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Romans 16:1-27 | Werner Bible Commentary

Romans 16:1-27

Submitted by admin on Fri, 2009-05-29 11:41.

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Based on Paul’s commending Phoebe to the community of believers in Rome, one may reasonably conclude that she delivered his letter. (16:1) Later manuscripts even contain a subscription that specifically refers to the letter as being sent through Phoebe from Corinth. The context does not clarify in what sense this “sister” was a “servant [feminine form of diákonos] of the congregation in Cenchreae” (the port city serving Corinth for shipments to eastern harbors). It is unlikely that Phoebe served in an appointed capacity as a deaconess. She probably ministered to others in a general sense, rendering valuable service to fellow believers. (16:1; see the Notes section.)

Paul requested that the believers in Rome would receive her “in the Lord [in a manner] worthy of the holy ones.” As persons “in” or at one with the Lord Jesus Christ as members of his body, the Roman believers rightly were to welcome her as a fellow “holy one,” or one of God’s people. The apostle also asked them to assist her in whatever she might need from them. Indicating that she deserved such aid, he added, “For she also has become a protectress [prostátis] of many, even of me.” The Greek term prostátis may identify Phoebe as a “patroness.” Possibly she was a woman with considerable means and of high social standing in the community, making it possible for her to come to the defense of fellow believers when they were falsely accused or to assist them in other ways. (16:2)

Paul mentioned numerous believers to whom he wanted greetings extended. These included a significant number of women (Prisca, Mary, Junia [unless the masculine name Junias is original], Tryphaena, Tryphosa, the mother of Rufus, Julia, and the sister of Nereus). The apostle’s inclusion of women reveals the high regard he had for them and for the service they rendered to fellow disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. (16:3-15)

He identified Prisca (Priscilla, according to other manuscripts) and Aquila as his “fellow workers in Christ Jesus.” Like the apostle, this married couple was at one with Christ, individually being members of his body and actively furthering his interests. (16:3) The apostle’s mentioning Prisca first may indicate that she excelled her husband in being able to convey the message about Christ to others and in taking the initiative to aid fellow believers. In view of the diminished value the apostle placed on position or status (compare Galatians 2:6), it appears unlikely that he would have chosen to mention Prisca first on account of her having a higher social standing in the Greco-Roman world.

Paul expressed a debt of gratitude to Prisca and Aquila, for they had risked their own lives (literally, “neck”) for him (literally, his “soul”). This suggests that they courageously intervened when the apostle’s life was threatened. Not only was he grateful to them but so were all the “congregations of the nations,” probably meaning all the congregations primarily made up of non-Jewish believers and among whom he had labored. By exposing themselves to danger for Paul, Prisca and Aquila made it possible for him to continue proclaiming the message about Christ and to minister to believers, with resultant spiritual benefits to all who responded favorably. (16:4)

The apostle had met Aquila and Prisca when they came to Corinth at the time Claudius expelled Jews from Rome. He lived and worked with them in the tentmaker trade, and they later accompanied him to Ephesus. There they continued to live after he left by ship for Caesarea, returning to Syrian Antioch upon first traveling from Caesarea to Jerusalem. While in Ephesus, Prisca and Aquila assisted Apollos to gain a better understanding of “the Way,” that is, the way of life marked by attachment to Christ through loyal imitation of his example and faithful adherence to his teaching. (Acts 18:1-3, 18-26)

Sometime after Claudius’ decree ceased to be in effect, Aquila and Prisca returned to Rome. Their home served as a meeting place for a congregation of believers. This likely was a comparatively small home, and so the group may have numbered between 10 and 20 persons. Paul asked that greetings be extended to all of them. (16:5)

Others whom the apostle wanted to be greeted were Epaenetus, Mary, Andronicus, Junias or Junia (Julia, according to other manuscripts), Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, those of the household of Aristobulus, Herodion, those of the household of Narcissus, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus, the mother of Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, “and the brothers with them,” Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and “all the holy ones with them.”

Paul affectionately referred to Epaenetus as “my beloved.” He spoke of him as the “firstfruits of Asia in Christ.” This may mean that Epaenetus was the first person in the Roman province of Asia (a region in the western part of modern-day Turkey) to have become a believer through Paul’s ministry. (16:5)

The many labors Mary performed for believers in Rome doubtless included giving aid to needy ones. (16:6) She must have been exemplary in her love and concern for fellow believers, hospitably opening up her home to them, washing their feet, and giving food and clothing to those in need. (Compare Acts 9:36, 39; 1 Timothy 5:10.)

Andronicus and Junias were Paul’s relatives (syngenés). The Greek word syngenés) could simply mean a “fellow Jew.” Since, however, Paul did not identify all his fellow Jews as such, it appears likely that the believers to whom he did refer in this way were more closely related to him. At one time, Andronicus and Junias shared imprisonment with Paul, for he calls them “my fellow prisoners.” Based on their being mentioned together, the two of them may have been brothers. They were among the early disciples of Christ, having been “in” or at one with him before Paul became a believer. As early disciples, they had a fine reputation (literally, “are notable”) among the “apostles,” probably meaning those numbered among the “twelve.” There is a measure of uncertainty about whether “Junias” is to be regarded as a woman’s name (“Junia”), suggesting the possibility that Andronicus and Junia were either a married couple or brother and sister. The oldest extant manuscript (P46) does contain a woman’s name (Julia), but this has commonly been regarded as a scribal error. (16:7; see the Notes section.)

Ampliatus, depending on the manuscript reading, is called either “the beloved in the Lord” or “my beloved in the Lord.” As a believer at one with the Lord Jesus Christ, he doubtless endeared himself to fellow believers by his caring disposition and loving deeds. Whether Paul affectionately referred to him as “my beloved” or, in a broader sense, as “the beloved” is immaterial to his identity as a beloved believer. (16:8)

Paul acknowledged Urbanus as “our fellow worker in Christ.” Urbanus was at one with the Son of God and, like the apostle, actively advanced his cause. (16:9)

As other members of the family of God’s children for whom he had affection, Paul called Stachys “my beloved.” (16:9)

The apostle referred to Apelles as “the approved one in Christ.” This could signify that Apelles had faithfully endured trials and so was a tested member of Christ’s body. (16:10)

No specifics are provided about those “from Aristobulus.” Nothing is known about this Aristobulus or the relationship these particular members of his household had to him. (16:10)

Herodion, like Andronicus and Junias (or Junia), was one of Paul’s relatives. (16:11)

As in the case of Aristobulus, nothing is known about Narcissus. At least some “from Narcissus” or members of his household were “in the Lord” (united to the Lord Jesus Christ as members of his body), but their relationship to Narcissus is not known. (16:11)

Tryphaena and Tryphosa may have been sisters. Their laboring in the Lord doubtless included coming to the aid of needy fellow believers. (16:12)

Like others who are referred to as “beloved,” Persis must have endeared himself to fellow believers, for he performed much labor in the Lord. As a devoted disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, Persis would have been working hard for fellow believers, doing what he could to assist them to the full extent of his ability. (16:12)

Rufus is identified as “the chosen one in the Lord.” As such, he was one of God’s chosen people who was at one with the Lord Jesus Christ. Rufus may have been the son of Simon of Cyrene who was impressed into service to carry the beam when Jesus could no longer do so. (Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26) The mother of Rufus must have been advanced in years, which may be why Paul affectionately called her “his mother and mine.” (16:13)

Possibly Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the “brothers with them” constituted a group of believers who regularly met together in a home for spiritual fellowship. (16:14)

Perhaps another group of believers with arrangements to meet regularly included Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and “all the holy ones with them.” (16:15)

All believers were part of the family of God’s children. Appropriately, therefore, Paul encouraged them to greet one another with a “holy kiss,” a kiss that reflected their pure standing as fellow believers. Additionally, he extended the greetings of “all the congregations of Christ,” which may be understood to mean all the communities of believers with whom Paul had personal contact. (16:16)

Deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of the disciples in Rome, he admonished them to watch out for those would cause divisions and offenses among them, deviating from the teaching they had learned. They were to avoid such persons. (16:17)

These proponents of falsehood posed a threat to the spiritual welfare of believers, for they proved to be slaves of “their own belly” or their own appetites or sensual desires. They were no servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. With smooth talk and flattery (literally, “blessing”), “they deceive the hearts of the innocent,” the guileless, or the unsuspecting ones. In this case, “hearts” is probably to be understood to mean the minds, as the corrupt ones, with plausible reasoning and seeming display of kindly interest, tried to seduce others to believe falsehoods. (16:18)

News about the “obedience” of Roman believers came to be widely known. (16:19) It is understandable that many throughout the Greco-Roman world would have learned about their obedient response to the good news about the Son of God. A considerable amount of travel occurred between the city and other parts of the Roman Empire. (Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 regarding how widely the faith of the Thessalonian believers came to be known.)

Nevertheless, the apostle, though he rejoiced over them on account of their obedience, expressed loving concern for them, desiring that they maintain their divinely approved standing. He exhorted them “to be wise in [what is] good, but innocent in [what is] bad.” When it came to living an upright life and doing what is good for others, they were to manifest the kind of wisdom reflective of exemplary adults. With reference to bad, however, they were to be like innocent small children who are unacquainted with the debased and hateful practices of a world alienated from God. (16:19)

The apostle assured his fellow believers that the “God of peace” would shortly crush Satan under their feet. (16:20) In the context of Paul’s letter, this appears to relate to the failure of Satan’s efforts to cause divisions through teachers of falsehood. (16:17) Paul was confident that Satan’s influence would not succeed in disrupting the peace that God gives. With the help of their heavenly Father, they would triumph and the peace and unity of the community of believers would be preserved. Thus, thanks to the aid God provided, Satan would be crushed under their feet.

According to the oldest extant manuscripts, Paul added, “The favor of our Lord Jesus [be] with you.” (16:20; see the Notes section.) For believers in Rome to have Jesus’ gracious favor rest upon them would mean that they would continue to benefit from his aid and guidance.

The apostle’s fellow worker, Timothy, and his own “relatives” Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater extended greetings. (16:21; see the Notes section.) If Jason is the same person as the one with whom Paul and Silas stayed in Thessalonica, this could suggest that he, Lucius, and Sosipater were closer relatives of the apostle than were other fellow Jews. It would have been natural for a believing relative to have accommodated Paul in his home. (Acts 17:5-9)

Tertius identified himself as the one who actually wrote the letter, which the apostle dictated to him. He personally included his greeting. The words “in the Lord” may either mean that Tertius extended his greetings in the Lord (or as a fellow believer) or that he wrote the letter in the service of the Lord. (16:22) Translators, either in the main text or in footnotes, have rendered this verse accordingly. “I, Tertius, also send my greetings. I am a follower of the Lord, and I wrote this letter.” (CEV) “I, Tertius, the one who is writing this letter for Paul, send my greetings, too, as a Christian brother.” (NLT) “I Tertius, who took this letter down, add my Christian greetings.” (REB) “I Tertius, writing this letter in the Lord, greet you.” (NRSV, footnote) “I Tertius, who penned this epistle in the Lord, greet you.” (HCSB) Auch ich, Tertius, der ich diesen Brief im Dienst für den Herrn niedergeschrieben habe, grüße euch. (Also I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter in service for the Lord, greet you.) (German Neue Genfer Übersetzung)

Gaius, whose greetings are included, was one of the few believers in Corinth whom Paul had personally baptized. (1 Corinthians 1:14) At the time, the apostle was staying in his home. Gaius is referred to as both Paul’s host and that of the whole congregation. This indicates that the home of Gaius served as a meeting place for a group of believers, and all of them also sent their greetings. The list of those sending greetings ends with Erastus and Quartus. (16:23)

It is uncertain whether Erastus is the same person referred to in Acts 19:22 and 2 Timothy 4:20 or on a Latin inscription discovered at Corinth in 1929. In the letter to the Romans, the Greek expression oikonómos tés póleos identifies him as an official or former official of Corinth. The Greek designation has been understood to mean either the “treasurer of the city” or the “steward of the city.” (See http://bibleplaces.com/corinth.htm for a picture of the fragmentary Latin inscription.)

Quartus is called “the brother” (often rendered “our brother” in modern translations). This may indicate that believers in Rome personally knew him as their brother in Christ. The name itself is a Roman name, and formerly he may have lived in the city. (16:23; see the Notes section regarding 16:24 in connection with 16:20.)

God was the one with the power to strengthen the Roman believers in faith. When referring to “my evangel,” Paul meant the glad tidings about Jesus Christ that he proclaimed. The apostle’s prayerful desire was that the believers in Rome would be strengthened “according to [the] evangel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that has been hidden for past ages [literally, ‘eternal times’].” The means by which God would make believers firm in faith is the evangel or good news that Paul made known. This evangel is clearly identified as relating to Jesus Christ, for it is a “proclamation of Jesus Christ,” with a specific focus on what he accomplished through his sacrificial death. Just how Jews and non-Jews would come to be reconciled to God as his approved children remained a concealed mystery in past ages, but the good news about Jesus Christ revealed how this would take place. (16:25)

For this reason, Paul could say that the mystery has “now” been disclosed. According to the “command of the eternal God,” or his will, the mystery was revealed, and this disclosure was made known “through the prophetic scriptures.” When Paul and other believers proclaimed the message about Christ, they used the prophetic scriptures to explain the significance of his death and resurrection and what he had made possible for all those who would respond in faith. (Acts 13:23-41; 17:2, 3, 11; 26:22, 23) Paul gave the reason the mystery was made known to people of “all the nations” as being “obedience of faith.” As in Romans 1:5, “obedience of faith” could mean either the obedience resulting from faith or the obedient response in faith to the message about Jesus Christ. (16:26)

The apostle concluded by ascribing eternal glory or praise to God, the one who is uniquely wise. Paul did so “through Jesus Christ,” for it is through his Son that the Father effected the reconciliation to him that believers could enjoy. Fittingly, the ascription of glory to God ends with “amen” (so be it). (16:27)

Notes:

In Romans 16:1, manuscripts vary, referring to Phoebe either as “our sister” or “your sister.”

In Romans 16:7, the phrase “are notable among the apostles” could mean that they were themselves prominent apostles in the community of believers, though not of the twelve. This meaning would rule out the possibility that one of the names could have been that of a woman.

In Romans 16:20, numerous later manuscripts add “Christ” after “Jesus.” Another manuscript reading omits the words in verse 20 but places them after verse 23, and there are manuscripts that include the words in verse 20 and also after verse 23. For this reason, translations based on the more recent extant manuscripts have the words as part of verse 20 and as a separate verse 24 (which is commonly omitted in modern translations). Most manuscripts that include the words that appear in translations containing verse 24 read, “The favor of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with all of you. Amen.” Still another variant reading follows with the prayerful expression after verse 27 (not after verse 23).

After “my relatives” (in Romans 16:21), a number of manuscripts add, “and all the congregations of Christ.”

Manuscripts vary considerably in the placement of the words of Romans 16:25-27. These words appear at the end of chapter 14, of chapter 15, or of both chapters 14 and 16. In some manuscripts, they are omitted entirely.