"Knowledge of Secret Things"
Romans 16:25-27, "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, 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: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen."
This morning, a casual interaction with humanity reveals a great deal of complaining. Anything and everything from the weather, to current events, to personal grief is lamented sometimes with such fervor that just listening to it all can make you start feeling down yourself. Though not that old, I have learned by experience that complaining and thanksgiving cannot live under the same roof concurrently. A thankful heart is not complaining and vice versa. So, in the spirit of thanksgiving let us look at some unchanging things that God has mercifully given us and blessed us to know about while we sojourn here.
Paul closes his epistle to the church at Rome with a heartfelt yearning that mirrors every sincere pastor's desire for the churches that they serve. Paul had basically expounded to them the things that he desired that they have, and in closing, he shows the desire and also the awesome place that these Romans had. Their place can be ours today, and their minister's love and devotion should be our pastor's today. So, what was Paul's desire, and what placement did the Romans have? Very quickly, Paul desired that they be stablished in the tenets of his gospel. In other words, Paul wanted them grounded, secure, and unwavering in the great and central themes of New Testament Christianity. Just as Paul closed his discourse of the resurrection in I Corinthians, the point of the gospel is not to attend church, feel good, and come back a few days later. The point of the gospel and its tenets is to make us resolute in our convictions and devotions to God. The gospel serves as a great benefactor in that regard to aid and strengthen us to being better disciples of the cross.
But, what is this gospel coming from? What are the tenets? What made the placement of the Romans so special? Notice the progression backwards that Paul makes. The conclusion is that the Romans be stablished in his gospel. That gospel flows from the subject matter of Jesus Christ. His Person is a revelation of a mystery that had been hidden for generations since the world began. Though the Scriptures of the Old Testament declared Him through prophecy, He has been seen in these times incarnate. This revealed mystery was commanded by God, and is now revealed to all nations so that we would be obedient in the faith and walk by faith. To God belongs the glory for all these things, amen and hallelujah!
Seeing the progression let us consider the basic tenets of the gospel that we dearly love and why thanksgiving should flow without ceasing from us to keep complaints at bay. The Romans were given layer upon layer of the working of God through His covenant and the accomplishment of Jesus Christ to that end. Romans 8 is layered in rich tones with the glory that God has bestowed upon us through His own work. The Romans understood through the teachings of Paul that God foreknew us, predestinated us, called us, justified us, and glorified us. (Romans 8:29-30) They were further grounded in the knowledge that nothing ever has or ever can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39-39)
If these were our only tenets, consider how blessed we would be. What percentage of humanity today understands those teachings as Paul laid them out? What percentage of humanity in Paul's day knew these things? Furthermore, considering Paul's progression, what percentage of people in the Old Testament understood them? Though Israel was familiar with God through the law and the prophets, even Israel of old did not understand these things. Consider the wise words of an inspired writer in Proverbs 30:4. He did not know the answer to his questions, and he poses them to his audience knowing that they do not know them either. Today, we know the answer to those questions: 1. Who has ascended up into heaven? Jesus. 2. Who has descended? The same Jesus. 3. Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Again, Jesus. 4. Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Still Jesus. 5. Who hath established all the ends of the earth? Are we seeing how blessed we are and the Romans were in their placement? Ah, but now the pinnacle of it all: 6. What is his name, and what is his son's name if thou canst tell? By knowing the name of God's Son (Jesus), we are already a "leg up" on the saints of the Old Testament even those inspired by the Holy Ghost. WOW!
Paul's preaching and the gospel declare overture after overture about the Person of Jesus Christ. Just hearing His name declared can dispel our fears and give hope for the future. Hearing about Him literally binding the wind in His fists with a simple, "Peace, be still" gives us assurance that He can equally still our storms and troubles today. Hearing of His descension into this world to ascension back to glory comforts the soul to think that He came here for us, went back for us, and will one day bring us to where He is! What is this but a revelation of the mystery that generation after generation of old did not know. What is this today but a revelation that remains a mystery to so many people at this present hour.
The Roman church was not located within Jewry (though many historians believe that it was a mixed church of Jews and Gentiles), but they enjoyed the revelation because God commanded it to be unto all nations and not to one only. That mark should particularly touch us today, because those of us who are Gentiles would have been completely shut out of the knowledge of the things of God in Old Testament days. God revealed the majesty of His glory in that time to Israel only. They were the only nation that could say they had a manifestation of His presence through cloudy and fiery pillars. They were the only nation that had His law delivered to them. They were the only nation that had His authorized priests. They were given prophets, inspired Scripture, and even land that God swore to them.
In the current dispensation, God's command is unto all nations for the obedience of faith. Therefore, we enjoy the gospel, His Scriptures, and His ministers according to the revelation of this mystery, because it pleased God for more than one nation to have this. Thank God! Because of this, we have heard and rejoiced in the same blessed truths that Paul gave the Romans. We rejoice to know that God loved us before time, sent His Son in time, and will one day have us dwell in glory with Him beyond time. Friends, just consider 10 basic things that we believe, love, and rejoice in when hearing them preached: election, predestination, eternal security, particular redemption, completed redemption, resurrection of the body, immortality of the soul, infallibility of Scripture, power and providence of God, and the comfort and beauty of God's church. All of these things are rooted and grounded in the mercy and grace of God through Jesus Christ our Saviour. These things are at the heart of the gospel, with Christ as the ultimate glory and centerpiece.
Outside of the church of our Lord, how many people could we round up that would agree with us to the truth of these 10 things? Though I do not rejoice in the fact that true worshippers are few in number (we should ever pray and desire that more would see and know just as Paul did in Romans 9 and Romans 10), we do have to admit that the number is small. Throughout history the number of true worshippers compared to humanity is small, with even our Lord Himself calling us a "little flock" (Luke 12:32). The next time we feel like complaining about "our lot" or sinking down listening to the siren songs of life, let us remember what our real "lot" is. We are part of a blessed family that was ruined of itself but now elevated by our Elder Brother. Because of His love and work, we shall experience and satisfaction beyond compare. Because of His mercy unto us, we have been blessed to know about it here and praise Him for it all our days. Do I truly have right to complain? God has been and continues to be so good to us that I should have only room to thank Him for all of HIs benefits towards me. Friends, we are blessed; let us live lives of obedience so that glory would redound to God only wise through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.