Romans Chapter sixteen

The apostle Paul was once a proud, male Jew and a Pharisee who strictly observed the Law of Moses. Male Jews were granted an honoured privilege as far as access into the Temple in Jerusalem under the old covenant was concerned – but it is evident that such privilege and responsibility unfortunately led to self-righteous pride.

It is a well known tradition that Jewish men pray daily – and included in their ritual prayers, are the following: “Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a Gentile. Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a slave. Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a woman.”

It has been suggested that: “They were thanking God because Gentiles, slaves and women were not allowed to participate fully in the community of faith. If you remember, in the Temple, there was a court for Gentiles, and a court for women. Both with restricted access into the Temple . . . restricted access into God’s presence”. [i]

However, even if gentiles, slaves and women were regarded as having been in more humble circumstances than that of male Jews under the old covenant, they had opportunity of shaming the proud arrogance of self-righteous people by demonstrating great character through being gracious and willing to serve while entrusting themselves to God.

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear (1 Peter 3:1-6).

Evidently, it was not unheard of, under the old covenant, for a father to sell his daughter as a servant, yet a son was highly regarded as his heir:

If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do. 8 If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. 9 If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money (Exodus 21:7-11).

Evidently it was also acceptable, under the old covenant, to possess slaves from among the gentiles:

“…the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. 43 Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God. 44 Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly” (Leviticus 25:42-46).

There is very little that is, in my opinion, more detestable than male chauvinism combined with national and religious pride and conceit – which despises the lowly – and which also then tends to despise Jesus Christ and his humiliation and death on the cross – through which he broke down the former barriers between Israel and the nations which were also associated with the earthly Temple.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:26-29).

Paul’s closing greeting in this letter to the Church in Rome includes very personal greetings with people mentioned by name, of individuals whom Paul knew well and loved in the Lord even though he had not yet visited the church in Rome.

The names included men, women, Romans, (even including government officials and aristocrats) Greeks, Jews, slaves, and people who were once fellow-prisoners with Paul.

VERSES 1-2 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant [deacon] of the church in Cenchrea. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

One commentary on Romans noted that Phoebe’s name, which means “radiant” or “bright moon”, was also the name of a Greek goddess – and yet this particular woman, who was most probably from a Roman or Greek pagan background, was not compelled to change her name, for she was a testimony of God’s grace in saving people from all walks of life – and she became a notable Christian woman, a deaconess in the church and a friend and helper of the apostle Paul.

VERSES 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

Priscilla and Aquila were a Jewish couple who had evidently fled from Rome when the emperor Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome and that is how they had met Paul – but had returned to Rome as Christian missionaries.

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks (Acts 18:1-4).

Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken. 19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews (Acts 18:18-19).

VERSE 5 Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

It is evident that many of the Christians in Rome, some whom Paul knew personally, although he had not yet been to Rome on his missionary journey, had travelled quite extensively – and even came to faith while on their travels – and that is how Paul had come to know them so well.

VERSE 6-7 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

It seems that some of Paul’s relatives had become Christians – and as we note from the above greeting, some were even Christians before he was.

When a gang of Jews plotted to kill the apostle Paul on account of his Christian testimony, it was Paul’s nephew, (the son of Paul’s sister), who warned him of their intentions (Acts 23:12-24).

VERSES 8-9 Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

Paul’s greeting of these Christians by name and from various social standings, is with a great sense of warmth and affection. They were people who knew of Paul’s trials and suffering for the sake of the gospel and they also knew humility and shared in Christ’s suffering – and they were bound together in the love of God in relationships which rose above the social classes, culture and nationality – and which would continue for eternity as a testimony of the peace and reconciliation that only comes through knowing Jesus the King of kings who first became a servant to all.

It has been suggested that some of the people mentioned had been slaves and others of high social standing – who were united in the love of Christ.

VERSES 10-11 Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

VERSES 12-13 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

Some people have suggested that it is quite likely that the person Rufus, mentioned in Paul’s greeting as “chosen in the Lord”, – was the same Rufus mentioned in Mark’s gospel – and who was the son of Simon from Cyrene who was forced to carry Jesus’ cross.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha – which means The Place of the Skull (Mark 15:21-22).

VERSES 14-15 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them.

15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them.

VERSE 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

It is customary for men in the Middle East to greet each other with a physical show of affection, but many western men have an aversion to greeting other men with a kiss.

It says in 1 Peter 5:14  – Greet one another with a kiss of love.

And in 1 Thessalonians 5:26 – Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

And 1 Corinthians 16:20 and in 2 Corinthians 13:12 – Greet one another with a holy kiss.

It is perhaps rather sad that many of us are raised in a kind of stand-offish manner in which we probably lack much of the warmth and affection that should be expressed among each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are God’s household – a people in whose hearts the love of God has been shed abroad.

There is unfortunately a competitiveness and even distrust among many Christians that needs to be broken down through a deeper revelation of God’s love manifested in Christ. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19).

It is sad too, that some insist on separating God’s chosen people in Christ, between Jew and Greek – and between the so-called “gentile church” and the nation of Israel, as if the church was separate from Israel.

The word “church” really describes a called out, redeemed assembly of worshippers, who worship the Father through the glory of the Son, in spirit and in truth – and which is the Israel of God which is freed from the curse of disobedience under the old covenant – and called into the glorious light through the new covenant in which all former barriers and dividing walls of hostility have been broken down.

Paul, once a proud male Jew who persecuted the church of Jesus Christ, formed bonds of friendship which defied his previous Jewish strict separateness from “gentile sinners” – was made to endure great suffering and humiliation for his faith in Jesus Christ.

In calling the apostle Paul out of his strict Pharisee religion of legalistic righteousness, Jesus said of him, “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts

The Christians whom Paul mentioned by name – who were personally and well known by him, even their reputation as Christians and as his supporters, assistants and co-workers in the gospel – who through the humility shown in Christ and the cross that Jesus bore for us, – and who all came from diverse backgrounds – racially, culturally, religiously and in social class etc. – were made one in Christ giving testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit to unite all people in the truth.

They identified with Paul and his suffering as an apostle – and they became his new family and source of encouragement and faith.

How the new covenant differs from the former religious and national pride that once set Jews apart from gentiles – and how great is the new unity when we all find that we are together reconciled to God through his love and mercy demonstrated in Christ our King!

Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. 17 Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen (Galatians 6:13-18).

All the churches of Christ send greetings.

VERSES 17-19 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

VERSE 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

There are some people who go about rebuking Satan as if they can crush him under their feet – but it is not our authority over him which defeats him, but through faith in Christ that we are set free from his power – and it is God who will crush him – as we humbly submit to Christ.

In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. 9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals–these are the very things that destroy them (Jude verses 8-10).

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

VERSES 21-23 Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives. 22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.

Gaius was one of the handful of people whom Paul himself actually baptized.

I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (1 Corinthians 1:14-17).

It was also probably the same Gaius who was known and loved by the apostle John – and mentioned in John’s third letter in which he also spoke concerning the demonstration of Christian hospitality of which Gaius had set a good example.

The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. 2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth (3 John 1:1–8).

Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.

The Jews who rejected Christ ironically tried to incite both Jerusalem and Rome against the Church of Christ – they and the pagans among the Romans who did not want to repent of their sins and denounce their idols, were happy to join together in their persecution of the Church.

But as Erastus, the city’s director of public works – and as Cornelius the Roman centurion, and as the Roman jailer, and many Jews and Roman and Greek citizens, including Roman dignitaries and officials – and synagogue rulers and priests – eventually came to embrace the truth of the gospel of the kingdom of God – acknowledging that Jesus Christ is Lord and King of kings.

VERSES 25-27 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

How are we “established” (in faith) and “by the gospel” – as God’s holy nation, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past?

While the earthly temple was standing in Jerusalem – it testified that people could not enter the presence of God – and people were still divided into different nations, languages and cultures and spread throughout the earth, but now we have been redeemed and united in Christ the King – and have we do not enter the temple, but have become a temple of living stones in which the Spirit of God is pleased to dwell.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:14-22).

Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6 And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ (Romans 1:5-6).


[i] (quoted from