In this closing chapter, Paul greets at least twenty-six people by name, as well as two unnamed saints, and he also greeted several churches that were meeting in homes. He closes with greetings from nine believers who were with him in Corinth when he wrote the letter. What is the significance of this? It shows that Paul was a friend maker as well as a soul winner. He did not try to live an isolated life; he had friends in the Lord, and he appreciated them. They were a help to him personally and to his ministry. It is interesting that the servants whom God has used the most were people who could make friends. I know this personally. When I was isolated I was dormant. When we connect with others we multiply ourselves in the lives of our friends and associates in the ministry. While there may be a place for the secluded saint who lives alone with God, it is my conviction that most of us need each other. We are sheep, and sheep flock together.
In this chapter I have provided some assistance to the scriptures by putting in some helpers on how to read some of these names. the text with brackets “[” “]” is not part of the Holy Bible. I have only provided to assist in pronouncing the names, not to detract from the message.
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe [fee-bee], a servant of the church at Cenchreae [sen-kre-a], 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. – Romans 16:1-2 ESV
He began with Phebe, who he references as his sister. This is not a blood sister, but a sister in Christ. This section refers to many as sisters and family. Paul was passionate about Phebe being a part of his family. He states this in a protective way. Have you ever wondered what we refer to others as brothers and sisters? It is because we have the same spiritual father, God, the father of all. Also we have the same inheritance. The eternal inheritance to the throne in heaven.
1 Never speak sharply to an older man, but plead with him respectfully just as though he were your own father. Talk to the younger men as you would to much-loved brothers. 2 Treat the older women as mothers, and the girls as your sisters, thinking only pure thoughts about them. – 1 Timothy 5:1-2 TLB
Phebe was a member of the church at Cenchrea, and the lady who carried the letter to the saints at Rome. Never did a messenger carry a more important letter! Cenchrea was the seaport of Corinth, so Phebe was probably won to Christ during Paul’s year and a half of ministry in Corinth. The word servant is the feminine of deacon, and some students believe she was a “deaconess” in the church. This is possible, because there were women in the early church who served by visiting the sick, assisting the young women, and helping the poor. Paul confessed that Phebe had been a helper (literally “protectress”) of himself and other Christians. And he encouraged the church to care for her. We must be clear, there is nothing in the New Testament that indicates a woman cannot be a deacon. Let us not get hung up on the title and miss the glorious action of God through all lives.
3 Greet Prisca [pris-ka] and Aquila [a-kwil-a], my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. 5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus [e-peen-a-tus], who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus [add-ron-e-cus] and Junia [june-e-a], my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus [omp-li-ay-tus], my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus [ar-bane-us], our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys [stay-keys]. 10 Greet Apelles [a-pel-ees], who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus [air-e-stob-u-lus]. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion [her-rode-ian]. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus [nar-sis-is]. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena [tri-fina] and Tryphosa [tri-fo-sa]. Greet the beloved Persis [pur-sis], who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus [roo-fuss], chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus [a-sin-kree-tus], Phlegon [flay-gun], Hermes [her-mes], Patrobas [pat-ra-bus], Hermas [her-mus], and the brothers who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus [phil-low-a-gus], Julia [jewel-e-a], Nereus [ner-e-us] and his sister, and Olympas [o-limp-us], and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. – Romans 16:3-16 ESV
How we wish we had the details of the stories behind each of these names! We know that there must be so much behind their time with Paul to get any mention.
We have met Priscilla and Aquila in the book of Acts (18:1–3, 18–19, 26). Here Paul references her as Prisca, and Luke references her as Priscilla. It could be that Luke, being the doctor and essentially a journalist was more formal, and that Paul lived with Priscilla and Aquila and were on a causal basis. Where and when they risked their lives for Paul, we do not know, but we are glad they did it (see also 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19)! At the time of this writing, they were in Rome and a church met in their house. In this chapter, Paul greeted a number of such assemblies (Romans 16:10–11, Romans 16:14–15).
Four persons are called “beloved” by Paul: Epenetus (Romans 16:5), Amplias (Romans 16:8), Stachys (Romans 16:9), and Persis (Romans 16:12). Paul would remember Epenetus in particular, for he was the first of the converts in Asia. Apparently he belonged to the household of Stephanas, for in 1 Corinthians 16:15 these people are also called “the firstfruits of Achaia.”
Andronicus and Junias are called “kinsmen,” which may mean blood relatives of Paul, or only that they too were Jewish, possibly of the tribe of Benjamin like Paul. At one time they had been in prison with Paul. The word apostle here does not imply that they held the same office as Paul, but rather that they were “messengers” of the Lord. The word apostle has both a narrow and a broad meaning.
The Rufus mentioned in Romans 16:13 may be the same as the one named in Mark 15:21, but we cannot be certain. If so, then Simon of Cerene’s experience at Calvary, carrying the cross of Jesus, led to his conversion and that of his household. Paul and Rufus were not related. “His mother and mine” means only that Rufus’s mother had been like a mother to Paul (see Mark 10:30).
This list shows the parts that people played in Paul’s ministry and the ministry of the churches. Phebe was a “succourer” (someone who gives help in times of need or distress or difficulty) of many. Priscilla and Aquila were “helpers” and “laid down their own necks” for Paul. The conversion of Epenetus led to the salvation of others in Asia. Mary “bestowed much labor.” Andronicus and Junias went to prison with Paul. There is that bittersweet desire to have our names listed one day in such a list, but what weight and cost that may be. One can only give thanks for these devoted saints who fulfilled their ministries to the glory of God. May we follow in their train!
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. – Romans 16:17-20
Not everyone was working with Paul for the spreading of the gospel. There were some who, for selfish reasons, were dividing the churches by teaching false doctrine. These people were probably the same Judaizers who had given Paul trouble in other churches (see Phillipians 3:17–21). Instead of preaching the truth, these men spread their own religious propaganda, using deceit and clever speeches. We have the same problem today, and Christians must beware of false teachers. They come to your front door with magazines, books, and tapes, trying to convince you that they are teaching the truth. Paul gives two instructions: mark them (identify them), and avoid them.
It is a matter of obedience to the Lord and testimony to others. The issue is not making or keeping friends, but pleasing the Lord and maintaining a consistent testimony. Romans 16:20 suggests that these false teachers really come from Satan, and one day even he shall be completely defeated.
21 Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius [lew-shus] and Jason [jay-son] and Sosipater [so-sip-i-ter], my kinsmen.
22 I Tertius [ter-shus], who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.
23 Gaius [guy-us], who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus [ear-ras-tus], the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus [quar-tus], greet you. – Romans 16:21-23
What a roll call of heroes! Timothy was mentioned often in the book of Acts and the Epistles. He was Paul’s “son in the faith” and labored with Paul in many difficult places (see Phil. 2:19–24). Lucius was a fellow Jew, as were Jason and Sosipater. We have no proof that this is the same Jason who protected Paul in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1–9). That Jason was probably a Gentile.
Tertius was the secretary who wrote the letter as Paul dictated it. Gaius was the man in whose home Paul was residing at Corinth. First Corinthians 1:14 told how Paul won Gaius to Christ and baptized him when he founded the church in Corinth. Apparently there was an assembly of believers meeting in his house.
Erastus held a high office in the city, probably the treasurer. The gospel reached into high places in Corinth as well as into low places (1 Corinthians 1:26–31; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11). When I visited Corinith, this inscription in the marble is one of the most evident relics that proves this section of the bible is history and not just a story. In Greek, inscribed in the streets it recognizes Erastus as the treasurer. Linking history to the bible and the story of Paul. This is not just a folk tale, it is history you are reading.
Does your bible have verse 24?
24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
– Romans 16:24
A few translations such as NIV, NLT and ESV do not include it. This is near the closing of the letter and it is believed where Paul actually signed the letter in his own handwriting. Many thought it was sloppy and inappropriate since it is essentially a repeat of the end of verse 20. You can also see this similar behavior in 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18.
25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. – Romans 16:25-27
The closing benediction is the longest one Paul ever wrote. It reflects his special ministry to the Gentiles. “The mystery” has to do with God’s program of uniting believing Jews and Gentiles in the one body, the church (see Ephesians 3). This was Paul’s special message. It was because of this message that the Judaizers persecuted Paul, because they wanted to maintain Jewish privileges. Both Jews and Gentiles in the Roman churches needed to know what God’s program was. Some of this Paul had explained in Romans chapter 9—11.
Christians are established by the truth, which explains why Paul wrote this letter: to explain God’s plan of salvation to Christians so they would be established, and so they would share the truth with the lost. After all, we cannot really share with others something we do not have ourselves.
This means that our own study of Romans should make us more stable in the faith, and more excited to share Christ with others. And the result? “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever!”