In all of the foregoing messages we have covered seven sections of the book of Romans: introduction, condemnation, justification, sanctification, glorification, selection, and transformation. Now we come to the last section, the conclusion (15:14-16:27). Although Paul has covered so much, in this section of Romans he shows us some experiential and practical matters. He presents a full unveiling of the ultimate consummation of the gospel. I use the word “unveiling” because so many of the precious things have been veiled. In this message I want to point out some of the treasures that are hidden and concealed in the last section of Romans.
None of Paul’s other epistles has such a long conclusion as does the letter to the Romans. Why is the conclusion so long? I doubt that any of us would compose a letter in this way. However, Paul was wise and deep, knowing that after the section on transformation he still needed to present the ultimate consummation of God’s gospel—the practical church life. Furthermore, he did not write about the church life in a doctrinal way, but in an exceedingly practical way. Hence, we find no doctrine in the conclusion; everything in this section is experiential and practical. As we shall see, in this section Paul tells us of his zeal in preaching the gospel and of his desire to visit Spain. He tells how he was burdened to supply the material needs of the saints in Judea and that the Gentile believers wanted to help the Jewish saints in this matter.
In Romans 16 the words “church” and “churches” are used five times. If we read this chapter carefully in the spirit, we will realize that Paul wrote it with a definite purpose. Every reference to the church in this chapter is experiential and practical. In 16:1 Paul speaks of Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea. In 16:4 he says that the churches of the nations were thankful to Prisca and Aquila because they risked their necks for Paul and also for the churches. In 16:5 we find mention of “the church in their house,” meaning that the church in Rome met in the house of Prisca and Aquila. In 16:16 he mentions the churches of Christ and in 16:23 he says that Gaius was the host of the entire church. Verse 20 is also very important. “Now the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” Under whose feet will Satan be crushed by the God of peace? Under the feet of the people in the churches. God will crush Satan beneath the feet of the “churching” people, and the grace of the Lord Jesus will be dispensed into them. Finally, Paul sends his greetings to many saints; almost the entire chapter is devoted to this. I admire Paul’s excellent memory, for he recalled the names of so many saints and mentioned their particular characteristics.
The conclusion of Romans resembles the painting of a forest. If you look at this painting from afar, you will only see the forest itself; you will be unable to perceive the hidden things, the treasures hidden within the woods and under the leaves of the trees. Whenever I studied the book of Romans as a youth, I skipped over the conclusion, thinking that I had completed the doctrinal portions and did not need to give attention to the list of names in chapter sixteen. Because I found these peculiar names difficult to pronounce, I decided to study this book only through 15:13 and the last three verses of chapter sixteen which are a melody of praise to God and should not be neglected. Recently, however, the Holy Spirit brought me into the forest and showed me some of the treasures concealed beneath the shadows cast by the trees. Now I believe that the conclusion is the most precious and valuable section of the entire book of Romans. The practical church life is hidden under the shadows of the trees. We may say that the greetings to the individual saints are the trees and that under the trees are the churches as the treasures—the church at Cenchrea, the churches of the nations, the church in the home of Prisca and Aquila, the churches of Christ, and the church which received hospitality from Gaius. Now I want to consider these hidden treasures in some detail.
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