Pastor David B. Curtis


The Mystery

Romans 16:21-27

Delivered 03/10/2013

We come this morning to our 95th and final message of the book of Romans. We started our study of Romans on October 10, 2010, which was twenty nine months ago. This has been a challenging and educational study for me. I have learned much, and my view on many of these texts has changed from what I previously thought.

We are looking this morning at the two concluding paragraphs. Verses 21-24 are greetings from people who are with Paul. Verses 25-27 are a doxology.

Earlier Paul had greeted certain friends in Rome by name. Now he passes on to the Romans greetings from friends of theirs who happen to be with him at the time of the writing. Paul was writing in the spring of A.D. 58 from the city of Corinth, toward the end of his missionary journey just prior to his return to Jerusalem. There with Paul in the city of Corinth were a number of men who wished to extend personal greetings. These men all seem to have been his fellow missionaries who were working with him in Corinth when he wrote this Epistle.

Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. Romans 16:21 NASB

Paul mentions Timothy first and calls him “my fellow worker.” This is from the Greek sunergos, which means: “ a co-laborer.” Egron means: “to work, or toil.” Timothy is from the Greek timotheos, it means: “to honor God.” Timothy’s name comes up in every one of Paul’s letters except Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus. The very last letter Paul wrote from his prison cell was to Timothy. Timothy is Paul’s protege, his son in the faith, his number one disciple, his dear friend. Look what he says about Timothy:

But I hope in the Lord Yeshua to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Yeshua. Philippians 2:19-21 NASB

Of all the Christians at Rome, of all the brethren that were with Paul, of all the saints who were members of Caesar's household, there was no one who shared so intimately Paul's heart as Timothy. They were equal in soul. Timothy was in the truest sense a disciple of Paul’s. Notice what Yeshua says in:

A talmid is not above his rabbi; but each one, when he is fully trained, will be like his rabbi. Luke 6:40 CJB

When a disciple is fully trained, he will be like his rabbi. And Timothy was just like Paul. Look at what Paul said to the Corinthians:

Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. 1 Corinthians 4:16 NASB

Paul clearly teaches that believers are to follow the example of his life. We can't see Paul. We read about him and thus learn of his life. Do what the next verse says:

For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Corinthians 4:17 NASB

Paul says, "I want you to imitate me, now here's Timothy." Timothy was a reproduction of Paul. Paul couldn't be there, so he sent Timothy who was just like him. Timothy is a model of what we all should be. We are all called to pattern our lives after Paul, who patterned his life after Yeshua. How about you? Are you a disciple of Yeshua? Are you like Rabbi Yeshua?

Next Paul mentions Lucius—when Paul first started out his ministry in Antioch in Acts 13, one of the five men who was leading the church at Antioch was Lucius of Cyrene. Maybe it's Lucius of Cyrene, a long time friend and fellow teacher from Antioch, who came to join him in Corinth.

Then he mentions, Jason—this may be the Jason who was Paul's host when the apostle went to the city of Thessalonica in Macedonia. Paul stayed in Jason's home when a riot broke out in the city (Acts 17:5-9).

Then we have Sosipater (sos-pa-ter)— who was most likely from the town of Berea and was probably one of those noble students who studied the Scripture. He was in Paul's group at this time as well and is also mentioned in Acts 20:4. Paul met him in Macedonia and may have accompanied him to Jerusalem with the offering to the churches there.

Paul calls Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, “my kinsmen”—this is the Greek word suggenes, which we saw in verse 7 meaning: “a relative by blood.” So here are some more of Paul’s family ministering with him.

I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord. Romans 16:22 NASB

What’s going on here? I thought Paul wrote Romans. Why does Tertius (tear-te-us) say he wrote it? The “my” of verse 21 is Paul. But in verse 22, we abruptly meet another voice: “I Tertius.” Then we go back to the voice of Paul, “Gaius, host to me,” that’s Paul. Tertius was Paul's secretary, scholars call him an amanuensis, the one who is taking his dictation.

Paul regularly wrote using a secretary to take down the letter. We know this because at least four times he signs off at the end of a letter with a greeting which he says is in his own hand, implying that the rest is in the hand of his secretary (1 Corinthians 16:21; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:17):

See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. Galatians 6:11 NASB

He did this to protect his letters from forgery, for one thing, but also to bear a personal greeting to those to whom he was writing. I think almost all scholars agree that the apostle probably suffered from a serious eye problem. The letter to the Galatians suggests that.

All we know about Tertius is that he was Paul’s amanuensis, and his name indicates that he was a slave, because his name means:"Third." In slave families they did not bother to think up names; they just numbered the children: First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, etc.

Tertius is doing the actual writing, but the words and the thoughts are Paul’s, but even though Paul is doing the dictating, the words and thoughts are Yahweh’s. Yahweh inspired the biblical writers, it was His words that were written. And that makes the Bible God’s word to us and a very precious book.

Let me share with you a Facebook post that was brought to my attention last week. This man is a Preterist talking to others on facebook, and he says:

I see that you up hold all to what is written in Scripture and search out what it says to be true for all ages, which means to me that you will forever be stuck in the time frame of the first century. Look to Jesus Christ instead and understand if you become an over-comer He will reveal to you Hidden Manna not written in Scripture but never the less His Word. I think those who believe God has not spoken or that His Word post AD 70 means nothing and that only Scriptures written before AD 70 are true for today in the New Heaven and Earth, than that is crazy speculation and Worship of Scripture.

This guy takes a very low view of inspiration. He sounds like a Preterist Charasmatic who thinks God is speaking to him. He claims to have access to present divine revelation. How do you argue with someone that God speaks directly to?

Let me just say very clearly, I believe in the inspiration of Scriptures. They are the Word of God and the only Word of God we have. There is no divine revelation today beyond the Scripture. I believe the Holy Scriptures, composed of the thirty-nine books of the Tanakh and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, as originally written, are the verbally inspired Word and Revelation of God. If that makes me narrow minded or simple, so be it.

William Tyndale translated the New Testament for the first time from the original languages into English in 1526. He paid for this with his life. He was strangled and then burned at the stake at age forty-two. What was the point if the Scriptures are not the word of the Living God?

Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother. Romans 16:23 NASB

Gaius—is not only Paul's host, he's the host of the whole church. So obviously, the church met in his house.

Erastus, the city treasurer greets you—the city’s treasurer or steward, also sends greetings to the Roman Church. His position as the city’s treasurer (director of public works) suggests that he enjoyed a comfortable standard of living. Clearly, there were some in the Corinthian Church who were among the “elite” of society (implied by 1 Cor 1:26).

The American School of Classical Studies in Athens discovered in 1929 on the sight of Corinth a marble paving block, and this is what it said on the block, "Erastus, commissioner for public works, laid this pavement at his own expense."

Then Paul greets Quartus, the brother—his name means: “the fourth,” indicating that he was a slave also. We have no other information about this Christian brother Quartus.

You can see how the Gospel penetrated all levels of society, with slaves, public officials, consuls, leaders of the empire, all sharing an equal ground of fellowship in the church of Yeshua the Christ. All class distinctions disappeared within the church, or at least they should.

One fact that I am reminded of in these verses of greetings from Paul’s friends is that Paul seldom ministered alone. He was nearly always accompanied by a group of men:

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. Ecclesiastes 4:9 NASB

It’s encouraging to have others with you in ministry. When you are doing something alone it is easy to get discouraged and give up.

[The grace of our Lord Yeshua Christ be with you all. Amen.] Romans 16:24 NASB

Did you notice that this verse is in brackets? What does that mean? They believe it was an addition and not original. This verse is omitted in what are normally regarded as the best manuscripts. It seems to be a repetition of the closing words of verse 20, with slight variations. Some of the manuscripts that include it omit the words from verse 20.

This brings us to the last paragraph in the book of Romans. Very likely at this point Paul took the pen and wrote the closing paragraph in his own hand. The book ends with a doxology. The word "doxology" comes from two Greek words: doxa, which means: "glory or praise" and legein, which means: "to speak." It means: "to speak of His glory." These verses are a hymn of praise to Yahweh.

The Word of God is filled with many doxologies. The book of Psalms was the hymn book for the Hebrews. One hundred and fifty separate Psalms, which they recited, read, studied, and sang; and it is divided into five books; there are 150 Psalms, but there are five separate books of the Psalms. They speak about the attributes of God. They speak about the work of God. They speak about the power of God, the wisdom of God. And at the conclusion of each book there is a doxology.

Book one runs for Psalm 1 to 41 and ends with this doxology:

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, From everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen. Psalms 41:13 NASB

Book Two runs from Psalm 42 to 72 and ends with this doxology:

Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, Who alone works wonders. And blessed be His glorious name forever; And may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen. Psalms 72:18-19 NASB

Book Three runs from Psalm 73 to 89 and ends with this doxology:

Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and Amen. Psalms 89:52 NASB

Book Four runs from Psalm 90 to 106 and ends with:

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, From everlasting even to everlasting. And let all the people say, "Amen." Praise the LORD! Psalms 106:48 NASB

Book Five runs from Psalm 107 to 150, the very end of the Psalms. And the whole Psalm is a doxology

Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse. Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD! Psalms 150:1-6 NASB

There is a clear parallel in Romans between the closing doxology and the opening eleven verses of Romans. In fact, they deal with much the same material. You'll notice the word "establish" in verse 25, in chapter 1, verse 11 Paul says:

For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; Romans 1:11 NASB

In this closing doxology he talks about “the obedience of faith” and in 1:5 he writes:

through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, Romans 1:5 NASB

In this verse he speaks of the obedience of faith among “all the Gentiles,” and in the ending doxology he talks about the Gospel being “made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith.” So Paul ends where he began, strengthening the believers with the Gospel that leads to the obedience of faith among all nations.

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Yeshua Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, Romans 16:25 NASB

The word "establish" here is from the Greek sterizo, which means: “to set steadfastly in an immovable position.” It means: “to settle somebody.” It means: “to confirm somebody, to root somebody, to plant their feet.” The words “is able” are the same words used in Romans 1:16: “the power of God” only in its verbal form. We could translate it, “Now to Him who is powerful to establish you.” This is not an exhortation to be strong, Paul assures the readers that God will give them the strength to stand. The emphasis is on what God does to make sure that we never fall from His fold. And against the background of this doxology, we have those words of warning in verse 17 and 18.

Paul said something very similar speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus at Miletus, after he has given them his exhortation, and in which he has urged them to take heed to the flock of God, he says:

"And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20:32 NASB

Paul had most likely led these men to Christ and discipled them for three years. And now, he is saying, "I'm leaving." I can just imagine how people would feel. Paul's leaving. What are we going to do? And so Paul says, "I commend you to God." Now, that's a tremendous statement. "God will take care of you."

So the apostle characteristically turns now to the Lord. It is he who is able to give that which is necessary for establishment in the things of God. I have listened to and read many of the arguments of those who think that a genuine believer can lose his salvation, and none of them are correct. We are in Christ, we share His righteousness, His obedience is our obedience, we are secure in Christ.

Paul calls it "my Gospel"—Paul does not mean that his Gospel is different than Peter’s or John’s or even that of Yeshua the Christ. Some liberal scholars have proposed such nonsense—He's not being particularly possessive. What he means to say is, It's the Gospel that I preach, it's the Gospel that was given to me.

The Greek word here for “Gospel” is euangelion, which means: “good news.” But by the term Gospel, he has in view the whole of the good news that he preached. Romans is the exposition of his Gospel. We are made strong by good news. Then he calls the Gospel, the “preaching of Yeshua the Christ”—that means that the heart of the Gospel is good news about who Yeshua is and what He did. Preaching Yeshua was Paul’s life commitment. In 1 Corinthians 1:23 he says, "We preach Christ crucified." That was his message. In 2 Corinthians 4 and verse 5, "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Yeshua the Lord." And he said, "I am determined to know nothing among you save Yeshua the Christ in Him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2)

When we preach Christ, we preach His substitutionary death on the cross. He did not suffer for His sin, because He had no sin, but rather He suffered for our sins—on our behalf, the Just suffering for the unjust—so that He might bring us to God. Reconciliation took place through His death for us. We proclaim His resurrection. Death could not hold Him, even so, death cannot hold those who are in union with Him. To preach Christ is to proclaim life in Him.

“According to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past”—the use of the perfect tense and divine passive expresses the distinct silence by God’s pleasure when it came to the mystery. A mystery is something that's been hidden in the past and is now revealed in the Scripture. The word translated "mystery" is the Greek word musterion. Vines writes:

In the New Testament it denotes not the mysterious...but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God and to those only who are illuminated by His Spirit. In the ordinary sense, a mystery implies knowledge withheld; its Scriptural significance is truth revealed.

In Colossians Paul writes:

that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, Colossians 1:26 NASB

Here Paul talks about the mystery that is "now" being manifested to His saints. What is interesting and very important to understand is that the word "mystery" in Paul's writings occurs in close proximity to the word "stewardship" that Paul used in verse 25:

Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, Colossians 1:25 NASB

Paul associates the two words, mystery and stewardship, many times in his own letters. His stewardship, therefore, is seen to be tied up with the deliverance of the mystery. We could almost say that it's the sum total of what's been committed into his hands.

The Greek word musterion occurs twenty-seven times in the New Testament, three of which are in the Gospels (where it's used in the same context in Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and four in Revelation. The remaining twenty occurrences are all in Paul's letters where it takes on the form of a descriptor for the Gospel.

Paul's use of this word, musterion, is not to indicate a secret teaching, rite, or ceremony revealed only to some elite initiates (as in the mystery religions), but truth revealed to all believers in the New Testament. This truth, as Paul says in Colossians 1:26, that, "...has now been manifested to His saints..." Is that which "...has been hidden from the past ages and generations," namely the Old Covenant era and people.

In Ephesians 3 Paul unfolds in detail this mystery:

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Yeshua for the sake of you Gentiles-- if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. Ephesians 3:1-3 NASB

We see here that Paul's stewardship is the mystery. Paul says in verse 4, "Look, you can understand how I gained my insight into the mystery of Christ. God revealed it to me." What is the mystery?:

which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Yeshua through the gospel, Ephesians 3:5-6 NASB

What is the mystery? Why, it is not the fact that Gentiles are to be saved. The Tanakh teaches that. What is the mystery? Is it the revelation of the Gospel now? No “The Gospel,” the apostle says in Romans chapter 1, “was something that was promised beforehand in the writings of the prophets.” What is this that was hidden, now manifested and made known—the mystery? Verse 6 tells us. “That the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Yeshua through the Gospel.”

In the Tanakh Gentiles were blessed through the Jews. But now as a result of the apostolic preaching through Paul and the revelation of the mystery, by what has happened as well as by what was revealed to Paul, preeminently Paul and other New Testament prophets; it is clear that now Gentiles are not only saved as Jews, but they are saved on the same grounds, and they also possess the same blessings, “That the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Yeshua through the gospel.” So the apostle regards Jew and Gentile as being united in Christ in His day. That is the mystery, the union of Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ on equal grounds:

to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 NASB

Paul says "the mystery... which is Christ in you." That's a mystery, Christ in you. But if you look at that in the original text, he means "in you Gentiles." That's the thing about it that's significant—Christ in the Gentiles. In this new creation there is no longer a division between Jew and Gentile as both are united in Christ to form one new man.

Paul further explains this in chapter 2:

Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands-- remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:11-12 NASB

Gentiles were "strangers to the covenants of promise," which are the roots of the olive tree. This was the position of all Gentiles: hopeless, without God:

But now in Christ Yeshua you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, Ephesians 2:13-14 NASB

We have been brought near to the God of Israel, Yahweh, by the blood of Christ. We have been grafted into the roots of Israel. Notice that both groups are now one:

and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:16-18 NASB

Both groups, Jew and Gentile, are in one body. In Christ we both have access to the Father. This is the mystery: Jew and Gentile are one in Christ; we are both in the body of Christ; we are fellow citizens. Isn't this what Paul just said in Romans 11:17-24 about the olive tree? Jews and Gentiles were grafted into the SAME tree, sharing the same root.

What does he mean when he says here that it “has been kept secret for long ages past”? It's probable that the apostle means from the time of the creation to the time of Christ. In the ages of world history expressed there, a hush had come by divine desire over the revelation of the future relationship between Jew and Gentile.

Let me just say here that he is not talking about the Gospel, that wasn’t kept secret.

We read the proto-euangelion in Genesis 3:15, that first mention of the good news. We see the symbolism so clearly portrayed in Genesis 22 when Abraham offered Isaac, but at the last minute a substitute ram was offered in his place. We see Christ in that substitute. We see Christ in the Passover Lamb offered for Israel. We see Him in the scapegoat and in the goat offered on the Day of Atonement. We see Him in the prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. We see Him in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We see Him in Hosea and Micah. We see Him in the good news proclaimed in Zechariah and Malachi. So the Gospel was revealed, but the mystery was not.

This great teaching of the mystery was enwrapped in the silence of the past, but now it has been manifested:

but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; Romans 16:26 NASB

“But now is manifested”—three times the apostle says this. Here, in Ephesians chapter 3, in Colossians chapter 1, he draws a contrast in each place between the past and now, “The mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested.” So he thinks of this as something now manifested. The public manifestation has been expressed in what Paul and the apostles saw happening, but it also was revealed to them and the explanation of what was happening came to them from Lord God.

It is sometimes asked if this truth was absolutely unknown in Old Covenant times or only relatively unknown, that is, very little said about it? Well the apostle draws a contrast in these passages, “but now”! I think in the light of the apostle's "nows” and in the light of his specific statement it was "kept secret for long ages past," that he refers to an absolute hidden-ness of this great truth of Jew and Gentile being one in the body of Christ in the present day.

But what about the prophetic writings? Paul says, “but now is manifested, and:

“By the Scriptures of the prophets”—if this is the way that the text should be rendered, then we probably would say he must have in mind the Old Covenant prophets. But when you look at this in the original text, the statement is simply "through prophetic writings." This is how Young renders it:

and now having been made manifest, also, through prophetic writings, according to a command of the age-during God, having been made known to all the nations for obedience of faith-- Romans 16:26 YLT

Now that opens up possibilities, because there are New Covenant prophets as well as Old Covenant prophets. And furthermore, in Ephesians, he has three times made reference to "apostles and prophets." He talked about the church being built upon the "apostles and prophets." Notice the order, not prophets and apostles as you might expect, but "apostles and prophets." Then he says this mystery is made known to "apostles and prophets." And then in the fourth chapter, the church has been given certain gifts: first, apostles; secondarily, prophets. So it's very likely, particularly since he uses one article with the two nouns, that he thinks of these prophets as being New Covenant prophets.

So when he says here, “... through prophetic writings,” he means through writings in which revelation takes place, because that's what a prophet does; he gives divine revelation. So, the revelation of the mystery through prophetic writings is through the writings of men like Paul. He's talking about himself and others who have come to an understanding of this mystery, so that this mystery is now manifested and made known through prophetic writings.

Of course, the logic of the passage would teach you that. He's just said it's hidden, and now it's made known. That would let you know right there that how can it be known through the prophets if it's only manifested and made known "now."

“According to the commandment of the eternal God”—that was the commission that he was given specifically. He refers to himself here as the apostle of the Gentiles.

“Made known to all the nations”—this is a fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise:

And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." Genesis 12:3 NASB

Then Paul says that this good news is, “Leading to obedience of faith”—the significance of the genitive pistis (of faith) should be taken as an appositional construction and should be translated as: "the obedience that is faith." Acceptance of the Gospel in faith can be described as an act of obedience.

However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?" Romans 10:16 NASB

The word "heed" is the Greek word hupakouo, which means: "to obey." Paul uses it four times in Romans, and the other three are all translated: "obey." The parallelism of the two lines reveals that disobedience consists in failure to believe. It is an act of obedience to God to believe in His Son.

to the only wise God, through Yeshua the Christ, be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 16:27 NASB

We are reminded in these verses of the infinite wisdom of God. In the wisdom of God, He devised a plan whereby He would take rebellious and sinful men and give to them eternal life in His presence, yet without blemish to His attributes of justice and holiness. This He accomplished by the substitutionary death of His Son, Yeshua the Christ. He further planned to save both Jews and Gentiles, uniting them in one body.

This is not only saying that Christ has glorified God, but that God is honored and glorified as we embrace what he has done through Christ’s death and resurrection and to live in light of the claims made by His Son.

The most significant thing of all is that the glory will never end. It is for the ages; this glory will last forever:

to the only wise God, through Yeshua Christ, to him be glory to the ages. Amen. Romans 16:27 YLT

What better place to end our study of Romans than with the glory of God through Yeshua the Christ! Soli deo gloria!

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