Paul ends this journey through his letter to the church in Rome with what the NASB calls:
It is so much more than that.
Romans 16:1-2 [CEV] I have good things to say about Phoebe, who is a leader in the church at Cenchreae. (2) Welcome her in a way that is proper for someone who has faith in the Lord and is one of God’s own people. Help her in any way you can. After all, she has proved to be a respected leader for many others, including me.
Immediately this phrase, “I have good things to say about Phoebe,” draws my attention. The Contemporary English Version is often a good one, but this phrase is pathetically weak here. The NASB puts it this way, I commend to you our sister Phoebe.
Commend is the Greek word sunistáō meaning to cause to stand with.
What Paul was doing was directing this congregation to treat Phoebe with respect, and to stand by her in ministry.
To add to what I believe I am seeing here, check out Eugene Peterson’s Message, which often leans to the more emotional side of the conversation.
“Be sure to welcome our friend Phoebe in the way of the Master, with all the generous hospitality we Christians are famous for. I heartily endorse both her and her work. She’s a key representative of the church at Cenchrea.”
Now, ask yourself this question, why is an introduction like this necessary?
Have you ever heard someone speak on the fact, that we do not see women, treated as human beings until Jesus comes on the scene? While you might want to argue that point and say, there were, what some would call powerful women in the Biblical narratives, but on the whole, you get junk like King David merely taking Bathsheba, a married woman. After the circumcision of Moses’ sons, we do not see much of his wife; and note how Sarah, after Abraham takes Issac to sacrifice disappears from the conversation. What Jesus did for that woman caught in the act of adultery is amazing and life-changing.
So, is Paul aware of attitudes? Absolutely, and he, being a Jew, knows full well what the Jewish attitude toward women is. Considering that I have heard that Pharisees, as Paul was, were to be married men, and we never see Paul speaking of a wife or in-laws (much.)
I have wanted to be able to hold bible studies at the church. One of my pastors told me that I was too edgy to teach. He offered no explanation of what that meant. I know that if the pastor had told the audience to welcome me as a teacher; I have good things to say about him; and, you need to know that he has a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and an understanding of the Bible, that many would come, all because I was validated, just as Paul did with Phoebe.
What else did Paul say about her?
- “I heartily endorse both her and her work.”
- “She’s a key representative of the church at Cenchrea.”
- “Help her out in whatever she asks.”
- “She deserves anything you can do for her.”
- “She’s helped many a person, including me.”
Paul does not define what that help looked like; it could have been financial or she gave him a place to stay. The point is, that Paul showed tremendous respect for her and endorsed her to this new audience.
Romans 16:3-5 NET. Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, (4) who risked their own necks for my life. Not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. (5) Also greet the church in their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.
So many translations call her Priscilla, it is unimportant. What is important, is that Paul is also throwing his support to this couple. The husband, Aquilla, is a Jew, and that alone may play a role in Paul’s support of them. (I suppose it is best to think in terms of those who have served in the United States Marine Corps. They may now be 80 years old but they will insist that once you are a Marine, you are always a Marine.) We learn more about Priscilla and Aquilla in Acts 18.
After this, Paul left Athens and went on to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, for Emperor Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and stayed and worked with them, because he earned his living by making tents, just as they did. (Acts 18:1-3 GNB)
When Paul meets them in Corinth, they were effectively exiled from Italy. Since we know that the book of Acts was written around A.D. 33-29, then we know that Paul is writing this letter to the church that meets in Rome, some twenty years later. This would be plenty of time for Prisca and Aquilla to get the news of Claudius death and the rescinding of the Emperor’s order for expulsion.
Paul tells us, they risked their own necks for my life. What do we have that explains what they did?
Paul went to see them, “and stayed and worked with them, because he earned his living by making tents, just as they did. He held discussions in the synagogue every Sabbath, trying to convince both Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul gave his whole time to preaching the message, testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. When they opposed him and said evil things about him, he protested by shaking the dust from his clothes and saying to them, “If you are lost, you yourselves must take the blame for it! I am not responsible. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” So he left them and went to live in the house of a Gentile named Titius Justus, who worshiped God; his house was next to the synagogue.” (Acts 18:3-7 GNB)
The problem we have with scripture is that we seldom get a clear timeline, and therefore assume that it was merely five minutes between events. So when Paul is not teaching or studying, he is making tents to support himself.
- “Every Sabbath Paul held his discussions in the Synagogue,”
- and we are told that he is trying to convince both Jews and Greeks about Jesus as the Messiah.
- Now that Silas and Timothy have arrived, Priscilla and Aquila have somehow removed Paul’s financial burden and Paul is now able to commit his entire time to preaching the message, and testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah (this is huge.)
Suddenly, we learn that Paul is receiving not only opposition, but evil things are now being said about him. Is it possible that the opposition was strong enough, and ugly enough, to jeopardize the lives of Priscilla and Aquila? That is possible, but we don’t know. Without casting any dispersion upon the couple, Paul shakes the dust off his clothing/shoes and moves into another house, the house of a Gentile, who happened to live right next to the synagogue.
We do know, based upon the accolades Paul is bestowing upon the couple in his letter to the church at Rome,
- that they risked their own necks for my life. Not only I, but
- all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
And, that Priscilla and Aquila, now back in Rome, have a house church; and that, this church Paul is writing to should also greet the church that gathers in Priscilla and Aquila’s house.
Romans 16:6-12 GNB Greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for you. (7) Greetings also to Andronicus and Junia, fellow Jews who were in prison with me; they are well known among the apostles, and they became Christians before I did. (8) My greetings to Ampliatus, my dear friend in the fellowship of the Lord. (9) Greetings also to Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ’s service, and to Stachys, my dear friend. (10) Greetings to Apelles, whose loyalty to Christ has been proved. Greetings to those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. (11) Greetings to Herodion, a fellow Jew, and to the Christians in the family of Narcissus. (12) My greetings to Tryphaena and Tryphosa, who work in the Lord’s service, and to my dear friend Persis, who has done so much work for the Lord.
It feels like this Church is a typical small-town church, where everybody knows each other.
Romans 16:13 GNB I send greetings to Rufus, that outstanding worker in the Lord’s service, and to his mother, who has always treated me like a son.
” and to his mother, who has always treated me like a son.” Where and how did this interaction take place? Aside from the information in this letter, we are not aware. It could be that Priscilla and Aquila made some introductions, as the Jews who dispelled from Rome may have followed each other.
Romans 16:14-16 GNB My greetings to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and all the other Christians with them. (15) Greetings to Philologus and Julia, to Nereus and his sister, to Olympas and to all of God’s people who are with them. (16) Greet one another with the kiss of peace. All the churches of Christ send you their greetings.
- “Greet one another with the kiss of peace.”
Final Instructions and Greetings
Romans 16:17 NET. Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. Avoid them!
- “watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. Avoid them!”
These people you are trying to avoid, are espousing self-willed opinion, and mean to split the church.
Me and my stories. A brother invites me to his home church. He had only recently started coming to the church I go to. Our introduction to each other, was nothing short of rough as I had judged the man over a tee-shirt he was wearing one Sunday morning. Having apologized to him for my negativity, he said, I rarely meet people like you, who are willing to accept responsibility for their actions, would you like to come to my home church? I must have felt like I owed him, and so I said sure. After several meetings I found myself thoroughly disgusted. He wasn’t holding to the doctrines of the church – things like mercy and grace, but hammered the small crowd of believers over SIN and hell. One night he said, does anyone have anything to say? And I now had plenty to say. I read him a scripture that rebutted his preaching, and made a comment about the seven layers of hell he was espousing. A dear lady also said something, in contrast, that night. We were squelched that evening, and ridiculed, publicly, the following meeting. I no longer attend there, and they fed you well. And to think, I was deemed too edgy to teach.
Paul goes on to explain,
Romans 16:18 NET. For these are the kind who do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By their smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of the naive.
- “For these are the kind who do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.”
- “By their smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of the naive.” I have seen and heard it all; they try to come across as concerned for the health of the Church, but in truth they are merely trying to advance their own egos.
A slight shift in the greeting.
Romans 16:19 NET. Your obedience is known to all and thus I rejoice over you. But I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.
Obedience to what?
The gospel that Paul preaches. Some could immediately see this as Paul dispensing his own law, but if you have read through the entirety of Romans, as a few of us have, then you would see that Paul preaches freedom, and does not evade the law.
Romans 16:20 ASV And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Let’s take this letter, where Paul talks of God bruising Satan under our feet, as a relative thing, especially since the letter was written about two-thousand years ago and we are still battling with Satan and those who choose to be used by him. I get it, God has things in control, but it is difficult, at times, to remember that, especially when you are in anguish. However, the day will come, and there will be peace.
The greetings continue.
This next verse is in italics.
Romans 16:24 ASV The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
In almost every translation, italicized words are there merely for clarity. It then is presumed that Paul would have said this.
Romans 16:25-27 ASV Now to him, that is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal, (26) but now is manifested, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, is made known unto all the nations unto obedience of faith: (27) to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever. Amen.
- “Now to him that is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ,”
The obvious question is, WHO is establishing you?
The answer is the Holy Spirit/Jesus/God.
But by what standard?
The message that Paul preached.
- “according to my gospel”
- “and the preaching of Jesus Christ,”
- “according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal, but now is manifested,”
- “and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God,”
- “is made known unto all the nations unto obedience of faith.”
All in all, this sort of demands that we understand the message that Paul preached. Simple, and yet, not so much. We think it was all mercy and grace, but it included the law, the prophets, the revelation of “the mystery, and things that Jesus taught.”
Now wait a minute, did Saul/Paul learn from the things that Jesus taught while He walked the earth? Not a chance, but then there was that day that Saul, the pharisee, got knocked to the ground, and Jesus spoke to him. We seem to forget that Saul/Paul, went away by himself to seek God’s voice. I can only believe that he heard that voice. And, since the only documented “word” they had were the precious scrolls, kept in the synagogues, then Saul/Paul learned from this grace from the law and the prophets. In there he found the mystery that many in Israel still seek.
What a joy it is to know that the mystery is made known unto all the nations, who express an obedience of faith.
Know this, He is the only wise God, through Jesus Christ; and, to whom be the glory forever. So Be it.