Romans 16:1-27

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I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.

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

Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.

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 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— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Observation

  • It appears a large contingent of people accompanied this letter.
  • Phoebe was a Christian from Cenchreae.
  • Phoebe was a servant/deacon from Cendhreae.
  • The Romans were to welcome Phoebe as a saint.
  • Phoebe was female.
  • The Romans were to help Phoebe in whatever she needed.
  • Phoebe had helped many others.
  • Phoebe had helped Paul.
  • Prisca and Aquila worked with Paul.
  • Prisca and Aquila risked their lives for Paul.
  • All the churches containing Gentiles thanked Prisca and Aquila for risking their lives.
  • Paul thanks Prisca and Aquila for risking their lives.
  • A church met in the home of Prisca and Aquila.
  • Epaenetus was the first Christian convert in Asia.
  • Mary worked hard for the church in Rome.
  • Andronicus and Junia were relatives and prisoner with Paul.
  • Andronicus and Junia were known to all of the apostles.
  • Andronicus and Junia were Christians before Paul.
  • Ampliatus was beloved by Paul in the Lord.
  • Urbanus and Stachys worked with Paul.
  • Apelles was approved in Christ.
  • The family of Aristobulus apparently accompanied the letter to Roman.
  • Herodian was Paul’s relative.
  • The family of Narcissus apparently accompanied the letter to Roman.
  • Tryphaena and Tryposa were workers in the Lord.
  • Persis worked hard in the Lord.
  • Rufus was chosen in the Lord,
  • Rufus’ mother treated Paul as a son.
  • Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, had others with them.
  • Philologus, Julia Nereus, Nereus’ sister, and Olympas had others with them.
  • The church at Rome was to greet each other with a holy kiss.
  • All the churches of Christ greeted the church at Rome.
  • They were to look out for those who caused divisions.
  • They were to look out for those who create obstacles that were contrary to the doctrines Paul had taught them.
  • They were to avoid those who caused divisions.
  • They were to avoid those who created obstacles that were contrary to the doctrines Paul had taught.
  • Those who create divisions and create obstacles to correct doctrine do not serve the Christ.
  • Those who create divisions and create obstacles to correct doctrine serve their own desires.
  • Those who create divisions and create obstacles to correct doctrine use smooth talk and flattery to deceive the naive.
  • The obedience of those in the church at Rome was well known.
  • Paul was proud of the church at Rome.
  • Paul wanted those in the church at Rome to know well what was good.
  • Paul wanted those in the church at Rome to be innocent and not acquainted with evil.
  • God will soon crush Satan under the feet of the church at Rome.
  • Paul prayed to God’s grace to be with the church at Roman.
  • Timothy worked with Paul.
  • Lucius, Jason and Sosipater were relatives of Paul.
  • The letter was physically written by Terius.
  • Gaius hosted Paul.
  • Erastus was the city treasurer.
  • Quartus was a fellow Christian.
  • God was able to strengthen those in the Roman church.
  • The gospel had been a mystery but is now revealed through prophetic writings.
  • The gospel has been made known to all nations.
  • The gospel has been made known to bring obedience of faith.
  • Our God is the only wise God.
  • Paul prayed for glory to God through Jesus Christ.

Interpretation

Most of this chapter is salutations. There is little value in dwelling on them. They do however reveal some interesting information.

First, we notice that we do not hear anything about titles that indicate positions of authority or prominence in society. Therefore we can conclude that there were no high ranking men or women among these Christians. Everyone Paul mentions is obscure and ignoble.

Paul addresses Phoebe. He says Pheoebe is a servant of the church at Chenchreae. Paul uses the pronoun “her” so we know she is female. The word Paul uses is diakonos which is translated “servant.” In other passages this word is also translated “deacon.” 1 Timothy 3 which gives the qualifications of a deacon translates diakonos as deacon. While it can be argued that Paul is not referring to the office of deacon but simply describing Phoebe as a servant of the church in a more general sense, it is cannot be stated with certainty. The reason this is interesting is 1 Timothy 3 say, “Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.” This verse has been used as a proof text for saying woman are not allowed to be deacons because a deacon is a husband and women cannot be husbands. Referring to Phoebe as a diakonos at least causes some gray area in that reasoning.

Paul refers to Andronicus and Junia as his kinsman or blood relation and also as fellow prisoners. Paul has already mentioned he is on his way to Jerusalem. We know that Paul was not taken prisoner in by the Romans until after he arrived in Jerusalem. Therefore this reference to being fellow prisoners could simply be a reference to how Paul has often described himself as a prisoner of Christ. But also remember Paul was often in prison. So this could be a further reference to when the letter to Romans was written. It could have been written during one of his many incarcerations on this third missionary journey.

Another interesting point is that two of Paul’s relations were Christians before Paul became a Christian. That means that while Paul was persecuting the church, he was hunting down to kill his own kin.

Before Paul signs off he leaves one last exhortation. He encourages the church at Rome to be wary of two things, those who would cause division among them and those who would put up obstacles in the way of true doctrine. Satan uses people to disturb the peace in the kingdom. While Satan knows he cannot prevail, he can at least disturb those should be at peace in the kingdom. He does so by drawing men away for the unity of the church. Or he causes men to be offended and thus alienate themselves for the love of the gospel. Paul desires the church to be united. But this desire for unity should be understood as a sophomoric understanding of unity. A unity that relies on accepting incorrect doctrine, that is, a unity that requires us to accept a doctrine that denies the gospel or is a different gospel is not the type of unity referred to by Paul.

Paul warns that those who would disturb the peace of the kingdom can be very convincing. They are smooth talkers. What they say seems reasonable. They flatter us with what we what to hear. One of the best examples of this is the denial of the radical corruption of man’s nature. I have recently heard a preacher deny that we are born sinful. To not be sinful mean we are prefect. To say we are born perfect is pure flattery. That is the type of thing we like to hear. It makes us feel good about ourselves. His reasoning sounded good. But it denied the plain teaching of scripture. It denies the doctrine of original sin, a doctrine taught in this very epistle.

Paul tells the church at Rome that they are to be wise in what is good. They are to study and know the scriptures and the doctrines of the church. They have no excuse to be ignorant of what is good. By the same token they are to be innocent as to what is evil.

Paul says that God will crush Satan under the feet of the church at Rome. This is a great lesson because that does not mean to imply the church at Rome will not suffer persecution. Remember, Neo blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome. As a result the Christians at Rome suffered a great persecution. Satan was bruised and Christ glorified because even during the persecution the kingdom of God grew and advanced.

The letter ends with praise and thanksgiving to God. It records the kindness of God in bringing the light of the gospel to the Gentiles.

Application

Let’s not assume that our physical situation is the indication of the state of the Kingdom of God. We are quick to point out how God blesses us when things are going well for us in this present world. But we fail to praise God for his blessing when we are sick, lost our job or a family member. We ask “why me Lord?” when we are under persecution. We may suffer both physical and emotional pain. Rather than thinking that God has abandoned us, we should rejoice that God is bruising Satan under our foot. When we suffer for the sake of Christ let us remember in Acts 5 the Apostles rejoiced when they were beaten for preaching and healing in the name of Christ. “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” (Acts 5:41) They were counted worth to suffer for Christ.

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