Chapter 16 consists largely of salutations to saints known to him, now dwelling in Rome, and from others who were in his company. The first two verses are in the nature of a letter of commendation for Phoebe a deaconess of the assembly in Cenchrea, a town just south of Corinth, in Achaia (see Acts 18:18). She would doubtless be well-known to Aquila and Priscilla (who are mentioned by name-in inverse order-in the next verse) but he does not leave her to depend upon her friends’ recollections of the past, but by this letter assures the saints of her present standing in the Church.
Priscilla and Aquila were to him as members of his own family-so intimate had been their association; and he cannot forget how they had put themselves in jeopardy for his sake. It was in their house that one of the assemblies in Rome met. Another of the saints from Achaia was there also, Epaenetus, firstfruits of his mission to Corinth.
As we go over the long list and note the delicate touches, the tender recollections, the slight differences in commendation, we feel we are drawn very close to these early believers, and we would like to know more of their history and experiences. We are interested in learning that there were relatives of his, Andronicus and Junia, who, he says, were “in Christ before me,” and we wonder if their prayers for their brilliant young kinsman may not have had much to do with his remarkable conversion.
Another kinsman is mentioned in verse Romans 16:11, Herodion by name, but whether converted before or after him we are not told.
There is a very human touch in the 13th verse (Romans 16:13). “Salute Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.” Somewhere on his journeys this Christian matron, though unnamed, had mothered the devoted and self-denying servant of Christ, and he remembered with a peculiar gratitude her care for him.
All the names are of interest, and we shall be glad to meet them all “in that day,” and learn more of their devotion to the Lord and their sufferings for His Name’s sake, though we cannot linger over the record here.
Before sending messages from his associates he puts in a warning word against false teachers, in verses Romans 16:17-18. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” The evil-doers here referred to are not Christian teachers, even though in error. They are ungodly men who, as Jude tells us, have crept in from the outside. They are not servants of Christ but tools of the devil, brought in from the world to corrupt and divide the people of God. It is a fearfully wicked thing to apply such words to real Christians who, however mistaken they may be, love the Lord and yearn over His people, desiring their blessing. In Philippians 3:18-19 we learn more of those “who serve their own belly,” that is, who live only for self-gratification. “Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” These are identical with the wretched division-makers of our present chapter. Let us be exceedingly careful how we charge true servants of Christ with being of this unholy number, even though we may feel that truth compels us to take issue with them as to some things they do or teach.
Though he warns the Roman saints of the danger of listening to men of this type he lets them know that he has only heard good things of them, but he is jealous that they should maintain their excellent record. Alas, how soon did this very Church open its doors to just such false teachers as he warned them against, and so by the seventh century you have the Papacy itself enthroned in Rome!
He would have us simple concerning evil and wise unto what is good, not occupied with error but with truth. That truth will triumph soon when the God of peace shall bruise Satan under the feet of the saints.
The closing salutations from Paul and his companions are given in verses Romans 16:21-24. Timothy and Luke were with him. We now learn for the first time that Jason was a near relative (see Acts 17:5-9), which accounts in measure for his reception of and devotion to Paul upon the visit to Thessalonica. Sosipater, also a kinsman, is linked with him.
Tertius, the scribe who acted as Paul’s amanuensis, adds his greeting. Apart from this we should never have known the name of the actual writer of the letter.
Was the “Gaius mine host,” of verse Romans 16:23, the same as the Gaius who received the travelling brethren and was commended by John for his Christian hospitality, in his 3rd epistle? We do not know, but he was at least a man of the same spirit. Of Erastus we have heard elsewhere (Acts 19:22; 2 Timothy 4:20), but Quartus is not mentioned in any other passage. Both the names Tertius and Quartus would indicate that those who bore them were probably slaves at one time-their names just meaning the third and the fourth respectively. Slaves were often named simply by number.
The benediction of verse Romans 16:24 concludes the epistle and marks it as genuinely Pauline. See 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18. “Grace” was his secret mark, so to speak, that attested his authorship. Significantly enough it is found in Hebrews 13:25, and in no other epistles save in his.
Verses Romans 16:25-27 are an appendix, in which he links his precious unfolding of the gospel with that “mystery” which it was his special province to make known among the Gentiles, and which is unfolded so fully in Ephesians Chapter 3 and several other scriptures.
“Now to Him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the ages began, but now is made manifest, and by prophetic writings, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith; to God only wise be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.”
To Paul was committed a two-fold ministry-that of the gospel (as linked with a glorified Christ) and that of the Church-the mystery hid in God from before the creation of the world but now revealed by the Spirit. See this double ministry as set forth in Colossians 1:23-29 and Ephesians 3:1-12.
“The mystery” was not something of difficult, mysterious character, but a sacred secret never known to mankind until in due time opened up by the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul, and by him communicated to all nations for the obedience of faith. It was not hid in the Scriptures to be brought to light eventually; but we are distinctly told it was hid in God until such time as He chose to manifest it. This was not until Israel had been given every opportunity to receive Christ both in incarnation and resurrection. When they definitely refused Him God made known what had been in His heart from eternity-that from all nations, Jews and Gentiles, He would redeem and take out an elect company who would, by the Spirit’s baptism, be formed into one Body to be associated with Christ, in the most intimate relationship (likened in Ephesians Chapter 5 to that of husband and wife, or head and body), not only now but through all the ages to come.
This great mystery of Christ and the Church has now been manifested and made known by prophetic writings-not as translated here “by the Scriptures of the prophets”-but the meaning clearly is, made known by the writings of inspired men, New Testament prophets, in this day of gospel light and testimony.
Nor is it just a beautiful and wonderful theory or system of doctrine to be held in the intellect. It involves present identification with Christ in His rejection, and hence is made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. It is not developed in the epistle to the Romans, for here the great theme, as we have seen, is the Righteousness of God as revealed in the Gospel. But it is touched on here in order to link the unfolding of the gospel in this letter with the revelation of the mystery, as given in the prison epistles particularly. This is not to say that we have new and higher truth in Ephesians and Colossians, for instance, than in Romans and earlier letters. All form part of one whole, and constitute that body of teaching everywhere proclaimed by the apostle through his long years of ministry, but not all committed to writing at one time. The “mystery” of Romans 16:25 is the same as that of the later epistles, and ever formed an integral part of his messages. It would not be necessary to say this were there not some to-day who would divorce completely Paul’s ministry in Acts from that which he embodied in the last of his letters written after the rejection of his message by the Jews in Rome as recorded in Acts Chapter 28. The appendix to the Roman letter is the complete denial of this. It is here added to manifest the unity of his ministry of the gospel and the Church, through two-fold in character.
And with this we conclude our present somewhat cursory study, trusting that our review of the epistle has not been in vain, but will be for increased profit and blessing as we wait for God’s Son from heaven.
“To God only wise be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.”
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Romans 16". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
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