Once more, we get ‘the grace’ – I denigrated it yesterday as ‘have a nice day.’ In its context here in the antagonist talk of Jesus crushing Satan under his feet. I’ve long sneered at the ‘gospel of nice’, ‘behavioural covenants’ at ‘Have a Nice Day United Church’ that tolerate unholy alliances and bare false smiles at the poor.
At its best, wishing the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, or the Peace of Christ is a generous blessing to offer a sister or brother and we might well repeat it more – as Romans has done.
The last 3 verses today return to the authorship questions – this doesn’t ‘sound’ like Paul, reading in any translation. There’s something formulaic, differently poetic, than Paul’s prose and rhetoric.
Some say Paul is quoting familiar hymn lyrics from worship – he does that in Philippians 2, for instance. Others would say somebody stuck this on the end of the letter, since the reference to the rich Romans, or the divisive warning about dissenters, were awkward endings, and a doxology of praise worked better.
Whether Paul or subsequent editors added it, subsequent editions kept it, and we read it.
I’m resistant to the language of revealed secrets – that God hid the truth for a long time, and Jesus began a game of peek-a-boo, for insiders to join.
That’s connected with a ‘gnostic’ movement – lots of ‘lost gospels’ and writings not included in our bible. ‘Gnostic Gospels’ popularized by Elaine Pagels, were certainly well known and not suppressed for centuries – the gospel of John and letters of John know these mysteries, and sort out some boundaries with gnostic movements. But Paul does it less, and not like this – the understanding of scripture as prediction, as a roadmap to the future, is not the mythic frame from Romans’ ‘wrath to come’, nor the apocalyptic ‘cage match’ of the first extra voice, that we reviewed yesterday.
Some in our communal tradition added or appropriated this, and subsequent others kept it and repeated it. I just tend to separate and subordinate it from the whole, to seek the integrity of the overall message of Romans, before adding flourishes like these.
I am so resistant, that I’m stopping early today – and inviting you to just hum or sing some old hymn before you go, where you don’t love the meaning of the lyrics, but you sing anyhow, about ‘a wretch like me’
24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
25 Now to him who can strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has kept hidden for eternal ages,
26 but is now disclosed by the prophetic writings and on the commission of the eternal God is made known to all nations, to bring about the obedience of faith –
27 to the only wise God (is due) through Jesus Christ glory for evermore.
25 All of our praise rises to the One who is strong enough to make you strong, exactly as preached in Jesus Christ, precisely as revealed in the mystery kept secret for so long
26 but now an open book through the prophetic Scriptures. All the nations of the world can now know the truth and be brought into obedient belief, carrying out the orders of God, who got all this started, down to the very last letter.
27 All our praise is focused through Jesus on this incomparably wise God!