1. Please pray with me. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen. The message from God’s Word this 4th Sunday in Advent is taken from Romans 16:25-27, it’s entitled, “God’s Mystery Revealed,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. The Apostle Paul loved a good mystery and maybe you do too. Maybe you can remember sitting in front of the television screen as a child watching the detective trying to unravel his case to discover who committed the crime. Only to find out that you’ll have to wait until next week to find out if he cracked the case. In our text today from Romans 16:25-27 the Apostle Paul says, “25Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
3. Here the Apostle Paul is referring to the biblical mystery of Jesus Christ. In Scripture “mystery” is a technical theological term. It identifies some previously hidden or only hinted at facet of God’s eternal plan, which has only been recently revealed. Christ, Paul realized with wonder, is the greatest of all the mysteries of God. How could God forgive the sins of past saints? How could God not simply declare human beings righteous in His sight, but actually make them righteous? How could God, committed as He was to the Jews, open wide His arms to the Gentiles too? How could Jew and Gentile ever find common ground, enabling the race to be drawn back together into one? How could God’s love for all the human race be so stunningly displayed that hardened sinners would suddenly halt, reconsider, and kneel, broken, before God?
4. These and all of history’s unanswered questions are, for Paul, answered in Jesus Christ. He is the mystery hidden for long ages past. He is the one glimpsed in prophetic writings. He is the One who has come and stands fully revealed today that all nations might believe and obey Him. He is the one who has at last enabled us to sense not only the love but also the wisdom of God. He is the One whom God receives glory, forever and ever. The Old Testament did not make all things clear. But in the New Testament, the mystery is now revealed. God in Christ has united Jew and Gentile together in one Body. Paul also writes in Eph 3:4–6, “4When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” As St. Augustine, one of our early Church Fathers has put it, “The new is in the old concealed, and the old is in the new revealed.”
5. Here at the end of Romans 16 Paul gives us a grand doxology where he wraps up his lengthy letter to the Church at Rome. This is the whole Epistle of Romans in a nutshell. God strengthens us through His Gospel in Jesus Christ, through the preaching of Christ, the mystery that was long hidden and is now broadcast through the length and breadth of the world to all nations. This Gospel brings about “the obedience of faith” that is, it imparts the faith that clings to the righteousness of God so that people are rescued from the old dead end way of living and made partakers of the living Body of the Son of God, whom they eagerly await from heaven. And for this Gospel—this joyous good news—all glory goes to the Father of Jesus Christ forever!
6. This doxology that Paul uses here near the end of his letter to the Romans reflects everything Paul has said in this New Testament Epistle. You may recall how the book of Romans began with Paul’s assertion in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”
7. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is at the heart of Paul’s message. Jesus is the key, the revelation that unlocks the mystery hidden for long ages past. God’s gracious plan of salvation has been effect since Adam and Eve—yes, even from eternity. But for a long time it looked like the personal possession of the Jewish nation. But, all of that changed when Jesus came to earth, completed His saving work and commissioned His followers to proclaim the salvation to all the world. Thus, the “mystery” of God’s grace—disclosed to Paul and proclaimed in his gospel—is that by faith in Christ as our Savior from sin, death and the devil’s power, God’s salvation is for all people, Jew and Gentile alike.
8. The Apostle Paul had experienced the power of God in the gospel not only in the spiritual rebirth it brought into his own life, but also in seeing that miracle repeated in hundreds and thousands of lives in connection to the work the Lord had privileged him to do. His gospel had brought the power of God into the hearts of both Jews and Gentiles, setting up centers of Christian worship all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum.
9. Hence Paul is confident that this Word will now also establish the Romans both through the written message he is sending them and through the spoken Word when he comes to visit them. So confident is Paul that he could say in Romans 15:29, “I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.”
10. Paul’s confidence, of course, was not misplaced. For almost 2000 years now, that Word has advanced, particularly to the west—to Spain and beyond—to the point of also having reached us and won our hearts. Moved by that gospel in general, and in particular by Paul’s exposition of it in his magnificent Epistle to the Romans, we too join with the apostle in saying, “To him who is able to establish us by the gospel… to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
11. Christians can differ honestly about many doctrines. They can dispute about practices. But on one thing we all agree. We all love the One Jesus Christ whose coming into our world in the form of a little baby, which we’ll celebrate at Christmas, explained the mystery of God’s plan, and revealed once and for all the full extent of His mysterious, wonderful love in dying on the cross to save each and everyone of us from our sins. Amen.