Rom 16: "This last chapter is very letter-like in its
spontaneous arrangement of material. Paul evidently related matters as they
occurred to him. He named 35 persons in this chapter. Nine of these people were
with Paul, and the rest were in Rome. He identified 17 men and seven women. In
addition he referred to at least two households (vv 10,11) and three house
churches (vv 5,14,15) plus some other unnamed brethren (v 14) and two other
women (vv 13,15). Most of the names are Gentile, reflecting the mainly Gentile
population of the church in Rome, and most are those of slaves and freedmen and
freedwomen. (There is, in fact, almost a complete lack of Semitic names -- Mary
in v 6 is an exception. However, there is more than a little evidence from
papyri and inscriptions which indicates that both in the diaspora as well as in
Palestine, the changing of personal names was a common practice. The Jews
acquired not only Greek, but Latin and Egyptian names as well. Paul's relatives
(vv 7,11) were of course Jews, but do not bear Jewish names.)
"This sixteenth chapter is neglected by many to their own
loss. It is by far the most extensive, intimate and particular of all the words
of loving greeting in Paul's marvelous letters. No one can afford to miss this
wonderful outpouring of the heart of our apostle toward the saints whom he so
loved -- which means all the real Church of God!" (Const).
Vv 1,2: "Phoebe" means "bright" or "radiant", a well-known
epithet of the Greek god Apollo. Phoebe was evidently the woman who carried this
letter from Corinth to Rome. She was a "servant" (Gr "diakonon") of the church
in her hometown, Cenchrea, the port of Corinth (Acts 18:18; 2Co 1:1). It is
unclear whether Phoebe held "office" as a deaconess or whether she was simply an
informal servant of the church. Paul stressed her service, not her office. She
was his sister in the Lord as seems clear from his referring to her as "our"
sister. Letters of commendation were common in Paul's day (cp 2Co 3:1).
Notice that the ministry of women in the Roman church is quite
evident in this chapter. Paul referred to nine prominent women: Phoebe, Prisca,
Mary, Tryphena, Thyphosa, Persis, Rufus' mother, Julia, and Nereus'
PHOEBE: "This implies a prominent, active position on
the part of the sister in question. He further distinguishes her by making her
the bearer of the epistle to the Romans of which, for a time, she was the sole
custodian. He entreats the whole Roman ecclesia on her behalf, saying of her
that 'she hath been a succourer of many, and of me also' (v 2)" (RR).
SHE HAS BEEN A GREAT HELP TO MANY PEOPLE: As Paul
advocated, and exemplified: Rom 12:8,13; Heb 13:2.
INCLUDING ME: Women so helped Jesus also: Luk
PRISCILLA AND AQUILA: Paul met Prisca (Priscilla) and
her husband Aquila in Corinth (Acts 18:2). When he left for Ephesus, he took
them with him (Acts 18:18). He left them in Ephesus when he moved on to
Jerusalem (Acts 18:19). In Ephesus they helped Apollos (Acts 18:24-28). Later
they returned to Rome where they had lived previously (Acts 18:2). Later still
they returned to Ephesus (2Ti 4:19).
THEY RISKED THEIR LIVES FOR ME: Probably during the
dangerous riot that broke out in Ephesus, endangering the apostle's life (Acts
19:28-31; cf 1Co 16:9, 2Co 1:8-10). Their presence with him at Ephesus just
prior to this incident is confirmed by 1Co 16:19).
THE CHURCH THAT MEETS AT THEIR HOUSE: Churches normally
met in houses at this time (cp v 23; 1Co 16:19); Col 4:15; Phm 1:2).
EPENETUS: Sig "praiseworthy". It is understandable that
Paul should speak of him as "my dear friend" (literally, "my beloved"), since
this man was the first convert to Christ in connection with the mission to the
province of Asia, of which Ephesus was the leading city. Actually Paul calls him
the firstfruits of that area, which hints that many more were expected to follow
as the full harvest, and this indeed came to pass. This individual, however,
naturally held a special place in the heart of the missionary.
THE PROVINCE OF ASIA: "Asia" was the Roman province of
Asia -- or "Asia Minor" -- of which Ephesus was the capital.
MARY: Mary (Miriam) is a Semitic name borne by several
women in the NT. Paul indicates his precise knowledge of her, testifying to her
hard work for the saints, but without any hint as to the nature of the work.
Emphasis falls rather on her willingness to grow weary in serving
ANDRONICUS AND JUNIAS: Latin and Greek names
respectively. Junias (or Junia) was probably the wife of Andronicus (cf vv
MY RELATIVES: The term "kinsmen" or "relatives" (cp vv
11,21) seems to refer to blood relatives of Paul who were probably fellow Jews
(cp Phi 3:7) -- although this cannot be certain: all Jews might speak of
themselves as "relatives", or again all members of the same tribe, as
Benjamites, might so describe themselves.
AMONG THE APOSTLES: Here, this term must have the
general sense of representatives (traveling missionaries) rather than being a
technical reference to one of the 13 apostles (cf Acts 14:4,14; 2Co 8:23; 1Th
2:7; Phi 2:25).
Another possibility: "among" is Gr "en"; this might mean: they
were notable in ("en") THE ESTIMATION OF the apostles.
AMPLIATUS, WHOM I LOVE IN THE LORD: A Latin name, sig
"enlarged". Again, as in the mention of Epaenetus (v 5), Paul confesses to a
very warm personal attachment, demonstrating the reality and depth of Christian
friendship that developed between him and others who remain rather obscure to
us. Paul was a man who gave himself to the people among whom he served and to
those who worked alongside him.
URBANUS, OUR FELLOW WORKER: Another Latin name, meaning
"refined", or "elegant." Paul seems to indicate that this man helped him at some
time in the past and that he assisted others also in the work of the
STACHYS: Which sig "ear of grain": was he a farmer?
APELLES: Sig "separate".
TESTED AND APPROVED: As metal is tested in the smelting
fire, and purified! Had he come through some severe persecution with faith
THOSE WHO BELONG TO THE HOUSEHOLD OF ARISTOBULUS:
"Aristobulus" sig "great counselor" -- which sounds like a government official.
Those of his household were probably his slaves. Since Paul did not greet
Aristobulus himself, this man may have been an unbeliever, or may have died by
"Lightfoot identified Aristobulus as the grandson of Herod the
Great, who lived in Rome and apparently died there. If this is correct,
Aristobulus was either not a believer or had died before Paul wrote, since he is
not personally greeted. Those addressed would then be his slaves and employees
who had become Christians. On the other hand, if this identification is
incorrect, we must think of an otherwise unknown figure whose family is
mentioned here. The former alternative is somewhat favored by the fact that the
next person to be greeted (v 11) is Herodion, a name suggestive of association
with, or admiration for, the family of Herod. Even though no actual relationship
may have existed, the placing of the two names with Herodian association so
close together may support Lightfoot's thesis" (EBC).
HERODION, MY RELATIVE: Here "relative" may simply mean
"a Jew", or perhaps "a Benjamite".
THE HOUSEHOLD OF NARCISSUS: "Here, as in the case of
Aristobulus, the expression seems to point to some famous person of the name.
And the powerful freedman Narcissus, whose wealth was proverbial... whose
influence with Claudius was unbounded, and who bore a chief part in the
intrigues of this reign, alone satisfies this condition... As was usual in such
cases, his household would most probably pass into the hands of the emperor,
still however retaining the name of Narcissus" (Lightfoot, cited in
WHO ARE IN THE LORD: Modifying the previous phrase,
this indicates a divided household: some giving allegiance to Christ and others
not doing so.
TRYPHENA AND TRYPHOSA, THOSE WOMEN WHO WORK HARD IN THE
LORD: Similar in name, these two were likely sisters. It was not uncommon
then, as now, to give daughters names with a certain resemblance (eg, Jean and
Joan). Possibly they belonged to an aristocratic family, since "dainty" and
"delicate" (or "luxuriating"), as their names mean, would seem to fit this
category. If so, their Christian convictions led them to put aside any tendency
to live a life of ease. They are given an accolade for being hard workers in the
PERSIS: Her name simply means "a Persian
RUFUS: Possibly the son of Simon the Cyrenian (Mar
15:21). "Clement of Alexandria, who lived about the end of the second century,
declares, that Mark wrote this Gospel on Peter's authority at Rome. Jerome, who
lived in the fourth century, says, that Mark, the disciple and interpreter of
Peter, being requested by his brethren at Rome, wrote a short Gospel.
"Now this circumstance may account for his designating Simon
as the father of Rufus at least; for we find that a disciple of that name, and
of considerable note, was resident at Rome, when Paul wrote his Epistle to the
Romans. 'Salute Rufus,' says he, 'chosen in the Lord' [Rom 16:13]. Thus, by
mentioning a man living upon the spot where he was writing, and amongst the
people whom he addressed, Mark was giving a reference for the truth of his
narrative, which must have been accessible and satisfactory to all; since Rufus
could not have failed knowing the particulars of the Crucifixion (the great
event to which the Christians looked), when his father had been so intimately
concerned in it as to have been the reluctant bearer of the cross.
"Of course, the force of this argument depends on the identity
of the Rufus of Mark and the Rufus of Paul, which I have no means of proving;
but admitting it to be probable that they were the same persons (which, I think,
may be admitted, for Paul, we see, expressly speaks of a distinguished disciple
of the name of Rufus at Rome, and Mark, writing for the Romans, mentions Rufus,
the son of Simon, as well known to them) -- admitting this, the coincidence is
striking, and serves to account for what otherwise seems a piece of purely
gratuitous and needless information offered by Mark to his readers, namely, that
Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus; a fact omitted by the other
Evangelists, and apparently turned to no advantage by himself" (USC
WHO HAS BEEN A MOTHER TO ME, TOO: Paul had "mothers" in
the Truth! (Mat 12:49,50; Mar 3:35; 1Ti 5:12). Perhaps this special woman
perceived his unique loss upon becoming a follower of Christ (Phi 3:8), and
attempted to minister to him in what he was now lacking: a warm and loving
Let Christian mothers find here a great field for that
wonderful heart of instinctive loving care given by God to mothers -- that they
extend their maternal care beyond their own family circle, to all believers, and
especially to all laborers for Christ. The Lord will remember it at His
Vv 14,15: Here two groups of believers are mentioned without
accompanying descriptions or commendations. Apparently Paul's ties with them
were less strong than his ties with those previously mentioned.
In connection with both groups, a greeting is extended to the
believers associated with them. This appears to indicate a ecclesia in the house
in both cases. Rome was a large place, making it probable that there were
circles of believers in several sections of the city. They would certainly
maintain communication and, when necessity dictated, could arrange to meet
HOLY KISS: Intended in this case to seal the fellowship
of the saints when the letter has been read to them (1Co 16:20; 2Co 13:12; 1Th
5:26). The reminder that it is a "holy" kiss guards it against erotic
associations. It was a token of the love of Christ mutually shared and of the
peace and harmony he had brought into their lives.
"Paul is concluding a letter in which he expressly mentions a
large number of brethren and sisters, and therefore it is clear that the kisses
were to be as impartially bestowed as is handshaking today; but our experience
is that those who in our day would introduce kissing have a partiality for the
opposite sex, which fact arouses suspicion that the desire is connected with the
flesh and not with the spirit, although the would-be kissers may not be
conscious of the fact... Paul was simply enjoining that the custom should be
performed in a 'holy' manner, and not issuing a command that kissing must be
performed... Brethren who show a proneness to kiss simply on the plea of being
brethren should be given a wide berth by the sisters" (FGJ).
Vv 17-20: Paul concludes his letter to the Roman ecclesia by
warning the brethren against the danger of false teachers. Almost every phrase
in this section is an obvious allusion to the Genesis record of the serpent and
the woman's seed: The serpent subtly cast doubt on God's Word and taught
contrary to it. The false teachers of Paul's day (probably Judaizing Christians)
were the serpent's "seed" (cp Mat 3:7; 12:34; 23:33). After the example of their
"father" they professed a superior knowledge and thus were able to lead away the
simple (2Co 11:13-15).
The influence of this particular "Satan" was drastically
reduced by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. But the final
bruising of "Satan" in all his aspects must of course be the work of the
glorified Christ at his second coming.
"There are divisions that are uncalled for, and therefore
sinful. Paul refers to such (here). He was referring, no doubt, to the factions
arising out of personal preferences, but the warning applies to all divisions
that ought not be made... It is possible to go too far in our demands upon
fellow-believers. How far we ought to go and where to stop, is at one time or
other a perplexing problem to most earnest minds" (RR, Xd 35:182).
The first thing we learn from this passage is that "divisions"
are not always good! Perhaps this is a point not worth laboring for most, but it
is a sad fact that some brethren look upon divisions as desirable courses of
action in almost every circumstance. Their cries of 'first pure, then peaceable'
are heard far and wide as they proceed, time after time, to tear apart the flock
of God. Division and subdivision reaches its ultimate in families meeting in
homes, or even fragments of families in separate rooms of the same
WATCH OUT FOR THOSE WHO CAUSE DIVISIONS: "Divisions" =
Gr "dichostasia", and may sig dissensions and party spirits, without official
excommunication. Paul advises the brethren to "mark out" and "avoid" those who
cause divisions (1Jo 2:19), not those who would follow them. The reason for
taking special notice of the causers is that they may deceive the "naive" or
"simple" (v 18). This is a distinction comparable to that between the wolves and
the sheep in Christ's parable of Joh 10. The wolves must be marked out, branded
for what they are, for their own possible reclamation if for no other reason.
They are the ones to be wary of! The simple sheep must be protected, not lumped
together with the wolves and all alike avoided. To avoid the sheep because they
might be guilty, and because we might be guilty by association with them, is to
go further than the apostle ever intended.
OBSTACLES: "Obstacles" (Gr "skandala", plural) is too
general a term to yield anything specific for our knowledge of the
propagandists. Whatever they did, their activity could affect the whole church;
therefore they should not be identified with those in Rom 14:13, where the
singular "obstacle" ("skandalon") occurs, seeing that these were a problem to
only one segment of the congregation.
THE TEACHING YOU HAVE LEARNED: The whole of the gospel,
as in Rom 6:17.
KEEP AWAY FROM THEM: Gr "ekklino": avoid, stay away
from. Sw 1Pe 3:11: "turn from evil".
NOT SERVING OUR LORD CHRIST, BUT THEIR OWN APPETITES:
"But their own belly" (AV). By which is meant, of course, appetites or desires
(cp Phi 3:18,19: "stomach... earthly things"; 1Ti 6:3-5: "financial
SMOOTH TALK AND FLATTERY: Ever the tools of
unscrupulous "salesmen" and "promoters".
The allusion to belly or stomach would seem only to make sense
if the serpent in the garden (cp v 20) of Eden ate the fruit of the tree itself.
Eve SAW that the fruit of the tree was good for food (Gen 3:6);
serpent was more subtle than any other creature;
perhaps the fruit itself
endowed the serpent with the power of speech -- ie, to be like the
"You shall not surely die!" -- look at me!... and
subsequent curse of the serpent was to go upon its belly, and to eat...
Paul was confident that his readers could handle this threat
because they had a reputation for following the apostles' instructions. The
innocent among God's people tend to accept false teachers, and the wise normally
reject them. Paul wanted his readers to be wise (like the "serpent"!) concerning
all good and innocent only regarding evil (Mat 10:16).
THE GOD OF PEACE: From Rom 15:33.
WILL SOON CRUSH SATAN UNDER YOUR FEET: A plain allusion
to Gen 3:15: "And I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and
between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike
his heel." Here, undoubtedly, the serpent, or "satan" (the adversary), means
human beings: for in context it describes those who "by smooth talk and
flattery" "deceive the minds of naive people". Particularly, this may mean the
Judaizers, who sought to draw other believers -- esp Gentile believers -- away
from their freedom in Christ into an enforced bondage to the Law of
THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS BE WITH YOU: Paul's final
blessings magnifies God's grace as does this whole epistle. Usually such a
benediction signals the end of a Pauline letter (eg, 2Co 13:14; Gal 6:18; Phi
4:23; 1Th 5:28; 2Th 3:18; 2Ti 4:22; Phm 1:25), but the apostle has more to
communicate in this instance.
Vv 21,22: "The men whom Paul mentioned in v 21 all seem to
have been his fellow missionaries who were working with him in Corinth when he
wrote this epistle. Lucius may have been Luke, the writer of Luke and Acts.
Jason may have been Paul's host in Thessalonica (cf Acts 17:5-9). Sosipater was
probably Sopater of Berea, who accompanied Paul when he left Greece toward the
end of his third missionary journey (Acts 20:4)" (Const).
At this point Tertius, Paul's amanuensis, or secretary, asks
for the privilege of adding his personal greeting. We may suppose that by this
time he had become thoroughly wrapped up in the message and had developed a
feeling of rapport with the Roman Christians
The men in v 23 are all, evidently, Corinthian
GAIUS, WHOSE HOSPITALITY I AND THE WHOLE CHURCH HERE
ENJOY: This was the brother with whom he had been staying while he wintered
at Corinth. Evidently his man had a comfortable and roomy house that he made
available for the meetings of the congregation. He seems to have been one of the
early converts in Paul's mission to the city (1Co 1:14), and the very fact that
Paul made an exception in his case by personally baptizing him suggests that his
conversion was a notable event due to his prominence. Because of Paul's remark
that the whole ecclesia enjoyed Gaius' hospitality, it is tempting to suppose
that he is the man (Titius Justus) who invited believers into his home after the
break with the synagogue (Acts 18:7). This involves the supposition that Paul is
giving only a part of his name and that Luke provides the rest (Romans had three
At any rate, the mention of Gaius as Paul's host is strong
evidence that the apostle was writing from Corinth rather than from Cenchrea or
from some point in Macedonia.
ERASTUS, WHO IS THE CITY'S DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS:
Oscar Broneer, who has done considerable excavating at the site of ancient
Corinth, reports in "The Biblical Archaeologist" (XIV, 94): "[In Rome] a reused
paving block preserves an inscription, stating that the pavement was laid at the
expense of Erastus, who was 'aedile' (Commissioner of Public Works). He was
probably the same Erastus who became a co-worker of Paul (Act 19:22: Rom 16:23,
where he is called 'oikonomos', 'chamberlain' of the city), a notable exception
to the Apostle's characterization of the early Christians: 'Not many wise men
after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called' (1Co 1:26)"
QUARTUS: "Our brother" may simply be "a brother".
Nothing else is known of this man. Quite possibly he is the "fourth" son of a
prominent family, of which others are Secundus (the "second"!) (Acts 20:4) and
Tertius (the third"!) (v 22). If so, who is the "first"? Since there is no
reference to a "Primus", then perhaps the older brother of the family is Erastus
Vv 25-27: The concluding doxology (praise to God): similar to
the previous doxologies in Rom 8:31-39; 11:33-36.
NOW TO HIM WHO IS ABLE TO ESTABLISH YOU BY MY GOSPEL AND
THE PROCLAMATION OF JESUS CHRIST, ACCORDING TO THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY
HIDDEN FROM LONG AGES PAST: The apostle was confident that God could do for
his readers what they needed (cp Rom 1:11; Eph 3:20; Phi 4:13). The gospel is
God's chief tool to that end. "My gospel" identifies the one that Paul had
preached widely and had expounded in this epistle. The "preaching of Jesus
Christ" is another name for the gospel that stresses its subject, Jesus Christ.
Proclamation follows revelation. The gospel had been hidden in eternity past
until God revealed it first in the OT and then fully in the NT.
THE MYSTERY: Elsewhere, the mystery plainly has to do
with the gospel proclaimed to and believed by the Gentiles as well as the Jews:
Rom 11:25; Eph 3:3,4,8,9; Col 1:26,27; 1Ti 3:16.
BUT NOW REVEALED AND MADE KNOWN THROUGH THE PROPHETIC
WRITINGS: Even though the OT prophets revealed the gospel they did not
always grasp all of its implications (1Pe 1:10-12; cf Rom 1:2).
BY THE COMMAND OF THE ETERNAL GOD: The Great
Commission, which includes all the nations as embraced in the divine purpose
(Mat 28:19). This emphasis recalls the language Paul used in speaking of his own
commission (Rom 1:1,5; cf Tit 1:3). Col 1:25-27 is in the same vein. Paul had a
special concern to reach the Gentiles (Rom 11:13).
SO THAT ALL NATIONS MIGHT BELIEVE AND OBEY HIM: Stating
plainly that the "mystery" of v 25 has to do with the gospel proclaimed to the
TO THE ONLY WISE GOD BE GLORY FOREVER THROUGH JESUS
CHRIST: God is described under two terms: (1) "Only" (cp 1Ti 1:17) may well
be intended to recall the line of thought in Rom 3:29,30. He is God of both Jew
and Gentile, with a provision for both groups in the gospel of his Son. (2)
"Wise" invites the reader to recall the outburst of praise to God in His wisdom
(Rom 11:33) that brings to a close the long review of his dealings with Israel
in relation to his purpose for the Gentiles. Wisdom is also allied to the
hidden/revealed tension noted in v 25, as we gather also from 1Co 2:6,7.
So the God whose eternal purpose has been described as hidden
and then manifested in the gospel of his Son, draws to Himself through His Son
the praise that will engross the saints through all the ages to come. The
silence that for so long held the divine mystery has given way to vocal and