John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
INTRODUCTION TO ROMANS 16
This chapter contains a recommendation of a single person, herein mentioned; a list of the chief of the saints at Rome, who are saluted by name, and some with singular encomiums; a caution to beware of false teachers; various salutations of persons that were with the apostle sent to the church at Rome; and the whole is concluded with a doxology, or an ascription of glory to God. First, a commendation is given of a woman, by whom this long letter was sent, who is described by her name, Phebe; by her spiritual relation, a sister in Christ; by her office or character, a servant of the church at Cenchrea, Romans 16:1, who is recommended to the saints at Rome, to receive her into their communion, conversation, and affection, as became them, and to assist her in every thing she might need from them; which is enforced by this reason, because she had been a succourer of the apostle, and many others, Romans 16:2, and next follows a catalogue of the principal saints at Rome, to whom the apostle sends his Christian salutations; and among these stand, in the first place, Aquila and Priscilla, and the church in their house, Romans 16:3, who are described as greatly assisting to him in the cause of Christ, and as having a strong affection for him; which they showed by risking their lives on his account, for which he gives them thanks, as did all the churches: Secondly, Epaenetus is next saluted, as having a great interest in the apostle's affections, and as being one of the first converts in Achaia, Romans 16:5. Thirdly, a woman named Mary, who did her utmost to serve the apostle, and those that were with him, Romans 16:6. Fourthly, a couple of saints, Andronicus, and Junia, described by their relation to the apostle, his kinsmen; by their sufferings with him, fellow prisoners; by the fame and credit they were in among the Christians of the first rank, even the apostles; and by their early conversion, being converted before the apostle himself, Romans 16:7. Fifthly, next in the list is Amplias, who is saluted as in the Lord, and as beloved in him, Romans 16:8. Sixthly, two worthy men are joined together, Urban and Stachys; the one is saluted as an helper in Christ, and the other as beloved by the apostle, Romans 16:9. Seventhly, Apelles is next named, and commended as one approved in Christ. Eighthly, the family of Aristobulus is greeted, Romans 16:10. Ninthly, a kinsman of the apostle's, by name Herodion: and, Tenthly, the household of Narcissus, said to be in the Lord, Romans 16:11. Eleventhly, two excellent women are greeted, who had been indefatigable in the service of Christ: and, Twelfthly, another woman, by name Persis, a person to be respected and loved, on account of her labour in the Lord, Romans 16:12. Thirteenthly, Rufus is saluted as one chosen in Christ, and also his mother, and who was the mother of the apostle, Romans 16:13. Fourteenthly, five of the saints are joined together, who are mentioned by name, and other brethren with them, whose names are not set down, Romans 16:14, and, Lastly, five other saints, with all the brethren with them, are likewise saluted, Romans 16:15, and these, and all the members of the church, are exhorted to salute one another in an affectionate and chaste manner, who are told that all the churches saluted them, Romans 16:16, then follows the exhortation to take care of false teachers, to mark them, and avoid them; who are described as schismatics and heretics, making divisions in the church, and preaching contrary to the Gospel taught and learned, Romans 16:17. The arguments or reasons made use of to enforce the exhortation, are taken partly from the characters of these teachers, being selfish men, who served not the Lord Jesus, but their own bellies; and deceivers, who by smooth words and plausible doctrines imposed upon simple minds, Romans 16:18, and partly from the characters of the saints at Rome, who were simple and credulous, and ready to give in to everything that carried an appearance of truth; and though they were to be commended for their ready obedience to the Gospel, yet it became them to mingle wisdom and prudence with their simplicity and readiness to receive what appeared to be truth, Romans 16:19, and from a promise of victory over Satan and his emissaries in a short time; to which the apostle annexes his usual salutation, and "Amen", as if he had concluded the epistle, Romans 16:20, but adds various salutations of persons that were with him, who desired to be remembered to the brethren at Rome, as Timotheus a fellow worker, Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, his kinsmen, Romans 16:21, Tertius the writer of the epistle, Romans 16:22, Gaius the host of the apostle, and of the whole church; Erastus, chamberlain of the city of Corinth, and Quartus a brother, Romans 16:23, and then the apostle repeats the above salutation, Romans 16:24, and yet still has not finished his epistle, but concludes with a doxology, Romans 16:25, in which is celebrated the power of God, in establishing his people according to the Gospel, commended by its being the preaching of Christ, and the revelation of the mystery hid from ages past; and the goodness of God is also taken notice of, in giving orders to make it manifest, and in making it manifest to the Gentiles, in order to bring them to the obedience of faith; and likewise the wisdom of God is observed, to whom wisdom alone belongs, and which is apparent in the Gospel before mentioned, and in all the methods of his grace, as well as providence; and glory to him, through Christ for ever, is wished and prayed for; and so ends this excellent and valuable epistle.
I commend unto you Phebe our sister,.... This chapter chiefly consists of commendations and salutations of persons, and begins with the former. It was usual to give letters of commendation of a member of one church to those of another; see 2 Corinthians 3:1; The person who is here recommended was, as appears from the subscription of this epistle, if that may be depended on, the bearer of this letter, and is described by her name, Phebe; as she dwelt at Cenchrea, it is probable she was a Grecian, as is her name. Pausanias
which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea. This place was a seaport of the Corinthians, distant from Corinth about seventy furlongs, or eight or nine miles: it was on one side of the Isthmus, as Lechea was on the other
That ye receive her in the Lord,.... This is one thing he recommends her to them for, that they would receive her in a kind and friendly manner into their houses, and into their hearts' love and affections; admit her to their private meetings, and into church fellowship with them, and that as one that was in the Lord, and belonged to him; and also in his name, and for his sake:
as becometh saints; that is, both that they would treat her with that humanity, courteousness, Christian affection, and respect, as became them who were saints by calling and profession; and that they would use her as being one of the saints, a godly, holy person, and as such an one ought to be used, by virtue of the communion of saints:
and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: what her business was at Rome is not known; whether it was only to visit the saints; or whether it was to have a cause tried in any court of judicature there; or whether she came upon worldly business, as Lydia of Thyatira was at Philippi to sell her purple, when the Apostle Paul was there, it matters not: whatever assistance they could give her, either by directing her where the saints lived; or by giving her proper counsel and advice; or helping her forward in her worldly affairs; or whatever she was concerned in, this is desired; and is another thing for which the apostle recommends her to them, adding this reason,
for she hath been a succourer of many; or "a patroness of many" of the saints in necessity and distress. The word that is here used, προστατης, is, as Harpocratian says
and of myself also; which would hardly have been the case had she been one that had only the care of the poor sisters of the church, which was the office of the deaconess: but she being a rich generous woman, and the apostle having shared in her bounty, gratefully acknowledges it; and he the rather mentions it, as knowing it would the more endear her to the saints at Rome, who would take more notice of her for the respect she had shown to him.
Greet Priscilla and Aquila,.... The former of these, who was a woman, and the wife of the latter, is in some copies called Prisca; and so the Vulgate Latin here reads it, as she is also called in 2 Timothy 4:19. Her being named before her husband, is without design, for sometimes he is put before her, as in Acts 18:2. And it is a rule with the Jews
my helpers in Christ Jesus; in spreading the Gospel, and promoting the kingdom, honour, and interest of Christ; for though they did not publicly preach, at least not Priscilla, yet they were very useful in their private conferences and instructions, both to ministers of the Gospel, as in the case of Apollos, and to young Christians: as the apostle, wherever he went, was instrument of the conversion of many souls; these were helpful privately in encouraging the young converts, comforting them with their own experiences and thereby helped them forward, instructed, strengthened, and established them; and so were greatly assistant to the apostle in the work of the Lord Jesus.
Who for my life laid down their necks,.... That is, exposed themselves to great danger to save the apostle's life: the allusion is to the manner of executions by beheading, and to one person's laying down his head, and offering his neck to the executioner the room of another: this we are not to suppose was literally done; but the design of the expression is, that in some shape or another they risked their own lives for the apostle's; which might be done either at the insurrection in Corinth against Paul, when the Jews dragged him to the judgment seat of Gallio, and beat Sosthenes the ruler of the synagogue before him; or the uproar in Ephesus by Demetrius and the craftsmen, when Paul and his companions were in great danger; at both which times and places these two persons were, and being very zealous, were no doubt active to preserve the apostle, and which he acknowledges with thankfulness:
unto whom not only I give thanks, but all the churches of the Gentiles; both for the care they took of him, and the danger they exposed themselves to on his account; which the apostle expresses his sense of gratitude for, and which all the Gentile churches were under obligations to do likewise, since they had a common share in his labours and usefulness, he was the apostle of them all; and also for their help and assistance in carrying on the work of the Lord in all the churches of the Gentiles.
Likewise greet the church that is in their house,.... Which was either their own family, which might be somewhat large, and consisting entirely or chiefly of religious persons; for when they were in other places they had a church in their house as well as Rome; see 1 Corinthians 16:19; or the saints at Rome, who used to meet privately at their house, and pray and sing praises together, speak to one another of the things of God, and build up one another in their most faith; and from their gathering together in the name of Christ, and for the worship of him, and among whom his presence, according to his promise, was, they are called a church, or an assembly of Christians.
Salute my well beloved Epaenetus; for though all the saints were beloved by the apostle, yet there were some, as this good man, for whom he might have, on some account or another, a particular affection; as our Lord, as man, had for his disciple John, though he loved all his disciples. There is one of this name, said to be one of the seventy disciples, and bishop of Carthage; See Gill on Luke 10:1.
Who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ; that is, either he was one of the chief and principal for gifts and grace, or one of the first that was converted to Christ in those parts: the allusion is to the firstfruits under the law, which were offered unto the Lord, and were pledges of, and sanctified the rest. The Vulgate Latin, instead of Achaia, reads "Asia": and so it is read in the Alexandrian copy, and others: the reason of this different reading seems to be, because the house of Stephanas are said to be the firstfruits of Achaia, 1 Corinthians 16:15. But this hinders not but that Epaenetus might be so too, for he might be one of the family of Stephanas, who was now removed to Rome. If he was a Jew, his Jewish name might be Judah, the same with Epaenetus, in Greek.
Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. Some copies read, "you"; and so do the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions: and indeed it seems most likely that the persons on whom this good woman bestowed so much labour, and to whom she was so very serviceable, were the saints at Rome, where she lived, rather than the apostle and his companions; not but that she might have been in some parts where she had met with him, and his friends, and had been very indefatigable in assisting and supplying them, in a very generous and liberal manner, with all the necessaries of life; and was exceeding useful in encouraging the ministers of the Gospel, and in promoting the interest of Christ. Her name Mary is the same with Miriam in Hebrew; whether she was of Jewish extract is not certain, and who she was is not known: some have conjectured her to be the same that Ignatius wrote an epistle to; not Mary of Castabilis, but of Naples, who was at Rome in the time of Linus, the Latin version reads "Cletus", and of Clement, on whom he bestows very great characters; calling her most faithful, worthy of God, and a bearer of Christ, and in all things wise
Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen,.... According to the flesh, being perhaps not only of the same nation, Jews, but also of the same tribe, the tribe of Benjamin, and even of the same family, and might be nearly allied in blood. And though the apostle did not value himself upon his carnal descent, yet he had a very great value and affection for his relations after the flesh, even though they were only of the same nation; see Romans 9:3; and especially for such as were partakers of the grace of God, as these his kinsmen were. These were their Gentile names, the one Greek, the other Latin; but both were Jews. Grotius thinks that their Jewish names were, the one Masinissa, and the other Naarah; and that the latter was the wife of the former, but they rather seem both to be men; Junia should be read Junias, a contraction of Junilius:
and my fellow prisoners; either at Philippi, or in some other place; for though we read only of the apostle's being in prison at that place, and at Rome, yet it is certain from his own account, 2 Corinthians 11:23; that he was frequently imprisoned; and Clement of Rome says, he was seven times in bonds
who are of note among the apostles; were well known by, and in great account with the twelve apostles, though not of their number; they might be converted by them, and be followers of them in Judea; they are thought by some to be of the number of the seventy disciples, whom Christ himself sent forth to preach: Andronicus particularly is mentioned among them, and said to be bishop of Pannonia, or rather of Spain; See Gill on ; however, they might be preachers of the Gospel, and be persons of great fame and renown as such; for which reason they might be called apostles, that being a name sometimes given to ordinary ministers of the word, and to such who were messengers of the churches, 2 Corinthians 8:23, as these might be, and were famous for their prudent, faithful, and diligent discharge of their office and duty:
who also were in Christ before me; which is to be understood, not of their secret being in Christ, as being loved by him, chosen in him, given to him, and represented by him in the covenant of grace; for they had not a place in Christ's heart, or a share in his love before him; wherefore the Arabic version is not only a bad one, but carries a false sense in it; which renders the clause thus, "who were in the love of Christ before me": nor were they chosen in Christ before him, for all the elect were chosen together in him before the foundation of the world; nor were they given to him, put into his hands, and made his care and charge before him; nor were they considered in Christ as their covenant head before him; Christ became their surety for them together, and received grace, blessings, and promises for them, and they in him before the world began; and was their common head and representative in time, in their nature; and they were all together crucified, buried, and raised with him, and set down with him in heavenly places together. But they were in the profession of faith, and in the church of Christ, and in the ministry of the word before him, being converted and brought to the faith of Christ before he was; which is the saints' open being in Christ, and is the effect and evidence of their being secretly in him from everlasting: this is to be created in Christ, or made new creatures in him; to be brought to believe in him, and even into him for righteousness, pardon, peace, acceptance, and eternal life, which are in him; and to live upon him, and in him, and derive all light and life, grace and strength, joy, peace, and comfort from him, as the branch derives its sap and nourishment from the vine, in which it is; and in this sense these men were in Christ before the apostle; they were converted persons, professors of religion, members of a church, and Gospel ministers before him: and though this is nothing in the business of salvation, who is called first or last; the one is equally as safe and as happy as the other; the thief that was called at the last hour, and the last man that will be called by grace in the world; yet it is a great blessing and mercy to be converted early; hereby a multitude of sins is prevented, and more, service done for Christ. And doubtless the apostle had this in view, and therefore gives these his kinsmen the preference to himself, that whilst he was a blasphemer of Christ, a persecutor of his people, and injurious to his interest, these made a profession of his name, preached his Gospel, and served his cause: it shows also, that they were persevering Christians, were pillars in the house of God, and never went out; and on account of their constancy and long standing, were worthy of respect. The apostle rises gradually in the character of these persons; as it was more to be fellow prisoners with him than to be his kinsmen, so it was more to be of note among the apostles, or to be eminent preachers of the Gospel, than to be fellow prisoners with him; and it was more to be in Christ than them all, than to be Paul's kinsmen, fellow prisoners with him, or to be known and approved of by the apostles, to be messengers of churches, preachers of the word, or even to be apostles themselves, and the chiefest of them; for such are blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ, are complete and perfect in him, are safe and secure, and can never perish; and being once in Christ, are always in him, and will be found in him living and dying, and at judgment.
Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. This was a Roman name; the Vulgate Latin reads "Ampliatus", and so do the Alexandrian copy, and the Ethiopic version: some call him "Amphias", and "Amphiatus", and say, but whether on good authority I will not affirm, that this man was bishop of Odyssus; but be he who he will, the apostle had a singular affection for him; and that not upon any external account, as natural relation, riches, honour, learning, &c. but for the Lord's sake, and as he was in Christ, a member of him, and so in a spiritual relation to the apostle; a "brother" of his, as the Ethiopic version here calls him; and because he was honoured with the gifts and graces of the Spirit, and for his usefulness in the Gospel of Christ Jesus.
Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ,.... This also was a Roman name, and which many of the popes of Rome have since taken to themselves; he is said to be one of the seventy disciples, and to be a bishop in Macedonia; See Gill on Luke 10:1; which is not very probable: others have conjectured him to be one of the pastors of the church of Rome, which is more likely; and if he was, but few of his successors have deserved the character given of him, an "helper in Christ"; in spreading the Gospel, and enlarging the kingdom and interest of Christ:
and Stachys my beloved; this is a Greek name, he is said to be one of the seventy disciples, and bishop of Byzantium; See Gill on Luke 10:1. According to the Roman martyrology, he was ordained bishop of the Byzantine church, by Andrew the apostle, but this is not to be depended on; he was, however, because of his faith in Christ, and love to him, or on such like spiritual accounts, very dear to the apostle.
Salute Apelles approved in Christ,.... Origen was in doubt whether this was not the same person with Apollos the Alexandrian Jew, whom Aquila and Priscilla met with at Ephesus; but had he been intended, the apostle would doubtless have said more of him, he being so eminent and remarkable a preacher of the Gospel; though indeed the character here given is very considerable; besides, Apollos did not live at Rome, though it was not impossible he might be there at this time. The name seems to be a Greek one, there was a famous painter of this name in Greece; though it was also used among the Jews, and this person here might possibly, be a Jew; for Horace
salute them which are of Aristobulus's household. This was also a Greek name, though in use among the Jews; there was one of this name master of Ptolomy, king of Egypt, who was of Jewish extract, and of the priests,
"In the hundred fourscore and eighth year, the people that were at Jerusalem and in Judea, and the council, and Judas, sent greeting and health unto
Aristobulus, king Ptolemeus' master, who was of the stock of the anointed priests, and to the Jews that were in Egypt:' (2 Maccabees 1:10)
One of the sons of Hyrcanus, the high priest of the Jews, was called by this name; Herod had a son of this name, and it was a name much in use in his family, and among his descendants: who this man was is not known, nor is he himself saluted by the apostle; either because he was now dead, or was absent from Rome at this time; for some say he was sent into Britain, our isle, to preach the Gospel, of which he is said to be bishop, and one of the seventy disciples; See Gill on ; or perhaps he might not be a believer in Christ, only his household believers, and therefore they only are taken notice of.
Salute Herodion my kinsman,.... According to the flesh, being of the same nation, a Jew; or of the same tribe, the tribe of Benjamin; or of the same family, and nearly allied in blood to him: though the name is of Attic, or Parthic original, and seems to be a derivative of Herod; this man is reckoned among the seventy disciples, and said to be bishop of Tarsus: See Gill on Luke 10:1.
Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord; some have thought, that this Narcissus is the same man that Suetonius
Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord,.... These two were women, and are said to be noble women of Iconium, whom the apostle converted there, and afterwards went to Rome the names are Greek
salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord; who being a woman also, and perhaps of Persic original, and might have her name from her country; her labour must be understood of the same kind with the former, only with this addition, that she abounded and exceeded in it; she is said by the Syriac scholiast to be the wife of Rufus, mentioned in Romans 16:13.
Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord,.... This was a Roman name; frequent mention is made Jewish writings
and his mother and mine; the mother of Rufus in nature, and his mother in affection; and who very probably had endeared herself to the apostle by some kind offices, which she, as a Christian, had performed towards him; for the apostle cannot mean his own natural mother, besides Rufus's, whom he salutes, and whom Anselm on the place suggests might be at Rome; since it can hardly be thought he would have passed the mention of her in so transient a manner.
Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes,.... The two first of these names are Greek, and the persons called by them, with Herodion before mentioned, are taken notice of in the Roman martyrology, as disciples of the apostle; Asyncritus is said to be bishop of Hyrcania, and Phlegon of Marathon, and both of the seventy disciples; See Gill on Luke 10:1; Hermas is said to be bishop of Philippi, or Aquileia, and brother of Pope Pius the First, and to be the author of the book called Pastor, or the Shepherd, cited by many of the ancients; but all is doubtful and uncertain. Patrobas is a Roman name, Martial makes mention of it
and the brethren which are with them; these seem to have lived together, with others who were their brethren, not in a natural but spiritual relation, and whom the apostle owned and loved as such.
Salute Philologus, and Julia,.... The first of these is a Greek name, and the name of a man, and signifies a lover of learning. This name Atteius assumed to himself, which Eratosthenes had done before him, because of his great learning
Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them; who all dwelt together also in one family; and were saints, by separation, imputation, and the effectual calling; were called to be saints, and lived as such, and had a place in the apostle's affections on that account: Nerio, or Neriene, according to Gellius
Salute one another with an holy kiss,.... Christian salutation is a wishing all temporal, spiritual, and eternal happiness, to one another; and which, as it should be mutual, should be also hearty and sincere, and this is meant by the "holy kiss"; the allusion is to a common custom in most nations, used by friends at meeting or parting, to kiss each other, in token of their hearty love, and sincere affection and friendship for each other; and is called "holy", to distinguish it from an unchaste and lascivious one; and from an hypocritical and deceitful one, such an one as Joab gave to Amasa, when, inquiring of his health, he took him by the beard to kiss him, and stabbed him under the fifth rib, 2 Samuel 20:9; and as Judas, who cried, hail master, to Christ, and kissed him, and betrayed him into the hands of his enemies, Matthew 26:49. I say, it is an allusion to this custom, for it is only an allusion; the apostle did not mean that any outward action should be made use of, only that their Christian salutations should not be mere complaisance, or expressed by bare words, and outward gestures and actions, either of the hand or mouth; but that they should spring from real love and true friendship, and be without dissimulation, hearty and sincere:
the churches of Christ salute you. The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions read, "all the churches"; that is, in Greece, or in the neighbourhood where the apostle was, and who might know of his writing to this church, and thereby send their Christian salutations to it; or if they did not know of his writing, yet as he knew their sincere affections, and hearty good will to this church, and the members of it, he in their names sent greetings to them: this shows the communion of churches, and how they ought to wish and sincerely desire each other's welfare.
Now I beseech you, brethren,.... The apostle being about to finish his epistle, and recollecting that he had not given this church any instructions about the false teachers, who had been the cause of all their differences and uneasiness, inserts them here; or he purposely put them in this place, amidst his salutations, that they might be taken the more notice of; and very pertinently, since nothing could more express his great affection and tender concern for them; and these instructions he delivers to them, not in an authoritative way, as he might, and sometimes did, but by way of entreaty, beseeching them, and with the kind and loving appellation of brethren, the more to engage them to attend to what he was about to say to them:
them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned. The men he would have taken notice of were such who divided them in their religious sentiments, introducing heterodox notions, contrary to the doctrine of the Scriptures, of Christ and his apostles, and which they had learned from them; such as justification by the works of the law, the observance of Jewish days, and abstinence from meats, enjoined by the ceremonial law, and that as necessary to salvation; to which some gave heed, and others not, and so were divided; whereas the doctrine of faith is but one, the Gospel is one uniform thing, all of a piece; and those that profess it ought to be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment: hence their minds were alienated from each other, and they began to despise and judge one another, yea, to go into factions and parties, being unwilling to receive and admit each other to communion; and thus by these men they were divided in sentiments, affection, and worship; and which must needs cause offence to the church and the godly members of it, as well as cause many so to be offended, as to stumble and fall from the doctrine of faith, and profession of it, and greatly stagger and distress weak believers, and bring a scandal on religion, and the name and ways of Christ among the world, as nothing does more so than the jars and discords among Christians: wherefore the apostle advises to "mark" such persons, look out for, narrowly watch, strictly observe, and diligently examine them: the metaphor is taken from watchmen, who look out from their watch tower, and observe who are coming, or pass by, and take up suspicious persons, and carefully inquire who they are, and what they are about, and whether friends or foes. So both ministers of the Gospel, and members of churches, should not be asleep, which is the opportunity false teachers take to sow the seeds of false doctrine, discord, and contention, but should watch, and be upon their guard, and look diligently, that none among them fail of, or fall from, the doctrine of grace, or any root of bitterness, error, or heresy as well as immorality, spring up, which may be troublesome, and defile others; they should observe, and take notice of such who are busy to spread false doctrine, should watch their motions, follow them closely, take them to an account, examine their principles according to the word of God; and if found to be contrary thereunto, note them as false teachers:
and avoid them; shun their ministry, drop attendance on it, depart far from them, have no private conversation with them, receive them not into their houses, nor bid them God speed; with such do not eat, have no communion with them at the Lord's table, withdraw from them as disorderly persons, who act contrary to the doctrine and order of the Gospel, and after proper admonition reject them from all fellowship with you.
For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ,.... They do not preach him, but themselves; they do not seek the things of Christ, his honour and glory, the spread of his Gospel, and the enlargement of his kingdom and interest; they seek their own things, worldly honour and applause, riches, wealth, and grandeur; they seek to please men, and so are not the servants of Christ: they introduced the observance of meats and drinks in to the kingdom of Christ, which it do not consist of, and neglected the doctrines of righteousness and peace, from whence springs joy in the Holy Ghost, and so in these spiritual things did not serve Christ; and therefore, as they were not acceptable to God, were not to be approved of by Christian men, but to be marked and avoided:
but their own belly; which they made a god of, and devoted themselves to the service of all their views were to gratify and indulge their sensual appetite. The false teachers among the Jews were particularly addicted to this vice: hence the apostle sometimes calls them dogs, Philemon 3:2, on account of their voraciousness, and who, in Isaiah's time, were greedy ones that could never have enough, Isaiah 56:11; and in our Lord's time devoured widows' houses, under a pretence of long prayers for them, Matthew 23:14; and were like the Cretians, evil beasts, and slow bellies, Titus 1:12, unwilling to labour, and lived upon the spoil of others:
and by good words, and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple: they were deceivers; they lay in wait to deceive, made use of the hidden things of dishonesty, walked in craftiness, and handled the word of God deceitfully; and therefore to be marked and avoided: they deceived "the simple", harmless, and innocent, that think no evil, nor are aware of any; who have little understanding of things; persons of weak minds, easy to be imposed upon; very credulous, ready to believe every word, so the simple man does, as Solomon says, Proverbs 14:15; and such false teachers choose to tamper with, and make their attacks upon, being able to gain upon them the most easily, as their father the devil, the old serpent, did, when he first assailed human nature: the "hearts" of these they deceive; they work upon their affections, blind their understandings, impose on their judgments, and corrupt their minds from the simplicity that is in Christ: and this they do "by good words and fair speeches"; either by making use of the words of Scripture, and a show of arguments taken from thence; so Satan cited Scripture in his dispute with our Lord; and so heretics, in all ages, have pretended toil in favour of their principles, by which means they have gained on many to follow their pernicious ways; or by using words and phrases that faithful ministers of Christ use, such as the grace of God, the righteousness of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, but in a different sense; as some among us now frequently make mention of them, when they mean no more by them than the light of nature within them, and the dictates of a natural conscience; or by an elegant style, a set of fine words, a flow of rhetorical expressions, great swelling words of vanity, which such men generally affect, and so work themselves into the admiration of the common people; or by doctrines suited to the carnal minds and reasonings of men, which tickle human nature, and swell it with pride and vanity; as by preaching up the purity and power of it, asserting man's free will, and the strength of it to that which is good; the capacity of man to keep the law, and perform good works; justification by them before God, and acceptance with him, on account of them; atonement for sins committed, by repentance and reformation; that God does not regard trifling things, some sins are venial, and easily passed over; that concupiscence is no sin; God does not rigorously exact duty, he takes the will for the deed, and is merciful unto all, and if but sincere, there is no doubt of heaven; and such men, generally speaking, instead of correcting vice, and reproving men for their sins, connive at them, indulge them in them, soothe and flatter, commend and defend them, whereby they attach them to their persons and interest.
For your obedience is come abroad unto all men,.... That is, as the Arabic and Ethiopic versions render it, "the fame" and report of their obedience to the faith, to the doctrine of the Gospel, and the ministers of it, was spread everywhere, was well known to everyone, and spoken of with commendeth among all the churches in all nations: and this the apostle mentions as another reason why they should beware of false teachers, since it would be greatly to their reproach, should they, after all this, drop that form of doctrine which they had obeyed, desert the faithful ministers of the word, and follow these false teachers; should this be the case, they would be as notorious for their disobedience, as now for their obedience: and moreover, the apostle might hereby suggest, that whereas it was everywhere known how readily and at once they embraced the Gospel of Christ; this credulity and readiness to believe, which was their commendation, might have invited false teachers among them, who might hope and take encouragement from hence the more easily to gain upon them; and therefore they ought to be upon their watch and guard, and beware of them, and not believe every spirit:
I am glad therefore on your behalf; that they had so cheerfully and readily embraced the Gospel, and from the heart obeyed that form of doctrine delivered to them; and that their praise for this was in all the churches of Christ, and had everywhere a good report on this account:
but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil; which is just the reverse of natural and unregenerate men, who are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge; some reference seems to be had to the words of Christ in Matthew 10:16; the apostle's meaning is, that though he rejoiced at the heartiness and simplicity of their obedience, and the credit they obtained abroad on account of it, yet was he not without his fears and jealousies concerning them; and could not but greatly wish them more wisdom to understand the doctrines of the Gospel, to discern things that differ, and approve that which is the most excellent, and hold fast that which is good; and with all their harmlessness, innocence, and simplicity, prudently guard against all evil doctrines and principles, such as might unawares lead them into bad practices, dishonourable to religion, and uncomfortable to themselves.
And the God of peace,.... See Gill on Romans 15:33;
shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. Some read this by way of wish or prayer, "may the God of peace bruise"; so the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, and the Alexandrian copy; but others as ours, as a promise, or as expressive of the apostle's faith and hope in this matter; and which he mentions to encourage the members of this church to be upon their guard, and make head against these false teachers; since in a little time they might be assured of victory over Satan and these his emissaries: as it is before suggested, that the methods these men used to beguile weak minds were much like those that Satan used when he attacked our first parents, so here is a manifest allusion to what was said by way of threatening to him, "it", the woman's seed, "shall bruise thy head", Genesis 3:15; and which has had its accomplishment in Christ, who has not only destroyed the works of the devil, but him himself, and spoiled his principalities and powers, and bruised him and them under his feet, when he led captivity captive; and though, for the trial of the graces of his people, Satan is permitted to attack them in various shapes, yet in a short time he will be bruised under their feet, as he is already under their Lord and master's. The apostle refers not so much to his coming among them in a short time, when he might hope and believe that he should be an instrument of crushing these men Satan made use of, of quelling the contentions they raised, and putting a stop to the divisions they made, and under the influence, and by the assistance of the God of peace, restore them to their former peace and tranquillity, though it is a sense not to be despised; much less does he refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, which was to be in a very short time, when the crucifiers of Christ and the persecutors of the saints would have the wrath of God come upon them to the uttermost, since these Romans had no great and immediate concern with them; nor does he regard the spread of the Gospel in the Gentile world, whereby Satan fell as lightning from heaven, and was cast out of the idol temples, for this was greatly fulfilled already: but rather he refers to the time of Constantine, when Satan's seat at Rome was overturned, when he was cast down from his throne and trampled under feet, who had deceived the whole world, the whole Roman empire, when the Gospel triumphed over its secret and open enemies, profane persecutors, and perfidious teachers, over idolatry and superstition on the one hand, and error and heresy on the other, though this did not last long; wherefore some have thought the apostle refers to the latter day, when Satan shall be bound a thousand years, or to the last of all, when he shall be for ever under the feet of the saints, and never be able to give them any more trouble; and this the apostle might say would be shortly, since the second coming of Christ was expected to be quickly: yea, this may be applied to the case of every believer now, and be for his encouragement to be vigilant and on his guard against Satan, to resist him, repel his temptations, and oppose his emissaries; since he may assure himself he shall be more than a conqueror over him through Christ, that has loved him, and that in a very little time, when death comes, and he shall enter into the joy of his Lord, where he will be out of the reach of Satan, and unmolested by him.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, Amen: to enable you to abide by the truth; to mark and avoid the authors of sects, and causes of divisions, and offences; to oppose error and defend truth; to keep from falling, to stand against every assault of Satan, and to bear up under every temptation of his; to get the victory over him, and to preserve them safe to the kingdom and glory of Christ.
Timotheus my work fellow,.... Now follow the salutations of the friends and companions of the apostle: we may imagine that when this epistle was just concluding, that these his friends being about him, one said, pray send my Christian salutation to our dear friends at Rome, so said a second, and likewise a third, and so on, and Timotheus he began. This is the same person with Timothy, a disciple the apostle met with at Derbe, whose father was a Greek, and his mother a Jewess, and a believer in Christ. This same man he circumcised because of the Jews, and took him along with him, and was his companion in his travels, and very assisting to him in the work of the ministry, in spreading the Gospel, and promoting the interest of Jesus Christ; and therefore he here calls him his "work fellow"; he wrote two epistles to him afterwards when at a distance front him, in which he often calls him his son, his dear and well beloved son, having a great affection for him, because as a son with a father he served with him in the Gospel of Christ:
and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater my kinsmen salute you. This Lucius was either Lucius of Cyrene, who was one of the prophets in the church at Antioch, Acts 13:1, though indeed he is never said to travel with the apostle, or to be at Corinth, from whence this epistle was written; or rather, therefore, as others think, Luke the evangelist, who was a constant companion of the apostle, and was at Corinth with him at this time, as appears from Acts 20:5; Jason no doubt is he of Thessalonica, that received Paul and Silas into his house, and when an uproar was made concerning them, was brought before the rulers of the city, and gave security for them, Acts 17:5. This is a Jewish name, and he himself was a Jew, as is clear from his being a kinsman of the apostle's; his name was ישוע, "Jeshua" or "Jesus"; so we read of one Jason, the brother of Onias the high priest of the Jews,
"But after the death of Seleucus, when Antiochus, called Epiphanes, took the kingdom,
Jason the brother of Onias laboured underhand to be high priest,' (2 Maccabees 4:7)
and whose name, as Josephus
"12. Howbeit Dositheus and
Sosipater, who were of Maccabeus' captains, went forth, and slew those that Timotheus had left in the fortress, above ten thousand men. 24. Moreover Timotheus himself fell into the hands of Dositheus and
Sosipater, whom he besought with much craft to let him go with his life, because he had many of the Jews' parents, and the brethren of some of them, who, if they put him to death, should not be regarded.' (2 Maccabees 12:12,24)
These three last were Paul's kinsmen after the flesh, as well as in the spirit; being of the same nation, and perhaps of the same tribe, and it may be of the same family; they are all three mentioned among the severity disciples: Lucius is said to be bishop of Laodicea in Syria, Jason of Tarsus, and Sosipater of Iconium; See Gill on Luke 10:1.
I Tertius, who wrote this epistle,.... This name is a Latin one, and perhaps the person might be a Roman, for the names Secundus, Tertius, Quartus, Quintus, &c. were common with the Romans; unless it may be thought, as it is by some, that this man was the same with Silas, who was a constant companion of the apostle; and the Hebrew word שלש is the same as Tertius; he also is numbered among the seventy disciples, and said to be bishop of Iconium; See Gill on Luke 10:1. Whosoever he was, it is certain he was an amanuensis of the apostle, who wrote this letter, either from the apostle's notes, or from his mouth.
Salute you in the Lord. Some connect this phrase, "in the Lord", with the other, "wrote this epistle", and make the sense to be that he wrote this epistle for the Lord's sake, for his honour and glory; which he might do, though he wrote it not by inspiration, being only scribe to the apostle; but it is better connected with the word "salute", and the sense is, that his salutation was not a mere form, nor only concerned their temporal good, but their spiritual welfare; that he wished them well in the Lord, that they might have much communion with him, and larger measures of grace from him.
Gaius mine host,.... There was one Gaius a Macedonian, that was with the apostle at Ephesus, Acts 19:29; and another Gaius of Derbe, that accompanied him into Asia, Acts 20:4; whether either of these, as the latter seems more probable, was this person, is not certain. However, it seems very likely that it is the same Gaius the apostle baptized at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 1:14; and some have thought him to be the same that the Apostle John wrote his third epistle to, and indeed the characters of hospitality and generosity there given him well agree with this, who was not only the apostle's host that entertained him in a kind and liberal manner, but of all the saints:
and of the whole church, saluteth you; that is, of the church at Corinth, to whom he was kind and hospitable, even to as many as stood in need of his assistance; or of the church of Christ in general, being beneficent and liberal to all Christian strangers that came that way, lodged them at his house, and provided every thing proper and convenient for them. Dr. Lightfoot thinks that there was a public hospital or receptacle for strangers at Corinth, in imitation of the Jews, who had a place adjoining to their synagogues to entertain travellers in; and that Gaius was the chief officer and overseer of this house, who, discharging his trust well, is deservedly commended. That the Jews had places near their synagogues for such a purpose is, certain. It is said
"why do they sanctify (or consecrate the day?) that travellers may do their duty, who eat, and drink, and sleep in the synagogue.'
The gloss on it is,
"not the synagogue itself, but the chambers which were near the synagogue, are called the synagogue, and from thence they heard the consecration.'
"in the synagogues they neither eat nor drink--but there is a place near the synagogue where travellers used to sleep and eat;'
and then follows what is said before. And Maimonides
"there is no sanctification (of the sabbath) but in the place where the meal is eaten; so a man may not sanctify in one house, and eat in another; but if he sanctifies in this, he must eat in this; but why do they sanctify in the synagogue? because of travellers who eat and drink there.'
Upon which his commentator remarks
"they do not eat in the synagogue at all, but they eat, בבית הסמוך לבית הכנסת, "in a house near the synagogue", where they sit at the time of hearing the sanctification.'
But whether there was such an house at Corinth near the place of public worship, or any where else for this purpose, is not certain; and to make Gains only an overseer over such an house, though a faithful one, greatly sinks his character; since one would conclude from hence, that his entertainment of the apostle, and other saints, was at his own expense.
Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you; whom the apostle is said to leave at Corinth, 2 Timothy 4:20, and at another time to send along with Timotheus into Macedonia, if the same person is intended; for these do not seem so well to accord with his being in such an office, which must require attendance, and would not admit of going from place to place with the apostle, or of being sent by him. The city, of which he was chamberlain, was the city of Corinth, where the apostle and this Erastus were, when this epistle was wrote. The word translated "chamberlain", is often used for a steward; and here it signifies such an officer as had the care of the city chest or coffer, and distributed the public money; and seems to answer to the "quaestor urbanus", or city treasurer, among the Romans, whose business it was to receive the city accounts, and disburse at all occasions of public expenses; so that this was a place of honour and trust; hence it appears, that though not many, yet some rich and honourable were called by grace, and embraced the Gospel. His name signifies beloved, and is the same with David in Hebrew. What nation he was of is not certain, whether a Roman, a Greek, or Jew; one of this name is reckoned among the seventy disciples, and it said to be bishop of Paneas, or of the Philippians; See Gill on Luke 10:1.
Quartus a brother; not of Tertius, nor of Erastus, nor of the apostle according to the flesh, as some have thought, but a brother in a spiritual relation. This man, as appears from his name, was a Roman; probably had before lived at Rome, and therefore sends his salutations to the Christians there: he is mentioned among the seventy disciples, and said to be bishop of Berytus; See Gill on Luke 10:1.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. This verse is placed by the Syriac at the end of the chapter, and is wanting in the Ethiopic version, and in one ancient copy, being, excepting the word all, the same as at the end of Romans 16:20; but inasmuch as it is in all other copies, it ought to be repeated and stand here: the reason of the repetition may either be, because the former might be written by his amanuensis, and this with his own hand, as was usual with him in all his epistles, by which they might be known to be his, 2 Thessalonians 3:17; or the apostle having so great an affection for this church, knew not how to take his leave of them, but repeats his valediction again and again, as here, and in Romans 16:20. Romans 16:25 are placed in some copies, at the end of Romans 16:14, and omitted here, as they are by the Arabic version, which begins thus, "to the only most wise God, Jesus Christ": and so considers the following doxology as be, longing to Christ, and to him as God, and as the only most wise God.
Now to him that is of power to stablish you,.... God is here described by his power, and the particular instance of it is the establishing of his people; that is, in the Gospel, as the Syriac version reads the next clause, and in the profession of it, with grace in their hearts, and in the exercise of it, and more lively and cheerful discharge of duty; See Gill on Romans 1:11;
according to my Gospel; this is the means by which God usually establishes his people in faith and holiness; it is, indeed, an act of divine power, and which there is reason to hope and believe will be exerted; for words which express the power of God to do this, or the other thing, generally import willingness to do it, as the word does here; but then this is commonly done in the use of means: and that is the Gospel, than which nothing has a greater tendency to, and is better calculated for, and with a divine blessing always issues in the establishment of the saints. The apostle calls the Gospel his, not because he was the author of it, or the subject of it; but because he was the minister of it; it was that Gospel which he was sent and qualified to preach, and did preach fully and faithfully, and which he explains by the following clauses:
and the preaching of Jesus Christ: being that Gospel which Jesus Christ himself preached, for which he was anointed and sent, and which first began to be spoken by him in its power and purity, and in such a manner as it never was before or since: and of which he also is the subject; it treats of his person, offices, righteousness, blood, sacrifice, and salvation; and which when preached aright is done in his name, by his authority, through gifts, grace, and strength received from him, and with a view to his glory: it follows as a further explanation of it,
according to the revelation of the mystery; by which is meant, not, as some think, only the calling and conversion of the Gentiles through the preaching of the Gospel, though what is said of it well agrees with it; see Ephesians 3:3; nor merely the mystery of Christ's incarnation and redemption by him; but the whole Gospel, and all the truths of it, which is often in Scripture called a "mystery", because the reason of many of its important doctrines does not clearly appear to the carnal reason of men; and the "modus" of several of them will ever remain inexplicable by us, as the doctrine of the Trinity, the sonship of Christ, and his incarnation, the resurrection, &c. though the things themselves are most clearly revealed, as here "revelation" is ascribed unto them; by which is meant not that internal revelation of them, by the Spirit of God to the souls of men, though absolutely necessary to the understanding of them in a spiritual manner; nor the revelation of them to the apostles by Christ, by which, and not by men, they were taught and received; but that revelation which they have made of them in the external ministry of the word:
which was kept secret since the world began, or "from eternal times": from all the ages of the former dispensation, or that have run out from the beginning of the world; not that this mystery of the Gospel was entirely unknown, nor any hints given of it in those ages; for there certainly were, as to our first parents after the fall, to Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and others; but it was but obscurely revealed, only some dark intimations were given of it; it was exhibited in types, shadows, and sacrifices; and, in a comparative sense, was wrapped up in darkness and silence, in reference to the more clear discovery and open exhibition of it under the Gospel dispensation.
But now is made manifest,.... In these last days, in which God has spoken by his Son, by whom the doctrines of grace are most clearly revealed, and fully dispensed; and by his apostles, who were blessed with a clear insight into them, and with extraordinary gifts to minister them;
and by the Scriptures of the prophets; or prophetic writings, in which these truths are hinted, and by which, being made manifest by Christ and his apostles, they are attested and confirmed;
according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith; that is, it is by the express order and command of that God who is from everlasting to everlasting, that the mystery of the Gospel is made manifest by the preaching of the apostles being witnessed to by the law and prophets in all its doctrines; particularly justification by Christ's righteousness, remission of sins through his blood, and salvation by his sufferings and death; that this should be made known not only in the land of Judea, but to all the nations of the world; for this end, that many souls may be brought to submit to the righteousness of faith, to embrace the doctrine of faith, make a profession of it, be subject to the ordinances of it, live by faith on Christ, and also soberly, righteously and godly in this world: if this commandment refers, as it seems to do, to the order of Christ to his apostles, to preach the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles, to the Jews first, and upon their rejection of it, to turn to the Gentiles; for so, says the apostle, has the Lord commanded us, Acts 13:46; here is a clear proof that Christ is God, and that he is the everlasting God.
To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ,.... This may be understood of God the Father, who is the only wise God, originally, essentially, and infinitely; though not to the exclusion of the Son and Spirit; and whose infinite wisdom appears in the works of creation and providence, in redemption and salvation by Christ, and in the whole scheme of the Gospel so largely commended in the foregoing verses: and the glory of all is displayed in, and to be given to him through Christ as Mediator; as the glory of his power and wisdom, particularly mentioned, who is the wisdom of God and the power of God; and the glory of the Gospel, of which Christ is the sum and substance; and the glory of salvation by him, and indeed of all his perfections; which is most illustriously manifested in it, in the contrivance, impetration, and application of it; and this glory is to be ascribed to him
for ever, throughout the endless ages of eternity, as it will be by angels and men; to which the apostle sets his
Amen, as wishing that so it might be, and as firmly believing that so it will be: the subscription of the epistle runs thus, "written to the Romans from Corinthus", and sent "by Phebe, servant of the church at Cenchrea": which though it is not in every copy, nor are the subscriptions at the end of the epistles always to be depended upon; yet this seems to be a right and true one, both with respect to the place from whence, and the person by whom it was sent, as well as with respect to the persons to whom it is inscribed, of which there is no doubt.
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Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
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The Epistle to the Hebrews: New International Commentary on the New Testament [NICNT]
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