Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE MYSTERY WHICH WAS KEPT SECRET SINCE THE WORLD BEGAN”

Romans 16.25-27

 

Turn to Romans 16.25, and please stand when you find that verse in God’s Word. A few moments ago, we sang hymn #21 while taking up the offering. That short hymn is most usually referred to as The Doxology. A doxology, from the Greek word for glory and the Greek word for word or expression, is a song, hymn, or expression of praise and adoration to God. The Apostle Paul was inspired to write two doxologies in his letter to the Romans, with the passage we are about to read being the last. Read along silently while I read aloud:

 

25     Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

26     But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:

27     To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.

 

A number of mysteries are revealed to us in the New Testament. In Matthew 13.11, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to His disciples about the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. In First Corinthians 4.1, we saw that God-called gospel preachers are, as were the Apostles of Jesus Christ, stewards of the mysteries of God. Then, last week, we considered the mystery of the blindness of Israel, Romans 11.25.

Since you can read each of these sermons on the church website, I see no need to review our examination of those three passages at this time, except to say that each views the mysteries from a different perspective, with no significant overlap beyond the universal truth of a mystery being a facet of God’s truth which was once concealed from view, but which is clearly seen in the light of New Testament revelation.

Today’s text is no different from the previous three in that it, too, addresses the matter of mysteries from a different perspective. However, with First Corinthians 4.1 addressing those of us who communicate the mysteries to others by means of preaching and teaching, and with Matthew 13.11 and Romans 11.25 both dealing with aspects of the kingdom of heaven, first the kingdom itself and then those who to whom the kingdom is promised, the mystery we attend to this morning is bigger. When I say bigger, I refer to the breadth of the mystery, to its depth, and to its expanse.

Are you ready to think upon big things, to consider vast and far reaching realities? You will need to be to get your mind around the mystery that is before us today. It is “the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.”

Consider this mystery in three ways:

 

First, HOW IS THE MYSTERY REVEALED?

 

Keep in mind that the Apostle Paul refers to an aspect of God’s truth intentionally kept secret down through the ages. He writes, “the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began.” However, unlike the mystery religions of ancient times, and the notorious secret clubs, organizations, and cults that hold their temple secrets closed from public view these days, what we have here is a mystery kept secret from everyone since the world began. This mystery was kept secret from all men (including everyone thought to be initiated). There was no secret society who knew this mystery, as they withheld it from public view. This mystery was kept secret by God. The phrase “was kept secret” is what is called a divine passive, with the unwritten cause of the action, or in this case inaction, understood to be God.

At the right time, and by means of God’s determined means, this secret held in the bosom of God was revealed. Notice how it was revealed. Look to the previous phrase in our text. Paul writes, “and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began.” In other words, the way in which this mystery was revealed was through the preaching of Jesus Christ. This shows us both the how and the what of this mystery, though for now let us focus our attention on the how this mystery was, is, revealed. The Greek word is khrhgma, which refers to publicly declaring something, to proclaiming something aloud.[1] Thus, Paul is referring to preaching here, just as this same word is translated preaching in Matthew 12.41, Luke 11.32, First Corinthians 1.21, 2.4, 15.15, and Second Timothy 4.17. God’s planned means by which this mystery is to be revealed is preaching. To confirm that we are on the right track in our understanding, notice how verse 26 begins: “But now is made manifest.” Fanerow, translated “is made manifest,” is a Greek word that refers to disclosing something, to showing something, to making something known.[2] So you see, we have a very comfortable fit in our understanding of how this truth God kept secret for so long was disclosed to everyone. It was by means of preaching. How widespread was this mystery exposed to the light of day? Verse 26 continues, “made known to all nations.” Does this remind you of the Great Commission, wherein the Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to “preach the gospel to every creature”?[3] Yet more confirmation that this mystery is revealed by preaching.

Before we move on to the next consideration, take note in verse 26 of the phrase, “and by the scriptures of the prophets.” This phrase confirms what we already know from other passages in the New Testament, that glimpses of this and other mysteries revealed in the New Testament are found in their seed form in the Old Testament scriptures. I have said, The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed, and the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. This is true. Therefore, realize that what was completely hidden from the view of the Gentiles, was truth that the Hebrew scriptures provided hints and suggestions of to the Jewish people, in the forms of typology and predictive prophesy. The mystery is now unveiled for all to see who will attend to preaching.

 

Next, WHAT IS THE MYSTERY’S REVELATION?

 

Or, to state the question another way, what is this particular mystery Paul speaks of in our text? In other passages, we find clear evidence of what it was Paul referred to here concerning preaching:

·         In Acts 14.6-7, Luke tells us Paul and Barnabas, his co-laborer, “preached the gospel.”

·         In Acts 14.21, on another occasion, in Derbe, Paul “preached the gospel to that city.”

·         In his opening remarks to the Romans, Paul declares to them that he is “ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.”

·         In Romans 15.19, he tells them, “from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”

·         To the Corinthians he wrote, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel,” First Corinthians 1.17.

·         In First Corinthians 9.16, he writes, “woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.”

Thus, if the mystery referred to in our text is revealed by preaching, and what Paul exclusively, passionately, compulsively, and fervently preached was the gospel, then we can be certain that while the means of revealing the mystery was preaching, the message which comprised the mystery can be nothing other than the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel was a mystery, the mystery Paul now refers to.

This should be no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the Bible, as well as anyone paying attention to our text. We have three phrases that are related the one to the preceding or the following, as the case may be, with each phrase beginning with the words “according to.” The first phrase begins, “according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ.” Thus, Paul’s gospel, Paul’s good news, is the preaching, the proclamation, of Jesus Christ. The second phrase begins, “according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets.” What the preaching of the gospel does, what the preaching of Jesus Christ does, is reveal, open up for all to see, something kept secret since the world began, something contained in the Old Testament scriptures but only very dimly grasped before the beginning of New Testament gospel preaching. The third phrase begins, “according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Notice that although Paul unfolds his explanation logically, these things became known to mankind chronologically, in the reverse order that we find them listed here. God commanded the mystery be made known, which required that the once secret mystery now be revealed, which was done through the preaching of Jesus Christ.

If the once secret mystery that is revealed by preaching Jesus Christ is the gospel, what does that mean? Explaining the gospel takes more than a little bit of time. Paul reviewed the gospel to the Corinthians in its most distilled and concentrated form in First Corinthians 15.1-4:

 

1      Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

2      By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

3      For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4      And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

 

You can tell someone that the gospel is the good news that Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose the third day according to the scriptures. However, those are the barest facts of the gospel, and insufficient by themselves to formulate a saving message. How can we be sure of this? How many people do you know who embrace the truth that Jesus died for their sins, that He was buried, and that He rose from the dead the third day, yet they are still lost? Sadly, many are in this situation today. What Paul is alluding to in Romans 16.25 is so much more than those bare necessities. At the very least, he is referring to what he has just written in the entire Roman epistle, wherein he explained in great detail the need for justification in the sight of God, the nature of justification in the sight of God, the nation of Israel in God’s purpose and plan, and that near neighbor of justification which is the transformed life of the sinner who is justified by faith in Jesus Christ and who now has peace with God. Gospel is the word that translates the Greek word for good news. Thus, it is not only good news that Jesus came, died, was buried, and rose again. It is also good news that God has a plan, that He has always had a purpose, and that plan is now revealed through the means of preaching. However, what is to be preached? Paul tells us. Jesus Christ is to be preached. Did not our Lord Jesus Christ declare, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me”?[4] He meant more by those words than His impending crucifixion. As well, did He not tell His enemies, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me”?[5]

When the Bible is rightly understood, it is seen to have the Lord Jesus Christ as its great theme and main topic. As well, when the Bible is rightly preached what will be voiced must be an account of the glorious person, of the saving work, of the triumphant greatness, of the lordly majesty, of the infinite might, and of the holy magnificence of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the living God and the Second Person of the triune godhead. So you see, the gospel without the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is no gospel at all. However, do not make the mistake of limiting the gospel to those few absolutely necessary features. To fully preach the gospel is to preach Jesus Christ wherever in scripture He is described or alluded to. Just as certainly, to declare the whole counsel of God’s Word is to preach Christ crucified, which is to preach the gospel.

Allow me to apply. If God’s Law is not preached Jesus Christ is not fully preached, for the Law reveals God’s standard against which sin is measured just as Jesus Christ is the One Who fulfilled God’s Law. If Hell is not preached Jesus Christ is not fully preached, since Hell is the full measure of God’s wrath poured out upon those sinners who reject His Son Jesus Christ. If prophecy is not preached Jesus Christ is not fully preached, since Jesus Christ is coming again in power and in great glory. He is a member of the triune godhead, coequal with the Father and the Holy Spirit in every respect. These things comprise the mystery of which Paul speaks in Romans 16.25, which things God has chosen to reveal to all mankind through the preaching of the gospel, by preaching Jesus Christ.

 

Finally, WHAT IS THE MYSTERY’S EFFECT?

 

Remembering that the mystery is revealed by preaching the gospel, by preaching Christ, you can pretty well guess what the effect will be of this mystery’s revelation.

If you look elsewhere, you come across passages that speak of obeying the gospel and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.[6] In our text, however, we find evidence that points in the same direction. The first phrase of Romans 16.25 reads, “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel.” The word “to stablish” translates the Greek word sthrizw, referring to causing someone to be inwardly firm or committed, to confirm, to establish, or to strengthen.[7] Although the word usually refers to strengthen and stablizing Christians in the New Testament, in this context I am confident Paul is referring to conversion. In other words, God brings His power to bear through the gospel to stablize people, to save them by setting them on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. Now look at the last phrase of verse 26: “made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” There is no question what the phrase “the obedience of faith” refers to. It is obeying the gospel by placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ is shown here to be obedience to God, and obedience that is a direct response to the mystery of the gospel being made known to the darkened heart and mind of a sinner.

I well remember my own response when the light of the gospel shined into my sin-darkened soul. I knew the facts of the gospel, but had no appreciation of what they meant. However, when the Spirit of God illuminated my mind and the veil was lifted from my eyes so I could see what the mystery meant, when I saw that God’s Word pointed to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, it produced in me the obedience of faith that Paul makes mention of here.

 

Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th century English Baptist so greatly used of God in London, said something along these lines: In my preaching, I take a text and then head straight for the cross. Spurgeon understood what Paul was communicating in our text for today, that it is all about the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the be all and the end all of scripture. When Christ is preached the mystery is revealed, for to preach Christ is to preach the gospel and to preach the gospel is to preach Christ.

You see, though God has a scheme, a plan, a program, right understanding comes from realizing that it is all about the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a kingdom, to be sure. It will be established, of a truth. However, your involvement in the coming kingdom hinges entirely on whether or not you are joined to Christ by faith through obedience to the gospel.

As well, God’s plan for our era, this we call the church age, is not the kingdom. We are a part of the church age, and God will resume His plan for the coming kingdom after we are gone from this world. However, the same principle applies to us. Going to church and involvement in church is God’s plan for this age in which we live. Free lance, stay at home, watch it on television Christianity is not God’s plan for our day. It is the community of the congregation that the entire New Testament points to for you and me when it comes to worship and service. However, what is first needful is the new birth, conversion to Christ. It is only after a sinner comes to Christ by faith that he is a fit candidate for baptism and the church membership that enables New Testament worship and service to be possible.

In closing, allow me to address some concerns that a number of you may have at this point. I mentioned at the outset that the mystery we would deal with today is more expansive than those dealt with thus far. This mystery is much bigger than any mystery that deals only with God’s kingdom, or that deals only with the temporary blindness of Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. However, do not be discouraged. Do not conclude in your mind, “Wow. There is so much I do not understand, I will never grasp what Pastor has preached about today.” If that is your reaction, you are mistaking what I am saying and what Paul wrote. Instead, think of the mystery this way: If you have heard a couple of gospel sermons it is likely that you have heard enough gospel truth to be saved from your sins. What this mystery means is that, in addition to what you already know about what Jesus did and how you can be saved from your sins by coming to Him, everything else in the Bible says essentially the same thing.

The mystery Paul addresses in our text is the mystery that it is all about Jesus Christ, that everything points to Him. As well, be sure in your mind that you will never hear a gospel sermon, you will never hear a real Bible message, that says anything different. The now unveiled mystery is that everything points to Jesus. How should you respond to that truth? How should you react to that mystery now revealed? If you heard Bible sermons for the next twenty-five years, how should you respond? My friends, there is only one right way to respond, and that is to obey the gospel, the obedience of faith, by coming to Christ.

The first time you heard a gospel sermon you were urged to come to Christ. The 1000th time you heard a gospel sermon you were urged to come to Christ. If you hear 10,000 gospel sermons they will, each one, urge you to come to Christ. That is part of the mystery, as well. There is only one correct response to the preaching of God’s Word, to the preaching of the gospel, to the preaching of Jesus Christ. In that respect, nothing will change. You will never hear gospel truth that will challenge you, urge you, inform you, educate you, or exhort you to do anything besides believing on the Lord to be saved from your sins.



[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 543.

[2] Ibid., page 1048.

[3] Mark 16.15

[4] John 12.32

[5] John 5.39

[6] Romans 10.16 and Acts 16.31

[7] Bauer, page 945.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org