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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Romans 16



Verses 1-27

IN CHAPTER 16 we get the closing salutations. Phebe seems to have been the bearer of the epistle, and Paul works in this word of commendation concerning her so that the saints at Rome might freely and without question receive her. She had succoured many and even Paul himself in the course of her service at Cenchrea. The word, “servant” is really, “deaconess.”

From verse Romans 16:3 to verse Romans 16:15 we have a long list of names of those in Rome to whom salutations were sent. At the head of the list come two names that we are familiar with, Priscilla and Aquila. It is evident that they head the list designedly, for of no others are such words of high commendation spoken. They had laid down their lives on Paul’s behalf, though in God’s mercy their lives had been preserved to them. This is the limit of human love according to the Lord’s words in John 15:13. It is also what every Christian ought to do if the occasion arises, according to 1 John 3:16; because we are here not only to display human kindness but, as those who partake of the Divine nature, to display divine love.

The Apostle shows a wonderful discrimination in his salutations. This one is a kinsman: that one a helper: the other is chosen in the Lord. Again, these are beloved, and that one is well-beloved, and these are of note among the apostles. Some have laboured and others have laboured much. In the largeness of his spiritual affections he had a definite link with each. But evidently Priscilla and Aquila outshone all as the exponents of a love which was divine, and that gave them the first place over the heads of many more gifted than themselves.

That love of divine quality, which gives itself even unto death, stands alone in its value. This was exemplified in the days of David—see, 2 Samuel 23:13-17. It is made plain in the solemn words of our Lord recorded in Revelation 2:4. We have no doubt but that it will be most fully manifested in that day when we all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. So let us take it to heart now.

“Love never faileth,” love is pure gold;

Love is what Jesus came to unfold;

Make us more loving, Master, we pray,

Help us remember, love is Thy way.”

Verses Romans 16:17-20 follow, giving us a picture which is the very reverse of all this. There were those in the earliest days, as also today, who served not the Lord but their own selfish desires. Such produce divisions and are to be avoided. Their words may be beautiful—smoother than butter—but they are contrary to the doctrine. This is the test. Not, can they speak pleasant things; but, do they speak according to that which we have received from God? The prime mover in all error is Satan, and when he is bruised under the feet of the saints by the God of Peace there will be peace indeed.

There follows the salutations of a band of labourers who were with Paul as he wrote; and again it seems in verse Romans 16:24 as if he is closing his letter, as previously in verse Romans 16:20, and at the end of Romans 15:1-33. Once more, however a word is added. It appears that at this point according to his custom Paul took the pen from the hand of his amanuensis to write with his own hand. His closing words are of deep importance.

The Apostle Paul had a twofold ministry, as he unfolds in Colossians 1:23-29. To both ministries he alludes very briefly in these closing verses. The Gospel, which he calls “my Gospel” he had unfolded very fully in this epistle. The “mystery” he had not mentioned at all, though it had been revealed to him and other of the prophets, and had been promulgated in prophetic writings. He would have the believers at Rome know that important as it was that they should be established according to the Gospel he had just unfolded, it was equally important that they should be established according to the mystery, of which it was not his purpose to write at that time.

If important for the Romans, then for us also. God is able to establish us in both. Are we concerned about both? If not we ought to be. Because the church, as an outward, visible, professing body, is in a broken condition we are not exempted from concerning ourselves about the mystery, but rather it is the more necessary for us. The mystery concerns the Gentiles, hence it is made known to all nations, and made known for the obedience of faith: made known, not merely to be understood but to be obeyed.

Never more than today was there a crying need for really established Christians. God alone can establish us, and we are only fully established if established in both. No man can stand securely if only standing on one leg. The Gospel and the Mystery are like two legs whereon we may securely stand. Let us aim at standing on both.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Romans 16:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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