Chapter Sixteen

    In the verses of this last chapter you might at first think you see only a list of greetings to be passed along to certain people. But I insist there is much more to be found in this list of salutations than at first meets the eye of the mind. While we scan the greetings themselves, let us be mindful that nothing short of genuine and sincere Christian love has motivated these expressions. Let us be mindful at all times that Paul wrote as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write. So these expressions have great significance because they have the stamp of divine approval. Brotherly love is a theme Paul often mentioned in all of the epistles he wrote. These greetings and commendations are means of expressing that love in words. These people were special to him. Some he had known in previous times and different circumstances. Obviously, he knew many of them personally. Others he may have known only through reputation or through mutual friends and brethren. Nonetheless, because they were his brethren, he was desirous to send them special and warm greetings.
    We might also learn something by the fact that one person is not mentioned here. In view of the contention made by Romanists that the apostle Peter was the first pope (an office of which the Scriptures never even hint, let alone authorize), does it not strike you as strange that the apostle Paul would omit a special greeting to "His Holiness" should Peter even have been there in the capacity claimed for him? Paul does not even mention him, let alone greet him.
    It is impossible for Peter or anyone else to ever have been a pope by the authority of Christ. There is not any Biblical evidence that Peter was ever in Rome at all, let alone as the "bishop of the church" at that place. Paul would have been guilty of the worst form of arrogance and insubordination to have written an inspired message, giving special instructions regarding many matters, giving special greetings to many brethren, but ignoring altogether the "vicar of Christ." Of course, this omission of Peter's name does not prove that Peter was never in Rome. But it does prove Paul recognized no such pope when he wrote the letter. Other evidences sustain this fact, also. But this omission does harmonize with all the evidence available that disproves the Romanist contention regarding Peter as being the first pope.

Verses 1 -2

1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

    Special commendation is given to a woman named Phebe. She was a sister in the Lord, and identified as a servant of the church at Cenchrea, a city in Achaia near Corinth. There is nothing here to establish that she was a "deaconess" in the sense of being a female counterpart of a deacon. Women serve the church in a variety of ways then and now without being given some special office, lest they violate First Timothy 2:12. Paul did urge, however, that she be received because she was worthy of being received, seeing how she had provided for him and others in time past. Whatever she would ask of them, the brethren ought to assist her.
    It is most unfortunate that this good Christian lady has been abused by some modern women's liberation heretics as an example of women taking office and authority in the church. Phebe did no such thing. Paul would not have commended her if she was in violation of the teaching Paul himself wrote in First Timothy 2:12.

Verses 3 - 5a

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house.

    This man and his wife were old friends of Paul, and also well known to the Bible student. Paul had first met them when he preached in Corinth the first time, being of the same trade of tentmakers. Paul had converted them to Christ. They had been influential in correcting mistakes of doctrine that the eloquent preacher, Apollos, had been making regarding John's baptism. They had exposed themselves to death in order to do the work of the Lord. Paul was so grateful for them, as well as were Gentile churches everywhere. Obviously their influence had been beneficially felt in a number of places. Even then the church was meeting at their house. Who can doubt but Priscilla and Acquila were strong, stalwart and powerful pillars in the church of Christ.

Verse 5b

Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.

    Mention is made of one who was among the first converts in Achaia, the well beloved Epaenetes. Surely, it must have been encouraging to Paul to know that those who were among his early converts were still remaining loyal and true in the faith. It is always a pain of sadness to hear of anyone turning from their salvation. But it is particularly distressing to learn of some whom you had converted doing this. Paul could rejoice in this person.

Verses 6 - 10

6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. 7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. 9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household.

    Paul notes a certain Mary who was known for her good work. Men named as kinsmen, whether in the flesh or spiritual kin I cannot discern, were Andronicus and Junia. Whoever they were, they obviously had suffered imprisonment with him and were known among the apostles. It is not that they were apostles, but the apostles knew of them. Paul also recounts that they were Christians even before he was.
    One named Amplias, others called Urbane, Stachys, Apelles, and Aristobulus are specially mentioned. Each of them receives some word of notation identifying them as beloved of Paul and being commendable Christians.

Verses 11 - 15

11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord. 12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord. 13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. 15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them.

    Another mentioned as a kinsman is Herodion. Special greeting is given to the entire family of Narcissus. To Tryphena and Tryphosa are kind words for their work's sake. Also alongside them was one named Persis.
    One denoted as chosen in the Lord was Rufus. The mother of Rufus is mentioned, and it seems in some sense this good woman was very close to Paul. Possibly she had been as a mother to him in time past. I even suppose one could speculate that Rufus and Paul were fleshly brothers, and the mother being mentioned was their very own physical mother. Such amounts to just so much speculation, however.
    Names of Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and other unnamed brothers with them are saluted. Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, Olympas and the saints with whom they were particularly associated were considered deserving by the Holy Spirit for special mention.
    These names have no special significance except for the fact that it shows the personal concern Paul had for brethren, and the extent of his dear love for them. What an honor it is to the lives of these people, the details of which are not revealed to us, to be among those whom the great and matchless apostle was guided to include in this list of worthy people.

Verse 16

16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.

    The sixteenth verse seems to be a cover-all type of greeting. The customary manner of considerate greeting, the holy kiss, is designated. It was the means of cordial salutation one toward another. While customs of greeting vary from people to people and age to age, the consideration one should have for another that provokes courteous and sincere greeting ought not vary. Brethren ought to love one another and greet one another with attitudes and in actions that display the same quality of concern and affection as was displayed by New Testament brethren. That type of greeting is not our custom. In fact, that type of greeting is often used by those who are anything but holy, or who intend to convey holiness by it. Nothing teaches this particular manner of greeting is binding upon us, although it is not wrong to so greet others.
    Paul sent word to the church at Rome on behalf of many churches with which he was acquainted, and cited that they all saluted the Roman brethren. He used the phrase, "churches of Christ." That is not a name or title of the church, but it denotes possession or ownership of the church. The church has no divinely given title, and it is a mistake to assign one to it. That some means of identification for the church for the purpose of locating brethren, for business transactions, and other reasons, is necessary cannot be denied. In our world where the confusion of denominationalism is the dominant characteristic of religion, those who strive to be simply Christians, (and this is the name of God's people in the New Testament, Acts 11:26), are forced to have some expedient means of identifying themselves in distinction from the many claimants as followers of Christ who are in human churches. The church belongs to Christ. It is God's church, the church of God. These phrases show possession rather than some title.
    Some object to using this phrase to specify God's people. Those who object are usually those who have chosen to wear names and identifications that one cannot find in the New Testament. It is, therefore, most expedient to "speak as the oracles of God" and identify the church as belonging to Christ with the phrase "churches of Christ."
    The plural use of the word church shows that Paul included more than one congregation who was sending this salutation. It in no way has reference to various denominations. There were no denominations to which reference could be made. Denominations did not come into existence by the teaching of the apostles, and are in existence because men have chosen to stand at variance from the authority of Christ. Denominations grew out of a departure from the truth that came years after the church had been established. They came after the epistle to the Romans was written. Truth had penetrated and grown throughout the world before that which has been called Christendom became plagued with the denominational concept of the church. Here the term, "churches," refers to churches in various localities where Paul had labored, and which he knew as good brethren. Paul is simply touching the hearts of the Roman Christians by expressing to them the salutations of their Christian brethren elsewhere.  Since his association with God's people was so extensive, he was well qualified to send this greeting on their behalf.

Verses 17 - 18

17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

    Having taught sound doctrine to these brethren for fifteen and one half chapters, it is not unreasonable to expect to find this kind of warning toward the end of the book. The truth of God must be believed and obeyed if one is to remain acceptable to God. It is nothing but reasonable to think that those who love the Lord will also expect brethren to remain loyal and faithful to what the Lord teaches. In the sad event where one or more decide to go against the doctrine, they must be disciplined. False teaching cannot be allowed to go unchecked without refutation lest error become the rule of the day. Churches are often divided because false ways that are injected into their spiritual existence are tolerated. Such false teachers ought be met with the truth and every effort made to persuade them to turn from their error and follow truth. The instructions Paul gives here are to be followed in the event such false teachers and their followers do not mend their ways. In such cases as that, they cannot be accepted further as faithful brethren because they are unfaithful to the doctrine taught and learned from authoritative sources. They are to be marked, identified, pointed out, and they are to be avoided. This means the church is to have no more to do with them, and they are to be sent on their way, rejected by the brethren, because the brethren refuse to accept those who reject the doctrine of Christ.
    This is a strong medicine to take, as one learns from other teaching in the Scriptures regarding discipline. But this action is for the purpose, and administered in the hope, of recovery and restoration of the erroneous brethren. There is never to be any manifestation of hatred toward those involved, but there must be hatred for the false ways being taught and practiced.
    It would not be the practice of Christian love to allow the one in error to continue in his error and allow him to think that it made no difference with God or brethren. The one who was wrong would then think he could do wrong and still be right. True love demands that false brethren and those in error be properly disciplined.
    Paul identified false brethren in most inglorious terms as being those who do not serve the Lord, but serve their own ambitions, "their own belly." Their self-interest goes above and beyond the interests of the things of the Lord. Surely, none in their right mind would consider it proper for God's people to appear to condone and fellowship people whose doctrines run contrary to the Lord's, and whose interests are primary to them before the cause of Jesus Christ according to the revealed truth of God in the Bible.
    Notice how Paul said they are men of good words and fair speeches, men who possibly have mastered the art of oratory, men who are personable, likeable, and therefore are able to win converts to their false line of thinking by such talents. They are men who are persuasive, and who can use language in a way that makes error appear to be the truth. In this fashion they have the capacity to deceive the hearts of others described as "simple." This does not mean simpleminded, illiterate, or ignorant. It refers to a condition of the heart. It means people who are honest and sincere in wanting to do what is right, but who obviously lack the knowledge of right and wrong, and therefore can be misled by those who have persuasive, subtle, and deceptive manners. Such people who mislead others are destructive to the Lord's church because they bring havoc and division. They cause many brethren who would otherwise grow and be faithful to lose their souls because they turn from the truth and follow after a lie.
    If there is one commandment that the church in my lifetime needs to study and practice with vigor, this is the commandment. With the ever growing tide of atheism, digressions, worldliness, liberalism, immorality, hobbies, and the exaltation of human intellectualism and reason above the wisdom of God, the Lord's people must bolster themselves and mark those who cause such doctrines that are contrary to the truth to be taught. If they do not cease their false ways, then brethren who love the Lord and his truth must do exactly what Paul commands to be done. They are to be marked and avoided. There cannot be maintained fellowship with them.

Verses 19 - 20

19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

    The obedience of the Roman brethren was widely known among the churches. For this Paul was glad. It was Paul's desire for these brethren that they be wise in the things that are good, and remain simple, inexperienced, and uninformed by practice and participation in things that are evil.
    This is a solid rebuke to that line of thinking we sometimes hear that one must experience a thing before he can know it. There are things that Paul does not want the Christian brethren to know through experience because it would only harm them. What benefit is it to a Christian to know how horrible sin is because he has experienced it? Is it not much better that he know the horrors of sin because God has warned him of it in His Word? Can he not demonstrate some true wisdom and learn from the tragic experiences of others pertaining to sin? Must he act so stupidly as to think he must dirty his soul before he can really know what dirt is? God's Word is the source of wisdom about evil things that we should avoid as well as what good things to do.
    Sometimes we hear parents remark, possibly in defense of their own sinful permissiveness toward their children, how they are not too concerned about their children being associated with some of the most wicked situations and conditions life can offer because, as they explain, they want their children to see the real world. They act as if they want their children to know first hand all about sin through experiencing it. They claim their children are too protected unless they are violently exposed to the worse behavior of humans. But God knows what is best for His people more than some permissive parents and intellectuals who have concluded that it is best to rub shoulders with evil in order to really find out about it. Paul wanted Christian brethren to be so far removed from what is wrong that they would remain "simple" regarding it, innocent of it, having no sympathy for it, having no part in it, not becoming insensitive to its horrors through frequent association with it. People can know about sin without committing it because God has told us what we need to know. Many of today's people who think they are modern and up-to-date have a lot to learn from these words of truth given by Paul in these verses.
    It logically follows that if one will pursue such a course toward evil as the Lord has directed, the Lord will provide for him. God, the God of peace between man and God as well as peace between man and man, will bruise, inflict injury, against our adversary, Satan. It seems to me the word "shortly" indicates that the Roman brethren might well have been suffering from some source various persecutions even as Paul wrote them, and the devil was using some means or some people to bring hardship against them. Paul comforts the brethren of Rome by admonishing them to faithfulness and wisdom in the things that are good. He pleads that God will indeed protect them, and the pressures mounting against them at that time would soon be relieved.
    This paragraph closes with the familiar remarks of Paul, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen." Paul knew from whom all grace and blessings flow. With this remark he would underscore in the minds of those who read this same fundamental truth regarding our Lord.

Verses 21 - 24

21 Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. 22 I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord. 23 Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother. 24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

    Paul returns to mention a few more names. This time he names some who sent greetings to the Romans. There was one named Timotheus. I wonder if this was the same Timothy to whom Paul wrote two epistles. There was Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, and Tertius, who seemed to have been used in some capacity in writing these words in the letter form for Paul. Gaius was named as Paul's host. Possibly it was in this man's house where Paul wrote this epistle. First Corinthians 1:14 mentions a man named Gaius that Paul had baptized in Corinth. As much as any other evidence, the mention of Gaius indicates the letter was most likely written in Corinth. John also mentioned a man named Gaius in Third John, verse one. Could it have been the same man? I know of no way to know. Surely, then, as now, many men had the same name.
    Erastus, a chamberlain, the treasurer of the city, a holder of public office in civil government, and another named Quartus, sent salutations. The fact that Erastus is named is additional evidence that civil government is not of the devil, and that it is no sin to be a civil servant. One named Erastus also lived in Corinth (Second Timothy 4:20).
    Verse twenty-four repeats the familiar prayer of grace for which Paul is known. There are similar sentiments expressed in other epistles the Holy Spirit moved him to write.

Verses 25 - 27

25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, 26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: 27 To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.

    Here are closing words giving praise and honor to Christ. Christ is the source of power. He is the One who can establish, stabilize, and ground the Christian. This is done by the gospel being heard, believed, and obeyed. The gospel must be preached.
    The gospel which must be preached, and was preached by Paul, was once a mystery in the sense it was not revealed. From the time the world began until God saw fit to make the mystery known, man did not know how God intended to redeem him. Now man can know because God has revealed His plan. His system of salvation is a system of grace, mercy, love, blood, law, and obedient faith by and through His Son Jesus Christ.
    The writings of the prophets or teachers, both Old and New Testament writers, gradually unfolded the scheme God designed, devised, and delivered. Now, with the full revelation of His will and covenant, all nations can know to obey the faith. Notice the phrase, "obedience of faith." Faith, in order to be saving faith, must be obedient faith. The system of faith demands obedience to the commands of the faith, which was taught from the early verses on this epistle. Observe the teaching in chapter one and verse five.
    Paul's final statement is an expression of glory to the true and living God, the only wise God. Glory is to God and is offered through the avenue that God designated. That one way is the only way, and is the way of Jesus Christ.
    Such is the system of salvation as revealed by Deity through Paul's letter to the church at Rome. Thanks be to God for it, and His revelation of it.

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