Does Romans 16:25 teach that the Bible is shrouded in mystery?
The organization known as the "Iglesia Ni Cristo" teaches that the Bible is shrouded in mystery. In other words, they teach that scripture is too difficult to understand without a minister explaining and revealing what is shrouded in mystery. They often quote Romans 16:25 in support of this assertion. Does Romans 16:25 actually teach that the Bible is shrouded in mystery?
Romans 16:25 (ESV) - 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages
When we examine the verse and its surrounding context, we see that the Bible is not too difficult for people to understand and that it is not teaching that we need a minister in order to explain it.
The gospel is not the same thing as the Bible.
Paul speaks of the gospel as the mystery. However, the gospel, or "good news" is not the same thing as the entire Bible. For example, the Bible has a lot of bad news in it; like that we are sinners who deserve death (Romans 3:23). The good news is that we can be saved through Christ's death on the cross. The mystery Paul is talking about is the cross and God's redemptive plan, not the entire Bible.
The mystery was kept secret and has been revealed.
The verse says that the mystery was kept secret. It does not say that the mystery is being kept secret. Because Paul says "was", he communicates that it is no longer being kept secret.
This verse also speaks of the "revelation of the mystery". That means that the mystery has been revealed. That which was mysterious is no longer mysterious because God has made it plain to us. Specifically, the gospel used to be a mystery because we did not know what form salvation would take. We now know that salvation comes through Christ's death on the cross. That mystery of how God would save his people has been revealed.
The very next verse tells us the mystery has been revealed.
The INC typically does not quote the next five words. These next five words make it very plain that this verse is saying that the gospel is clear and no longer mysterious.
Romans 16:26 (ESV) - 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith
The mystery has been disclosed! It is no longer a mystery. We know about salvation through the cross of Christ. Praise God!
The INC grossly misuses Romans 16:25 to say that the Bible cannot be understood without the help of a minister. Clearly, this verse is talking about the gospel, not the entire Bible. Clearly, it is teaching that the gospel has been revealed for all to know, not that it is unknowable.
Let us hunger for the words of God that can be understood when we feed on them:
Matthew 4:4 (ESV) - 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’