Today we are going to look at Romans 16, the last chapter of the book. Romans is the longest book that Paul wrote and is considered one of his most important. He wrote it about 57 AD. As was his habit he concludes it with greetings. Most people skip right over the greetings, but I find hidden in them nuggets (Hidden Treasure”) (little glimpses) of wisdom and instruction. Paul mentions 26 people by name; 9 were women, 2 of those 9 had names that could also be masculine, and the remaining were men. The culture at that time was not favorable to women, but in Christ, Paul recognized their worth.
Looking at the names mentioned we see along with many women there were Jews, Greeks, Romans, and perhaps Asians. The gospel was becoming universal, and women held an honorable place.
Romans 16:1-2 (NASB)
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; 2 that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.
Cenchrea was a principal port about 10 miles from Corinth and currently was the home of Phoebe. A church was founded there in A.D. 55. Probably a daughter church of the one in Corinth. Paul probably knew her personally because they lived and were active Christians in the same area. She was going to Rome, maybe on business or maybe pleasure or perhaps moving there, we are not told. When Christians go to a new town, they often bring a letter of recommendation from their old church. This was quite common in the days of Paul. So, Paul is writing to recommend Phoebe to the church in Rome. Many believe she was also the carrier of this epistle to the Romans. There was a postal service, by horse, but it was used for official documents. Personal mail was sent by a slave or a trusted friend, or even a stranger for hire.
Paul’s first mention was a woman’s name, Phoebe, which is a Gentile name and means bright or radiant. First, he calls her a sister, so she was born again, a member of the family of God, one of us, a believer, even though she was a Gentile. Maybe she was saved under his ministry. He calls her a servant. This word can also be translated deacon or deaconess. This tells us she was dependable. Female deacons mostly performed those duties that had to do with the women of the church. They were usually widows that had had children and were over 50 years of age. He also calls her a helper of many. This word used for helper was a very honorable one meaning protector or champion, a befriender or patroness. It is the word used of the trainer in the Olympic Games, who stood by the athletes to see they were properly trained. This was a remarkable word to use to describe a woman and let them know she was worthy of respect.
He asks them to give her any help she needs because she has helped many including himself.
So, we see this faithful Christian woman named Phoebe, who worked for the Lord in the church ministering to the women. She was probably a widow over 50 years of age, having had children. She was very honorable (worthy of honor) and worthy of respect. She had helped many including Paul. She was trustworthy and Paul was trusting her with this letter.
Travel in the first century was safer than ever. The Romans had built their roads and bridges and if you went by sea. they had also dealt with the pirates. By sea, with good weather, it was 5 – 10 days (700 miles); a combination sea and land journey was about 800 miles and took 2-3 weeks. There were no passenger ships. You would have to go to the port and locate a cargo ship that was going where you wanted to go and procure passage from the captain. You were responsible for your own food and other needs. They had also built a series of inns along the roads, but they were not very nice. Mostly men from caravans, along with their animals stayed in them. Also, they were known for having prostitutes. Therefore, people would stay in friends’ houses. Or even the house of a stranger. That is why hospitality was so important. Phoebe would have never traveled alone. She probably was with friends and servants.
Nugget: Paul used a 50+ year old woman to travel over a sometimes-dangerous route, for 10 days to two weeks, to deliver an especially important document that we, two thousand year later, are still reading and studying. Take heart you older women, God still has work for you to do. Your small task might have eternal significance.
Edward Kimball was a Sunday School teacher for boys. One of his students was Dwight L. Moody who Kimball led to the Lord. Moody’s preaching led Wilbur Chapman to salvation and Chapman became an evangelist. One day Billy Sunday attended a meeting held by Chapman and he got saved. Billy Sunday began crusades and another young man named Mordechai Ham got saved. Ham begins to hold crusades and was preaching in Charlotte, North Carolina and Billy Graham responded to the call. Billy Graham preached to more people than anyone else had ever done, including the Apostle Paul. This all began with a Sunday School teacher who cared for the boys in his class. Don’t ever underestimate your small task.
Paul now begins to mention some friends in Rome. He repeatedly says “greet” a word meaning “Let them know that I remember them, and love them, and wish them well. It also means to enfold in one’s arms, in other words “hug”."
Romans 16:3-4 (NASB)
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,
4 who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.
We first see Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila (Roman name meaning eagle) in Acts 18:2. Aquila was a Jew, but he used a Roman name. Priscilla is mentioned more often than any other woman in the early church.
They were active Christians in three different cities: Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome. One commentator said their Christianity was portable. Wherever they lived the gospel operated in their lives. He used four words to describe them: industrious, hospitable, studious, and consecrated. Admirable traits we should all desire.
They were not named as apostles or prophets, but they were very valuable fellow workers to Paul. They were well versed in the truths of their Christian faith and were well able to preach and minister to those in need.
Nugget: Titles do not determine our value.
Some commentators think Aquilla was one of the 70 Jesus sent out. Paul calls them his co-laborers. They were not apostles or prophets, but they were very dear to Paul. They had lived in Rome but when all the Jews were expelled from Rome they had to leave. (about 49 AD) They went and settled in Corinth. They were tent makers as was Paul. (Every Jewish boy had to learn a trade) In the synagogue it was the custom for those of the same trade to sit together, and that is probably where they made their acquaintance. Being of the same trade Paul lived with them. (about 50 AD) (God ordered their steps to meet Paul so they could work with him in ministry.) They also were with Paul when he was in Ephesus. When Claudius Caesar died the edict expelling the Jews from Rome was lifted so they returned to Rome. But wherever they went there was a church in their house.
We do not know when or how they risked their lives for Paul, but Paul knew, and all the Gentile churches did. Pricilla and Aquila moved back to Rome, and as was their custom they had a church meeting in their house. Paul might have sent them back to prepare for his coming. Paul says all the Gentile churches gave them thanks because they saved his life.
Nugget: God still moves people just like He did Priscilla and Aquila. He arranges meetings so they can get saved or further serve the Lord. Do not fight it when God moves you, (job, neighborhood, new city, etc.) He has a plan. Ex. Roger was raised in Western New York. He served with CLC Missions in Pa., the Caribbean, various countries in Central & South Americas and in Canada, but in the Lord’s timing He moved him to the CLC Bookstore in Northfield NJ. He started attending Praise Tabernacle, and here we are married 35 years.
Note: When the Jews were expelled from Rome it left only Gentile Christians in the church. Before this the Gentiles were pressured to conform to Jewish customs to fit in. When the Jews returned about 6 years later the customs of the Gentiles had taken over and the Jews now had to try to fit in. That was one of the reasons Paul wrote this letter, to settle the problems. There were disputes over what foods they could eat. The Gentiles ate meat sacrificed to idols, the Jews would not. There were disputes over observing days. They were judging each other rather than accepting one another. Whatever you do must be done according to your faith. If you will read Romans again you will see how he contrasts Jewish and Gentile customs.
Aquila and Priscila died as martyrs. When Rome burned in 64 AD, Nero blamed the Jews, and killed many of them. Aquila and Priscila were among those killed.
Romans 16:5-8 (KJV) Salute my well beloved Epaenetus, who is the first fruits of Achaia unto Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labor on us. 7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord.
Kinsman could mean they were fellow Jews or that they were actual blood relatives of Paul. It is not clear.
Epaenetus - I Corinthians states that the household of Stephanas was the first fruits of Achaia (western part of modern Turkey) so Epaenetus (praiseworthy) must have been from that household. Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible - Commentary - Romans. It took raw courage to be the first convert to Christ in the midst of a pagan society. Just imagine the changed life, the surrendering of himself to Jesus as Lord, and the giving of all he was and had to the Lord's cause. Just imagine the attitude and reactions of his neighbors, friends, and fellow workers: the possible questioning, misunderstanding, ridicule, mockery, withdrawal, isolation. Epaenetus was unquestionably a man of remarkable courage.
Paul calls him “my well beloved”, “my dear friend”. This would indicate a close relationship. At some point Epaenetus had also moved to Rome.
Mary – Mary was a quite common Hebrew name. We do not know who she was, or what work she did for the Lord, But God knows, and Paul honored her here. Worked hard – carries the idea of toiling at a task to the point of weariness and exhaustion.
Andronicus (man of victory) (Latin name) and Junia (Greek name) (female)- they were probably husband and wife and were Jews (kinsman). At some point they were in prison with Paul. Even women were put in prison for their faith. They were saved before Paul, about 25 years ago, perhaps even at Pentecost or before, He says they were of note meaning they were outstanding or remarkable. Some commentators think they both were considered apostles. Of course, this is much debated because Junia was a female.
Amplias or Ampliatus– (Latin name, means enlarged) thought to be a slave. It was a slave name. Slaves were not allowed to have the name of free men.
Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
Behind the name of Ampliatus may well lie an interesting story. It is a quite common slave name. Now in the cemetery of Domatilla, which is the earliest of the Christian catacombs, there is a decorated tomb with the single name Ampliatus carved on it in bold and decorative lettering. The fact that the single name Ampliatus alone is carved on the tomb—Romans who were citizens would have three names, a nomen, a praenomen, and a cognomen—would indicate that this Ampliatus was a slave; but the elaborate tomb and the bold lettering would indicate that he was a man of high rank in the Church. From that it is plain to see that in the early days of the Church the distinctions of rank were so completely wiped out that it was possible for a man at one and the same time to be a slave and a prince of the Church. Social distinctions did not exist. We have no means of knowing that Paul's Ampliatus is the Ampliatus in the cemetery of Domatilla, but it is not impossible that he is.
Beloved in the Lord – Paul had a very warm personal attachment to him.
Paul genuinely cared for those he ministered with and to.
Nugget: Common ordinary people, even slaves, can become powerful and important in the Kingdom of God.
Romans 16:9 (KJV) 9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.
Salute can mean to enfold in the arms, in other words hug them for me.
Urbane (Roman name) (a city dweller, refined, elegant) worked closely with Paul.
Stachys (unusual Greek name) (an ear of corn) has been found listed in the royal household. He had a close relationship with Paul. Paul calls him my beloved. Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible - Some have reported, he was the first bishop of Constantinople. Also, it is thought he might have been one of the 70 that Jesus sent out.
Nugget: A refined, elegant man, and one who was part of the royal household served with Paul. Even those who might be considered the upper level of society served with Paul side by side with slaves. The Kingdom of God is available to all. There is no male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free. We are to accept all and treat all the same.
Romans 16:10 (KJV) 10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household.
Salute - Hug * Apelles (Jewish name) who was tried and tested and approved. We don’t know what his test was, but he came out of the fire as gold. What a great testimony.
Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee - Tradition identifies him as bishop either of Smyrna or Heracleia.
Hug * the members of Aristobulos’ household. Some believe this was a grandson of Herod. Aristobulus was either not a believer or was dead but some of his household, his servants and slaves had come to Christ.
Romans 16:11 (KJV) 11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord.
Hug * Herodion (Jewish) He was probably in some way in association with Herod’s family.
Of the household of Narcissus would indicate that not all the household were believers. Narcissus was a very wealthy and powerful man in Rome. It appears some of his household had gotten saved. When Nero came to power, he forced Narcissus to commit suicide. When he died, according to custom, his slaves and servants went into Nero’s household, so there were Christians in Nero’s court. The wealthy powerful man dies by suicide and the Christian slaves and servants live in a palace and are mentioned by Paul in the Bible.
God has his ways of getting people where He wants them.
Nugget: Again, God moves people where He wants them to be for His purposes. Even slaves into the Palace.
Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT). - The leaven of Christianity had reached the highest circles in the Empire.
Romans 16:12 (KJV)12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labor in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which labored much in the Lord.
Hug * Tryphena (dainty) and Tryphosa (delicate) are thought to be twin sisters. The verb used for labor means to labor to exhaustion. Barclay’s Study Bible says Paul was using a play on words “You two may be called dainty and delicate; but you belie your names by working like Trojans for the sake of Christ."
Nugget: Even dainty and delicate people can serve the Lord.
Hug * Persis (a Persian woman) was also said to be a hard worker. He calls Persis “a dear friend”. He adds “Much” to the description of her service. The beloved, not just beloved, could indicate that she was loved by all who knew her.
Nugget: Even foreigners can labor among us.
For these three women, along with Mary, Paul used the same word for labored, they all worked to the point of exhaustion.
Romans 16:13 (KJV) 13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.
Chosen in the Lord – we might say a choice man or one of great excellence in Christianity.
Mark 15:21 Many believe Rufus was a son of Simon the Cyrenian who carried the cross of Jesus. Did this experience bring Simon to salvation.?
Acts 11:20 (KJV) 20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spoke unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.
About 45 AD Paul went to Antioch. He would have been about 40 years old. Paul’s time at Antioch is estimated to be between 9 months to as long as eight years. Perhaps sometime during Paul’s stay there Simon the Cyrene come to Antioch with his family? That could have been when Paul developed this close relationship with them. He might have even lived with them.
Adam Clarke's Commentary - His mother and mine--It is not likely that the mother of Rufus was the mother of Paul; but while she was the natural mother of the former, she acted as a mother to the latter. We say of a person of this character, that she is a motherly woman. Among the ancients, he or she who acted a kind, instructing, and indulgent part to another, was styled the father or mother of such a one.
Paul’s affection for her was as a son. Paul must have been very close to this family.
Mother’s Day thoughts. Mother’s Day not a happy celebration for many. No children, teenage rebellious children, adult children who don’t seem to care. Adopt a spiritual child. Become a spiritual mother. Look around, see the needs. Any age. A 80 year old or an e year old, all could be positively affected by your loving them in Christ.
Romans 16:14 (KJV)
14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them.
15 Salutes, Philologus and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. brethren which are with them.
Here we have two groups of five names each. Paul knew them all. Some think they were various leaders of house churches because of the phrase “brethren which are with them”. Some things I read said some were part of the seventy. Others had risen to be called Bishops.
Even though we are all part of one body, we are also still individuals.
Nugget: God knows us all by name.
Romans 16:16 (KJV)
16 Salute one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.
Holy kiss – I think of the way many Europeans kiss each other on both cheeks.
Paul now abruptly switches from his greetings to a stern warning.
Because God was building His church in Rome Satan will surely come along and try to cause division.
Romans 16:17-18 (NASB) 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.
Keep your eye on or mark – take aim at, look sharply at, examine, and scrutinize carefully. Not a witch hunt, nor a legalistic litmus test. Determine who is a problem. (most likely aimed at the Judaizers) Those who promote and practice falsehood and unrighteousness.
Examine their fruit. Check all teaching against the scriptures, even mine or the Pastors.
Dissensions – disunion, divisions, parties, factions. I eat meat, I observe the new moon.
Remember what I said before: When the Jews were expelled from Rome it left only Gentile Christians in the church. Before this the Gentiles were pressured to conform to Jewish customs to fit in. When the Jews returned about 6 years later the customs of the Gentiles had taken over and the Jews now had to try to fit in. This was resulting in many divisions.
Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT). Any man who does anything which disturbs the peace of a church has much to answer for.
Hindrances – a snare, a thing that offends, a stumbling block. One whose conduct is a bad example.
The teaching you have learned – we have taught unity, and brotherly love, not factions and bad conduct. Our teaching is the one to live by.
Thessalonians 3:6 (BBE) 6 Now we give you orders, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from all those whose behavior is not well ordered and in harmony with the teaching which they had from us.
What they say sounds good. They claim to love the truth. They also use smooth flattery. They are skilled in manipulation and deception. They are not serving the Lord; their interest is themselves. Guard your hearts. Examine all teaching and make sure it lines up with the Word of God. If you do not know the word of God, it is very easy to be deceived.
So, what is the right response to those who fall into these categories?
Turn away from them. Reject their teachings.
Avoid them, have no fellowship with them. Keep away from them, do not try to show them the error of their ways.
Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible
A divisive person is a person who:
• causes strife• is argumentative
• acts out of pride, ambition, or selfishness
• is unloving
• teaches a different doctrine
The teaching you have learned. Know what the word of God says. God does not prevent false teachers; He has given us His word and expects us to use discernment and turn away from them.
Such teachers are slaves of their own appetites. No mater how caring and loving they seem their true motives are for power and fame, financial gain.
They are deceivers. Their speech is smooth and flattering and designed to deceive. Guard your hearts against such teachings. Pay attention to the nudging of the Holy Spirit. Do not ignore the red flags even if you do not know why you are receiving them. Ex. Lady one beach. Very early in my walk. So excited to find someone who spoke in tongues, Catholic charismatic renewal.
Romans 16:19 (KJV) 19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.
Obedience – attentive hearkening. It does not appear that any trouble had happened in the Roman church but Paul Says, “I know you can handle it.” When it comes “nip it in the bud.”
Their obedience to the Word of God was well known to all. Because they are used to being obedient to the word. The deceivers expect them to be obedient to their version of the word.
Obedience is what God wants but we must also be wise and discerning. It all goes back to knowing God and His word. Try the spirits and hold fast to that which is good. The best defense against being deceived by the counterfeit is to be fully acquainted with the real. Bank tellers don’t learn how to spot counterfeit money with fake money. They study the real so much that they can immediately spot the fake.
Romans 16:20 (NASB) 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
The God of Peace will war against the force behind the divisions.
The God of Peace will do the crushing but whose feet will He use? Get your stomping boots ready.
Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT) there is a kind of peace which can be had at the cost of evading all issues and refusing all decisions, a peace which comes of lethargic inactivity. The Christian must ever remember that the peace of God is not the peace which has submitted to the world, but the peace which has overcome the world.
Crush – crush completely, break into pieces., shatter, break into slivers.
Expositor's Bible Commentary “Paul means... soon -not that the victory will be near, but that it will be speedily gained once the conflict is begun. When the believer fights with the armor of God (Eph VI), the conflict is never long. Victory will result from two factors, the one divine (God shall bruise), the other human (under your feet). God communicates strength; but it passes through the man who accepts and uses it"
Soon does not mean shortly but quickly.
Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans. There were two victories to be obtained over Satan. By the first, his head was to be bruised under the feet of Jesus Christ; and by the second, the rest of his body will be bruised under the feet of the believers.
We are the conduit of His power through our obedience.
Romans 16:21-24 (KJV)
21 Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.
22 I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.
23 Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, salute you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city salutes you, and Quartus a brother.
24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Paul now sends greetings from some of the brethren who were with him at this time.
Timothy his right-hand man.
Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT). Lucius may be the Lucius of Cyrene, who was one of the prophets and teachers of Antioch who first sent Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys (Ac 13:1). Jason may be the Jason who gave Paul hospitality at Thessalonica and suffered for it at the hands of the mob (Ac 17:5-9). Sosipater may be the Sopater of Berea who took his Church's share of the collection to Jerusalem with Paul (Ac 20:4). Gaius may be the Gaius who was one of the two people whom Paul baptized at Corinth
And his secretary Tertius sends his greetings also.
Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible The need for dedicated people who are gifted to handle details is desperately needed in the service of Christ! Very little if anything can be done effectively without what may be called the Service Ministries. May God stir and arouse men and women to give their lives as Tertius did: to reach out in the service ministries of the Lord. Something we must always remember and proclaim: no work and no service done for God is small. Men may rank work and labor, but God does not. God ranks and judges only faithfulness.
Romans 16:25-27 (NASB)
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,
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.
Paul probably wrote this closing paragraph with his own hand. He often did this to protect his letter from forgery.
Establish – not stuck, not stopped in place. Ray Stedman describes it as: Have you ever erected a picnic table and tried to find a place where all four legs touched the ground at the same time? You tried to establish it so that it would not rock, or become shaky, or uncertain. God wants to bring you and me to a place where we are no longer rocking or shaky or unstable, but solid and secure. Having an inner security from which we can handle all the problems of life. We become dependable, and have a true sense of worth, so that nothings gets to us, or shakes us up, or throws us off-balance.
The one who will do this with us is God, the only wise God, the eternal God. We have to do our part, but the final responsibility is His. We will be established through the gospel, the preaching of Jesus Christ and the revelation of the mystery that has been hidden for long ages past. A mystery in the scriptures is something hidden that only God can reveal.
Here is the mystery in very short form. All that God is, wrapped up in a Person and given to you and to me -- the only hope we have of ever discovering the glory that God intended for us as human beings: Christ in you, the hope of glory. Jesus is the mystery. The details of it are found all through the Bible.
And so, Paul concludes his letter and I leave you also, hoping you will run home, grab your Bibles, and find out all you can about this mystery.