Sermon on Romans 16:25-27
Text: Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith — 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
“Do you hear what I hear?” is a familiar Christmas carol. Throughout the course of the song, the news of the birth of the Savior is passed from the night wind to a little lamb, from shepherd boy to mighty king and, eventually to all people everywhere. That song calls attention to the fact that the news of Jesus’ birth and its significance are made known as one person tells it to another. Previous to this, it was a mystery. In our text for this morning, the apostle Paul also mentions a mystery that God has revealed to mankind. At this time of year, we are reminded that THE TIME HAS COME FOR THE REVELATION OF GOD’S MYSTERY. This mystery was 1. Foretold Through The Prophets By God’s Command. It was also 2. Proclaimed In The Gospel To God’s Glory.
Before we go any further, we need to see what this “mystery” is that we are talking about. The mystery comes from that part of all mankind that knows there is a higher power to which one is accountable. His conscience tells him that he has done something wrong. He will search and search to try to find a way to quiet that conscience. He will look for things to do that are good, hoping to balance out the bad. This is the basis of most of the religions in the world. You must do something to get right with the powers that be. Another avenue that is tried is to minimize or dismiss the feelings that are invoked by the conscience. However, in spite of all of these attempts, natural man cannot find the way to get right with God. That is why it is called a mystery.
The only way that this mystery can be solved is through the revelation that comes from God. In some respects, that mystery was even hidden to God’s Old Testament people. This is not to say that they did not know that God would send a Savior. Paul references this when he speaks of the “mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God.” God made many promises of his coming throughout the centuries. Already, after the fall into sin, God promised a Savior, saying to the devil, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) God told Abraham that all nations of the earth would be blessed through one of his offspring. (Genesis 22:18) Moses told the people “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.” (Deuteronomy 22:18) God told David in our Old Testament Lesson this morning, “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Samuel 7:13) There were some specifics given such as the fact that he would be born in Bethlehem and that he would be born of a virgin. Yet, the people did not know all of the details. God also gave his people pictures of what the Savior would do. All of those sacrifices that were carried out on those Jewish altars for centuries pointed ahead. The scapegoat that was released into the wilderness after the sins of Israel were confessed over it was a picture of the Savior’s work. Yet, in spite of all of these things, the Old Testament people did not know all of the details. They did not know exactly when the Savior would come or who that Savior would be.
It was not until Jesus appeared on the scene that the mystery of God was revealed. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is referred to as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. All that he did was in keeping in line with all that had been said about him for centuries. In addition, as Jesus spoke to and taught the people, he “proclaim[ed] the good news of the kingdom.” (Matthew 9:35) Jesus told the people very clearly, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) He spoke of the reason that he had come into the world, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) Jesus did not just say that was the reason that he had come into the world. He carried out the mission for which he had been sent to the earth. He gave his life as a ransom for many on the cross. It was on that hill outside of Jerusalem that the plan of God reached its fulfillment. There Jesus suffered for the sins of mankind. He paid for all sins of all people of all time. His resurrection proclaimed the victory over sin, death, and the devil. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The mystery that Paul spoke of in our text is the fact that Jesus Christ came into the world to be the world’s Savior.
Paul notes that this mystery was revealed so “that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith,” in other words, that they should be brought to faith in Jesus as their Savior. Prior to this, there was the dividing wall of hostility that existed between Jew and Gentile. The Gentiles were made to feel like they were second class citizens. They could not come into certain parts of the temple. They were considered as ceremonially unclean. However, now they were considered as equals because of the work of Jesus Christ. That is why Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) The way of salvation has been made known to all people.
We thank God that this mystery has been made known to us, as well. When we look at our lives, we are keenly aware of the fact of how much we need to hear it. All it takes is a few moments of honest reflection to see how far short of God’s standard of perfection we fall. For instance, look at the way that we treat one another. Do we always seek the good of others ahead of ourselves? Do we always defend others, speak well of others, and take their words and actions in the kindest possible way? How often don’t we find ourselves being selfish and petty? How easy it is for us to tear others down. As we reflect on these things, we know that we deserve to be separated from our God for eternity in the fires of hell.
How blessed we are that the mystery of the gospel has also been revealed to us. For many of us, the gospel was first revealed to us in the washing of Baptism. There the Lord took you and made you his own. Your sins were washed away, as faith was created in your heart. This mystery has continued to be revealed to you as you have heard God’s Word being preached and taught. God shows you his amazing love every time you read his Word. Jesus comes to you in the Lord’s Supper with the mystery of his body and blood with the bread and wine and says, ‘This is for you. I have forgiven all of your sins.’ You are God’s child through the working of Jesus Christ.
Paul speaks of the fact that he “is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ.” Paul commended the Romans to the power of God, who brought them forth and who alone could maintain and preserve his believers in the faith. The same holds true for us, as well. Whether we are surrounded by false teaching, temptation to sin, suffering, or persecution, we can count on God to preserve us in the faith. He always protects those whom he has called to be his own. The God who has called us to faith will keep us in that faith.
What is our response to the fact that God has called us to faith and promises to keep us in that faith? Paul concludes this section with the words “to the only wise God be glory.” We want our lives to glorify God for all that he has done for us. There are many ways in which this can be done. We show glory to God as we come together to worship him. We glorify God when we take time to be in his Word, whether in Bible class or in our personal devotions. We also glorify him in our everyday lives, when we strive to be the best worker, student, spouse, child, citizen that we can be. Paul summarized it well when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” We want to thank God for revealing this mystery to us every day of our lives. This glorifying of God is just a foretaste of the privilege that we will have in heaven. Paul said, “to the only wise God be glory forever.” We will have the privilege of praising our God for all eternity. We will join with the angels and all other believers throughout time giving glory to God for his amazing love. There are so many songs of praise and triumph that are recorded for us in the book of Revelation. There John was able to hear the songs which glorified God for all that he has done. For example, we hear in Revelation 5:13, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” We glorify him for all that he has done for us.
Many people love a good mystery, whether it is in a book or movie. They like to try to figure out what happened. It can be very disappointing if they have someone come and tell them the plot twist. They reveal the criminal. It seems as though there is no point to continuing to read that book or watch that movie. The element of surprise is gone. How thankful we are that God has revealed his mystery to us. He has shown us clearly what he has done for our salvation. We do not have to guess. We glorify him for his amazing love. We also think of those who are trying to work on this mystery without any clues. Take the example from the Christmas carol we mentioned at the beginning of the sermon. Let them hear what you have heard. Let them see what you have seen. Then, together, we will glorify our God forever. Amen.
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