Sermon: Romans 16:25-27
Advent 4 - December 24, 2017 - Steven J. Radunzel
Do any of you remember diagraming sentences in English class when you were in school? I do. I remember as far back as junior high and then in high school English teachers instructing us how to diagram sentences. It may have seemed a little tedious and pointless to us at the time, but the exercise actually did teach basic sentence structure that ultimately would help in speaking and writing.
So the teacher would have us draw a line on our paper with a dividing mark in it. One section of that line was for the subject, the other was for the verb. Then we were to make diagonal lines from that original line for the subordinate clauses in the sentence and then further diagonal lines for the various modifiers of the subject, verb, and other words in the sentence.
Our text today is the last three verses of the book of Romans. These three verses written by the Apostle Paul are really just one sentence. The sentence is a long one, but it’s typical of Paul who wrote long sentences with many thoughts in each sentence. As a matter of fact there are so many very important and profound thoughts in this one sentence that a person could write at least five or six sermons just from this one sentence.
It would be interesting to diagram this rather complicated and lengthy sentence. There would be a lot of diagonal lines with subordinate clauses and modifiers all over a sheet of paper. But the line with the subject and verb would be very short and simple. The subject is glory, and the verb is be. Glory be. So in this long and complicated sentence Paul is simply saying, “Glory be. Glory be to God. And all the modifiers in this long sentence tell us why we want to give glory to God now and forever.
On this 4th Sunday of Advent as we stand at the threshold of the celebration of Jesus’ birth we say along with the Apostle Paul:
GLORY BE - GLORY BE TO GOD
As Paul concludes this letter he gives the Romans the admonition to watch out for and keep away from false teachers who would come teaching ideas that were different than what the Romans had already learned. Then Paul follows that serious admonition with the encouragement of our text to give glory to God who had established them as Christians.
And so Paul writes, “Glory be - glory be to God forever because he “is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ.” First of all Paul interestingly calls the gospel “my” gospel. Clearly Paul was not saying that he had invented the gospel message or that it had come from his mind and heart. The gospel of forgiveness came from God’s mind and heart. Jesus taught it directly to Paul. But Paul made the gospel message of Jesus his very own possession for his own forgiveness and salvation. And having possessed it for himself he felt a very powerful desire to proclaim that gospel to others for their forgiveness and salvation.
Therefore he encourages the Romans to give glory to God for establishing them by the gospel. God had established the Roman Christians. What does that really mean that God had established the Romans as Christians? That’s kind of an unusual expression. But it’s not really that difficult. It simply means that God had brought the Romans to faith in Jesus. He made them into Christians. And he made them into strong Christians who could stand up against the assaults of those false teachers who would come to them. He made them into strong Christians who could faithfully defend the gospel.
Would you say glory be - glory be to God because he has established you? We most certainly can give glory to God for establishing us as Christians. God has made us into Christians. He sent Jesus to die for our sins. The Holy Spirit brought us to faith in Jesus. And that same Spirit wants us to be strong Christians who can stand up against falsehood. He wants us to be strong, established Christians who can faithfully defend the truth of the gospel.
And God has established us, made us into Christians, by the power of the gospel itself, the proclamation of Jesus Christ. Earlier in this letter Paul wrote that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. It indeed is. It’s the very power that brought us from unbelief to belief, from spiritual death to spiritual life. That power of the gospel was in our baptism. That power of the gospel was in the words of our mothers and fathers when they read us a Bible story or told us about Jesus. That power of the gospel was in the words of Sunday school teachers and Lutheran school teachers and pastors.
Tonight in our Christmas Eve service in the gospel reading we’re going to hear one of the most powerful and beautiful proclamations of the gospel: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Glory be - glory be to God for establishing and saving us through that gospel.
Paul writes, Glory be - glory be to God for “the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past.” In a sentence diagram “the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past” would be a modifier of the gospel, a description of the gospel. But would you and I say that the gospel is a mystery? We might say that the gospel is no mystery at all to us. After all, we know the gospel very well. The gospel is the very reason we’re here worshiping God. The gospel is our eternal salvation. The gospel of Jesus Christ is why we celebrate Christmas.
But the gospel really is a mystery to us. First of all the gospel is a mystery because we were not born with the knowledge of the gospel, that Jesus would die on a cross to save us from our sins. We were born with the natural sense and idea that we had to save ourselves from our sins. It would never have occurred to us that God would save us simply by his grace and love. We could never have dreamed up the gospel. In his 1st letter to the Corinthians Paul writes this about the mystery of the gospel: “‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’ . . . .”
The gospel is also a mystery because “it was hidden for long ages past.” The gospel was hidden in the heart and mind of God in eternity, before the world began. He perfectly planned our salvation, kept it hidden, to be used for our salvation. Glory be - glory be to God for the mystery of the gospel that he planned and kept hidden until just the right time.
And that’s why Paul says glory be - glory be to God because he “revealed and made known [the gospel] through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God.” God didn’t keep the gospel hidden forever. He has revealed it and made it known on the pages of the Bible. By his own command the Holy Spirit inspired prophets to unfold and reveal the mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ gradually, slowly, over the centuries, literally over thousands of years.
The first promise of a Savior was to Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis. God revealed that the Savior would be a descendant of Eve. Centuries and centuries later Isaiah revealed that the Savior would be a child, a son, a baby born of a virgin. Isaiah revealed that our Savior would be the Mighty God. Isaiah also revealed that this Savior, both God and Man, would die for our sins. He would be “pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.” We would be healed “by his wounds.” Jeremiah wrote that the Savior would be the “LORD Our Righteousness.” Micah said he would be born in Bethlehem. Zechariah prophesied that he would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.
So when is the name Jesus first mentioned in the Bible? It’s not in Genesis. It’s not in any of the prophets. It’s not in the psalms. The name Jesus isn’t in the middle of the Old Testament or even at the end of the Old Testament. The name Jesus isn’t mentioned until the book of Matthew in the New Testament when the angel commanded Joseph to give the child born to the virgin Mary the name Jesus because he would save his people from their sins. Glory be - glory be to God for revealing he gospel in the Bible so that we know our sins are forgiven.
And Paul says, glory be - glory be to God that he revealed the gospel “so that all nations might believe and obey him.” Do you know how many nations there are in the world? According to the United Nations there are 195 sovereign states, nations, countries, in the world. That’s a lot of countries.
Before Jesus ascended into the world he commanded the disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations.” He said to them, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus was certainly right. The gospel has gone to every one of those 195 nations. The Bible has been translated into hundreds of languages and dialects. Glory be - glory be to God forever that the gospel has gone to all nations “so that all nations might believe and obey him.”
The gospel has come to our nation. The gospel has come to you and me. That’s why we’re going to gather again tonight for a special Christmas Eve service. It’s why we’ll gather again tomorrow morning for a special Christmas Day service. And we gather to worship today and for these special service to say, “Glory be - glory be to God for planning our salvation, hiding the mystery in his heart and mind before time began. Glory be - glory be to God for revealing the mystery of the gospel on the pages of the Bible, for keeping his promise to send a Savior, for sending Jesus born as a baby in Bethlehem, for having Jesus die for our sins, for raising Jesus from the dead, for bringing us to faith in Jesus, for establishing us as Christians.
A diagram of Paul’s long sentence makes the subject and verb very simple and very clear: Glory be. Glory be to God. Amen.