume 2/February 13

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Genesis 46; Mark 16; Job 12; Romans 16

THE CLOSING THREE VERSES OF ROMANS are extraordinary (Rom. 16:25-27). Formally they constitute a doxology—a word of praise to God. God is introduced as the One “who is able to establish you by my gospel” (16:25), and he is reintroduced into the structure in verse 27: “To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.” So in this context the wisdom of God, presupposed in the expression “the only wise God,” is displayed in God’s ability to establish the Roman Christians by Paul’s gospel.

This gospel is further described in the intervening lines, and here God’s wisdom is particularly stunning. God establishes people, we are told, by the Gospel, by “the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past” (16:25). There is a sense in which the sweep and focus of the Gospel was not clear. It remained hidden until the coming of Jesus Christ. Even when he was here, his own disciples did not grasp, before the cross and resurrection, that he, the Messiah, would also be the suffering servant and would die an odious death to redeem lost sinners.

Yet if this Gospel was hidden in “long ages past,” it is “now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God” (16:26). Here it sounds as if this Gospel has been disclosed “through the prophetic writings,” that is, through the Scriptures. So on the one hand, the Gospel has been hidden in ages past but is now revealed; and on the other, the Gospel has been prophesied in ages past and is now fulfilled. How can both of these things be simultaneously true?

Part of the answer lies in the ways in which the Gospel is predicted in the Old Testament. So many of the predictions are wrapped up in “types” or models of what is to come. After the fact, we can see how Jesus is the true temple, the ultimate meeting-place between God and his sinful image-bearers; how he is the true Passover lamb; how he is the ultimate priest; how he is the ultimate “Son of God”; how he is the ultimate Davidic king. Indeed, we discover many clues distributed along the way. For instance, we read the prophecies of a new covenant, and reflect on how such announcements render the old covenant obsolete in principle and drive us to expect a new configuration. The fact remains, however, that no one expected the same person to fulfill all these images and types in himself. Indeed, some Jews in the first century expected two messiahs, one Davidic and the other priestly. But we see Jesus and his Gospel—comprehensively predicted, yet hidden for long ages past, and now disclosed “so that all nations might believe and obey him” (16:26).

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