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Romans 16:25-27

The book of Romans is Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome, centered around teaching foundational doctrines like justification, salvation and sanctification. The book ends with a final exhortation, a doxology distilling not only the rest of the book of Romans, but also the Gospel, into a paragraph. This passage sits alongside some far more “obvious” Christmas texts in the lectionary, and it may be easy to overlook. Upon first glance, the entire thing is one long sentence, mildly confusing and covering a wide array of complex statements in a short burst. Yet sitting with the passage reveals a rich, beautiful tapestry or portrait of the Gospel.

 

It begins by casting glory on God, who Paul points out has strengthened the churches in Rome “according to my gospel.” However, Paul is not stating that he has some sort of ownership over this message, the “good news”, that has been passed on to these churches. The ownership of the Gospel does not belong to Paul, but to Jesus. Paul knows this, and when he says “my gospel”, it is not because it is his creation, but because this message was unveiled directly to him in a personal encounter with the Person of Jesus. This is not a lofty set of ideas or theological ideas, but a genuine revelation of the character of God. This is not Paul’s gospel any more than it is my gospel, your gospel, or John Wesley’s gospel. It is Christ’s gospel, unveiled to us in full through the person of Jesus and divine revelation. This good message was given to Paul on the road to Damascus, which was both a moment of God’s salvation and the beginning of Paul’s sanctification, the moment where he first fully realized the power and glory of God. This is still present in Paul through his writings and ministry.

 

Granted, he may be using it the way one might say “my Jesus”, or “my Church”, as in the gospel which I belong to or love. But, it’s important to note he is not claiming ownership of the gospel, nor does he have his own version of the gospel.

 

As pastors, ministers, and lay leaders, we do our best to relay the Gospel truth of Jesus’ gift of salvation. But, our ideas usually lack the clarity and vibrancy with which Christ delivers this good news Himself. Despite all our best efforts, at times we only understand in a mirror dimly. We try to express the height, depth, breadth, width of the ocean of God’s love, but merely manage to capture through our words a puddle. But the person of Jesus clears the murky, shadowy puddle and renders it living water, a mighty river flowing from the throne of God.

 

This is the revelation of the mystery, the unveiling of the divine secret by Jesus Christ. Prophets through the ages have, in part, unveiled a small piece of the character and intention of God, but it is now fully and entirely revealed through Jesus. In the Greek, a closer translation of the phrase “kept secret through the ages” is “kept in silence from eternal ages”. This asserts that, contrary to many counter-arguments against the Christian faith, this is not a “new doctrine” or new teaching. This work has been taking place since the beginning of time, through eternal ages, and has now been unveiled in the present age. A secret, merely whispered in the heavens for eternity before, is now brought to life in Jesus.

 

This secret is also not intended for the elect - the fulfillment of the secret, or mystery, requires it to be made known to any and all willing to receive it. There are no boundaries or borders separating us from the fullness of the presence of God, merely the distractions we place before ourselves to prevent the surrender of our full selves, ego, will, and wants to the glory of Jesus.

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