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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
Romans 16

 

 

Verse 1-2

1. A commendation16:1-2

Phoebe (lit. bright or radiant) was evidently the woman who carried this epistle from Corinth to Rome.

"The name itself was one of the names of the goddess, Diana, and this would suggest that she was a convert from heathenism, not a Jewess." [Note: Griffith Thomas, St. Paul"s Epistle . . ., p417.]

She was a "servant" (Gr. diakonon) of the church in her hometown, Cenchrea, the port of Corinth ( Acts 18:18; 2 Corinthians 1:1). It is unclear whether Phoebe held office as a deaconess [Note: Moo, p914; Bruce, p252; Mickelsen, p1225.] or whether she was simply an informal servant of the church. Paul stressed her service, not her office. The Greek word prostatis, "helper," occurs only here in the New Testament and probably means a helper in the sense of a benefactor or patron. She was his sister in the Lord, as seems clear from his reference to her as "our" sister. Letters of commendation were common in Paul"s day (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:1). Paul"s words here constituted such a letter for Phoebe.

Notice that the ministry of women in the Roman church is quite evident in this chapter. Paul referred to nine prominent women: Phoebe, Prisca, Mary, Tryphena, Thyphosa, Persis, Rufus" mother, Julia, and Nereus" sister.


Verses 3-5

Paul met Prisca-Priscilla is the diminuitive form-and her husband Aquila in Corinth ( Acts 18:2). When he left for Ephesus, he took them with him ( Acts 18:18). He left them in Ephesus when he moved on to Jerusalem ( Acts 18:19). In Ephesus they helped Apollos ( Acts 18:24-28). Later they returned to Rome where they had lived previously ( Acts 18:2). Later still they returned to Ephesus ( 2 Timothy 4:19). Churches normally met in houses at this time, and one met in theirs (cf. Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 16:19).


Verses 3-16

2. Various greetings to Christians in Rome16:3-16

It may seem unusual that Paul knew so many people by name in the church in Rome since he had never visited it. However travel in the Roman Empire was fairly easy during Paul"s lifetime. Probably he had met some of these people elsewhere and knew others of them by reputation.

Most of the names are Latin or Greek, but some of these people were evidently Jews who, like Paul, also had Greek or Latin names (e.g, Romans 16:7; Romans 16:11). In his epistles Paul greeted more individuals by name in the churches he had not visited than in those that he had (cf. Col.). He may have wanted to establish more personal contact with congregations that had not seen his face.


Verses 5-7

Most of the people mentioned in these verses require no explanatory comment. "Asia" ( Romans 16:5) was the Roman province of Asia of which Ephesus was the capital. Junias (or Junia, Romans 16:7) was probably the wife of Andronicus (cf. Romans 16:3; Romans 16:15). The term "kinsmen" or "relatives" ( Romans 16:7; cf. Romans 16:11; Romans 16:21) seems to refer to relatives of Paul in the sense of being fellow Jews (cf. Romans 9:13; Philippians 1:7; Philippians 4:14). "Apostles" ( Romans 16:7) here must have the general sense of representatives (traveling missionaries) rather than being a technical reference to one of the13official apostles (cf. Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14; 2 Corinthians 8:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:6; Philippians 2:25).


Verses 8-15

Those of the household of Aristobulus ( Romans 16:10) were probably his slaves (household servants). Since Paul did not greet Aristobulus himself, this man may have been an unbeliever. Tryphena ( Romans 16:12, "dainty") and Tryphosa ("delicate") may have been sisters. Both names derive from the verb truphao meaning to live delicately or luxuriously (cf. James 5:5). Rufus ( Romans 16:13) may have been the son of Simon of Cyrene, who carried Jesus" cross (cf. Mark 15:21). Rufus" mother may have been Paul"s in that she had at one time acted like a mother to him. It is unlikely that he would have referred to her as he did if she had been his physical mother.

"Let Christian mothers find here a great field for that wonderful heart of instinctive loving care given by God to mothers,-that they extend their maternal care beyond their own family circle, to all Christians, and especially to all laborers for Christ. The Lord will remember it at His coming!" [Note: Newell, p554.]

"The brethren [or saints] with them" ( Romans 16:14-15) probably refers to the other Christians who met with those named in a house church.


Verse 16

The "holy kiss" was and is a common affectionate greeting expressing mutual love, forgiveness, and unity in Christ. Paul relayed the greetings of all the churches he represented.

Paul"s acknowledgement of his co-workers ( Romans 16:3; Romans 16:9; cf. Romans 16:7) shows that he was not a "lone ranger" minister. The number of women mentioned in these verses argues against the view of some that Paul was a woman-hater. Obviously women played important roles in the ministry of the early church, and Paul appreciated them.


Verse 17-18

False teachers were a danger to all the churches. Paul urged his Roman readers to avoid them. [Note: See Ted G. Kitchens, "Perimeters of Corrective Church Discipline," Bibliotheca Sacra148:590 (April-June1991):205-7.]

"If Paul had one particular group [of false teachers] in mind, we cannot be at all certain which it was. But he may well have had more than one group in mind, or he may have been warning in a quite general way against a danger which he knew would always threaten the churches but could present itself in many different forms." [Note: Cranfield, 2:802.]


Verses 17-20

3. A warning16:17-20

Again Paul introduced his comments with a strong exhortation (cf. Romans 12:1; Romans 15:30). He warned the Roman Christians about false teachers who might enter the fold. His brief warning argues against thinking that false teachers were presently active in the church.


Verse 19

Paul was confident that his readers could handle this threat because they had a reputation for following the apostles" instructions. The innocent among God"s people tend to accept false teachers, and the wise normally reject them. Paul wanted his readers to be wise concerning all good and innocent only regarding evil (cf. Matthew 10:16).


Verse 20

Satan is behind all evil ultimately, under God"s sovereignty. God desires peace among His people, not the antagonism that some in the church who chose to follow Satan"s spokesmen would create. "Soon" does not imply that Jesus Christ would return soon necessarily. Paul meant that the Roman Christians would frustrate Satan"s work among them soon as they rejected false teachers. His terminology suggests that he had Genesis 3:15 in mind.

Paul"s benediction magnified God"s grace, as does this whole epistle. Usually such a benediction signaled the end of a Pauline letter, but the apostle had more to communicate in this instance. [Note: For a chart of Paul"s benedictions in his epistles, see The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p500.]


Verses 21-24

4. Greetings from Paul"s companions16:21-24

The men whom Paul mentioned in Romans 16:21 all seem to have been his fellow missionaries who were working with him in Corinth when he wrote this epistle. Lucius may have been Luke , the writer of Luke and Acts. [Note: See John Wenham, "The Identification of Luke ," Evangelical Quarterly63:1 (1991):38-41.] Jason ( Romans 16:21) may have been Paul"s host in Thessalonica (cf. Acts 17:5-9). Sosipater ( Romans 16:21) was probably Sopater of Berea who accompanied Paul when he left Greece toward the end of his third missionary journey ( Acts 20:4). Tertius ( Romans 16:22) was his amanuensis who wrote down this epistle for Paul.

"A crucial and debated question is the degree of freedom that a letter writer might give to his or her scribe in the choice of wording. A reasonable conclusion is that the freedom given to an amanuensis would have differed depending on the skill of the amanuensis and the nature of the relationship between the writer and the amanuensis It may be, for instance, that when Paul used a close and trusted companion for his amanuensis, he gave that person some degree of freedom to choose the exact wording of the letter-always, we can assume, checking the letter over and attesting to its accurate representation of his thoughts with his closing greeting. Many scholars think that the influence of various amanuenses may explain the differences in Greek style among the Pauline letters, rendering it difficult, if not impossible, to draw conclusions about authorship based on such criteria." [Note: Carson and Moo, pp334-35.]

The men in Romans 16:23 were evidently all Corinthian believers.

Erastus, the city treasurer "has been identified with the civic official of that name mentioned in a Latin inscription on a marble paving-block discovered at Corinth in1929 by members of the American School at Athens: "ERASTVS. PRO. AED. S. P. STRAVIT" ("Erastus, in return for his aedileship, laid this pavement at his own expense"). The aedile ("commissioner for public works") was a responsible magistrate in a Roman city. The office of oikonomos, perhaps "clerk of works" rather than "city treasurer", was a much humbler one (Lat. arcarius). Since the pavement seems to belong to a later part of the first century, it might be inferred that Erastus acquitted himself so satisfactorily in the inferior office that he was promoted to the higher magistracy, and showed his appreciation of the honour thus done him by presenting the city with a marble pavement. He need not be identified with the Erastus of Acts 19:22 or 2 Timothy 4:20; the name was common enough." [Note: Bruce, p266.]


Verse 25

The apostle was confident that God could do for his readers what they needed (cf. Romans 1:11; Ephesians 3:20). The gospel is God"s chief tool to that end. "My gospel" identifies the one that Paul had preached widely and had expounded in this epistle. The "preaching of Jesus Christ" is another name for the gospel that stresses its subject, Jesus Christ. Proclamation follows revelation. The gospel had been hidden in eternity past until God revealed it first in the Old Testament and then fully in the New (cf. Romans 11:25; Galatians 1:12; Galatians 1:15-16; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:26; Colossians 4:3).


Verses 25-27

5. A doxology16:25-27

The apostle brought together words and ideas from his earlier epistles as well as from this one in this doxology.


Verse 26

Even though the Old Testament prophets revealed the gospel (good news) they did not always grasp all of its implications ( 1 Peter 1:10-12; cf. Romans 1:1-2). The commandment of God in view is probably the expression of God"s will.


Verse 27

As the only God, He is the God of both Jews and Gentiles (cf. Romans 3:29-30). As the wise God, He is the author of the plan of salvation for all mankind that Paul had expounded (cf. Romans 11:33). God is worthy of all glory because of who He is and what He has done. Our access to Him is through His Song of Solomon , Jesus Christ.

This doxology is similar to the others in Romans 8:31-39 and Romans 11:33-36.

 


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Romans 16:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/romans-16.html. 2012.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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