39. Watching Out for Wolves (Romans 16:17-27)
I visited a woman in the hospital over a period of time who was dying of cancer. Often when I arrived, friends or relatives were visiting with her. One day after a visitor left, the dying woman remarked to me how insignificant their conversation had been to her. This dying woman had little time or appreciation for small talk. When we talked, her questions were about death, life after death, and eternal salvation. Rightly, she wanted to talk about those things of eternal importance.
A person’s final words often reveal what is truly important to him or her. Final words can also be weighty. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is regarded as a monumental work. Paul weighs his words throughout the epistle because the gospel of Jesus Christ is so vitally important. His closing words draw attention to those things of vital importance to Paul, and they should be of importance to us as well.
Romans 16:17-27 are Paul’s final words of the epistle, and I have the strong impression Paul is well aware of their significance. Although Paul’s style conforms to the normal forms of his day, this closing is not simply the repetition of some standard form. His conclusion begins with a solemn word of admonition as Paul warns of those who would seek to undermine the very truths and practices he has taught in this epistle (verses 17-20). He then passes on the greetings of those men with him in Corinth (verses 21-23). Finally, in verses 25-27, Paul closes with a benediction focusing the believers’ attention on God as the Author, Source, and Finisher of their faith.
Let us regard carefully these weighty and solemn words in Paul’s conclusion to this magnificent Epistle to the Romans.
Watching Out for Wolves
17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. 19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil. 20 And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
Paul’s intention throughout this epistle has been to carefully expound the truth of the gospel and to explain its practical implications and obligations. Early in the epistle he alluded to those who would encourage others to live in a way that offends the righteousness of God:
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Romans 1:28-32).
It would seem that those to whom Paul refers in this text are Jews, those who know right from wrong based upon the revelation God has given in the Law. They also know the penalty which sin deserves and requires. Nevertheless, they not only persist in practicing such sin, they “… give hearty approval to those who practice [such things]” (verse 32). Elsewhere, Paul refers to a distortion of the truth of the gospel of God’s grace:
And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 5:20–6:2).
Now, in his final words to the Roman saints, Paul specifically addresses the problem of those who would distort the truth and destroy some saints who have received it by faith.
The Work of Wolves141
Our Lord Jesus warned about those who would come as “sheep in wolves’ clothing.” His words apply to those of whom Paul speaks in our text:
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-20).
In order to identify those whom the saints at Rome are to “keep an eye on” Paul indicates three “fruits of falsehood” which characterize those who pose a threat to the saints.
The first fruit of falsehood is strife. Paul says we are to “keep an eye on those who cause dissensions” (verse 17). The old adage, “divide and conquer,” seems to be one of the fundamental tenants of those aligned with falsehood. In Romans and elsewhere in Paul’s teaching, strife is condemned, and Christian unity is upheld. While retaining the distinct identity of the Jews and their future hope, Paul has sought to demonstrate the unity which Jews and Gentiles experience in Christ. In Romans 14 and 15, Paul has forbidden debate and tension which can arise out of differing convictions. But just as communism has sought to expand by fomenting strife, so Satan seeks to further his cause by adding fuel to the flames of friction and discord.
Teachers who depart from sound doctrine engage in speculation and argumentation which results in strife and friction:
If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain (1 Timothy 6:3-5).
But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels (2 Timothy 2:23).
In his Epistle to the Galatians, Paul contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the fruit of the flesh. He shows that strife and discord are the fruit of the flesh, while unity and harmony are the fruit of the Spirit:
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:13-26).
James points out this same contrast between the fruit of righteousness and the fruit of the wicked:
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:13-18).
The second fruit of falsehood is stumbling. Our Lord Jesus had severe words for any who would be the cause of the stumbling of another, especially one of His “little ones”:
“And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42).
In Romans, Paul has just taught that we dare not be the cause of a brother’s stumbling:
So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification (Romans 14:19–15:2).
The strong should help the weak, and they should not cause them to stumble. Those who are promoters of falsehood are a cause of stumbling. The weak are their prey, those not well versed in Scripture or alert to the dangers of false teaching.
The third fruit of falsehood is the attack against biblical teaching. The Scriptures are the standard by which all teaching must be evaluated and to which all teaching must be subordinate:
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
Years ago, a godly and faithful minister of the Word said, “Every cult is either the Bible plus or the Bible minus.” False teaching either seeks to subtract from the Bible or to add to it. Paul warns the Romans that the peddlers of error will always be recognized by their departure from the doctrines the Scriptures teach, which now includes Paul’s epistles.
Although Paul speaks of a departure from the truth of the Word of God, it is manifested in a wide variety of forms. It can be a departure in either beliefs or behavior, but most likely both. It can take the form of legalism (works righteousness) or license. It may openly distort or deny clear-cut doctrines of the faith, or it may more subtly turn our attention and devotion away from our Lord Jesus Christ to something else.
There is a direct link between a person’s motivation, his message, and his methods. Paul has informed us about the fruit of the wolves who prey upon the saints. He also tells us about the motives and methods of these wolves. We will first consider their motivation and then turn to their methods.
The wolves of whom Paul warns are like many drug dealers; they are hooked on the same stuff they peddle to others. Wolves seek to turn Christians from self-denial to self-indulgence, from self-sacrifice to self-service. While Christians should consider themselves slaves to Jesus Christ, these wolves are slaves of their own fleshly appetites. They seek to satisfy their fleshly desires, rather than subordinate them to the cause of the gospel and service to God. Either they were never delivered from their bondage to the flesh or they have returned to it (see Romans 6:15-23; 2 Peter 2 and 3, Jude).
Willingly, they are servants of the flesh. It may be unknowingly, but they are thereby servants of Satan himself, furthering his purposes:
And they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26).
Paul alludes to this in verse 20 of our text, indicating that Satan stands behind these wolves, using them to achieve his purposes.142 He indicates as well that Satan’s full and final defeat is certain, although still future: “And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
Satan, through his “wolves,” may nip at our heels now, but in the end he will be crushed under our feet. The one who promotes strife and disharmony is to be destroyed and defeated by the “God of peace.”
In Paul’s brief warning about wolves, he speaks of three of the methods they employ.
First, wolves prey upon those who are vulnerable. Satan has his ways of attacking the “strong,” but wolves tend to prey upon the “weak” and more vulnerable sheep in the flock. Paul informs us that these wolves prey upon “the unsuspecting.” Those whom we would assume to be “unsuspecting” would be new Christians, those who have not yet learned the fundamentals of the faith nor the cunning and treachery of Satan.
Sadly, new Christians are not the only ones who fall into this category. The “unsuspecting” includes those whose consciences have been dulled or hardened by sin or overwhelmed by guilt (see 2 Timothy 3:6-7). It includes those who are controlled by the flesh and its impulses, rather than by the Spirit. It includes those who have become too attached to the world and its pleasures. For one or more of many possible reasons, these people are not sensitive to the ever-present dangers posed by Satan and his servants.
Second, wolves deceive. Like Satan, their master, they are cunning, skilled in the art of deception. While they are sometimes bold enough to make a frontal attack, most often they seek to undermine and subvert from within. They are deceptive as to their identity and allegiance. They do not identify themselves as instruments of Satan but more often profess to be believers. They appear as “angels of light”:
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
As our Lord warned, they come as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15).
They are deceptive as to their message. If they were to advocate license and fleshly indulgence, they would very likely do so under the banner of “grace” (see Romans 6:1ff., Jude 4). If they were to advocate legalism, it would be put forth under the banner of “obedience” or “spirituality” (see 1 Timothy 4:1-5). They, like Satan, promise one thing but deliver another (see 2 Peter 2:19).143
Third, wolves seduce with their speech. These wolves are enslaved to the flesh (verse 18, see 2 Peter 2:2-3, 7, 10-14; 3:3). They seem not to possess the Spirit (Jude 19) or at least to have turned from His leading and power.144 They do not draw upon the Spirit’s guidance and power. Neither do they appeal to others to do so. Instead, they seek to motivate and enable men by appealing to the flesh.
For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved (2 Peter 2:18-19).
In order to entice men and women to follow, they employ “smooth and flattering speech” (verse 18). Their words “go down easy,” but they are “bitter” in the end.
How We Are to Respond to Such Wolves
Paul does not tell us these things about wolves without reason. We are told what they are like and how they can be detected so that we might take appropriate action. The action we are to take is laid down in verse 17:
Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.
Satan is the “serpent” of old (see Genesis 3; Revelation 12:9). He and his servants are to be dealt with just as we would deal with a venomous snake. Paul tells us we are to “keep our eye on” them and “turn away from” them.
When you walk along where snakes might be found, you always carefully watch where you are walking. You are “suspecting.” You “keep your eyes open” to catch the presence of any snake. Once you spot a snake, you “keep your eyes on” it. You see where it is going, and you “turn away from” it.145
Such is the way we are to deal with those of whom Paul speaks. We are to be alert to the dangers which they pose. We are always to be on the lookout for them. When we spot one, we are to keep our eyes on them and turn away from them. In this way, they will not be able to do us harm.
It seems that Paul’s instructions are both private and public, both individual and corporate. They apply to each of us individually, as Christians, but also to the church collectively. The church is to watch out for wolves and to avoid them. We are not only our own keeper in this matter but our brothers’ keeper as well.
Note also that we are not commanded to attack wolves but to avoid them. We are not told to defeat or destroy them but to deny them fellowship among us. Their defeat is certain. It is also described as future. It is a defeat in which we will, in the future, play a part. God will crush Satan under our feet (verse 20). We must be careful not to go further than Paul’s words allow or command. Christians sometimes speak of “binding Satan” and of defeating him. Our task is to avoid him and his helpers and to resist him if need be. We ought not attack him until the day of his defeat is at hand, and that day is still future.
While the subject does not change in verses 19 and 20, there is a shift in tone and emphasis. Paul’s words in verses 17 and 18 are a warning, rooted in Paul’s understanding of the “wiles of the devil” and the fallibility of men. The report Paul received of the Roman saints was a positive one. They were known abroad for their obedience. For this they were to be commended. At this very point (of obedience) Satan will be sure to strike, just as he first did in the Garden of Eden.
The Garden of Eden and the fall of man is very much in view in the imagery and expressions Paul has chosen.146 Paul knew well the devastating impact of Adam’s fall on the world (see Romans 5:12-21). He sees Satan as ever present, ever seeking to bring about the fall of others. He knows Satan uses men to further his purposes. The wolves of whom Paul has been warning us are such servants. The saints in Rome are to be “wise in what is good and innocent147 in what is evil” (verse 19). The wolves try to prevent the practice of what is good and promote instead what is evil. Let the saints in Rome continue in obedience, as they have been doing. But let Satan not achieve his purposes by turning them from obedience to God’s Word to the seeking of knowledge and experience contrary to the Word.
In contrast to the wolves who serve Satan and bring dissension and stumbling, Paul promises that the “God of peace” will someday destroy Satan and end his opposition. The “God of peace,” who is characterized by peace, produces and promotes peace.
21 Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. 22 I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23 Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother. 24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Verses 3-16 contain the names of those in Rome to whom Paul sent greetings. Verses 21-23 contain the names of eight men who were with Paul in Corinth and sent greetings along with him. One might wonder why those greeted were named earlier in this chapter, while those sending greetings are listed later, separated by verses 17-20.
We may confidently say that Paul intended to keep these two groups—those sending greetings and those greeted—separate. I think he wanted us to keep both groups separate in our minds. Paul wanted his Roman readers to realize that he was not alone, either in Corinth or in his ministry to the churches. These men played a significant part in his ministry, and he wanted due credit and attention directed to them.
Paul was a team player. While he was not closely associated with the original apostles in his ministry, he was no “Lone Ranger.” The unity and harmony he urges the churches to preserve and practice is that which could be seen in his own ministry. The men whom he names include both Jews (“kinsmen”) and Gentiles. This team seems to be as broad-based in composition as those to whom greetings are sent above. This is exactly as it should be. Paul’s letter came not only from his hand, but from that of Tertius, his letter writer. Paul’s words came not just from his heart but from the hearts of those who were one with him in ministry as well.
25 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 which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.
These last verses are a kind of benediction; they are not to be viewed in isolation but must be understood in context. In particular, these words counterbalance what he has written in verses 17-20. Verses 17-20 are a warning about wolves. Paul does not wish to close off this epistle without warning the Romans saints about a very real danger. The negative thrust of verses 17-20 is offset by the positive note of verses 25-27. In these final verses, Paul turns the believer’s attention and focus toward God rather than men. If wolves will cause Christians to divide into factions and to stumble, God alone is the One who unites men and who makes them stand. Wolves seek to destroy our foundations; God is the One “who is able to establish” us. It is with this Godward focus that Paul closes the epistle.
The emphasis is Godward, not manward. God is the One from whom all blessings originate. He is the One through whom all blessings flow. He is the one to whom all blessing and praise should be directed.
God is the source of all blessings. It was in eternity past that God determined His plans and purposes for all mankind and for His creation. This was known only to God, until the time when He chose to reveal it to man. It was a mystery, “which has been kept secret for long ages past,” from the time of its conception in eternity past to the time of creation.149
This mystery was a plan which the “only wise God” (verse 27) predetermined. It was a plan men could not have imagined or planned and which cannot be fathomed apart from divine enablement. It was foretold by the Old Testament prophets and then accomplished in the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. The mystery is now proclaimed as accomplished in Christ, through the preaching of the gospel. This gospel, proclaimed by Paul and others, is preached to both Jews and Gentiles. That the Gentiles would be offered salvation in Christ is a part of the mystery which was revealed. The goal of the gospel (as well as of Paul himself, see Romans 1:5) is the obedience which originates from faith (verse 26).
The purpose of God in this mystery was not just to save both Jews and Gentiles, resulting in the “obedience of faith.” The purpose was to bring glory to God. The gospel is from Him (His eternal purpose and decree), through Him (through the work of Christ and the preaching of the gospel), and to Him. And so in the final verse of Romans, Paul praises God for His infinite wisdom and glory, through Jesus Christ.
Salvation is God’s doing. It was His plan and purpose before man was even created. It was His doing, as revealed by the prophets, accomplished in Christ, and proclaimed through the gospel. It is thus God alone who should receive man’s praise and adoration.
As we leave this great epistle, let us leave it as Paul does, with our eyes fixed on Him who is “the author and finisher of our faith,” with our minds overwhelmed by His infinite wisdom, and with our hearts overflowing with gratitude, wonder, and praise because of His grace. To God be the glory!
141 Compare Paul’s warnings here with other warnings elsewhere, such as: Jeremiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 22:23-31; 34; Matthew 7:13-23; 24:23-28; Mark 13:21-23; Luke 2:8-9; 17:22-24; Acts 20:17-35; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:1-4; 10:1ff; 11* (note esp. v. 3). Galatians 1:6-10; 6:11-17; Philippians 1:15-17; 3:1-3, 17-21; Colossians 2:8-23; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 2 Thessalonians 2; 1 Timothy 1:3-11; 4:1-5; 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:14-26; chapter 3; 4:1-5; Titus 1:1-16; 3:8-11; James 3 (note especially verses 13-18); 2 Peter 2 and 3; 1 John 2:18-29; 4:1-6; 2 John 7-11; Jude; Revelation 2:12-17, 18-29.
143 Other references confirm the hypocrisy of these wolves. They are “springs without water,” “clouds without water,” and “trees without fruit” (see 2 Peter 2:17; Jude 12). In each of these instances, they promise something which they do not deliver. Not only do they fail to produce what they promise, they seek to rob us of that which God does provide.
144 The difference between those who do not possess the Spirit and those who have turned from Him is that of salvation. Those without the Spirit are lost, those whom our Lord “never knew” (see Matthew 7:23). Even more tragic are those who have tasted of Him and turned away in their sin. In the passages which speak of wolves, the line between those who have believed and those who have not is not always clear. I think this is deliberate. Those who are saved, yet have chosen to live according to the flesh, are not given great assurance about their eternal security. Those who have been saved are eternally secure, but in their sin they are not necessarily assured. While they may be saved, and certain to enjoy eternity with God, they should not feel smugly secure as they go their own way.
145 A similar analogy can be found in the recent Middle East war. The Iraqi forces were confronted and defeated. Victory was certain. But a permanent cease fire had not yet been formalized. No aggressive attack was to be made on Iraqi forces; only defensive action was allowed. Allied soldiers were commanded not to enter enemy bunkers to satisfy their curiosity or obtain souvenirs. There were too many unseen dangers, such as booby traps and unexploded grenades and ammunition. Even as soldiers made their way across the desert, they had to “keep an eye out” for mines, and “avoid them.”
146 The “smooth and flattering speech” of the wolves is similar to Satan’s cunning way with words seen from the Garden of Eden on. The reference to “good” and “evil” also appears to be an allusion to the fall. Finally, the statement that God will “soon crush Satan under your feet” is most clearly an allusion to Genesis 3:15.
Having pointed out these allusions, let me underscore they are just that—allusions. Satan does not get the publicity from Paul he would like. Indeed, Satan does not get the “press” he would desire from any writer in the Bible. While sufficient teaching about Satan, his character, his methods, and his ultimate doom are provided by the Scriptures, he is not given as much space as a creature with his appetite for attention would desire. I think we should learn from the economy of words in the Bible referring to Satan. In Romans, Satan is viewed as a very real creature with devious methods and damnable conduct. Nevertheless, he is given little publicity. Contemporary Christianity has failed to note the “principle of proportion” as it relates to Satan. We give him too much credit and far too much publicity. Let us “keep our eyes open” for his presence and his destructive work in our midst, but let us not give him too much credit or attention. He will gratefully accept any attention given to him, especially if it is not merited, and most happily if it distracts us from concentrating on Christ.
147 It is interesting and noteworthy that Paul contrasts “wise” with “innocent.” Wisdom, as portrayed in the Bible, combines knowledge and insight with experience and practice. “Innocence” here may especially highlight the experiential side, something like “simplicity” in Proverbs. To be “simple” is to be inexperienced. While Paul wishes us to be both knowledgeable and skillful in matters of goodness, he desires us to know of sin only from afar, but not by experience. Living skillfully in obedience to God’s Word is the goal.
148 Verse 24 is omitted by some of the more recent translations, because it is a virtual repetition of the end of verse 20. This is not to say that the repetition must be considered an error, something not intended by Paul. It is possible that a copyist repeated the expression, as can be demonstrated elsewhere. In the final analysis, the outcome either way does not change the message or the interpretation of the text.
149 I understand Paul to mean this was a mystery from the time of the inception of the plan to the time when God created the heavens and the earth, and man. I do not think he means it was a mystery during Old Testament times, but rather that it was a mystery before Old Testament times.
Related Topics: False Teachers