Now there is something here so wonderful I don’t want to pass over it too quickly lest you miss it. So let me say the obvious again and then draw out the less obvious. The obvious fact is that of all the things he could have said about what God does or has done that draws attention to his glory, of all the dozens of great acts of God and all the great abilities of God, he chooses to highlight one thing: “Now to him who is able to strengthen you … be glory forevermore.…” He does say that God is wise, and that God hid something for ages, and that he revealed something for the sake of the nations, and that he did all this by his eternal command. Yes. But the way Paul has set up this doxology, all of that is serving to support and explain this one main thing: God is able to strengthen you. “Now unto him who is able to strengthen you … be glory for evermore.…”
Now that is the obvious fact. Here’s what is less obvious but crystal clear once someone draws it to our attention. Many kings in history and many dictators today intend to get glory. They want to be known as strong and rich and wise. And how have they done it? By keeping their citizens weak and poor and uneducated. An educated people is a threat to a dictator. A prosperous middle class is a threat to a dictator. A strong people is a threat to the strength of a dictator. So what do they do? They secure their own power by keeping their people weak. They get their glory by standing on the backs of a broken people. Just look at the regime of Islom Karimov in Uzbekistan. And we could mention many others—little kings who keep their people weak so that they can be strong and rich.
But now contrast the way Paul draws attention to the glory of God. If any king ever had the right to display all his glory by stepping on the backs of a rebellious people, it is God. But what does he do? He displays his glory by making his people strong. “Now unto him who is able to strengthen you … be glory forevermore.…” God magnifies his glory by making you strong with his gospel. God feels no threat from your strength at all. In fact, the stronger you are in faith and hope and love through the gospel of Jesus Christ, the greater he appears. God does not secure his strength by keeping his people weak. He magnifies the glory of his strength by making his people strong. “Now unto him who is able to strengthen you … be glory.”
Therefore, when Paul makes the glory of God the ultimate goal of the gospel—when he closes his greatest of all letters by drawing attention to the supreme worth of the glory of God—this is not bad news for us. Unless we want to have that glory for ourselves. Why is this not bad news for us? Because our God draws attention to his glory by making his undeserving people strong. The greater the glory of God, the more resources for our strength. The more manifold and wonderful the glory of God, the more manifold and wonderful the source of our strength. “Now to him who is able to strengthen you … be glory for evermore.”
Sermons from John Piper (2000–2009): Romans 16:25-27 – God Strengthens Us By The Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2009).