Here is chapter 16, the finale of the letter, and it ends with Paul showing the ample love he had for all of his brothers and sisters in Christ, and gives a little final wisdom to keep us pursing the lord in faith.
I divided up the chapter like this:
KV20: Be patient in you pursuit – God will do for His people
1-16: Commendations and greetings to people in Rome
17-20: On those who cause dissension and occasions of stumbling
21-24: Greetings from Paul and company in Cenchrea (Corinth)
What I find in this chapter is an outpouring of the spirit within Paul to the Bride of Christ, or rather it’s fellow members. After his wrapping up of the theology and instruction portions of the letter (chapters 3-8 and 9-15 respectively), he spends time greeting and sending greetings to everyone. This fact makes it one of the least-studied chapters in Romans, owing to a long list of names, just like places in the Old Testament. We will probably depart from our verse-by-verse approach and go a phrase at a time in places, because it is the people that are what the letter is all about.
You see, we can learn all the doctrine in the world, but if we cannot share it with people, then what good is that, really? We can meet with a gathering, we can even call ourselves a Christian (even if we are not, and we see that in the chapter at hand in a powerful way), but if we aren’t dealing with people in Christian fashion, yielding that fruit of the Spirit, then we have cause to doubt our own Christianity and how genuine it really is.
KV20: Be patient in you pursuit – God will do for His people
What better way to end a letter than with this kind of comfort? God will simply do for His chosen people. We have called them the elect, and we have said that god chose them before the foundation of the world, not by “looking down the tunnels of time” so that He could see our response, because there is not a day ever where God had to learn something. He is omniscient, that is all-knowing, a unique attribute that can only be demonstrated by deity, and no one else. He had His own reasons, and He has not shared them with us. We do NOT know who they are, and that makes it our mission to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone we meet, because we do not know if that will be their time to answer that irresistible call of God and be saved. For those that are not elect, God has given them their desire as well, and there is no violation of the will of the creature in what He has done. For those He has foreknown, he has chosen (predestined) to belong to His Son, and He is today busy calling them through us (often despite us, we tend to get in the way), justifying us, so that He can glorify us when the time comes. For Him, it is an already-completed transaction. From this, we can see that He will faithfully execute His will concerning His chosen people. He says so in verse 20, which says, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”
Let’s get into the text. I will try to adhere to some kind of order, but there are a lot of names, and there are sometimes more than one verse per name, and sometimes multiple names in a verse, so we’ll see how that goes.
1-16: Commendations and greetings to people in Rome
Right away, we immediately see an old tradition from the days of the early church – the commending of a saint to a gathering by letter. The idea behind doing this was to be sure that the saint involved, brother or sister, would have a safe place to stay. Inns in those days were little more than brothels and places to get drunk and robbed if you were an unwary traveler. It was a common thing for the elders of a gathering to write a letter, or a part of a letter, to commend a particular saint to the gathering.
1: I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea;
- Phoebe was an example of such an individual. Her name means “bright” or “shining,” and it says here that she was a servant of the church at Cenchrea. The word for “servant” is diakonos, a transliteration for us would be “deaconess.” For all those brothers out there that say only men can serve as church leadership, I for one think you have some issues with your hermeneutics, and so does Dr. John MacArthur, who I have personally heard say that there could have been female deacons, and used the text in 1 Timothy 3 to provide that evidence (specifically v.11). We won’t look at the text for sake of time, but I will plant that seed there. I know there are people that will interpret that passage I mentioned as the wives of the deacons, but that doesn’t follow, because not all deacons were married (Stephen for example). Brother’s I’m with you for the most part, but we will differ on this passage – there was a third group of those who serve the church in that text, and the word is “women.” I’m not saying they should preach, but there are things that women are just better equipped to do. Hospitality and Helps are both gifts of the Spirit that I see in more women than men just for example. I’m not trying to pick a fight, and I’m not trying to downgrade the word to say these things. Phillip had three daughters that were prophetesses. We aren’t a patriarchy, gents, and that’s all there is to it. If you want to constructively dialog on this later, we can open the word up on this.
- Phoebe was also from Cenchrea, which was a long way from Rome in those days. In fact, she was from a gathering that was likely what we would call a church plant from Corinth. Cenchrea was about 9 miles from Corinth, and was her sea port. We don’t know all that she did in the church at Cenchrea, but most commentators are sure that it was she who carried this letter to Rome personally.
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.
- Here we see what the purpose was in a commendation for a saint to another gathering. The saint commended was to be received like one would receive a beloved family member, and be given help in whatever form was needed. It is thought that Phoebe was on a business trip of some kind, and is largely thought of as a woman of some means, to have been traveling like she was, and also because she had supported people, Paul in particular. It isn’t exactly in the details of the letter, but one could see her as a patron of sorts, and perhaps was even like Lydia was in Philippi, having the church meet in her home – but it doesn’t say that, so we won’t either. Whatever her case, Paul commended her personally, and for that we can only think that she was a real saint.
3: Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,
- A couple more names that should be familiar to readers of the New Testament. There are a couple of things to notice here. First, Prisca is the more dominant version of who Luke calls Priscilla, it’s the same individual. This is a well-known thing between Paul and Luke, Luke usually uses the more diminutive form of the names that Paul does. It happens with Silas and Sylvanus between them too – same individual referred to with different versions of their name. I’m not sure why.
- And Paul mentions Prisca FIRST. That’s unusual, to be sure. But I can maybe understand why. There are some couples that the woman has the more dominant personality, or is the bubblier personality. And sometimes there are times in EVERY couple where that’s true! Whatever the reason, they had a basic reason to be familiar with Paul – they were also tent-makers! Paul used his skill to support himself in the work, but Aquila actually had a business, and supported more than himself and Prisca with the proceeds.
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;
- And they wee more than fellow tradesmen – Prisca and Aquila had both put their own necks on the line for Paul and others more than once, and would do so again when Paul was arrested a second time and condemned to death, and the saints needed to beat feet as it were. Paul wasn’t the only one who had reason to thank them, either. All the churches of the Gentiles had reason.
- They had supported Paul, they had preached the Gospel themselves, they had instructed the mighty Old Testament scholar and teacher, Apollos. They were a bright light for the Master, to be sure.
5: also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia.
- Also, they allowed the church in Rome to meet in their home! Do you have any idea what that means? I’ve lived in a place where the church met. You have to keep the place in a constant state of readiness. If there is an emergency meeting, you have to provide the place and whatever the meeting needs on very short notice. It’s a chore – and also an incredible blessing. Saints are always dropping by to fellowship, and that’s a blessing. When something happens somewhere, you’re among the first (if not the first) to know. And then there is a sense of the presence of the Lord there (yes, I know, He is always everywhere). It’s just amazingly different and blessed. That’s where we end with Prisca and Aquila.
- Epaenetus is another, well “celebrity” of sorts – he was the first convert to Christianity from Asia Minor. Personally, I think that’s a big deal! I doubt he would have thought so, but Paul would remember his name, and that has some spiritual benefit attached. You got to be at least initially discipled by Paul!
6: Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.
- Outside of the name, that is all we really know about this sister in Rome – her name was Mary and she worked hard for the saints there. We don’t even know what she did, but God must have been pleased by her work, because He memorialized her in the Christian Scriptures like this.
7: Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
- Here are two more individuals where all we know about them is what Paul tells us in this verse. We know that they are part of Paul’s Jewish family, I would venture a guess that they were also men of the tribe of Benjamin. We know something else – at some point they were in jail with Paul. This wasn’t at this stage any major imprisonment, that hadn’t happened yet. But they had preached the gospel with Paul and paid the world’s price of admission for it. This activity no doubt is why they were named here as “outstanding among the apostles.”
- Wait, Gerry – are you saying there were more “apostles” than the original 12 and Paul? Yes, I am. In Acts, Barnabas is identified as an apostle. Silas was also named an apostle somewhere. If you take just the regular meaning of the word, all it means is that these were messengers sent on a mission. I’m not talking about these “new apostles,” who name themselves as apostles and do nothing to bring the Gospel to a world that pretty obviously needs it. The best way to tell a false “apostle” is if they’re using the title on their business card, stationery, or social media. Ditto “elder,” “prophet,” “evangelist,” and “bishop” for the most part today. I’ll make certain allowances for men that must identify themselves publicly as shepherds with the word Pastor, because I get that. I use the title because it is a quick way to establish credentials, just like Paul did at the beginning of his letters. I prefer people call me by my name, not my job description, and I think that’s how Paul was. Beware those that take titles to themselves is all I’m trying to say.
- These men were also Christians before Paul, and it says so right here. It is possible that Paul looked up to them for that reason, but that is more speculation on my part.
8: Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.
- We know Paul loved him, and that’s about all we know. But to me, this shows how the Apostle just loved people. I’m not sure he could have done his task without that. The compassion he had to have, for example, in dealing with the Galatians who were turning away into a very nasty form of legalism, the patience he must have needed to deal with the worldly Corinth, the love he had for the Ephesians and Philippians, and like that. This man, Ampliatus, was beloved of Paul.
9: Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.
- Urbanus means “Polished,” or “of the city,” and many think he may have been a politician of some kind, but that’s speculation based on his name. What we do know is that he was a fellow worker of Paul, and that means he was a church-planting evangelist and pastor with a heart for the sheep.
- Stachys means “a head of grain,” and the Lord likens his children to wheat, though that might just be coincidence. This man was ALSO beloved of Paul.
10: Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.
- Apelles is another we know nothing about other than he is mentioned here. Likewise Aristobulus, other than that he had a household. We can assume from that he was married and had children, perhaps.
11: Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet those of the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord.
- We know Herodian is a kinsman of Paul, so we know he is Jewish, perhaps of Benjamin, perhaps not. We know Narcissus had a household, and that’s about all we know.
12: Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord.
- Here we have three individuals that are gospel workers, and one is singled out for special mention in that his labours have been particularly energetic. The other two may have been siblings because of the similarity of their names, though again, that’s speculation on my part. It just fits, like James and John. Then again, there’s Simon and Andrew, so who knows? We might get to meet these beloved saints in the kingdom, and then we’ll find out.
13: Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.
- Rufus is thought to be the son of Simon of Cyrene, who helped the Lord carry His cross to the top of Mount Moriah (Golgotha). Mark 15:21 says, “They *pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.” It doesn’t explicitly say that Rufus was at the crucifixion of our Lord, but he may have been, and he was saved as a result of that, perhaps. Paul apparently knew the family, because reference is made to Rufus’ mother, whom Paul claims is also his mother, and this must be in a figurative sense.
14: Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them.
- Paul names these five men and then tells us that brothers lived with them. Again, this is speculation, but it wasn’t uncommon for single men (or women) to rent a place together for economic benefit and mutual encouragement in the Lord. When I was a single man, I did the same thing. I even lived in what was called a training home for so-called servants of the Lord being trained to live as Christians in the world. For what it’s worth, I survived, whatever that means. ::chuckle::
15: Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.
- It is possible that Paul in this sentence was greeting a whole gathering, or perhaps a training home like I just described. It might be speculation, but it’s educated speculation, friends. It is entirely possible that the believers in Rome met in several homes because of size, availability, convenience, or when persecution came, security of the whole. The important thing to see here is that these are not just words on a page, these were people – REAL people – to whom Paul was sending a rather emotional greeting. Again, we can see the love Paul had for the people of God, and the flock of the Great Shepherd, which He has placed Paul over.
16: Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
- We can see in this the emotional connection that all Christians should have with each other, and how each church was connected to ALL other churches by their common head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Their ancient practice was to give each other a “holy kiss.” There was nothing sexualized about this, it was commonplace.
- Said kiss could be on the cheeck, the forehead, the hand, the beard (and that’s the ancient Jewish custom for a greeting between men who were dear friends). The French peck on each cheek is such a thing. I have kissed another man’s wife on the cheek in front of him (kissed him too!) because we hadn’t seen each other in months.
- You see, we have a bond that transcends the physical and natural realm, and it MUST be expressed somehow, lest it grow cold. We cannot allow that – it MUST be expressed. And it must not violate anyone either.
- As you know, I was in what was like a Brethren Assembly for a long time. I was a doorkeeper (part usher, part deacon) in those days, and from time to time, guys would come around because of the single sisters in our congregation. It fell to the Doorkeepers at times to defend their honour. One such guy that the sisters felt was getting a little handsy, so to speak, was going around greeting them all with a holy kiss – full on the mouth, and one sister even says he tried to tongue. They asked me as the brother on the door to do something about it, so I did. As the man made a beeline to his sister of choice at the moment, I stepped in front of him and grabbed him with a big grin in a large bearhug, and planted a juicy kiss on his cheek. To my “surprise,” he seemed offended. I flipped open my bible (hand in my hand, almost like I knew what was going to happen) to this verse and asked him where it says that the brothers only greeted the sisters like he was doing. He calmed down, but sadly, that’s the last we saw of the fellow.
- This can also fly in the face of what we like to portray at times. As reformed Christians, we like to espouse reason and logic, and sometimes we give the impression that we don’t have emotions. Well, I do, and they are very strong emotions because of the way I grew up. It isn’t wrong to have them. Just know when and where to express them and have some idea of how.
What I think is important here is to see that it is okay to have emotions, but to have them in a sanctified fashion. I know I can be angry at times. It isn’t wrong to be angry. Ephesians 4:26 says, “BE angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” What you may not realize is that this is a quote from Psalm 4:4 which says, “Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.” The trembling here can be from either fear or anger. To be afraid or to be angry is not sin, is what this is saying. Paul repurposes the original by saying “Do not let the sun go down upon your wrath,” but the original meaning is also helpful. While Paul speaks of keeping short and open accounts before the Lord, this Psalm speaks of analysis of the emotion itself. “Meditate upon your bed.” About what you ask? About what made you angry. Why were you angered? Is there a way you could have avoided anger? (No is an acceptable answer.) What can be done about it to solve the anger issue? Rather than be ruled by the emotion, “Selah.” Pause and calmly (logically, dispassionately) think on that. This idea of meditation may be new to some. Rather than the deliberate emptying of your head of thoughts and emotions that accompany them, rather have clear and directed thought on the subject, using some of the questions I provided, or others you may feel are appropriate. THIS is Christian meditation – clear and directed thought on a given subject matter. Don’t let the emotion rule you, you take control of it – every thought – and place it under the authority of Christ and see if that doesn’t calm you down. And that’s just one example. Try this with other problematic emotions.
17-20: On those who cause dissension and occasions of stumbling
Okay, on with the show. With all these people involved, there are bound to be some that are flies in the ointment, sadly. Every gathering has them, and we even be one on occasion. Paul here offers some advice on how to minimize the exposure of your fellow saints in your gathering.
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.
- We encountered this word “urge” last time as the Greek work parakaleo. It is the word that means to call alongside, to help. Brothers, I am calling you alongside. Let ME help, is what Paul is expressing. And clearly his message is to believers, as he addresses “brethren.” Let’s have a look at his instruction here.
- Keep your eye on those. The Greek word here is skopeo, which has the meaning, “to look at, and contemplate.” We get our English word scope from it, in the sense of a scope on a rifle. It is a device that helps you identify targets from a good distance so you can think about what kind of a response to have toward that target. I know that there are those that say we shouldn’t do this, because it’s judging, but here, Paul is commanding us to do so in defense of the church of Christ. Who is he telling us to contemplatively and preparedly to keep an eye on?
- Those who cause dissentions (literally divisions) or hinderances (literally stumbling blocks) contrary to sound doctrine (the teaching which you learned). You know, in the natural, I don’t like to deal with this. I don’t like confrontation of any kind. I know that comes from my particular past, because such past conflict has been injurious to me (I’ve meditated on my bed about that stuff). However, God has said this MUST be done. Be on the lookout for those that make contradictions about sound teaching. I’m not talking about things like pre- or mid-tribulation rapture, or even premillennial or amillennial approaches to Scripture, no matter how you feel about that. I’m speaking about things like Judaizer-level error being insisted upon. Things like sin not being sin, or that Christians are now in a state of sinless perfection, so that even if they are doing sinful behaviour they are in fact not sinning. Modern equivalents are things like saying homosexuality or its first cousin same-sex attraction are not sin. The first is flat out called sin, and the other fits under the “vile affections” label in Scripture. Abortion is not murder. Um – killing another human being outside an execution chamber that is government-sanctioned – seems like murder to me. People may think that if they are new Christians, but as they learn what the Scripture says, they should be being conformed to the sound teaching on these subjects. If they will not conform to sound doctrine, Paul here tells us what to do.
- We are to turn away from them. The Greek word here is a literal turning away from those who would cause offenses and occasions for stumbling. When someone says sin is not sin, we are to stop following what they say. When someone says it is okay to cohabit with a woman you are interested in before you are married, it’s time to stop following that person. If and when sin is no longer sin, go the other direction. Adhere instead to sound teaching.
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.
- Now Paul here isn’t pulling punches, he’s telling it like it is. These people are NOT Christians, no matter how loud they say they are. They are in fact slaves, but not the doulos of Christ. They are instead slaves to their own appetites. Think about the “popular” purveyors of “popularianity” today. What do they want? Well, your money as a start. They want sexual relationships with others, because that is also an appetite of sorts. How many of these guys have had affairs? Benny Hinn for starters. But not just him. NONE of them have any self-control of any kind, and that is a kind of warning right there. Some cannot control their own temper, nor do they want to. Some of them have the most vulgar speech. Some have demonic expressions – even their eyes change colour. Some of you could name the well-known “ministers” that I’m deliberately NOT naming.
- What is another characteristic of these folks? Smooth and flattering speech. All of these individuals (and not all are men) are incredibly articulate. But what’s the rest of that? FLATTERING. I was speaking with a brother about that yesterday, and this is why. I would like to think that brother’s heart really was in the right place, we’ve known each other a long time, and he knows some of the struggles I’ve faced, and I likewise know some of his – but flattery is a dangerous thing. Sometimes, I get the sense that I’m being buttered up for something and it makes me want to go take a shower. I’m not saying don’t have kind words for each other, we should – but it needs to be more than just flattery. It’s one of the reasons I find increasingly doesn’t get you anywhere with me because of this. Why is that?
- Because with the ability to articulate themselves and their buttering up of the person on the other end, these people are deceiving the hearts of the unsuspecting. I would think that this is not something anyone here would like to become known for.
- Brethren, it is up to us to guard the saints in the church against this, not employ this as weapons to manipulate people. When I do something right (and that can occasionally happen), sure, give me an attaboy. But here is the marker for this – if there is no good reason for the compliment, beware. Those that are starting with compliments in a conversation are usually selling something, and it isn’t always good for you.
19: For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.
- Why is all this important? Well there is a certain exposure that comes from being obedient to the Word of God as a lifestyle. We are somewhat conditioned to obedience by the continual doing of what God tells us. Now that is a cause to rejoice – doing what God tells you, that is – but as Paul says, we need to be wise in what is good and innocent, and in what is evil, because there are evil people that will try to take advantage of you. It is best to be on the lookout for said individuals and to be prepared for this.
20: The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
- However, we are not to fear these people. Why? God will crush Satan (and presumably his servants). In fact, God is going to use YOUR feet to do the crushing, it says. That’s very important imagery, saints. It goes all the way back to the garden and Genesis 3. Genesis 3:15 says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” God spoke that to the serpent as a part of the curse He was pronouncing on him. The seed of the Woman here is of course Christ, and we cannot forget that. However, assuming you are really His, you have been adopted into the family of God as mature sons, and His family is now OUR family, assuming faithfulness to the call. Then Paul finished the thought with, “The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” I assume that is because that is what we will need to cling to in order that this be accomplished. Praise the Lord.
The upshot here is that we are God’s people, and we are to be innocent and obedient to Him and His Word, and the prompting of His Holy Spirit in us in our lives. As we walk with Him in reality (and He knows if you are a pretender, and can change that pretender status to reality if you will repent), we will grow into these things. Being God’s people has a set of responsibilities that goes with the lifestyle we are supposed to walk in. There are people in the world that want to take advantage of us and our loving and trusting natures. As such, we need to keep a sharp eye out for the phenomenon, and be wise as serpents, but gentle as doves about it. This is not a call to arms, this is a heads up. And notice that the target audience is not the shepherds and elders and deacons – it is the church at Rome – all the believers there. This is something we are ALL to be on the lookout for.
21-24: Greetings from Paul and company in Cenchrea (Corinth)
This is similar to the first paragraph where Paul is sending greetings to named individuals, and now instead of sending greetings to Rome from himself, he’s allowing others that are in his company, and probably there with him in Cenchrea, to also “say hi.” Let’s jump in.
21: Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.
- I like this. This is the first-century equivalent to the phone call, where you put on all the family members to say hello at the end of the call. Who is the first one to send greetings besides Paul? Paul’s son in the faith, Timothy. We know that Timothy was in the crowd as Lystra, and likely saw a miracle Paul performed. We first meet Timothy in Acts 16:1-2. “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.” Right from the get-go, Paul saw something in him, and had Timothy circumcised (Timothy was half Jewish, through his mother, so it counted, Jewishness is maternal, being inherited from the mother), and brought him along into the work right away as a sort of personal assistant or apprentice.
- Lucius might be one of two people. He might be Lucius of Cyrene, who fellowshipped with Paul at the gathering in Antioch (Acts 13:1). It might also be a reference of Paul to Doctor Luke, the author of a Gospel that bears his name, and the book of the Acts of the Apostles, and possibly Hebrews, as the recorder of a sermon that Paul had preached, though that last bit is conjecture, because we don’t know who wrote it. Either way, it works for me.
- Jason was from Thessalonica. We first meet him in Acts 17:4, when not being able to find Paul, a mob of angry Jews dragged him out of his home and into the square to cause a riot, where Jason had to give some kind of pledge (possibly bail) to be released. (Acts 17:4-9)
- Sosipater is also known as Sopater, and was from Berea. We meet him Acts 20:4. He was likely one of those noble Jews that looked into their Scriptures to find out what was what, as we do around here, and was persuaded that Jesus is indeed the Jewish Messiah, the King of all kinging, and the Lord of all lording.
- All of these men were Paul’s kinsmen, meaning they were all fellow Jews.
22: I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.
- This is a kind of window into the practices of those days and writing letters. Tertius is a scribe of sorts, who writes letters for people, like a secretary would. It is important to understand that this is a saint sending greetings to Rome, however! He was the person that put pen to papyrus as Paul dictated the letter, and he was a brother! I think that’s important because it shows that behind all the theology, and the high principles given by Christ, and the glorious things that Paul wrote, it involved and was for humans!
23: Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother.
- Gaius was well-known to Paul. Acts 20:4 tells us that he was from Derbe, and was dragged by the crowd in Ephesus in the riots over the Temple of Artemis begun by the tradesmen that made the idols to sell to visitors to the city and/or temple (Acts 19:29). He also gets a mention in 1 Cor. 1:14 as having been personally baptized by Paul. This verse tells us that he had played host not only to Paul personally, but to the church that gathered in his house.
- Erastus was one of two missionaries that Paul sent into Macedonia to witness for Christ. The other one was Timothy. This verse tells us that he was a civil servant, in fact an important one, the treasurer for the city of Corinth. Interestingly, archaeologists have discovered a stone in what was Corinth from a building that says, “Erastus, Chief of Public Works,” from about the same time. It is possible that it is the same individual at a different time in his career. You know, it says, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble…” But there were SOME, and this one Erastus may have been such, being Corinthian nobility.
- Quartus – we only know two things. First, he was a believer in Cenchrea, and that he was a brother. But praise the Lord, any brother can be an example, as seen here by God’s preservation of his name in the very word of God.
24: [The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.]
- This verse is not contained in the earliest manuscripts, and it is easy to see how a copy error could have crept into a manuscript from verse 20. However, it might have been Paul giving a short doxology before the next and final paragraph of the letter.
I simply titled this last paragraph “Doxology” because that’s what it really is. What is a doxology, you ask? In this case, it comes from two Greek words: doxa, meaning praise, and a form of logia, meaning words. Put the two together, and you have “words of praise.” Let’s look.
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,
- Paul is invoking Him, the Lord, and is recognizing that He is able to make us fast, or to set us, to establish us, to strengthen us in our position. This fixing of our position, this making fast, is done by the power of “my Gospel,” according to Paul.
- Why would Paul call it “his” gospel? Isn’t it the gospel of Jesus Christ? Well, yes, it is. But consider how almost everyone else has ever been saved – by hearing it spoken by a preacher. It was not so with Paul, Jesus gave it to him directly on the road to Damascus. In a special and perhaps limited way, it was uniquely Paul’s in that he could claim it like that.
- And the preaching of Jesus Christ. If there was any doubt as to the mechanism of transmission of the gospel, you can put it aside – it is to be preached. But why?
- It has to do with how this preaching of salvation by faith in Christ was a mystery all the times of the Old Testament. With His resurrection, that mystery of justification by faith in the Messiah was revealed to mankind, not just a bunch of Jewish religious adherents. It was a secret in “long ages past,” but is no longer.
26: 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;
- See? Now it is manifested, or “made evident” or “explained”, or more like “revealed.” How? By the Scriptures of the prophets. There was a point where a couple of the disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus, and Jesus joined them, asking what was going on. “What, have you been living under a rock?” was the approximate answer to the then-hidden Saviour, who began to explain how the Messiah had to die for Israel, and he did it from all the prophets. They only recognized Him when He began to break bread!
- This was according to the “command” of the eternal God! This command had the result of making sure that people heard it, and then like the old shampoo commercial, they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on, right out to the ends of the earth, or as a friend of mine likes to put it, “until all know.” And that knowledge unchained leads to obedience of faith.
27: to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.
- This is an invocation of sorts, but more like a dedication spoken to or in the name of the subject of the sentence, in this case, “the only wise God.” That phrase was a bit surprising to me, because I am familiar with the King James version of the Bible. Normally, when it says, “the only-wise God,” it means the only God. Hee, the words actually mean to the only wise God, a phrase in Greek (mono sopho Theo) meaning the single widom-holding God, loosely translated. The only One with any wisdom at all, regardless of what we like to think of ourselves.
- How is that wisdom revealed? Only through Jesus Christ. He who is the “exact representation” of the divinity according to Hebrews 1:3. The King of kings, the Lord of lords, the One who sits on the Great White Throne, whose eyes are like blazing fire, whose feet are like burnished brass, the Alpha, the Omega, the first, the last, and all other points in between, our Saviour, Christ Jesus.
- To HIM be glory, “throughout all ages,” as a literal rendering says. Let it be so.
What a fitting end for a letter that states so clearly the unvarnished gospel of Jesus Christ, and in direct relation to the Doctrines of Grace, which are established all through out the letter. What should be clear at this point, and maybe it is only clear to me because of my in-depth studies, that this Bible is no ordinary book. In it are found the source of eternal life, and there is no other source. We see Jesus from the beginning of Genesis in the Old testament to the end of the Revelation in the New Testament. We only learn His name in the Gospels, but He can be found in every principle in the Scripture – every event, every law, every type and shadow. This is the Messiah that Paul met on the road to Damascus, and that He preached until they had to execute him to silence him, and they still couldn’t manage it – we still read his words today.
This work of gospel theology is of critical importance today, not only showing the lost the way home, but also providing a measuring stick to discern the truth from fictions made for no other reason than to lead us astray. My friends, you either believe it or you don’t, and that will be seen by the obedience of your life to the Scriptures. In the study of Romans in particular, I discovered that it is possible to miss out on eternal life itself by 18 inches – the approximate distance of your brain from your heart. Care must be taken to enthusiastically obey the gospel, because there is no salvation in the purely intellectual and academic study of this book. There is only salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, to the glory of God alone. I wish I could somehow convey to you that these are more than just words we say to feel good about ourselves. I wish I could impress upon you the need for real obedience and not just intellectual affirmation of these things. But for all my wishing, I cannot.
Only God can regenerate your understanding and your desire to know Him, and such is my prayer for you who hear my words. And please don’t think I am setting myself up over you in understanding and that somehow makes me think I’m better than you in any way. I don’t. In fact, I am much worse that, because I know the truth, and will be held accountable for what I know. It is my hope that you too will know the grace and peace that Christ provides for the sinner that will yield to Him, and I pray that you too will surrender your intellect, your emotion, and especially your pride (which is the sin of the Devil) so that you may truly become His child, adopted into His family, where you may abide in His vine for all ages to come.
And that is chapter 16, and the book of Romans. May God bless you all!