Romans 16 Part 1
Paul enters into his formal closure of the letter. Nowhere else do we find such a lengthy list of personal greetings by Paul indicating the extensive personal friendships he had, even among the churches he had not visited. Were these some friends he had met in other cities, among other churches that were at Rome? Were they contributors (financially, spiritually, etc.) that supported Paul? While we may not know the true background behind their friendships, we do know Paul thought enough of them that he mentioned them by name. Throughout the passage note the emphasis upon a warm, tender heart. A local church should be a friendly, welcoming church—an open, gracious church. There should be no strangers in the Lord’s church. The church should guard against becoming a closed society, a body of cliques, shut up only to themselves.
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2 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.
Phoebe was most likely the courier for Paul’s letter to Rome. Paul urges the Roman Christians to receive and assist her as she comes to them, presumably with the letter. Such commendations for couriers were frequent in the ancient world, because often the recipients did not know the courier.
Sister - The relationship mentioned is spiritual, not familial.
The term servant diakonos might suggest Phoebe carried the letter, since the term can describe an intermediary (probably from an obsolete diako (to run on errands, servant, one who serves, without necessarily having the office of deacon). Since it is clear that Tertius was Paul’s secretary (Rom 16:22), it is likely that Phoebe was the courier. This does not necessarily suggest she read the letter to the church on arrival—letter carriers did not function as lectors (readers) in the ancient world.
To describe Phoebe as a servant in the church would be a commendation to any believer wishing to be like Jesus, and it is possible this is Paul’s meaning in Rom 16:1. As Paul elsewhere makes clear, deacons were individuals in the church who served in various capacities. As opposed to “elders/overseers,” it may be that deacons were not given the task of teaching and preaching but rather overseeing various areas of service in the church.
Cenchreae (ken kray eye)- A small seaport a few miles on the eastern side of the Isthmus of Corinth (narrow land bridge which connects the Peloponnese peninsula with the rest of the mainland of Greece, near the city of Corinth).
Welcome - receive, accept, stand by her. to accept the presence of a person with friendliness—‘to welcome, to receive, to accept, to have as a guest.’
In the Lord - shows that the church is to welcome her as a fellow believer
Patron - A woman who contributes to the fulfillment of a need or furtherance of an effort or purpose, especially with financial needs.
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 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.
Prisca and Aquila - A Jewish-Christian teacher and coworker of Paul who supported and/or led churches with her husband Aquila in at least three cities (Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus). Also known as Priscilla. Tent makers by trade, facilitated a church in their own houses at various points in Corinth (Acts 18:1–11 ; 1 Cor 16:19–20), Ephesus (Acts 18:19; 2 Tim 4:19), and Rome (Rom 16:3–5).
Acts 18:1-3 “1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.”
2 Tim 4:19 “19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.” A Christian who took care of Paul at Ephesus and Rome.
Onesiphorus - A Christian who took care of Paul at Ephesus and Rome. 2 Timothy 1:16 “16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains,”
Who risked their necks for my life - In what way they risked their lives is not known. Priscilla and Aquila were companions of Paul. They were originally residents of Rome. But the Roman emperor, Claudius, had the Jews banished from Rome in A.D. 52. Priscilla and Aquila moved to Corinth. They were the couple who opened their home to Paul the apostle when he first entered Corinth. They were also the couple who went into business with Paul as tent-makers. They later travelled with Paul to Ephesus where they settled (Acts 18:18).
5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia.
Greet also the church in their house - The chief characteristic of this couple was an open heart and an open house. Wherever we find them, we find that their home is the center for Christian worship and fellowship.
Epaenetus - A Roman gentile that Paul listed as his first convert to Christ in Asia. It took raw courage to be the first convert to Christ in the midst of a pagan society. Just imagine the changed life, the surrendering of himself to Jesus as Lord, and the giving of all he was and had to the Lord’s cause. Just imagine the attitude and reactions of his neighbors, friends, and fellow workers: the possible questioning, misunderstanding, ridicule, mockery, withdrawal, isolation. Epenetus was unquestionably a man of remarkable courage.
6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.
Mary - A lady who labored much and worked hard. Note that Mary was a member of the Roman church. Paul had never been to the Roman church; therefore, Mary had ministered to him and his fellow workers someplace else. In fact, she had ministered so much to his corps of workers that Paul commends her for this labor rather than for her ministry to the church. We have no idea what she did for Paul’s team, but whatever it was, it was an effective ministry that required much diligent labor.
7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.
Andronicus - Paul states that they were “well known to the apostles” and “were also in Christ before [him].
Junia - Junia is sometimes assumed to be the wife of Andronicus.
Believed to be early converts imprisoned with Paul. Kinsmen lead one to believe The facts given about them are interesting, for they reveal they were relatives of Paul, who were also believers. Being imprisoned, they were true believers willing to stand up for the faith. Being believers before Paul’s conversion, they would have been possibly been converted before Stephen’s stoning making them some of the earliest believers.
8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.
Ampliatus - this believer simply has the testimony of being beloved. But note, he is “beloved” by a minister of the gospel; and he is greatly loved, for he is called “my beloved.” The fact that God has his name recorded as “beloved” in the Holy Scripture indicates that he was a man of remarkable love, a man who greatly loved others and who was greatly loved by others.
9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys.
Urbanus - A fellow worker/believer who worked beside Paul in furthering the Gospel message. His faith was loyal to Christ wherever he traveled. He refrained from worldliness wherever he went.
Stachys - This believer is also called my beloved (a dear friend) by Paul. He was a believer characterized by the greatest of all traits and qualities: love. Just imagine the strength of a man whose character is said to be so strong that his dominant feature is love.
10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus.
Apelles - This was a believer who had been tested and approved as faithful. Apparently, Apelles had undergone some extreme suffering and had stood against it, proving his loyalty beyond question. Note: the trial and suffering had been so severe that it had made a lasting impression upon Paul and is mentioned in Scripture. So far as we know Apelles was a lay believer. The fact that he was tested so fiercely shows that God will meet our need in the midst of suffering—if we will do but one thing: be faithful, loyal. We are to stand fast against suffering, trusting the presence of God’s Spirit to carry us through the trial.
Family of Aristobulus - The believers being greeted in this statement were slaves who were now serving the true Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. Aristobulus was the name of Herod the Great’s grandson. This could possibly be a reference to his slaves. The two names surrounding Aristobulus’ name would indicate this. Apelles is the Greek name that a Jewish slave would take when enslaved, and Herodion is a name that would be commonly used by a person of Herod’s household. At any rate, the charge is to the slaves of some master, probably of royal rank. Since coming to know Christ, they were first and foremost enslaved by Christ, the true Royal Master.
11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus.
Herodion - this man was another relative of Paul who was a believer (see v. 7). There is no reason for translating kinsman (suggene) as fellow countryman instead of relative. Others who are mentioned were Jews, but are not called kinsmen by Paul. What effect did this relative have upon Paul’s conversion? Again the answer is unknown, but the fact that we should be witnessing to our relatives is driven home to our hearts and minds.
Family of Narcissus -
the believers in this household were the enslaved “in the Lord.” Note: not all of the household were believers. Paul greets only those who were believers. The phrase “in the Lord” is in contrast to the phrase “in the world” (see 1 Jn. 2:15–16 “15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”). It is probably a deliberate wording to contrast the difference between the laboring slaves and their wealthy master. Narcissus was probably the wealthy secretary to the Emperor Claudius. He determined the appointments of the Emperor and amassed a great fortune from kickbacks.
The fact to note is this: these believers were so enslaved by Christ that they stood up for Him even in the midst of a divided household. Nothing can pose any more of a temptation and threat to one’s faith than one’s own household when it is filled with unbelievers. The indication is that these believers within this household were faithful to Christ, so loyal that their commitment to Christ merited being recorded in Scripture.
12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord.
Tryphaena & Tryphosa - These two dear ladies labored much and worked hard in the Lord. The name Tryphena means dainty and the name Tryphosa means delicate. The word labor means to work to the point of exhaustion, toiling to the point of collapse. The point is that the two dainty and delicate ladies were working like horses for the Lord and His church
a beloved believer who worked hard in the Lord. Note that two traits are recorded in God’s Hall of Fame about her: 1) She was beloved: a woman of such love and ministry that the believers looked upon her as the “beloved Persis.” 2) She labored ever so diligently for her Lord: witnessing, ministering, and helping in every way she could.
13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.
Rufus - This believer is said to be a saintly man (note the word chosen). Paul does not say that Rufus was chosen by the Lord, but in the Lord. The emphasis is not election, but tenderness, preciousness, and warmth—an intimate relationship. Rufus was a man who lived ever so close to Christ. He had an intimate, personal relationship and communion with Christ. He was known as a saintly man—a man who was totally set apart unto the Lord. Note that Rufus was probably the son of Simon the Cyrenian who carried the cross for Jesus (see note—Mk. 15:21 “21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.”). Our imaginations can easily picture the family of Simon along side the road watching their husband and father carry the cross for Jesus up the hill of Calvary. The impact of the crucifixion would forever change their lives by leading to their conversion.
Rufus’ Mother - a mother to God’s servants. Note: Paul calls her his mother, not literally, but in the Lord. On several occasions, perhaps many occasions, she had cared for Paul just as a mother cares for her son. When Paul needed a mother’s comfort and care, presence and love, sharing and advice—he went to the mother of Rufus if she was close by.
14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
Paul finishes with a list of unknown servants of God—believers who are unknown, but faithful in the fellowship of the church. We do not know much about these saints as there is no further information on their families, their involvement, or their roles within the church of Rome. Apparently two different groups or congregations are being greeted. The stress is upon the unity, faithfulness, and fellowship of the believers. Not all believers are leaders, nor would all believers be counted worthy of a Hall of Fame while on this earth. But in heaven the situation will be different. God will look upon the heart, and every person will be written in the Book of Life, God’s eternal Hall of Fame.
There are three sets of passages in which the New Testament refers to the kiss or/and kissing.
The first is found in Luke 7:36–50, where Jesus tells his host, Simon the Pharisee, “A kiss you did not give me, but she (the penitent woman), from the moment I came in, has not stopped kissing my feet.” The lesson is: not only should there be affection but it should be expressed. There should be a token of affection; for example, a kiss.
The second is described in Luke 22:47, 48 (cf. Matt. 26:47–49: Mark 14:44, 45). Jesus says to Judas, “Is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of man?” Not only should love be expressed but this love should be real; the kiss should be sincere.
The third concerns the kiss interchanged between the members of the Christian community, the church. It is this kiss to which there is a reference here in Rom. 16:16 (=1 Cor. 16:20) and also, with transposition of two words, in 2 Cor. 13:12. Not only should there be a kiss and not only should it be a symbol of genuine affection but it should also be holy. In other words, it should never imply less than three parties: God and the two who kiss each other. The holy kiss symbolizes Christ’s love mutually shared.434 It is indeed as indicated in 1 Peter 5:14, “a kiss of love,” hence also a kiss of harmony, peace. If this is rightly understood believers will not deliberately omit kissing those whom they do not happen to like. They will love even those whom they do not like. The holy kiss is for all the members (1 Thess. 5:26).
On his travels from place to place Paul came into contact with ever so many churches. From them he would gather information to be passed along to others. It is reasonable to suppose that the churches visited by the apostle would ask him to transmit their greetings to the brothers and sisters in Christ he would meet elsewhere.
Paul was eager to comply with this request, for he himself, at every opportunity, was stressing the unity of all believers in Christ.
Hendriksen, William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Vol. 12–13. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. Print. New Testament Commentary.
Leadership Ministries Worldwide. Romans. Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996. Print. The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible.