Romans 16:1-2 –The name Phoebe was one of the names of the goddess Diana which means that she was probably a convert from idolatry. She was a servant of the church at Cenchrea, which was near the seaport of Corinth. It was from Cenchrea, at the end of his first ministry in Corinth, that Paul, Priscilla, and Aquila “put out to sea for Syria” (Acts 18:18).
The word “servant” is from the Greek word root for deacon or deaconess. This has been held that she may have had the official office of a deacon in the early church. Scripture says that she was a servant (deaconess) of the church.” Paul was not saying she was a servant of the Lord to all of God’s people in general but a servant of the Church.
It is almost certain that it was Phoebe who delivered this letter in person to the church at Rome. Paul requested that the Roman church help Phoebe in whatever matter she may have need of them for. Paul not only was giving a commendation of Phoebe as a faithful and valued Believer but also was giving a letter of reference so that she might accomplish any business matter she may have had in Rome. Paul speaks of her as a help, which in the original Greek was used to signify a wealthy person who encouraged and financially supported an organization or cause, as in a patron of the arts.
This gives us the idea that she may have used her wealth to help the saints and use her business skills for the benefit of the Church at Cenchrea and Corinth. Joanna and Susanna in Luke 8:3 were similar women who helped Jesus and the disciples with their financial needs.
Romans 16:3-4 Priscilla and Aquila, were close companions of Paul who risked their lives for the Gospel. They were originally residents of Rome. But the Roman emperor, Claudius, had the Jews banished from Rome in A.D. 52. Priscilla and Aquila moved to Corinth. They were the couple who opened their home to Paul when he first entered Corinth. They were also the couple who went into business with Paul as tent-makers.
They later travelled with Paul to Ephesus where they settled (Acts 18:18). The chief characteristic of this couple was an open heart and an open house. Wherever we find them, we find that their home was the center for Christian worship and fellowship. They received, Apollos, into their home to instruct him in the faith (Acts 18:24-26). They had a church meeting in their home in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19). They had another church meeting in their home in Rome (Romans 16:13).
Romans 16:5-16 Epenetus was, the first convert of Paul’s ministry in Asia (Turkey). Through the years, Paul had kept track of him and was pleased that he now was part of the church at Rome. Of the twenty-four people that Paul mentions in this chapter, six are women. Paul is often accused of having a poor attitude in regard to women but we see hear of his appreciation of the work that women were doing in the Church shines through his words.
In Romans 16:6 the third of the six women are mentioned. Andronicus and Junias form an interesting pair, because it is most likely that Junias is a female name. That would mean that in the early Church a woman could be ranked as an apostle. The apostles in this sense were people whom the Church sent out to tell the story of Jesus at large and were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Messiah. Paul says that Andronicus and Junias were Christians before he was so they must have been a direct link with the earliest Church at Jerusalem.
Paul describes these brethren as well as Herodion as relatives or it is translated “kinsmen” in other translations it is possible they were related but more likely it is an allusion that these people were fellow Jewish Believers and would also mean that Paul gained additional joy in greeting them. These two also were in prison with Paul and that would have deepened and strengthened their personal and spiritual bond with each other.
Ampliatus was a common name among slaves. In one of the earliest of the Christian catacombs, there is a decorated tomb with the single name Ampliatus carved on it in bold and decorative lettering. Roman citizens would have three names, and that there is only one seems to further indicate that this Ampliatus was a slave; but the elaborate tomb would indicate that he was a man of high rank in the Church at Rome.
From that we 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 esteemed leader of the Church. Social distinctions did not exist. Urbane was a fellow-worker in the ministry.
He worked side by side with Paul and is noted as a man of unusual faithfulness who was loyal to Messiah wherever he traveled. Stachys was describes as beloved by Paul, other translations call him “my dear friend”. Apelles was a believer who had been tried and approved as faithful.
Apparently, Apelles had undergone some extreme suffering and had stood against it, proving his loyalty beyond question. Whatever the trial and suffering was it had been so severe that it had made a lasting impression on Paul and is mentioned in Scripture.
The household of Aristobulus may have an interesting history. In Rome household was a reference not only of a man’s family but included his servants and slaves. Living in Rome was a grandson of Herod the Great whose name was Aristobulus who also was a close friend of the Emperor Claudius. When he died his servants and slaves would become the property of the Emperor, but they would known as the household of Aristobulus.
The household of Narcissus may have still another interesting story behind it. Narcissus was a common name; but the most famous Narcissus was a freed slave who had been secretary to the Emperor Claudius and had exercised what was believed to be an evil influence over him.
He was said to have amassed a private fortune the equivalent of millions of dollars. His power had lain in the fact that all correspondence addressed to the Emperor had to pass through his hands and never reached him unless he allowed it to do so, which sounds like some of our presidential aides today. He made his fortune from the fact that people paid him large bribes to make sure that their petitions did reach the Emperor.
When Claudius was murdered and Nero came to the throne, Narcissus survived for a short time, but in the end he was compelled to commit suicide, and all his fortune and all his household of slaves passed into Nero’s possession. It may well be his one-time slaves which are referred to here. If Aristobulus really is the Aristobulus who was the grandson of Herod, and if Narcissus really is the Narcissus who was Claudius’s secretary, this means that many of the slaves at the imperial court were already Christians.
Herodion is described as a relative but there is as we said earlier debate on whether he was a relation or a fellow Jewish Believer. His name suggests that he may also have been related to Herod, a Jewish convert. Tryphena and Tryphosa were two dear ladies who labored much in the Lord. The name Tryphena means dainty and the name Tryphosa means delicate.
The Greek word “labor” or “hard work” means to work to the point of exhaustion. Persis was a still another beloved sister who worked hard in the work of the Lord. Rufus this believer is described as chosen in the Lord. Paul does not say that Rufus was chosen by the Lord, but in the Lord. The emphasis is not election, but tenderness and warmth.
He was known as a saintly man—a man who was totally set apart unto the Lord. Rufus was probably the son of Simon the Cyrenian who carried the cross for Jesus (Mark 15:21). One can picture the family of Simon along side the road watching their husband and father carry the cross for Jesus up the hill of Calvary. The impact of the crucifixion and then the resurrection changed their lives and led to their conversion, and Paul speaks here of his mother as well.
The identification that Paul has with his mother as his as well brings to mind the call of Jesus to John and his mother. The mention of the five men named in Romans 16:15 leads us to believe that they were leaders of one of the many assemblies of believers in Rome. The same is probably true of the saints mentioned in Romans 16:16.
Romans 16:16 The practice of embracing and kissing friends on the forehead or cheek was common in ancient times. Kissing was common among relatives and close friends, especially when they first came together after a long separation and when they departed, as is common today. To kiss a person of high position was a sign of honor and respect.
It was a sign of love and respect and that is why Yeshua was so disappointed by the kiss of Judas. The early church, at first composed primarily of Jews, carried on the traditional practice of kissing among relatives and close friends. Because most of these early believers were rejected by their own families and persecuted by the government fellow believers became their true family.
The tradition of kissing family members was no carried on in their new families. So Paul calls the church of Rome to demonstrate this kind of family embrace among each other. Paul sent greetings to the church at Rome from all the churches that he had visited expressing the unity that he and they felt in their common love and fellowship in Messiah.
Romans 16:17-18 – Paul warns the Brethren about those who would bring division and place obstacles in the path of those who walk with the Lord. Love should always be willing to forgive but it cannot endorse or ignore evil, especially among Believers. So as he closes this letter he calls the Brethren to be alert to those who would be divisive because those people are a threat to the church.
This call was not an afterthought; it is an important exhortation needed for the Church at Rome to remain strong. Paul knew that such attacks would come. The most effective way for Satan to get a foothold in a strong church is to carefully move a divisive person in among the brethren where he can influence immature believers.
And as Paul observes in Romans 16:17 a divisive person acts by inserting teachings that go against what believers have learned. These doctrines are the of God and of Messiah; that Jesus is Lord, the call to love the brethren, the call to reach the world with the gospel.
We are called to avoid such people. The word “avoid” in the original language means to shun, meaning to get away from them and have absolutely nothing to do with them. In Titus 3 Paul called Believers to “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.
He said “to warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. A divisive person does not serve the Lord, but his own desires. They are not committed to His honor and glory and mission, but to themselves; to getting and doing what they want. We see this in the word that is used as the motive for these people in v 18 where it says that they are serving their own appetites. Scripture clearly says that divisive persons do not serve Messiah. They call themselves Christians, but Jesus is not their Lord.
They are not committed to His will and work, but to themselves and their own agendas, to getting and doing what they want. A divisive person uses talk and flattering words to deceive. He uses smooth, persuasive, and plausible words to lead people to take sides with him. He talks and acts godly, and he shows interest and concern for those whom he wants to convince.
But the motive of the divisive person is to deceive so that his own ends will be met. Paul in his letter to the believers in Galatia warns about those people who bring a “different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). He goes on in Romans 16:8 to say that such a person should be cursed. He is not saying that we should bring them physical harm such as in the time of Reformation, or the Inquisition in Spain.
When the disciples wanted to do that Yeshua said to them that they shouldn’t react in violent ways but leave that to the Lord (Luke 3:17;Luke 9:54-56;Matthew 26:52;John 18:10-11). Even protection of the Son of God did not justify the use of physical violence. This shunning is for so-called believers and not toward unbelievers.
Romans 16:19 – Paul commends the Church for its strength, a strong church is discerning able to know what is good and to discern what is evil. If a strong church fails to know and do good, it will be penetrated by confusion and divisiveness and it will become a weak church.
Strength comes from obedience to the Lord; that is why it is strong. The best protection against falsehood is clinging to God’s truth. The result of such a dynamic obedience is a strong testimony that is spread among all men. People know where to go when they need help: they know where the obedient believers are who are truly following the Lord.
Romans 16:20 – A further result will be that God will soon give victory over Satan. The meaning of “soon” does not mean shortly, but quickly. The idea is not that God is coming soon to destroy Satan, but when God acts to deliver His people from evil and divisiveness, Satan will be quickly defeated. His work against a strong church will last only for a moment.
The “God of Peace” will restore peace swiftly and quickly to the fellowship of a people whose strength is in the Lord and not themselves. But the defeat of Satan and divisive persons is conditional. It is based on obedience to God and His Word. God is going to bruise Satan under the believers’ feet. It is the feet of the believers that God uses to bruise Satan.
This harkens to the very first glimpse of the Gospel in Genesis 3:15 and the reference to feet might be an allusion to the feet of those who carry the Gospel which is the very means that God uses to effect the crushing of Satan and his power in the lives of those that he has placed in bondage.
Paul gives a second benediction and this is given because he knows that, even with faithful obedience we still need God’s continuing grace to guide and strengthen us. we need His wisdom to recognize false teachers, and we His grace to give us comfort and patience when we are attacked by Satan’s emissaries while he is still exercises his worldly power.
Romans 16:21-24 – Paul calls Timothy his fellow-worker. “Timothy,” means one who honors God. Both his mother and grandmother were faithful believers who reared Timothy in the Scriptures (2 Timothy 1:5;3:15). Apparently when Timothy was born, his mother had dedicated him to the Lord after the pattern of the Old Testament believers. She gave him his name knowing perfectly well what it meant.
Her hope and prayer was that Jesus would take her child and use him to bring honor to God’s name. Paul places Timothy as an equal to himself. Paul sees Timothy’s call and ministry as being as important as his own. Timothy was faithful in doing exactly what God had called him to do.
Lucius may be one the prophets and teachers in Antioch who was directed by the Holy Spirit to send out Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3). Lucius is a form of Luke, and it may have been the Luke who wrote the gospel that carries his name. Luke and Paul were frequent companions, as indicated in the book of Acts when Luke uses “we” in regard to groups that included Paul.
He then refers to Jason and Sosipater as his relatives, but again the term is more correctly translated “kinsmen”, which is a reference to fellow Jews, not necessarily relatives. We read in Acts that one of the first converts in Thessalonica was named Jason and hosted Paul in his home before the believers there sent Paul and Silas to Berea for their safety (Acts 17:5-10).
We also learn from Acts 20:4-6 that a man from Berea named Sopater (a shortened form of Sosipater) was among the companions of Paul who met him at Troas after he left Ephesus. If Sopater is the same man then he likely was among the Jews in Berea who were hungry for the Word and studied the Scripture with Paul daily to see if the things that he was preaching was in fact true (Acts 17:10-12).
Tertius, who was Paul’s secretary, wrote this letter that was dictated by Paul and here inserts his own greeting. Gaius was a man of unusual hospitality and likely a wealthy man who had a home large enough to entertain the whole church and to house God’s servants over a long period of time. He likely came to faith in Corinth and was faithful in using his money, wealth, and estate for the Lord.
Erastus was a believer who was a government official, the treasurer of the city of Corinth. He must have been highly respected both among believers and the non-believers as well. He also had to have the courage to stand up for his convictions not let his political office or friends in high places keep him from confessing Christ. He likely responded to a call to preach the Gospel, and either resigned or was removed from political office because we find him on a missionary tour with Timothy (Acts 19:22) and is mentioned as still being faithful in the latter months of Paul’s life (2 Timothy 4:20).
Quartus is very simply called “a brother because of his faith in Messiah. Romans 16:25-27– When Paul calls the gospel “my gospel” he of course does not mean it is his gospel, that he is the author and creator of it. He means that he is a preacher of God’s gospel. Another important truth in this closing remark is that believers are established and made strong by the preaching of Jesus.
The word “mystery” does not mean something obscure and difficult to understand nor something that has to be searched out and solved by men. It means some truth that was not previously known and that could not be discovered by human reason, a truth that had to be revealed by God if it was ever to be known 1 Peter 1:10-12.
The gospel could never have been known by man. It is not a creation of man’s mind on the way a man is to become reconciled to God. Man could never figure out how to become acceptable to God. Jesus said so in John 3:13. The spiritual world would have remained a mystery if God had not acted and revealed it to man.
The mystery of the gospel is now revealed by the command of God in the prophetic Scriptures. God wants the world to know the gospel and has commanded that it be revealed and proclaimed to the world. This is an extremely important point; We do not discover God by natural reasoning: God reveals Himself to us through His Word Romans 10:17.
Since God has revealed how we become acceptable to Him, why does man continue to create their own ideas about how to reach God? Why do men continue to think they will be acceptable to God if they can just do enough good to pacify God? Why do most men continue to think that God will never reject them, and that they are not evil enough to be unacceptable to God?
All of these truths come from the Word of God and we must be drawn by the Spirit of God to understand these truths. The mystery of the gospel is revealed for a purpose: to declare to all nations the truth and to lead them to be obedient to the faith.
God wants from us what any person wants from others: love and trust. The benediction is a declaration of praise. God is the God of the gospel and in the Gospel we begin to comprehend that He is the only wise God and worthy of praise forever.