1 - 16 Greetings and Much More
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; 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. 3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 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; 5 also [greet] the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the [household] of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet those of the [household] of Narcissus, who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them. 15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
V1-16. Greetings! Look at all those names. Shouldn’t we skip this portion? To Paul, these names meant a lot. They were people who belonged to the Lord Jesus. Here you have a practical example of the unity of the believers. You greet people for whom you feel something special and with whom you are linked in a certain way. They are people you don’t see every day. Maybe you’ve never seen them and you’ve only heard of them. But what you’ve heard gives you the sense of unity, of belonging together. It can be very encouraging then to receive someone’s greeting. It makes you realize someone is thinking of you. This encourages you.
So greetings are important. They emphasize something you share. When someone tells you to greet this or that brother or sister, this is an important assignment. And so Paul here tells the believers in Rome they should greet a number of brothers and sisters.
What is striking in these greetings is something is added to many of the names. To Paul, this wasn’t just a heap of names. These persons meant something to him. Every one meant something different. With everyone he had a special relationship. In this way, your relationship with every brother and sister will be different. If you begin to have an eye for this difference, it will result in a huge enrichment in the interactions with your brothers and sisters. There are names too that Paul mentions without adding something. You may ask yourself whether there was nothing special to mention. Was there nothing that made them noteworthy? Were they boring brothers and sisters? I don’t know. Maybe they were simply inconspicuous brothers and sisters. In any case, they were included.
You see the same difference with the Lord’s disciples. Of some, we don’t know much because not much is said about them. Of others, we know much more because a lot is told about them. But there are disciples of whom we only know their names. What they did has been kept hidden from us. But God knows it and He doesn’t forget to appreciate their value.
God has His own way with every believer. It’s nice when something more can be said of you than your name alone, but this is not to make yourself more important. It must be clear that you’re driven by love for the Lord Jesus. You see this often with the names that Paul mentions. Often, something is added about the Lord Jesus. He was the motive for their labor.
I will only say something about some of the names. Think about the other ones for yourself. The first one mentioned is Phoebe, “our sister” (verse 1). Paul had a keen eye for the service of sisters. Of all the names he mentions, the first one is a sister’s. And more are mentioned in these verses. Phoebe must have been a special woman. She had served the believers in a practical way. Maybe she had received them in a hospitable way or maybe she made visits. Maybe she wrote encouraging letters. However it may have been, by her service she had assisted many. This means the things she did sustained and helped many to be strengthened. Paul had experienced this as a blessing.
Therefore he could commend her to the believers in Rome. When Phoebe came to them, they were to receive her in a worthy manner and to assist and sustain her. This is really a letter of commendation for Phoebe.
Then there was a couple which Paul especially brought to the attention to the believers in Rome. Her name was Priscilla and his name was Aquila (verse 3). The wife is mentioned first here. They are mentioned in the reverse order in other places in the Bible. If bearing responsibility or explaining the Word of God is in view, Aquila is mentioned first. And if a practical service within the family is in view, for which the wife primarily is responsible, Priscilla is mentioned first, as here. Paul had stayed with them (Acts 18:1-3). The rest of Acts 18 shows it was dangerous to have someone like Paul in your house. This couple had even risked their lives for him. Because of this, Paul was very grateful to them.
But the assemblies of the nations could also be grateful to them. For through their courage, the assemblies of the nations could continue to reap profit from Paul’s service. Likewise, when you’re doing something for a servant of the Lord, it is also a service to others who are served by this servant.
I want to end by pointing out the last part of verse 16. Paul not only asks the believers to greet his acquaintances, but he sends greetings from all who were connected with them: “All the churches of Christ greet you.” The church in Rome was linked with all the churches of Christ that existed in all sorts of places on earth. How good it is when this too is experienced. You know the church is very divided, outwardly. Is it still possible to experience the unity of the church? Yes, it is still possible. How can this be experienced? That’s what the next letter, the first letter to the Corinthians, is about.
Now read Romans 16:1-16 again.
Reflection: Send greetings to someone who hasn’t heard from you for a long time.
17 - 24 Be Wise in What Is Good
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. 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. 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. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 21 Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and [so do] Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. 22 I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23 Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother. < 24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.>
V17. In Romans 14 you’ve seen that the brothers and sisters in the church in Rome didn’t think the same about everything. This was about observing certain days and eating or not eating certain foods. In Rome there were brothers and sisters who were not yet completely free of the influences of Judaism. They had to learn to live with these differences and to bear with one another regarding them. But now Paul tells them something about people whom they shouldn’t bear with. Tolerance is a fine characteristic in dealing with weaknesses, but tolerance is definitely wrong in dealing with wrong, sinful, unscriptural things. You cannot tolerate these things.
If there are people among the believers who generate division and offenses contrary to the doctrine that has been taught you, you must turn away from them. The devil is always trying to cause divisions and quarrels among believers. He often follows the same approach as the one he followed with Eve at the fall in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of the Bible. He comes with the crafty question: “Indeed, has God said?” (Gen 3:1). This is how he sowed doubt in Eve’s heart about the things God had clearly said. In the same way satan tries to sow doubt among the believers about “the teaching”.
V18. ‘The teaching’ is not a dull theory, but the living teaching of the Word of God. Yet there are always people who want to make you believe it’s not really meant as said in the Bible and as you have learned it. You must “turn away from” these people. You hear these people speak more about themselves than about the Lord Jesus. They know exactly how to say or write things to mislead unsuspecting believers. These people don’t serve our Lord Jesus, but their belly. It’s only about themselves.
V19. I hope it can be said of your obedience that it “has reached to all” and that other brothers and sisters have taken notice of it. Then you won’t fall prey to those who sow division. To protect yourself from these people you need to be wise as to what is good, but simple concerning evil. Therefore, occupy yourself with good things and not with evil. Occupy yourself with the Word of God and with the Lord Jesus. You don’t have to inquire into the evil practices of this world to know how evil it all is. Rather, keep yourself far away from it. You shouldn’t try out evil. If you do, it will bring you down.
A number of young people have played with occult games out of curiosity and have become entangled in the occult step by step. Some started with gambling only once and ended up as addicts. Others smoked one cigarette, with or without marijuana, to be tough, and ended up addicted in the drug scene. Don’t try out sin! Take warning. The world you live in is now in satan’s hands. Maybe you know from bitter experience how corrupt the world is. If you’ve only recently been converted, you will abhor evil. Then you will keep yourself clear from it. Still, temptations will soon come to get you to join in again. Therefore, take care to be wise as to what is good. Keep on going with God!
V20. Satan may hold sway in this world now; very soon he will be bruised under our feet. Do you know by whom? By “the God of peace”. What satan wants is to bring discord. The God of peace will put an end to it. When you keep this before your eyes, you will keep peace in your heart. In this way the God of peace will remain your aim and satan won’t have an opportunity to occupy you with evil. To make this true in your life, you are wished “the grace of our Lord Jesus.”
V21-24. Some more greetings follow from individual believers to the church in Rome. Tertius is among them. He wrote down what Paul dictated to him. This was how Paul usually wrote. As a kind of signature he sometimes added a personal greeting at the end, as in 1 Corinthians 16 (1Cor 16:21). In an exceptional case he would write the letter himself. The situation in the assemblies in Galatia was so serious that Paul took pen in hand to write them about it (Gal 6:11). Whether or not Paul made use of a writer doesn’t diminish the authority of what is written. He, as an apostle, was the author and sender.
God wants you to know everything written down in this letter to the Romans. Your justification before God was the main concern. But with this, not everything has been said that God has to say to you. In the last verses of this letter you’ll read some more things that are in God’s heart to make known to you.
Now read Romans 16:17-24 again.
Reflection: How can you be wise as to what is good?
25 - 27 A Doxology
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, 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; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.
V25. Here, Paul arrives at praise to God. God is before him. God fills his whole vision. God is so great to him, that in these last verses he says things about God that go beyond the theme of the letter. Having talked about God and His gospel in such a way, his heart is too full to restrain himself (so to speak) from saying something about the “revelation of the mystery”.
The word mystery (used often in the New Testament) means that which was hidden in the Old Testament or was unknown, but has been made known in the New Testament. Paul doesn’t dwell on this, but by mentioning it, he lets you know there is more than what you have discovered in this letter. This doesn’t mean this letter is not as important. Without having studied this letter, you can forget about understanding anything of the mysteries. Paul’s teachings in his other letters, especially in the letter to the Colossians and the letter to the Ephesians, are closely related to his letter to the Romans.
I would like to give you some good advice. Read the letter to the Romans regularly. Then you will remain in direct contact with the basis of your faith-life. On this basis you can build further studies in the Bible. God is mighty to establish you in what you have learned in this letter. Isn’t the Lord Jesus everything to you? When the Word was preached, you came to know Him. He stands at the center of God’s plans and thoughts. By accepting Him as Savior and Lord you’re connected with Him. The Lord Jesus is not on earth but in heaven. This means you’re connected with the Lord in heaven, and because heaven is the dwelling-place of God and the Lord Jesus, you belong there also.
You may ask: ‘Is that so special?’ Yes, it is. Man was created to live on earth. The Old Testament shows this. The highest blessing the Old Testament believers knew was a life on earth under the Messiah’s reign. The Lord Jesus in His future millennial reign will be the central point of the earth. Every blessing will go out from Him over the whole earth and the whole earth will honor Him. The Old Testament believers longed for this time and they were looking forward to it. It will be a wonderful time.
V26. But in the New Testament we have blessings that exceed this by far. In the time of the Old Testament, this could not be spoken of because it was hidden. But now it has been revealed! God has given the commandment to make known that people would be with the Lord Jesus in heaven. They are people who believe in Him since He has gone back to heaven. He has then sent the Holy Spirit to earth to bring these people together. In other letters these people who are brought together are called the church. In those other letters you will discover what a huge privilege it is to belong to the church.
In God’s plan and heart, the church existed before the world existed. To form the church, God’s commandment has gone out to preach Jesus Christ among the nations. Whoever submits himself to Him in faith will form part of the church. Throughout eternity the church will be in heaven, in the Father’s house. Throughout eternity, the church will give glory and honor to Him who, in His great grace and love for man, has given such an all-surpassing position to men, though being sinners.
V27. The only wise God was the only One who could devise this plan. His Son Jesus Christ was the only One who could execute it. Who would have formed the idea to elevate tiny human beings, murderers of God’s Son, to the height of the Father’s house? Who else but God could do this in a way that will bring us to eternal admiration and adoration? He sent His Son to the world while knowing what men were going to do with Him! And at the same place where people murdered the Lord Jesus, the same people could receive all the blessings that God had on His heart to give.
Through Jesus Christ and His work at the cross, God will forever be given the glory that only He is worthy of by these people.
Now read Romans 16:25-27 again.
Reflection: Give God honor for all He has shown you of Himself and of His Son.