Romans 16:18-22

In Romans 16:18-22 Paul continues talking about those who would divide God’s people (cause divisions) and those who would deceive God’s people (offenses… contrary to the doctrine you have learned). He has two different targets that cause issues in the church that he wants to address. Unity is essential to God’s purpose for the church. Truth without unity leads to pride; unity without truth leads to a departure from the true gospel itself. “For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. Paul’s warning is necessary because these dividers and deceivers do not announce themselves. They use smooth words and flattering speech and always target the simple – usually those who are young in the faith.

Dividers and deceivers never want to appear selfish. Typically they perceive themselves as noble crusaders for a great cause. The church in Rome has been dealing with them, and Paul calls out their efforts and applauds them for doing the right things. “For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” So Paul is grateful that they are already dealing with these situations well. Paul is glad about it. Yet  he reminds them that they must remain diligent against the attacks of the dividers and the deceivers.

Paul then delivers the ultimate good news for the church at Rome, and any church that walks in God’s truth. The day is coming when ultimate victory will be experienced. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” God does the crushing, but Satan ends up under the feet of believers. This will not ultimately happen until Satan is bound and cast into the bottomless pit; but every victory God wins for us right now is a preview of that event. And most importantly, we know how the story truly ends and Satan will be defeated once for all and Christ will reign victorious over all the earth!

As Paul wraps up this letter to the church in Rome, he mentions those who have helped him get it done. First comes Timothy, one of Paul’s closest and most trusted associates. Three others are listed as joining Paul in sending greetings to the Roman Christians. “Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.” Tertius is mentioned as Paul’s writer while the apostle dictated the letter. This was Paul’s normal practice in writing letters to churches, but this is the only letter where Paul’s secretary is mentioned by name. “I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.” Tertius was Paul’s writer as the apostle dictated the letter. This was Paul’s normal practice in writing letters to churches, but this is the only letter where Paul’s secretary is mentioned by name.

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Romans 16:12-17

In Romans 16:12-17 Paul continues greeting folks through his letter. Next he calls out two ‘workers in the Lord – Tryphaena and Tryphosa. These are two Christian women in the church in Rome that were believed to be twin sisters or very close relatives. Next comes Persis, who is identified as a hard worker. She was also a female Christian at Rome whom Paul salutes. Rufus and his mother come next. He evidently had some eminence among the Christians of Rome and she cared for Paul’s needs. “Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.”

He follows with a list of folks and others who were with them. John Gill writes about these men as guys ‘who died in the Roman martyrology, as disciples of the apostle Paul. Asyncritus is said to be bishop of Hyrcania, and Phlegon of Marathon. Hermas is said to be bishop of Philippi, or Aquileia. All of them are likely members of the seventy disciples. “Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them.” These men, along with others, seem to have lived together as part of a spiritually related band of brothers whom the apostle Paul loved as such.

Then comes another group. Philologus and Julia were likely husband and wife and he was probably part of the seventy disciples. Nereus and his sister are next on the list. There is no real clarity about who they were other than family.  Olympas along with Nereus and his sister and others who lived with them are all thought to be part of the seventy disciples. This group of followers were extremely important to Paul, and he obviously knew them intimately and had strong love for them. “Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.” He was focused on unity and oneness of the body. “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.”

Paul has given us a long list of important people in his ministry and patch. He did this intentionally to demonstrate that the work of the ministry was not his alone, but there were many who played a part. Now he shifts gears as he wraps up the chapter and exhorts the church to stay focused on unity. “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” There are some who make it their cause to create dissention and drive a wedge between the body of believers. Paul reminds them to go back to the truth and stay focused on what is right and true and to stay away from those who want to destroy!

Romans 16:7-11

In Romans 16:7-11 Paul continues to call out those who have impacted his life and ministry. He mentions Andronicus and Junia who were apparently Jews (my kinsmen) and were imprisoned for the sake of the gospel (my fellow prisoners). They were well regarded among the apostles, having become Christians even before Paul.“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.” These two were closely connected to the Twelve, and lived a life of support and ministry from the early days of the faith.

Paul next calls out Ampliatus, whom Paul loved, along with Urbanus who served as part of the group ministered the love of Christ. He is known to have helped Paul and the church in Rome to spread the gospel. There aren’t many details on these individuals but Paul thought enough of them to call them out in his letter. Next he lists Stachys who was a Roman Christian and believed to be one of the seventy disciples.  Some believe he was ordained bishop of the Byzantine church by Andrew the apostle and later martyred. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys.”

Paul continues to list his thanks and mentions Apelles. He is approved in Christ which means he has shown himself to be faithful and sincere in his walk as a Christ Follower and lived a life that was since and consistent with his faith. And then Paul calls out the family of Aristobulus believed to be a grandson of Herod the Great that was educated and lived in a private station at Rome. Some believe that Aristobulus was not himself converted to become a follower of Christ, but many in his household were. “Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. “

Paul continues and asks to greet Herodion, who is believed to be one of the seventy disciples and was potentially the bishop of Tarsus. And he continues by calling out the family of Narcissus who is thought to probably be one who had great favor with the Emporor Claudius and became a freedman. He was very wealthy himself but was known to be a wicked man.  There were many in his family however that were Christ followers in spite of his wickedness which caused him to be put to death by the throne. “Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus.”

Romans 16:1-6

In Romans 16:1-6 Paul begins a chapter filled with gratitude, appreciation and greetings to people who are important in his life. He starts with the most important and speaks directly to them one by one, and as he goes, the grouping begins to happen and it grows until he is at a macro level. So he starts with one and ends with many, but that doesn’t change the importance of each of these individuals or the impact the group overall had on him. It’s another example of the humanness of Paul. He was a powerful minister of the gospel, but he certainly didn’t do it alone, and he definitely had many others in his life that were essential to accomplishing what he did.

He begins by praising a woman who was obviously important in the ministry. Paul certainly knew the value of what women could do in serving the church. Apparently Phoebe was on her way to Rome (probably entrusted with this precious letter) and Paul sends an advance recommendation of this sister in Christ so the Romans will receive her and support her during her stay in their city. “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” Paul legitimized Phoebe as his helper and that of the church.

Next comes Priscilla and Aquila who are mentioned several times in the book of Acts as associates of Paul and helpers to Apollos. Apparently they were now back in the city of Rome. “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.” Their devotion to Paul is deep – risking their own lives for his. These two are husband and wife that are united in a extreme devotion not only to Paul, but also in their efforts to help create healthy churches among the Gentiles.

Paul gives us a hint about how the church was structured in that day – where it was held in churches. Priscilla and Aquila were hosts of one of those churches in their own house. “Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.” Paul calls out a man named Epaenetus. This man is of note because he was apparently among the very first converts of Achaia (where Corinth was and where Paul wrote the letter to the Romans). Epaenetus was dear to Paul; beloved isn’t a term Paul used cheaply. Mary is not someone we know much about other than her willingness to work hard and help Paul with ministry.

Romans 15:28-33

In Romans 15:28-33 Paul is planning to head out on his next trip. Paul would indeed head for Rome after his time in Jerusalem, but not in the way he planned! “When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you.” He’ll make the trip as a prisoner who is heading there to stand trial for his actions and beliefs. Wasn’t quite how he had planned it, but it was obviously how God wanted to use him at this time. We always need to remember that God is in control, no matter how much we may think we are, and His ways are not always our ways. But our ways always need to be His!

Paul is encouraging the local church to prepare for his visit fully expecting to have them bless his time with them. We need to encourage each other and be filled with hospitality and blessing to one another.  “I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” Paul is prepping them to join his ministry and mission. The idea is that Paul wants the Romans to partner with him in ministry through their prayers. The New English Bible translates this: ‘be my allies in the fight.’ The New Living Bible translates the phrase like this: ‘join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.’ He’s looking to build an army of believers to minister together through him.

He appeals openly and broadly. “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf,”.  “Ministers need the prayers of their flocks. Paul pleads for the church to join him in prayer for those he would serve and share the gospel with, but also for those who might resist or even want to harm him. Based on what Paul writes, Smith wrote ‘I urge you to strive in your prayers for your pastors. We need your prayers and we thank God for them. Pastors are sustained by the power of the Spirit through the support of their congregations.’

Some may find it hard to believe that Paul needed these prayers or anything from the church. He was a sort of ‘superman’ when it came to doing God’s work. But Paul knew that his danger in Jerusalem would come from those who did not believe. So he asked for prayer for protection from the unblievers (outside the body) but also that those inside the body would be pleased with what he did. Problems can come from in or out of the body, and Paul asks for prayer around both concerns. He ends with “that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”

Romans 15:23-27

In Romans 15:23-27 Paul is telling of his future plans. Paul expresses his desire to visit the Romans on a future trip to Spain, where he will preach the gospel on the frontiers. Stopping off in Rome on the way, Paul anticipates that he can enjoy the support and fellowship of the Romans before he goes to preach the gospel in the regions beyond. “But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.”

As strong and bold as Paul was, even he needed rest and encouragement to keep going. So a quick stop in Rome would prepare him for the days ahead. We have to remember that all of us are human, and no matter the work or ministry, we have to care for ourselves or we’ll become useless to God at some point. There was another reason Paul wanted to stop in Rome. Guzik writes that ‘Paul probably wanted Rome to be his base of operations for the western part of the empire, even as Antioch was his base for the eastern part.’ Ministry isn’t just haphazardly going out and sharing God’s truth. There needs to be strategy and a plan to do it effectively.

But before he heads toward Rome and then Spain, he’s making a stop. “At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints.” Paul had plans; yet things did not work out according to his plans. He did go to Rome, yet not as a missionary on his way to Spain. He went to Rome as a prisoner awaiting trial before Caesar, where he would preach the gospel on a different kind of frontier. Paul was also not afraid to talk money and support with the churches. “For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.” Giving is a part of the Christian walk, and we shouldn’t shy from calling all believers to give as God directs.

Paul planned to stop in Corinth on his way to Jerusalem to deliver a collection from Christians in Macedonia and Achaia for the good of the church in Jerusalem who was in need. “For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.” The Gentile Christians of the broader Roman empire had received so much spiritually from the community of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, it was only right that they help the Jerusalem Christians in their ime of need. So Paul took it upon himself to not only encourage the giving but be the deliverer as well.

Romans 15:17-22

In Romans 15:17-22 Paul begins by openly stating that he’s doing God’s work God’s way. Because of his service through Christ, he has much to be proud of for the truth proclaimed and the lives impacted. “In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.” As he considers his call to be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, Paul can glory in God that he received such a call – speaking only of the things God did through him to bring salvation to the Gentiles. This isn’t pride in self, but pride in God’s hand using him as a minister that carried the gospel that all may hear it. This is glorifying God for what He has done through Paul.

His message is focused and very narrow – it’s Jesus. And his ability to communicate and show the power of God came through the Spirit. God used mighty signs and wonders and the broader power of the Spirit of God to help Paul fully preach the gospel of Christ everywhere he went – from Jerusalem to Illyricum. “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience–by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God–so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;”

Paul chose to take the gospel to those who hadn’t heard it. He did not want to build on another man’s foundation. Rather he wanted to do pioneer work for the Lord – to take the gospel where it wasn’t – not because it was wrong or bad to continue the work begun through another man, but because there was so much to do on the frontiers. “and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”

Part of his desire to go to new places may have been related to making sure everyone had a chance to hear God’s truth. It was his way of fulfilling God’s direction from the Old Testament. But there is always a trade-off with travel and the reality that you can only be one place at a time. Even Paul was limited in his ability to get to everywhere he wanted to go. He admits here that his travel was preventing a visit to Rome. “This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you.” He knows there must be a balance between ministering to the Romans and the rest of the world.

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