Romans 16

Personal Greetings, 1-27

Rom 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea.

This list of greetings is unusually long.  It seems that Paul, having neither founded nor visited the church in Rome, felt the next to underline his personal contacts with them.

Of the 27 individuals named, no less than 10 are women.

‘The names of those mentioned in Romans 16 suggest that many had been slaves. Andronicus and Urbanus were exclusively slave names in the literature and inscriptions of Paul’s day. Moreover, the references to the households of Aristobolus and Narcissus would almost certainly include slaves, probably in large numbers. They were both very wealthy men with powerful political connections.’

Stott sees ample evidence of both diversity and unity in this list of greetings.  Regarding the latter, he writes: ‘It is of course a fact that people like to worship with their own kith and kin, and with their own kind, as experts in church growth remind us; and it may be necessary to acquiesce in different congregations according to language, which is the most formidable barrier of all. But heterogeneity is of the essence of the church, since it is the one and only community in the world in which Christ has broken down all dividing walls. The vision we have been given of the church triumphant is of a company drawn from ‘every nation, tribe, people and language’, who are all singing God’s praises in unison. So we must declare that a homogeneous church is a defective church, which must work penitently and perseveringly towards heterogeneity.’

Rom 16:2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

Rom 16:3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.

‘In Paul’s following greetings, (Rom 16:3-16) he lists about twice as many men as women, but commends more than twice as many women as men. This may indicate his sensitivity to the opposition women undoubtedly faced for their ministry in some quarters.’ (DPL)

Rom 16:4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

Rom 16:5 Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

Rom 16:6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.

Rom 16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

Andronicus and Junias – There is uncertainty about the gender of the second-named.  ‘Junias’ can be either masculine or feminine, depending on how it is accented (and the original text was not accented).  Some manuscripts have ‘Junia’, which is feminine.  The feminine ‘Junia’ was a common name, whereas the male ‘Junias’ is unattested.  According to Moo, the view prior to the 13th century favoured a female identification.  From the 13th to the mid-20th century scholars inclined to a male identification.  Contemporary scholarship decisively favours the feminine form.  In this case, the pair is presumably husband and wife.

Outstanding among the apostles – Many scholars support this, or a similar, translation.  Cranfield, for example, thinks that it is ‘virtually certain’ that the phrase means that Paul counted them among the apostles.  In this case, they it is notable that a woman is included in this description.

The alternative translation (‘well-known to the apostles’) is defended by Burer, who provides evidence that ‘Paul could readily have used episemos plus the genitive to show that Andronicus and Junia were “notable among the apostles”, and that numerous parallel texts provide further evidence that Paul intended his expression to mean that Andronicus and Junia were “well known to the apostles.”’

However, Moo remarks that the word ‘apostle’ does not always imply an authoritative leadership position: it can sometimes simply mean ‘messenger’ (2 Cor 8:3; Phil 2:25), or similar.

Rom 16:8 Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord.

Rom 16:9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

See Acts 20:35 n

Rom 16:10 Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.

Rom 16:11 Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

Rom 16:12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

Rom 16:13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

Rufus – A fairly common name.  Nevertheless, many commentators (including Cranfield, Dunn and Moo) think that this may well be the Rufus who was one of the sons of Simon of Cyrene.  Moo notes: ‘Mark identifies Simon as “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mark 15:21), perhaps to connect him with two well-known Christians in Rome, from where Mark is probably written.’

Rom 16:14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them.

Rom 16:15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them.

Rom 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

The churches of Christ – ‘The Churches of Christ (COC) sect takes its name from this verse, making the claim that the true church will also have the correct scriptural name. Christ said, “I will build My church” (Mt 16:18). The COC argues that since it is Christ’s church, it should be called the Church of Christ. Different verses, however, point to other likely names, such as “church of God” (1 Cor 10:32; Gal 1:13) and “assembly of the firstborn” (Heb 12:23). Nowhere does God’s Word prescribe that a church should have a specific name.’ (Apologetics Study Bible)

Rom 16:17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.

Rom 16:18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

Smooth talk – A chrestologos, to the Greeks, was ‘”a man who speaks well and who acts ill.” He is the kind of man who, behind a facade of pious words, is a bad influence, who leads astray, not by direct attack, but by subtlety, who pretends to serve Christ, but in reality is destroying the faith.’ (DSB)

Rom 16:19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

Rom 16:20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.  The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

The God of peace – ‘a God at peace with us, speaking peace to us, working peace in us, creating peace for us.’ (MHC)

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet – An allusion to Gen 3:15.  See also Psa 91:13.

The expression means that God ‘will throw him under your feet, that you may trample upon him’ (Sanday & Headlam)

At the parousia…  Many interpreters (including Hendriksen, Cranfield, Dunn, Moo) understand this is referring to the eschatological victory of Satan.  Paul’s meaning here should, accordingly, be understood in the light of his ‘already/not yet’ theology.  On the cross Christ has already won the decisive victory over Satan.  But we still look forward to the final victory.  ‘That this will happen ‘soon’ is not necessarily a time reference, but rather a statement that God has planned nothing to occupy the space between the ascension and the parousia. The parousia is the very next event on his calendar. Meanwhile, the Romans should expect regular interim victories over Satan, partial crushings of him under their feet.’ (Stott)

…or now…?  Morris, however, says that ‘nothing in the context indicates that Paul is looking to the parousia, and it is better to see the promise of a victory over Satan in the here and now.’  Kruse, similarly, thinks that ‘Paul probably means that if the Roman believers watch out for and keep away from those who cause divisions (Rom 16:17), then God will crush Satan under their feet, that is, confound Satan’s designs to lead them astray.’

…or both now and at the parousia?  Matthew Henry states that the promise of Gen 3:15 ‘is in the fulfilling every day, while the saints are enabled to resist and overcome the temptations of Satan, and will be perfectly fulfilled when, in spite of all the powers of darkness, all that belong to the election of grace shall be brought triumphantly to glory.’  And Stott thinks that although the final victory will take place at the parousia, ‘the Romans should expect regular interim victories over Satan, partial crushings of him under their feet.’

The peace of God is the peace of action and of victory. 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.’ (DSB)

This promise has both a narrow and a wide application.  ‘Though the apostle here styles Him who is thus to bruise Satan, the God of peace,” with special reference to the “divisions” (Ro 16:17) by which the church at Rome was in danger of being disturbed, this sublime appellation of God has here a wider sense, pointing to the whole “purpose for which the Son of God was manifested, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8); and indeed this assurance is but a reproduction of the first great promise, that the Seed of the woman should bruise the Serpent’s head (Ge 3:15).’ (JFB)

How God trains us for victory.  ‘To defeat his malignant efforts, God increases the strength of his people, and gives them a deeper insight into the devices of their enemy. He clothes them with divine armour, and teaches them how to use the sword of the Spirit, and the shield of faith [Eph 6:13-17.]. By exercise he renders them expert soldiers, and enables them to “war a good warfare.” Instead of exposing themselves needlessly to danger, they are now taught to “watch and be sober;” instead of indulging a vain conceit of their own purity and strength, they are led to suspect the treachery of their own hearts, and to depend more simply on the grace of Christ. Thus they learn to fight a good fight; and, though sometimes wounded by his fiery darts, they “resist their enemy till he flees from them [Jam 4:7.].”]’ (Charles Simeon)

Satan damages his own cause while furthering God’s.  ‘Mark…how a mightier hand guides his blows to wound himself.  Satan’s kingdom is made to totter under Satan’s assaults.  He brought in sin, and so the door flew open for the Gospel.  He persecutes the early converts; and the truth spreads rapidly abroad throughout the world.  He casts Paul into the dungeon of Philippi: and the jailor believes with all his house.  He sends him a prisoner to Rome, and epistles gain wings to teach and comfort all the ages of the Church.’ (Henry Law, The Gospel in Genesis, p45).

Look to the Cross.  ‘[Satan] may terrify you with roarings, as of a lion; shew him the wounds of the Lamb, and he is gone.  He may stand as your accuser at the judgement seat; but if you are washed in the blood of Jesus, he can find no mark in you, by which to claim you as his own.’ (Law, The Gospel in Genesis, p45).

Rom 16:21 Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.

Rom 16:22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.

I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter – ‘Independent evidence attests how common it was for writers to use ‘amanuenses’, trained scribes who did the actual writing at their dictation. Doubtless many amanuenses were slaves hired to help a scarcely literate master in business and correspondence; others worked as free agents for their wages. Rom 16:22 shows how Tertius was the amanuensis who ‘wrote down’ what Paul dictated in that letter. It was common for those doing the dictation to attest the authenticity of the finished product by adding final greetings in their own hand; certainly that was Paul’s practice. (Gal 6:11; 2 Thess 3:17) The inference is that he dictated all his letters, and perhaps other NT writers did the same.’ (NBC)

Rom 16:23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.

Erastus – ‘During the excavations of Corinth in 1929, a pavement was found inscribed: “Erastus, curator of public buildings, laid this pavement at his own expense.” According to Bruce, the pavement quite likely existed in the first century AD and the donor and the man Paul mentions are probably one and the same.’ (McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, 72)

This verse (’The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you’, a repetition from v20) is not printed in English editions, as it is regarded as a later addition to the text of the letter.

Rom 16:25 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 for long ages past,

‘Most modern commentators regard the doxology in vs 25-27 as a later addition to the letter. But there is nothing unPauline in its vocabulary and ideas, it has solid external support in the early manuscripts and its varied placement (at the end of ch. 14 or ch. 15) could have arisen from the movement of the original Pauline conclusion when the letter was shortened.’ (NBC)

The gospel is a mystery, i.e., a system of truth beyond the power of the human mind to discover, which God has revealed for our faith and obedience. It was formed from eternity in the divine mind, revealed by the prophets and apostles, and the preaching of Jesus Christ; and is, by the command of God, to be made known to all nations, Rom 16:25,26…God alone is wise. He charges his angels with folly; and the wisdom of men is foolishness with him. To God, therefore, the profoundest reverence and the most implicit submission are due. Men should not presume to call in question what he has revealed, or consider themselves competent to sit in judgment on the truth of his declarations or the wisdom of his plans. To God only wise, be glory, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen. Charles Hodge

Long ages past translates ‘aioniois chronois‘.

Rom 16:26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him—

Believe and obey – lit. ‘obedience of faith’, cf. Rom 1:5. Faith is an ‘obediential grace’. ‘Faith melts our will into God’s. It runs at God’s call. If God commands duty (though cross to flesh and blood) faith obeys. ‘By faith Abraham obeyed.’ Heb 11:8. Faith is not an idle grace; as it has an eye to see Christ, so it has a hand to work for him. It not only believes God’s promise, but obeys his command. It is not having knowledge that will evidence you to be believers; the devil has knowledge, but wants obedience, and that makes him a devil. The true obedience of faith is a cheerful obedience. God’s commands do not seem grievous. Have you obedience, and obey cheerfully? Do you look upon God’s command as your burden, or privilege; as an iron fetter about your leg, or as a gold chain about your neck.’ (Thomas Watson)

Rom 16:27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.