We have made it to the last
chapter in Romans. Dub McClish outlines this chapter in the following way:
“(1) commendation of Phoebe of Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1-2); (2) greetings to and complimentary descriptions of familiar and unfamiliar (to us) saints and greetings from the churches (Rom. 16:3-16); (3) a closing plea regarding doctrinal purity and proper handling of false teachers (Rom. 16:17-20); and (4) final greetings and a descriptive statement about the gospel (Rom. 16:21-27)” (Denton Lectureship – Romans 16).
Let’s begin with the first
Romans 16:1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, 2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.
Paul is introducing Phoebe
to the church at Rome and is telling them that he stands behind her. He points
out that she is a servant of the church in Cenchrea. Cenchrea was seaport town about
seven miles east of Corinth. The only other time this place is mentioned is
when Paul had taken a vow and had his hair cut off (Acts 18:18). Paul knew this
woman was a faithful Christian. She had helped many and even helped Paul.
Paul wants the church in
Rome to receive her in a manner worthy of a faithful Christian. This would
include giving her a place to stay, feeding her, and helping her get around
Rome. It used to be a common practice for churches to follow this method that
Paul was using because when the church at Rome would receive a letter like
this, they could know that Phoebe could be trusted and was not some false
teacher or some person trying to trick or take advantage of the church.
Sometimes, I wish this was still practiced, but it is much easier today for an
eldership to find out about a new person that moves in by simply using the
telephone. There is certainly nothing wrong or devious about checking up on new
people that move in because some false teachers have been known to enter a
church for the purpose to divide it. Sometimes, they are successful, but this
practice could have been stopped before it got started had the person been
We are not told in our text
why Phoebe was going to Rome. Though not specifically stated, our text implies
that she would be taking this letter to the church, which was an awesome
responsibility since many things could happen to her along the way. However, I
have no doubt that God would have a hand in protecting her and this letter as
she journeyed to the church at Rome.
Some Bible versions, such
at the NIV and the RSV, call Phoebe a deacon or deaconess. Since Paul is
commending her and possibly using her to transport this letter to the church of
Rome, some claim this is proof that we can have women be official deacons. In
fact, there has been a big push to denounce any limitations to women in the
church today because many seem to think its chauvinistic and that the
limitation in the first century were purely culture driven.
However, this will not
stand the test of Scripture and to use Phoebe as example of this is farfetched.
No doubt, women like Phoebe can do great things for the kingdom of God, but
nothing in our text indicates that she was an official deacon per the qualifications
of 1 Timothy 3. The word deacon can be used in a generic or official sense. I
have no problem calling Phoebe a deacon or deaconess in the generic sense that
simply means servant. Every Christian can be a deacon or deaconess in the
church because we can all serve, but not all Christians can be deacons in the
official sense per the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3, which is limited to men
who are married and rule their children and household well.
Please notice what McClish
points out about our word deacon:
Admittedly, the Greek word [@diakonon] (from which our English word deacon derives (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8,10,12-13)) is the word translated "servant" in this verse.<4> However, Paul also used [@diakonos] to describe civil rulers, who, he said, are "ministers" of God (Rom. 13:4,6). It is most unlikely that any of them were even Christians, much less deacons.
Even nearer the context of Rom. 16:1, Paul calls Christ a [@diakonon] (Rom. 15:8, "minister"), but would anyone argue on this basis that He was a deacon in the church? Furthermore, Paul often referred to himself as a [@diakonos] (cf.1 Cor. 3:5; 2 Cor. 3:6; 6:4; et al.), but we must understand this to be only in a general sense; not being married (so far as we know), he was not qualified to be a deacon in the church (cf. 1 Tim. 3:12). Why then assume an official use for the term concerning Phoebe? (Denton Lectureship – Romans 16).
No one has the right to
force the idea of Phoebe being an official deacon of the church, and no one
honestly can claim that the limitations of women in the Bible were culturally
driven because Paul teaches us that the reason roles differ for men and women
in the church goes all the way back to creation.
1 Timothy 2:12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
Having different roles in
the church for men and women doesn’t make a man greater or lesser than a woman.
Instead of trying to worry about things we can’t do, we should focus and make
the most of what we can do. When you look at the Godhead, you can quickly see
that each member had as different role, but you never seen Jesus or the Holy
Spirit complaining about not getting to do the role of the Father. I don’t know
of anyone who would claim that there is inequality in the Godhead.
The bottom line is that
women can serve in the kingdom. They can be trusted to carry out tasks just
like any Christian man, but women have not been given the role of leading in
the church over men. They are not to be elders or to serve as official deacons.
Though they have some limitations in this area, there is plenty they can do for
the kingdom of God.
In verse 3 – 16, we will
see Paul’s greeting to several people. Some of these people we know a little
bit about, some we know nothing about. Let’s start breaking these verses down.
Romans 16:3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house.
Aquila and Priscilla were a
great husband and wife team that did their best to further the kingdom of God.
Paul met them when he visited Corinth for the first time. This couple had lived
in Rome, but they had to leave when Claudius evicted ever Jew from Rome (Acts
18:2). We don’t know when they became Christians, but some believe they were
Christians before Paul met them for the first time.
This strong Christian
couple followed Paul to Ephesus and remained there for over three years, but
they went back to Rome probably after Claudius died. However, later during
Paul’s second imprisonment, they made their way back to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:19).
While Paul was gone from
Ephesus, this couple took Apollos to the side and explained to him the truth
more fully as he was still preaching John the Baptist (Acts 18:18-21). Paul
mentions how this couple put their lives on the line for him, but we don’t know
in what way they did this. It was most likely one of the events that happened
in Corinth or Ephesus. The main point is that they were willing to risk their
lives for Paul, and he and all the Gentile churches were thankful for what they
Just like in Ephesus (1
Cor. 16:19), this couple had opened their home as a place of worship in Rome.
It is so wonderful to see such a great husband and wife team that were working
together to encourage and influence the Christians around them. Their
evangelistic efforts to the lost are certainly worthy of emulation. Next Paul
Romans 16:5 Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.
I like what Dub McLish says
Epaenetus was well-known and greatly loved by Paul. A textual variation prevents our knowing whether he was converted to Christ in Asia (ASV) or in Achaia (KJV). In either case, it would likely have been while Paul, Prisca, and Aquila were together, either in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-10) or earlier in Corinth (Acts 18:1-11). Since Epaenetus is mentioned in such close proximity to Prisca and Aquila, some conjecture that they converted him and he traveled to Rome with them (Denton Lectureship – Romans 16).
Next, we have Mary.
Romans 16:6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us.
Mary was a common name, and
we have around six different women named Mary. We have another textual variance
in this verse, so we don’t know if she was laboring for Paul or for the Romans,
but the main point was she stood at as one who was laboring for the cause of
the Lord. Paul points out several women that are doing great things in the
kingdom, which goes against the modern false idea by some that he didn’t care
Romans 16:7 Greet
Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note
among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
There are several things
that we don’t know about this verse. It’s possible for Junia to either be a
male or a female. If Junia is a woman perhaps she is either the wife or sister
of Andronicus. Paul calls them his countrymen, which can mean that they were
related to him or just part of the Jewish nation. Whoever they are, they were
in prison with Paul and were considered as a noteworthy by the apostles. These
two had obeyed the gospel before Paul did, which means they may have been some
of those Jews there on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2.
Romans 16:8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord.
This is another saint that
Paul considered his beloved. While we know nothing about this man, some
scholars believe this man and several others in this list of names may have
been servants in Caesar’s household.
Romans 16:9 Greet
Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved.
Urbanus was a Roman name,
and Paul considered him a fellow worker in Christ, which is the same thing he
said about Aquila and Pricilla (3). Stachys is a Greek name, and Paul
considered him worthy of mentioning.
Romans 16:10 Greet
Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of
Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household
of Narcissus who are in the Lord.
The only thing we know
about Apelles is that he had faced some kind of trial
and came through it, which is what is meant by him being approved in Christ.
What you will notice about Aristobulus and Narcissus is that Paul sends his
greeting to the members of their household and not them. There are several
possible reasons for this such as these men not being in Rome, or perhaps they
were dead, or maybe they weren’t Christians but some of those in their
household were. Herodion was another countryman of Paul.
The next three are women.
Romans 16:12 Greet
Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis,
who labored much in the Lord.
It is believed that are
first two ladies were sisters and maybe twins because of the similarity in their
names, which mean Delicate and Dainty. These two ladies were hard workers in
the kingdom who worked to the point of exhaustion. Persis also worked hard in
the kingdom, but the tense has changed in this verse indicating that she is no
longer working like she used to perhaps due to age or other reasons.
Romans 16:13 Greet Rufus,
chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.
We have seen the name Rufus
before. He and Alexander were the sons of Simon of Cyrene, who was compelled by
the Roman soldiers to bear the cross of our Lord on the way to Golgotha (Mark
15:21). Since Mark’s account was written with Romans in mind, it makes a good
case that this is the same Rufus Paul mentions in our text. Rufus’s mother must
have treated Paul like a son and probably cared for him as some point, which is
why he is calling her his mother.
Romans 16:14 Greet
Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with
them. 15 Greet Philologus and
Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with
We don’t know anything
about these people, but Paul lumped them together in two different groups,
which indicates that they lived in the same area or perhaps were part of two
Next, Paul says;
Romans 16:16 Greet one
another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.
Some try to use this first
part of the verse to claim that we in the churches of Christ don’t follow all
the commands because we don’t greet each other with a kiss. However, this is
gross misunderstanding of this verse. When you look at the history of that time,
men kissed men and women kissed women on the check as part of their way of
greeting people. In fact, this is still the cultural norm in the Middle East.
Paul was not commanding that
people kiss each other, but when they do it as A greeting, it needs to be holy.
In other words, it needs to be pure and sincere. We in the United States don’t
greet each other with a kiss, we either say, “hello”, shake hands, or maybe
give a hug. When we do these things with our brethren, they need to be pure and
I like Dub McClish wrote:
Howard Winters identifies several kisses mentioned in the Bible that are always unholy: "(1) the idolatrous kiss (Hos. 13:2); (2) the deceitful kiss (Prov. 27:6 (cf. 2 Sam. 20:9-10, D.M.)); (3) the betrayal kiss (Luke 22:48; Matt. 26:48; Mark 14:44)."<18> He also adds the passionate kiss (Cant. 1:2), observing that it can be either unholy or holy, depending on circumstance. By commanding them to use a "holy" kiss in their greetings, Paul was warning them against allowing deception, lust, or any other unholy motive to prompt or characterize their kisses of salutation.
Contrary to what some would have us believe, Paul is not binding the mere cultural norm of that place and time for exchanging greetings (namely, the kiss) upon others of different places and times. Rather, what Paul binds here is that our greetings, whatever form they may take, are to be holy (Denton Lectureship – Romans 16).
When Paul says, “The churches of Christ greet
you” he could be referring to all the congregations he has ever had a hand in
setting up, but most likely he’s referring to those congregations that were
around him, and this also indicates that he had been telling these different congregations
about how he was going to write a letter to the Romans.
Also, the churches of
Christ is plural, which refers to the various
congregations that belong to Christ. While Paul was not giving us an official
name for the church, the church of Christ is certainly a scriptural descriptive
designation. There are others as Dub McClish points out:
Other New Testament designations by which the church is called are: (1) "the church of God" (1 Cor. 1:2; 10:32; 2 Cor. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:5,15; et al.); (2) "the church of the Lord" (Acts 20:28, ASV); and (3) "the church of the firstborn."<20> It is also referred to by various figurative designations, such as: (1) the "kingdom" of Christ (Matt. 16:19; John 18:36; Col. 1:13; et al.); (2) the "body" of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; et al.); (3) the "house of God" (1 Tim. 3:15); and (4) the "bride" of Christ (Eph. 5:23-32; Rev. 21:9; 22:17). The most frequently used designation for the church in the New Testament is just that -- "the church." There was only one church envisioned and established by Christ (Matt. 16:18). He purchased only one with His blood (Acts 20:28), and He loved and gave Himself up for none other (Eph. 5:25). No other designation than "the church" was needed to identify it in the first century… (Denton Lectureship – Romans 16).
There is no room for
denominationalism is this because as Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Mt.
16:18). There is only one universal church, but there are many congregations
that make up that one church. The best way you can tell if your congregation is
one that belongs to Christ is if they make Jesus their head and the things they
teach and practice are authorized by Scripture.
Next, Paul warns the Roman
church about dissension, and he pleads with them to maintain doctrinal purity.
Romans 16:17 Now I urge
you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the
doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.
18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ,
but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the
hearts of the simple. 19 For
your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am
glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple
concerning evil. 20 And the
God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord
Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
Paul wants the Romans and
for us to listen. He urges them to note those who cause divisions and offenses
that are contrary to the doctrine that they learned through the apostles, and
they are to avoid these people. This passage loudly proclaims the necessity to
maintain a pure doctrine, and to keep a close eye on anyone who is trying to
teach false things.
The word ‘note’ in verse 17 means, to pay careful attention to,
look (out) for, notice (BDAG). In other words, keep your
eyes and ears open for anything false that might be taught by another. Some are
opposed to the idea of marking someone as a false teacher or marking a
particular congregation as being unsound, but even if we just use what Paul
said in this verse, it seems reasonable to me that if you do mark a person or
even an entire congregation for being divisive and teaching things that are
contrary to the Word of God that it can be done so that likeminded Christians
can know to avoid those false teachers or those congregations who have choose
to embrace error.
Christians go out of their way to find error and to label everyone they can as
false teachers, and that would of course be wrong. So, it’s not about going in
witch hunt, but if the false way is being proclaimed in your face, then
certainly that person or congregation can be marked if they are unwilling to
change their ways.
We have more
support for this idea of marking and avoiding in other places in the New Testament,
which also shows that the evil way and
sinful men must be opposed.
God commands us to avoid
evil, but He also commands us to actively oppose it.
Ephesians 5:11 And have no
fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
The word ‘expose’ has
several definitions and they are as follows:
to scrutinize or examine carefully, bring to light,
expose, set forth used of the exposure and confutation of false teachers of
Also, Paul said,
2 Thessalonians 3:14 And if
anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep
company with him, that he may be ashamed.
15 Yet do not count him as an enemy,
but admonish him as a brother.
The word ‘note’ in this
verse means: take special note of, mark (out), publicly identify (Friberg
In Ephesians 5:11, we
are told to expose the works of darkness, which would include all works of
darkness, no matter who the person is. However, in 2 Thessalonians 3:14, he is
dealing specifically with those who have obeyed the gospel and who have fallen
away from God’s truth. They are to be exposed, and marked as well, but we are
not to count them as an enemy. Instead, we are to admonish them, that is warn
them, as a brother or sister in Christ. When it comes to one of our own, and we
are expose his sin or false teaching, we do it because we love him and want him
to be right with God. If we don’t warn him, then we are failing to do our duty
as Christians. This idea is taught in the OT as well,
Ezekiel 3:18 "When I say
to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak
to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man
shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.
So, when we know the
evil way is being taught or practiced, we must be bold and courageous and take
a stand for Gods’ truth. Sometimes, this requires withdrawing fellowship from
them as Jesus talks about in Mat. 18:15ff. When their sins are put on the table
for all to see, it should make them feel ashamed of what they have been doing and
cause them to come to their senses and return back to
God. This is the idea Paul gives us in,
1 Corinthians 5:4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are
gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus
Christ, 5 deliver such a one
to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the
day of the Lord Jesus.
This is what Paul did to
Hymenaeus and Alexander.
1 Timothy 1:20 of whom are
Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to
When Paul heard that a
church was moving away from God, he would write them a letter, and he would
send men he trusted to go to those churches to help them get back on track, and
sometimes he would visit them himself because Paul wanted these churches to
serve God with their whole being, and he wanted them to worship God in spirit
and in truth.
This is the same stand
that we must take today. When we learn that a church is moving away from the
truth, we need to pray for them and reach out to them if possible. If they will
not listen, then we need admonish them and rebuke them out of love for their
souls, so they might return to God.
Sometimes. we start
developing the attitude that we are too busy with own problems in our own
church or in our own community to be concerned about what other churches are
doing, but that should not be the way we think. While our primary focus should
be on our congregation and our community, it doesn’t mean we wash or hands of
whatever our sister congregations are doing in the city next to us because
sometimes there is a need for us to reach out to our brothers and sisters in
Christ that are in different areas especial when we hear that they are
struggling with following the right path.
Please understand, I am
not saying we should act like some nosy neighbor and seek out the false way,
but when we hear about and find out that what is being said is true, I think we
should make an effort to help in any way we can to
remind them to stick to the Book.
Back in our text in
Romans, Paul tells us the motivation for those who would teach false things.
18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord
Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech
deceive the hearts of the simple.
Those men or women who
choose to teach something false are not doing it for the good of all, they are
doing it for themselves. For some false teachers it’s a power trip because they
are able to change people’s minds through their smooth
words and flattering speech. False teachers are really good
at charming people and saying the right words to win their hearts. Once they
win the hearts of the people, the people will tend to follow them blindly.
Every good marketer knows if you present a package with a pretty wrapping that more people will buy that product even if the product itself is not great. That is exactly what these false teachers or we could say the divisive people do. This is why Paul wants us to pay close attention to these people and make sure that we look beyond the pretty wrapping they are presenting and pay attention to their content and how it stacks up against the Bible. In other words, never let your guard down. Then Paul says:
19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be
wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace will crush
Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with
Paul was happy to hear
about how obedient the Romans were to God. Obedience to the Word of God is not
dirty word as some want to make it. Obedience is how we show our love for Jesus
(Jn. 14:15) and maintain doctrinal purity.
Paul wants them to be wise
with what is good. The more we focus on the good, the better off we will be. He
wants them to be simple concerning evil. In other words, stay away from evil
things. One does not have to know about all the details of the evil way. Some
seem to think in order for you fully understand the
effects of alcohol that you need to get drunk at least one time. While that
might sound logical to some, it is not necessary nor is wise do such a thing. Is
someone going to murder someone so he can understand
it better? Of course not.
Some like to think verse 20
is referring to the end of time, but it’s not. All Paul is saying is if the
Romans are watchful, like Paul said, and they keep these divisive people at
bay, who are the workers of Satan, then he and his work will be crushed.
Paul closes with the expression
of his desire that the Lord's favor remain with them.
Next, Paul mentions some
greeting from his fellow worker in Christ.
Romans 16:21 Timothy, my
fellow worker, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my countrymen, greet you.
We all know who Timothy is
because he is mentioned many times in the New Testament and has two letters
written to him by Paul. He was a younger faithful Christian who did great
things for the Lord. These other three men are Paul’s fellow Jews or possibly
his relatives. There is a Lucius mentioned in Acts 13:1, but we have no idea if
the Lucius mentioned here is the same one. Jason may be the one who opened his
home to Paul and his companions in Thessalonica and then was persecuted for it (Acts
17:5-7,9). We know nothing about Sosipater.
Romans 16:22 I, Tertius,
who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord.
It wasn’t uncommon for Paul
to use a scribe to write down his words, but this is the first scribe to have
his named mentioned. Other than that, we nothing about him.
Romans 16:23 Gaius, my
host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the
treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother. 24 The grace of our Lord Jesus
Christ be with you all. Amen.
Gaius may have been the man
Paul baptized in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:14), but there are other Gaius mentioned in
Scripture (Acts 19:29; 1 John 3:1). Paul was apparently staying in his home and
his home was being used by the church as a place of assembly.
Erastus was a treasurer of
the city. His name is mentioned in other places as well (Acts 19:22; 2 Tim.
4:20), but we have no way of knowing if this was all the same person. Though
not universally accepted, David Roper writes;
Today, visitors to the ruins of old Corinth are shown a slab of limestone about two feet by seven feet with letters seven inches high. Translated into English, the inscription on the slab reads “Erastus in return for his aedileship laid [the pavement] at his own expense” John McRay wrote, “From other evidence found in the excavation this Erastus was identified as none other than …’the city treasurer’ mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:23.” (Truth for Today commentary Romans).
We know nothing about
Quartus. Then we have this benediction again, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen”, which some manuscripts don’t have. It may have been
copied from verse 20.
Paul closes out this
beautiful letter with a doxology, which means a formal praising of God.
Romans 16:25 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 kept secret since the world
began 26 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-- 27 to God, alone wise, be glory
through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.
Paul makes it clear that
only God can establish us. Paul had taken possession of the gospel and made it
his own because he belonged to Christ and preached nothing other than Christ.
The mystery of the gospel was unknown before, but it has been fully revealed
through the apostles. This mystery has been proclaimed to all the nations.
Just as Paul started his
letter showing that obedience to God’s will is key (1:5), he again points out
that his desire is for all of us to be obedient to the faith. He finishes by
pointing out that God alone is wise and that all glory be made through Jesus
Christ forever, Amen.
We have learned much from
the Book of Romans that we can apply to our lives and make them better. I just
hope we never forget that we are to be unified in Christ based on the doctrine
found in the New Testament. While we are to treat each other with respect and
not get wrapped in matters of opinion, we should never ever compromise the Word
of God for culture or for anything else.