The DEEP

The Mystery

What mystery?

Romans 16:21–27 (NKJV)

Timothy, my fellow worker, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my countrymen, greet you.

I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord.

Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith— to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.

What mystery? What exactly is the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest? This passage gives us some clues.

Whatever that mystery is, it was by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, and this was for obedience to the faith. What could be the thing that was made known to all nations, especially by the prophetic Scriptures?

One possibility is the expansion of the covenant to all nations (the gentiles). That makes sense. It was definitely a surprise, and it’s also one of Paul’s favorite topics.

But that can’t be it. You can’t have the inclusion of all nations be the mystery that was made manifest but then add, “and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations.” Including all nations in the covenant involves them being taught. Thus, making it known to them can’t also be done separately.

When a passage is hard to figure out, zoom out and look at it all together—especially if it’s one long sentence (which is common in Greek). Notice the three times Paul says “according to” here.

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel … according to the revelation of the mystery … made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment … for obedience to the faith— to God … be glory.

This is an outline of the amazingly choreographed (and preplanned by God) sequence of events by which the recipients in Rome came to be “established” (included in the covenant).

The mystery is (was) the overall plan of salvation—which is plenty surprising too.


Some of the greatest inventions in history don’t seem brilliant to us because we’ve known about them all our lives. Whoever invented screws was outrageously creative.

But nothing compares to the brilliance of God’s plan of salvation. Never lose the awe in that.

To God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.


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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.