Friday, May 9, 2014

The Gospel is a Mystery Revealed

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, 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 — to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27 NIV)
Paul closes his letter to the Jesus believers at Rome with this doxology. A doxology is a prayer that lavishes praise and honor toward God. It is characteristically a statement about His goodness and eternal glory.

The glory Paul lavishes in this doxology is about the mystery that has been revealed in the gospel of Jesus the Messiah. In the New Testament, a “mystery” is not a secret that God is keeping from us but a secret that God has revealed to us. The mystery Paul refers to is one that was hidden for many long years, until God began to make it known through the writings of the prophets.

There is something interesting here about Paul’s reference to the prophetic writings. He says that it is through them that the age old mystery has been revealed. The mystery was always present in those writings, and Paul began his letter by describing the gospel as something God “promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:2).

The promise was always there, though it was not clearly understood. But it was with the coming of Christ that the mystery was revealed through the writings of the prophets. In other words, it is in light of the announcement that God’s Messiah has come into the world that those old prophetic writings now make sense.

We can see this, for example, in Luke 24, when the risen Lord appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They had been confused by recent events — the crucifixion of Jesus on Friday, and then the rumors of what had happened just that morning, the morning of His resurrection.

And now Jesus was walking beside them, though they did not recognize Him, and He explained what all this was about. “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Later, Jesus appeared to the Twelve (minus Judas), who were just as confused and disturbed as the Emmaus disciples had been, and He began to explain to them, also, from the Scriptures:
“These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”

And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations [i.e., the Gentiles], beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:44-47)
The mystery was always present in the Old Testament writings, “hidden in plain sight,” as it were. But it is in the Lord Jesus and the message of the gospel that it’s meaning and significance has now been brought to light.

What, then, is this secret Paul has in mind? It is the revelation that Jesus the Messiah has come not only for the sake of Israel but to deliver the Gentiles as well. The pagan nations, who once had no covenant with God, can now enter covenant with Him through faith in the Lord Jesus, and be blessed with Israel, for Jesus has come to rescue them, too.

Paul talks about this mystery in other letters and in other ways, but it always turns out to be about the glory and grace of God being revealed in the world through Jesus the Messiah.

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