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Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Romans 16

 

 

Introduction

The Epistle concludes with various salutations. The “names” which occur in this chapter are chiefly “Greek;” and the persons designated had been probably inhabitants of Greece, but had removed to Rome for purposes of commerce, etc. Possibly some of them had been converted under the ministry of the apostle himself during his preaching in Corinth and other parts of Greece. It is remarkable that the name of “Peter” does not occur in this catalogue; which is conclusive evidence, contrary to the Papists, that Peter was not then known by Paul to be in Rome.

Verse 1

I commend - It was common then, as now, to bear letters of introduction to strangers, commending the person thus introduced to the favorable regards and attentions of those to whom the letters were addressed; 2 Corinthians 3:1; Acts 18:27. This Epistle, with the apostle‘s commendation, was designed thus to introduce its bearer to the Roman Christians. The mention of Phebe in this manner leaves it beyond a doubt that she was either the bearer of this Epistle, or accompanied those who bore it to Rome. The Epistle was therefore written, probably, at Corinth. (See Introduction.)

Our sister - A member of the Christian church.

Which is a servant - Greek,” Who is a deaconess.” It is clear from the New Testament that there was an order of women in the church known as “deaconesses.” Reference is made to a class of females whose duty it was to “teach” other females, and to take the general superintendence of that part of the church, in various places in the New Testament; and their existence is expressly affirmed in early ecclesiastical history. They appear to have been commonly aged and experienced widows, sustaining fair reputation, and suited to guide and instruct those who were young and inexperienced; compare 1 Timothy 5:3, 1 Timothy 5:9-11; Titus 2:4. The Apostolical Constitutions, book iii. say, “Ordain a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministries toward the women.” Pliny in his celebrated letter to Trajan, says, when speaking of the efforts which he made to obtain information respecting the opinions and practices of Christians, “I deemed it necessary to put two maidservants who are called “ministrae” (that is “deaconesses”) to the torture, in order to ascertain what is the truth.” The reasons of their appointment among the Gentiles were these:

(1) The females were usually separate from the men. They were kept secluded, for the most part, and not permitted to mingle in society with men as is the custom now.

(2) it became necessary, therefore, to appoint aged and experienced females to instruct the young, to visit the sick, to provide for them, and to perform for them the services which male deacons performed for the whole church. It is evident, however, that they were confined to these offices, and that they were never regarded as an order of ministers, or suffered “to preach” to congregations; 1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:34.

Of the church … - This is the only mention which occurs of a church at that place. It was probably collected by the labors of Paul.

At Cenchrea - This was the “sea-port” of Corinth. Corinth was situated on the middle of the isthmus, and had “two” harbors, or ports: “Cenchrea” on the east, about eight or nine miles from the city; and “Lechaeum” on the west. Cenchrea opened into the AEgean sea, and was the principal port. It was on this “isthmus,” between these two ports, that the “Isthmian” games were celebrated, to which the apostle refers so often in his epistles.

Verse 2

That ye receive her … - That you acknowledge her as being in the Lord, or as being a servant of the Lord; that is, as a Christian; compare Romans 14:3; Philemon 2:29.

As becometh saints - As it is proper that Christians should treat their brethren.

She hath been a succourer of many - The word used here προστάτις prostatismeans properly “a patron, a help,” and was applied by the Greeks to one who “presided” over an assembly; to one who became “a patron” of others; who aided or defended them in their cause; and especially to one who undertook to manage the cause of “strangers” and foreigners before the courts. It was, therefore, an honorable appellation. Applied to Phebe, it means probably that she had shown great kindness in various ways to the apostle, and to other Christians; probably by receiving them into her house; by administering to the sick, etc. Such persons have a claim on the respect and Christian attentions of others.

Verse 3

Greet Priscilla and Aquila - Salute; implying the apostle‘s kind remembrance of them, and his wishes for their welfare.

Priscilla - Priscilla was the wife of Aquila. They are mentioned in Acts 18:2, Acts 18:26; 1 Corinthians 16:19. Paul at first found them at Corinth. Aquila was a Jew, born in Pontus, who had resided at Rome, and who had left Rome, and come to Corinth, when Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome; see the notes at Acts 18:2. It is probable that they were converted under the preaching of Paul. Paul lived with them, and they had the advantage of his private instruction; Acts 18:3; compare Acts 18:26. At the death of Claudius, or whenever the decree for the expulsion of the Jews was repealed, it is probable that they returned to Rome.

My helpers - My fellow-workers. They had aided him in his work. A particular instance is mentioned in Acts 18:26. They are mentioned as having been with Paul when he wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians; 1 Corinthians 16:19.

In Christ Jesus - In the Christian cause.

Verse 4

Who have for my life - In order to save my life.

Laid down their own necks - To “lay down the neck” is to lay the head on a block to be cut off with the axe; or to bow down the head as when the neck was exposed to be cut off by the sword of the executioner. The meaning is, that they had hazarded their lives, had exposed themselves to imminent danger, to save the life of Paul. On what occasion this was done, is not known, as it is not referred to in the New Testament elsewhere. As Paul, however, lived with them Acts 18:3, and as he was often persecuted by the Jews, it is probable that he refers to some such period when he was persecuted, when Aquila and Priscilla took him into their house at the imminent hazard of their lives.

All the churches of the Gentiles - All the churches that had been founded by the apostles. They “felt” their deep obligation to them for having saved the life of him who had been their founder, and who was their spiritual father.

Verse 5

The church that is in their house - Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned Acts 18:26 as having received “Apollos” into their family, to instruct him more perfectly. The church in their house is also mentioned 1 Corinthians 16:19. This may mean either the church that was accustomed to assemble for worship at their hospitable mansion; or it may mean their own family with their guests, regarded as a “church.” In those times Christians had no houses erected for public worship, and were therefore compelled to meet in their private dwellings.

Salute - The same word before translated “greet.”

Who is the first-fruits - One who first embraced Christianity under my preaching in Achaia. The “first-fruits” were a small part of the harvest, which was first gathered and offered to the Lord; Exodus 22:29; Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 2:12; Deuteronomy 18:4. In allusion to this, Paul calls Epenetus the first-fruits of the great spiritual harvest which had been gathered in Achaia.

Achaia - See the note at Romans 15:26. This name and those which follow are chiefly “Greek,” but we know little of the persons mentioned, except what is here recorded.

Verse 6

Who bestowed much labour on us - Who labored much for us. Nothing more is known of her but this honorable mention of her name. It is probable that these persons were formerly residents in Greece, and that the apostle had there become acquainted with them, but that they had now removed to Rome.

Verse 7

My kinsmen - In Romans 9:3, the apostle calls “all” the Jews “his kinsmen,” and it has been doubted whether he means anything more here than that they were “fellow Jews.” But as many others who were Jews are mentioned here without this appellation, and as he especially designates these persons, and Herodian Romans 16:11, it seems probable that they were remote relatives of the apostle.

My fellow-prisoners - Paul was often in prison; and it is probable that on some of those occasions they had been confined with him; compare 2 Corinthians 11:23, “In prisons more frequent.”

Who are of note - The word translated “of note” ἐπίσημοι episēmoidenotes properly those who are “marked,” designated, or distinguished in any way, used either in a good or bad sense; compare Matthew 27:16. Here it is used in a good sense.

Among the apostles - This does not mean that they “were” apostles, as has been sometimes supposed. For,

(1) There is no account of their having been appointed as such.

(2) the expression is not one which would have been used if they “had” been. It would have been “who were distinguished apostles;” compare Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Philemon 1:1.

(3) it by no means implies that they were apostles All that the expression fairly implies is, that they were known to the other apostles; that they were regarded by them as worthy of their affection and confidence; that they had been known by them, as Paul immediately adds, before “he” was himself converted. They had been converted “before” he was, and were distinguished in Jerusalem among the early Christians, and honored with the friendship of the other apostles.

(4) the design of the office of “apostles” was to bear “witness” to the life, death, resurrection, doctrines, and miracles of Christ; compare Acts 1:21, Acts 1:26; Acts 22:15. As there is no evidence that they had been “witnesses” of these things; or appointed to it, it is improbable that they were set apart to the apostolic office.

(5) the word “apostles” is used sometimes to designate “messengers” of churches; or those who were “sent” from one church to another on some important business, and “if” this expression meant that they “were” apostles, it could only be in some such sense as having obtained deserved credit and eminence in that business; see Philemon 2:25; 2 Corinthians 8:23.

Who were in Christ … - Who were “converted” before I was. The meaning is clear. The expression, “in Christ,” means to be united to him, to be interested in his religion, to be Christians.

Verse 10

Approved in Christ - An approved or tried Christian; approved and beloved by Christ.

Verse 12

Tryphena and Tryphosa - These names, with the participle rendered “who labor,” are in the feminine gender, and these were probably two holy women, who performed the function of deaconesses, or who ministered to the sick, and who with Persia, thus by example, and perhaps by instruction, labored to promote the spread of Christianity. Pious females, then, as now, were able to do much in their proper sphere to extend the truths and blessings of the gospel.

Verse 13

Chosen in the Lord - “Elect” in the Lord; that is, a chosen follower of Christ.

And his mother and mine - “His mother in a literal sense, and mine in a figurative one.” An instance of the delicacy and tenderness of Paul; of his love for this disciple and his mother, as if he were of the same family. Religion binds the hearts of all who embrace it tenderly together. It makes them feel that they are one great family, united by tender ties, and joined by special attachments. See what the Lord Jesus declared in Matthew 12:47-50, and his tender address to John when he was on the cross; John 19:26-27.

Verse 16

Salute one another - Greet one another in an affectionate mannner; that is, treat each other with kindness and love, and evince all proper marks of affection.

With an holy kiss - This mode of salutation has been practiced at all times; and particularly in eastern nations. It was even practiced by “men;” see the note at Luke 22:47-48. The use of the word “holy” here serves to denote that Paul intended it as an expression of “Christian” affection; and to guard against all improper familiarity and scandal. It was common, according to Justin Martyr (Apology ), for the early Christians to practice it in their religious assemblies.

The churches of Christ - That is, the churches in the vicinity of the place where the apostle wrote this Epistle; probably the churches particularly in Achaia.

Verse 17

Now I beseech you - One great object of this Epistle had been to promote “peace” between the Jewish and Gentile converts. So much did this subject press upon the mind of the apostle, that he seems unwilling so leave it. He returns to it again and again; and even after the Epistle is apparently concluded, he returns to it, to give them a new charge on the subject.

Mark them - Observe attentively, cautiously, and faithfully Philemon 3:17; be on your guard against them. Ascertain “who are” the real causes of the divisions that spring up, and avoid them.

Which cause - Who make. Probably he refers here to “Jewish” teachers, or those who insisted strenuously on the observance of the rites of Moses, and who set up a claim for greater purity and orthodoxy than those possessed who received the Gentile converts as Christian brethren. The Jews were perpetually thus recalling the Christian converts to the Law of Moses; insisting on the observance of those rites; troubling the churches, and producing dissensions and strifes; Galatians 3:1; Galatians 5:1-8; Acts 15:1, Acts 15:24.

Divisions - Dissensions; parties; factions; 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:20. The very “attempt” to form such parties was evil, no matter what the pretence. They who attempt to form parties in the churches are commonly actuated by some evil or ambitious design.

And offences - Scandals; or that give occasion for others to fall into sin. These two things are different. The first means parties; the other denotes such a course of life as would lead others into sin. The “Jew” would form parties, on the pretence of superior holiness; the Gentiles, or some hold Gentile convert might deride the scrupulous feelings of the Jew, and might thus lead him into “sin” in regard to what his conscience really forbade; see Romans 14:15. These persons on both sides were to he avoided, and they were to refuse to follow them, and to cultivate the spirit of unity and peace.

Contrary to the doctrine - To the “teaching” which you have received in this Epistle and elsewhere; the teaching that these divisions should cease; that the Jewish ceremonies are not binding; that all should lay aside their causes of former difference, and be united in one family; see 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 John 1:10; Galatians 1:8-9. That is, avoid them as “teachers;” do not follow them. It does not mean that they were to be treated harshly; but that they were to be avoided in their “instructions.” They were to disregard all that they could say tending to produce alienation and strife; and resolve to cultivate the spirit of peace and union. This would be an admirable rule if always followed. Let people make “peace” their prime object; resolve to love all who “are” Christians, and it will be an infallible guage by which to measure the arguments of those who seek to promote alienations and contentions.

Verse 18

Serve not - Obey not. Though they are professedly, yet they are not his real friends and followers.

But their own belly - Their own “lusts;” their own private interests; they do this to obtain support. The authors of parties and divisions, in church and state, have this usually in view. It is for the indulgence of some earthly appetite; to obtain function or property; or to gratify the love of dominion.

And by good words - Mild, fair, plausible speeches; with an appearance of great sincerity, and regard for the truth; compare Colossians 2:4; 2 Peter 3:3. People who cause divisions commonly make great pretensions to peculiar love of truth and orthodoxy; and put on the appearance of great sincerity, sanctity, and humility.

And fair speeches - Greek εὐλογίας eulogiaseulogy, praise, flattery. This is another very common art. “Flattery” is one of the most powerful means of forming parties in the church; and “a little special attention,” or promise of an office, or commendation for talents or acquirements, will secure “many” to the purposes of party whom no regard for truth or orthodoxy could influence a moment.

Deceive the hearts of the simple - The minds of the unsuspecting, or those who are without guile τῶν ἀκάκων tōn akakōnThe apostle means to designate those who are simple-hearted, without any disposition to deceive others themselves, and of course without any suspicions of the “designs” of others. He has thus drawn the art of making parties with the hand of a master. First, there are smooth, plausible pretences, as of great love for truth. Then, an artful mingling of attentions and flatteries; and all this practiced on the minds of the unsuspecting, drawing their “hearts” and “affections” toward themselves. Happy would it have been if the art had been confined to his own times.

Verse 19

For your obedience … - Romans 1:8. Your mild, obedient disposition to learn, and to obey the precepts of the teachers of religion.

I am glad … - I rejoice that you evince such a disposition. But he immediately adds, that “this” was just the temper to be imposed upon, and cautions them against that danger.

Wise unto that which is good - Evince understanding of what is adapted to promote good and worthy ends.

Simple concerning evil - Greek, “harmless.” Not disposed to do wrong; having no plan and yielding to none of the allurements of evil. You have shown your wisdom in “obeying” the gospel. I would have you still evince wisdom toward “every good” design; but to be unacquainted with “any” plan of evil. Do not yield to those plans, or follow those who would lead you into them.

Verse 20

And the God of peace - The God who promotes peace; Romans 15:33.

Will bruise - The “language” here refers to the prediction in Genesis 3:15. It here means to “subdue, to gain the victory over.” It denotes Paul‘s confidence that they “would” gain the victory, and would be able to overcome all the arts of those who were endeavoring to sow discord and contention among them.

Satan - The word “Satan” is Hebrew, meaning originally “an accuser, a calumniator,” and then “an enemy.” It is given to the prince of evil spirits from this enmity to God and human beings. He is here regarded as the “author” of all attempts to promote discord in the church, by whomsoever those attempts were made. Hence, they who attempt to produce divisions are called “his ministers;” 2 Corinthians 11:15. God would disappoint their malignant purposes, and promote the prevalence of peace.

The grace - The favor; the mercy, etc. The Lord Jesus is the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6; compare Luke 2:14; John 14:27), and this expression is “a prayer” to him, or an earnest wish expressed, that the design of his coming might be accomplished in promoting the prevalence of order and peace; compare 1 Corinthians 16:23; Revelation 22:21.

Verse 21

Timotheus - Timothy; to whom the Epistles which bear his name were written. He was long the companion of Paul in his labors; Acts 16:1; 1 Corinthians 16:10; 2 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:19; Philemon 2:29; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; Hebrews 13:23.

And Lucius - He is mentioned in Acts 13:1, as a prophet and teacher, a native of Cyrene. Nothing more is known of him.

My kinsmen - Romans 16:7.

Verse 22

I Tertius - Of Tertius nothing more is known than is mentioned here.

Who wrote this - It is evident that Paul employed an amanuensis to write this Epistle, and perhaps he commonly did it. Tertius, who thus wrote it, joins with the apostle in affectionate salutations to the brethren at Rome. To the Epistle, Paul signed his own name, and added a salutation in his own hand-writing. Colossians 4:18, “The salutation by the hand of me Paul;” and in 2 Thessalonians 3:17, he says that this was done in every epistle, 1 Corinthians 16:21.

In the Lord - As Christian brethren.

Verse 23

Gaius mine host - Who has received me into his house, and shown me hospitality. The word “host” means one who entertains another at his own house without reward.

And of the whole church - Who has opened his house to entertain “all” Christians; or to show hospitality to them all. He was baptized by Paul himself at Corinth 1 Corinthians 1:14; and was so highly esteemed by the church that John wrote an epistle to him; 3 John 1:1. He was probably a wealthy citizen of Corinth, who freely opened his house to entertain Christians, and for the purpose of religious worship.

Erastus - Erastus is mentioned Acts 19:22 as having been sent by Paul with Timothy into Macedonia. He is also mentioned 2 Timothy 4:20 as having resided at Corinth.

The chamberlain - A chamberlain is properly an officer who has charge of a chamber, or of chambers. In England, the lord chamberlain is the sixth officer of the crown, and has charge of the king‘s lodgings, and wardrobe, etc. He has also an important rank on days of public solemnities, as the coronation day, etc. The word used here is commonly in the New Testament translated “steward.” It properly means one who has charge of domestic affairs, to provide for a family, to pay the servants, etc. In this place it means one who presided over the pecuniary affairs of the “city,” and should have been translated “the treasurer; the city treasurer;” an once of trust and of some importance, showing that, “all” who were converted at Corinth were not of the lowest rank. This is implied in 1 Corinthians 1:26, “Not many wise men, not many mighty, not many noble, are called,” implying that there were some such.

Quartus a brother - A fellow-Christian.

Verse 25

Now to him - This and the two following verses are found in many manuscripts at the close of Romans 16:20.

Is of power - Greek, Is able; who has power; Ephesians 3:20; Jude 1:24, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling,” etc. God only can keep Christians in the path of salvation; and it was well to bring that truth prominently into view at the close of the Epistle.

To establish you - To strengthen and confirm you.

According to my gospel - According to the gospel which I preach; the doctrines which I have been defending in this Epistle. It is called “his” gospel, not because he was the author of it, or because others did not preach it also, but because he had been “particularly” defending it in this Epistle. The doctrines which he had advanced were just those which were suited to strengthen and confirm them, - the doctrine of justification, of election, of perseverance, and of the protection and favor of God to both Jews and Gentiles. These were the doctrines which he had defended; and it might easily be shown that “these” are the doctrines that give stability to the Christian faith, hope, and love.

And the preaching of Jesus Christ - Not his “personal” preaching; but according to that preaching of which Christ is the author and the subject; and particularly, as the following clause shows, to the doctrines by which the partition between the Jews and the Gentiles was broken down, and by which they were admitted to the same privileges and hopes.

According to the revelation - According to the communication of what has been so long concealed, but which is now made manifest. The word “revelation” refers to the “publication” of the plan by the gospel.

Of the mystery - The word “mystery” means properly what is “hidden” or “concealed,” and is thus applied to any doctrine which was not before known. It does not mean necessarily what is “unintelligible;” but what had not been before revealed; see the note at Matthew 13:11. The word here seems to refer to the principal doctrines of the gospel; its main truths, which had been concealed, especially from the entire Gentile world, but which were now made known.

Which was kept secret - Which were kept in “silence” (Greek, σεσιγημένου sesigēmenou), were not divulged or proclaimed.

Since the world began - In all past times. This refers particularly to the Gentiles. The Jews had some obscure intimations of these truths, but they were now made known to all the world. The phrase “since the world began” is in Greek, “in eternal times;” that is, in all past times; or, as we should say, they have been “always” concealed.

Verse 26

But now is made manifest - Is revealed, or made known; that which was so long concealed is now divulged, that is, God‘s plan of saving people is now made known to all nations.

And by the Scriptures … - By the “writings” of the prophets. The prophetic writings contained the doctrines, obscurely indeed, but so as to be an important means of disseminating and confirming the truth that the Gentiles should be made acquainted with the gospel. To those writings the apostle had repeatedly appealed in his defense of the proposition that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentile word; Matthew 28:19; compare Colossians 1:23.

For the obedience of faith - To produce obedience to the requirements of the gospel; see the note at Romans 1:5.

Verse 27

To God only wise - The apostle here resumes the doxology which had been interrupted by the parenthesis. The attribute of “wisdom” is here brought into view, because it had been particularly displayed in this plan which was now revealed. It evinced, in an eminent degree, the “wisdom” of God. That wisdom was evinced in devising the plan; in adapting it to the renewing of the heart; the justification of the sinner; his preservation, guidance, and sanctification; and in the manner in which the divine attributes had all been seen to harmonize. All this the apostle had illustrated in the previous parts of the Epistle; and now, full of the convictions of this wisdom, he desires that all the praise and honor should be to God. The “tendency” of the plan is to promote his glory. The “obligation” on all who are benefitted by it is to give him praise.

Be glory - Praise; honor.

Through Jesus Christ - By means of the work which Jesus Christ has performed; through him now as mediator and intercessor in the heavens.

The subscription, “written to the Romans,” etc. is evidently added by some other hand, but by whom is unknown. Paul assuredly would not write this to inform the Romans that it was sent by Phebe, whom he had just commended to their kindness. It has been shown, moreover, that no reliance is to be placed on any of the subscriptions to the Epistles. Some of them are known to be false. By whom they were added is unknown. In this case, however, the fact which it states is correct, that it was written from Corinth and sent by Phoebe.

 


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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 16:18". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". "http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/view.cgi?book=ro&chapter=16&verse=18. 1870.

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