A reflection on Romans 16:25-27 for Sunday, December 20, 2020
Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith — to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever! Amen.
Romans 16:25-27 (NRSVA)
This passage functions as something of a benediction in the letter of Romans. It is a pulling together of all Paul has been saying. A summary of a message.
Paul opens with an assurance: ‘God…is able to strengthen you…’ It reads as though that has been the very purpose of the writing of this letter: to participate with God in the strengthening of the apostle’s readers.
I wonder if you have ever thought of the Gospel in this way – as a message that strengthens? In fact, this reads as though the very proclaiming of the incarnated one, Jesus Christ, is a source of God’s empowering.
The reason, however, that this passage sits so close to Christmas, seems to be the reminder that this strength-giving message was once hidden – a ‘mystery…kept secret for long ages’.
Sit with that for a moment. The incarnation…hidden.
Perhaps we run too fast to the disclosure of the Gospel. Many of us are, after all, are familiar with its message. The incarnated one as a message for the whole world is simply the way we talk about this Good News.
Yet without the waiting of Advent we run the risk of losing the element of surprise.
To be sure, Paul has not taken this path. As he writes, he is as overwhelmed by the ‘command of the eternal God’ to invite the nations into a faith-filled relationship as he was when he first met Jesus on the Damascus road. It still burns within him.
In fact this whole passage really amounts to a song of praise. It is worship. Take out the description of the strengthening Gospel in the middle and that is all we have here:
‘Now…to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever! Amen.’
In what way does the simple proclamation of the Gospel strengthen you? What change does this account of God’s action bring in you?
When are you most surprised by God? When are you least surprised?
What practices do you embrace in order to maintain your awe of God?