The Book of Romans, chapter 16
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1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. Mk. 15:41; Lk. 8:3; Jn. 11:2; 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Jn. 12:1; Acts 18:2; Acts 18:26; 4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Jn. 11:5; 12:10; 5 Likewise [greet] the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. Jn. 12:2; 7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. 9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' [household]. 11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the [household] of Narcissus, which are in the Lord. 12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord. 13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. Jn. 19:26,27; 14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. 15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. 16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you. 1Cor 16:20; 2Cor 13:12; 1Thess 5:26; 1Pet 5:14;
17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. Col 2:8; Titus 3:10; 2John 1:10; Matt 18:17; 2Thess 3:6; 2Tim 3:5; 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. Mt. 23:17; Phil 3:19; Ezek 13:18; 19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all [men]. 1Thess 1:7,8; I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. Matt 10:16; 1Cor 14:20; 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. Gn. 3:15; The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you. Amen.
21 Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. Acts 16:1; Phil 2:19; Col 1:1; 1Thess 3:2; 1Tim 1:2; Acts 13:1; Acts 17:5; Acts 20:4; 22 I Tertius, who wrote [this] epistle, salute you in the Lord. 23 Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother. Acts 19:22; 2Tim 4:20; 24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you all. Amen.
25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, Mt. 13:17,35; Eph 3:20; Eph 1:9; Eph 3:9; Col 1:26; 2Tim 1:10; Titus 1:2; 1Pet 1:20; 26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: Lk. 24:27,44,47; 27 To God only wise, [be] glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen. Jn. 17:1; TOC
Commentary: Romans 16 - The apostle commends to the Christians at Rome Phoebe, a deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea, Rom 16:1, Rom 16:2. Sends greetings to Aquila and Priscilla, of whom he gives a high character; and greets also the Church at their house, Rom 16:3-5. Mentions several others by name, both men and women, who were members of the Church of Christ at Rome, Rom 16:6-16. Warns them to beware of those who cause dissensions and divisions, of whom he gives an awful character, Rom 16:17, Rom 16:18. Extols the obedience of the Roman Christians, and promises them a complete victory over Satan, Rom 16:19, Rom 16:20. Several persons send their salutations, Rom 16:21-23. To whose good wishes he subjoins the apostolic blessing; commends them to God; gives own abstract of the doctrines of the Gospel: and concludes with ascribing glory to the only wise God, through Christ Jesus, Rom 16:24-27. — Clarke
Romans 16 - Paul is now concluding this long and excellent epistle, and he does it with a great deal of affection. As in the main body of the epistle he appears to have been a very knowing man, so in these appurtenances of it he appears to have been a very loving man. So much knowledge and so much love are a very rare, but (where they exist) a very excellent and amiable - composition; for what is heaven but knowledge and love made perfect? It is observable how often Paul speaks as if he were concluding, and yet takes fresh hold again. One would have thought that solemn benediction which closed the foregoing chapter should have ended the epistle; and yet here he begins again, and in this chapter he repeats the blessing (Rom 16:20), “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, Amen.” And yet he has something more to say; nay, again he repeats the blessing (Rom 16:24), and yet has not done; an expression of his tender love. These repeated benedictions, which stand for valedictions, speak Paul loth to part. Now, in this closing chapter, we may observe, I. His recommendation of one friend to the Roman Christians, and his particular salutation of several among them (v. 1-16). II. A caution to take heed of those who caused divisions (Rom 16:17-20). III. Salutations added from some who were with Paul (Rom 16:21-24). IV. He concludes with a solemn celebration of the glory of God (Rom 16:25-27). — Henry
Rm. I6:1-16: It seems incongruous that Paul would not mention Peter in his extensive list of souls which he sends greetings to here, if Peter was indeed reigning in Rome as supreme head of the church, while absent in any place is any phrase or command to the church universal to remember or submit to Peter as the supreme head of all the church, and which Peter does not refer to himself as, though he did exercise a general pastoral office. (1Pt. 1:1) The primacy of Peter among the apostles is recognized by Paul in his distinctive mention of Cephas in 1Cor. 9:5, but where he affirms that Peter was married, and in Gal. 1:18, which mentions that he abode with Peter for 15 days some years after his conversion and call to ministry, and in Gal. 2:9 where he lists in order “James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars.” But neither here or in other communication to the churches is Peter afforded the distinctive demigod status historically fostered by the Rome toward her Pope, while they fail of the necessary credentials which marked the apostles, original or otherwise. (Acts 2:21-22; Acts 9:27; 1Cor. 9:1; 2Cor. 6:1-10; 12:12) Nor is there any manifest distinctive provision for a successor for Peter, while that which is established for bishops/elders (same office) in general (1Tim. 3:1-7; Titus. 1:5-8) is contrary to Rome's church law requiring that all (with exceptions for converts) have the gift of celibacy. The only successor mentioned for an apostle was to replace Judas, and which by done by drawing lots, (Acts 1:15-26; cf. Prov. 16:33) and which seems necessitated in order to maintain the number of foundational apostles, (cf. Rv. 21:14) while the Bible is conspicuously absent of any mention of a successor for the martyred apostle James, the brother of John. (Acts 12:2)
However, ordination of church leadership is established, not essentially upon the basis of particular formal ecclesiastical union, but upon spiritual qualifications, and as God could raise up children unto Abraham from stones, (Mt. 3:9) so He is still building his church using stones like Peter, who effectually confess faith in the Biblical Lord Jesus, who alone (and abundantly so) is affirmed to be the foundational corner stone upon which the church is built, (petra: 1Cor. 10:4; 1Pet. 2:8; cf. Lk. 6:48; lithos: Mat. 21:42; Mk.12:10-11; Lk. 20:17-18; Act. 4:11; Rm. 9:33; Eph. 2:20; cf. Dt. 32:4, Is. 28:16) including by Peter himself. (1Pt. 2:6-8) and then the foundational apostles and prophets. (Eph. 2:20) Praise be to God.
Rm. 16:7: Certain rebellious feminists, seeing that Phebe was a deaconess (translated servant here), and that Andronicus and Junia were “of note” among the apostles, extrapolate out of this that one or both Phebe and Junia, if indeed the latter is a women (and not “Junias,” a contracted form of “Junianus”; in which case it is a man’s name) were apostles. However, this is clearly contrary to the teaching of Paul and the Bible, as substantiated here, in which following the order within the Godhead, (1Cor. 11:3) the male is to be the head of the wife. Phebe and Junia would have worked with the apostles in a supportive role, after the manner of the other women, (Mk. 15:41; Lk. 8:3) helping in temporal works and prayer and possibly disciplining women, and in that context thus Paul exhorts, “help those women which laboured with me in the gospel.” (Phil. 4:3)
Rm. 16:28: It was out of the Scriptures that Paul reasoned with men, mainly Jews and proselytes, (Acts 17:2; 28:23)) showing, as did Apollos, (Acts 28:23) and the Lord Himself, (LK,. 24:27,44) from there that Jesus was the Christ, while miracles attested to the same, especially among pagans. (Rm. 15:19)
Paul recommends Phebe to the Christians at Rome. It becomes Christians to help one another in their affairs, especially strangers; we know not what help we may need ourselves. Paul asks help for one that had been helpful to many; he that watereth shall be watered also himself. Though the care of all the churches came upon him daily, yet he could remember many persons, and send salutations to each, with particular characters of them, and express concern for them. Lest any should feel themselves hurt, as if Paul had forgotten them, he sends his remembrances to the rest, as brethren and saints, though not named. He adds, in the close, a general salutation to them all, in the name of the churches of Christ.
How earnest, how endearing are these exhortations! Whatever differs from the sound doctrine of the Scriptures, opens a door to divisions and offences. If truth be forsaken, unity and peace will not last long. Many call Christ, Master and Lord, who are far from serving him. But they serve their carnal, sensual, worldly interests. They corrupt the head by deceiving the heart; perverting the judgments by winding themselves into the affections. We have great need to keep our hearts with all diligence. It has been the common policy of seducers to set upon those who are softened by convictions. A pliable temper is good when under good guidance, otherwise it may be easily led astray. Be so wise as not to be deceived, yet so simple as not to be deceivers. The blessing the apostle expects from God, is victory over Satan. This includes all designs and devices of Satan against souls, to defile, disturb, and destroy them; all his attempts to keep us from the peace of heaven here, and the possession of heaven hereafter. When Satan seems to prevail, and we are ready to give up all as lost, then will the God of peace interpose in our behalf. Hold out therefore, faith and patience, yet a little while. If the grace of Christ be with us, who can prevail against us?
The apostle adds affectionate remembrances from persons with him, known to the Roman Christians. It is a great comfort to see the holiness and usefulness of our kindred. Not many mighty, not many noble are called, but some are. It is lawful for believers to bear civil offices; and it were to be wished that all offices in Christian states, and in the church, were bestowed upon prudent and steady Christians.
That which establishes souls, is, the plain preaching of Jesus Christ. Our redemption and salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, are, without controversy, a great mystery of godliness. And yet, blessed be God, there is as much of this mystery made plain as will bring us to heaven, if we do not wilfully neglect so great salvation. Life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel, and the Sun of Righteousness is risen on the world. The Scriptures of the prophets, what they left in writing, is not only made plain in itself, but by it this mystery is made known to all nations. Christ is salvation to all nations. And the gospel is revealed, not to be talked of and disputed about, but to be submitted to. The obedience of faith is that obedience which is paid to the word of faith, and which comes by the grace of faith. All the glory that passes from fallen man to God, so as to be accepted of him, must go through the Lord Jesus, in whom alone our persons and doings are, or can be, pleasing to God. Of his righteousness we must make mention, even of his only; who, as he is the Mediator of all our prayers, so he is, and will be, to eternity, the Mediator of all our praises. Remembering that we are called to the obedience of faith, and that every degree of wisdom is from the only wise God, we should, by word and deed, render glory to him through Jesus Christ; that so the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ may be with us for ever. — MHCC
Such remembrances as these are usual in letters between friends; and yet Paul, by the savouriness of his expressions, sanctifies these common compliments.
I. Here is the recommendation of a friend, by whom (as some think) this epistle was sent - one Phebe, Rom 16:1, Rom 16:2. It should seem that she was a person of quality and estate, who had business which called her to Rome, where she was a stranger; and therefore Paul recommends her to the acquaintance of the Christians there: an expression of his true friendship to her. Paul was as well skilled in the art of obliging as most men. True religion, rightly received, never made any man uncivil. Courtesy and Christianity agree well together. It is not in compliment to her, but in sincerity, that,
1. He gives a very good character of her. (1.) As a sister to Paul: Phebe our sister; not in nature, but in grace; not in affinity or consanguinity, but in pure Christianity: his own sister in the faith of Christ, loving Paul, and beloved of him, with a pure and chaste and spiritual love, as a sister; for there is neither male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus, Gal 3:28. Both Christ and his apostles had some of their best friends among the devout (and upon that account honourable) women. (2.) As a servant to the church at Cenchrea: diakonon, a servant by office, a stated servant, not to preach the word (that was forbidden to women), but in acts of charity and hospitality. Some think she was one of the widows that ministered to the sick and were taken into the church's number, 1Ti 5:9. But those were old and poor, whereas Phebe seems to have been a person of some account; and yet it was no disparagement to her to be a servant to the church. Probably they used to meet at her house, and she undertook the care of entertaining the ministers, especially strangers. Every one in his place should strive to serve the church, for therein he serves Christ, and it will turn to a good account another day. Cenchrea was a small sea-port town adjoining to Corinth, about twelve furlongs distant. Some think there was a church there, distinct from that at Corinth, though, being so near, it is very probable that the church of Corinth is called the church of Cenchrea, because their place of meeting might be there, on account of the great opposition to them in the city (Acts 18:12), as at Philippi they met out of the city by the water-side, Acts 16:13. So the reformed church of Paris might be called the church at Charenton, where they formerly met, out of the city. (3.) As a succourer of many, and particularly of Paul, Rom 16:2. She relieved many that were in want and distress - a good for women to write after that have ability. she was kind to those that needed kindness, intimated in her succouring them; and her bounty was extensive, she was a succourer of many. Observe the gratitude of Paul in mentioning her particular kindness to him: And to myself also. Acknowledgment of favours is the least return we can make. It was much to her honour that Paul left this upon record; for wherever this epistle is read her kindness to Paul is told for a memorial of her.
2. He recommends her to their care and kindness, as one worthy to be taken notice of with peculiar respect. (1.) “Receive her in the Lord. Entertain her; bid her welcome.” This pass, under Paul's hand, could not but recommend her to any Christian church. “Receive her in the Lord,” that is, “for the Lord's sake; receive her as a servant and friend of Christ.” As it becometh saints to receive, who love Christ, and therefore love all that are his for his sake; or, as becometh saints to be received, with love and honour and the tenderest affection. There may be occasion sometimes to improve our interest in our friends, not only for ourselves, but for others also, interest being a price in the hand for doing good. (2.) Assist her in whatsoever business she has need of you. Whether she had business of trade, or law-business at the court, is not material; however being a woman, a stranger, a Christian, she had need of help: and Paul engaged them to be assistant to her. It becomes Christians to be helpful one to another in their affairs, especially to be helpful to strangers; for we are members one of another and we know not what need of help we may have ourselves. Observe, Paul bespeaks help for one that had been so helpful to many; he that watereth shall be watered also himself.
II. Here are commendations to some particular friends among those to whom he wrote, more than in any other of the epistles. Though the care of all the churches came upon Paul daily, enough to distract an ordinary head, yet he could retain the remembrance of so many; and his heart was so full of love and affection as to send salutations to each of them with particular characters of them, and expressions of love to them and concern for them. Greet them, salute them; it is the same word, aspasasthe. “Let them know that I remember them, and love them, and wish them well.” There is something observable in several of these salutations.
1. Concerning Aquila and Priscilla, a famous couple, that Paul had a special kindness for. They were originally of Rome, but were banished thence by the edict of Claudius, Acts 18:2. At Corinth, Paul became acquainted with them, wrought with them at the trade of tent-making; after some time, when the edge of that edict was rebated, they returned to Rome, and thither he now sends commendations to them. He calls them his helpers in Christ Jesus, by private instructions and converse furthering the success of Paul's public preaching, one instance of which we have in their instructing Apollos, Acts 18:26. Those are helpers to faithful ministers that lay out themselves in their families and among their neighbours to do good to souls. Nay, they did not only do much, but they ventured much, for Paul: They have for my life laid down their own necks. They exposed themselves to secure Paul, hazarded their own lives for the preservation of his, considering how much better they might be spared than he. Paul was in a great deal of danger at Corinth, while he sojourned with them; but they sheltered him, though they thereby made themselves obnoxious to the enraged multitudes, Acts 18:12, Acts 18:17. It was a good while ago that they had done Paul this kindness; and yet he speaks as feelingly of it as if it had been but yesterday. To whom (says he) not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; who were all beholden to these good people for helping to save the life of him that was the apostle of the Gentiles. Paul mentions this, to engage the Christians at Rome to be the more kind to Aquila and Priscilla. He sends likewise greeting to the church in their house, Rom 16:5. It seems then, a church in a house is no such absurd thing as some make it to be. Perhaps there was a congregation of Christians that used to meet at their house at stated times; and then, no doubt, it was, like the house of Obed-Edom, blessed for the ark's sake. Others think that the church was no more than a religious, pious, well-governed family, that kept up the worship of God. Religion, in the power of it, reigning in a family, will turn a house into a church. And doubtless it had a good influence upon this that Priscilla the good wife of the family was so very eminent and forward in religion, so eminent that she is often named first. A virtuous woman, that looks well to the ways of her household, may do much towards the advancement of religion in a family. When Priscilla and Aquila were at Ephesus, though but sojourners there, yet there also they had a church in their house, 1Co 16:19. A truly godly man will be careful to take religion along with him wherever he goes. When Abraham removed his tent, he renewed his altar, Gen 13:18.
2. Concerning Epenetus, Rom 16:5. He calls him his well-beloved. Where the law of love is in the heart the law of kindness will be in the tongue. Endearing language should pass among Christians to express love, and to engage love. So he calls Amplias, beloved in the Lord, with true Christian love for Christ's sake; and Stachys, his beloved: a sign that Paul had been in the third heaven, he was so much made up of love. Of Epenetus it is further said that he was the first-fruit of Achaia unto Christ; not only one of the most eminent believers in that country, but one of the first that was converted to the faith of Christ: one that was offered up to God by Paul, as the first-fruits of his ministry there; an earnest of a great harvest; for in Corinth, the chief city of Achaia, God had much people, Acts 18:10. Special respect is to be paid to those that set out early, and come to work in the vineyard at the first hour, at the first call. The household of Stephanas is likewise said to be the first-fruits of Achaia, 1Co 16:15. Perhaps Epenetus was one of that household; or, at least, he was one of the first three; not the first alone, but one of the first fleece of Christians, that the region of Achaia afforded.
3. Concerning Mary, and some others who were laborious in that which is good, industrious Christians: Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. True love never sticks at labour, but rather takes a pleasure in it; where there is much love there will be much labour. Some think this Mary had been at some of those places where Paul was, though now removed to Rome, and had personally ministered to him; others think Paul speaks of her labour as bestowed upon him because it was bestowed upon his friends and fellow-labourers, and he took what was done to them as done to himself. He says of Tryphena and Tryphosa, two useful women in their places, that they laboured in the Lord (Rom 16:12), and of the beloved Persis, another good woman, that she laboured much in the Lord, more than others, abounding more in the work of the Lord.
4. Concerning Andronicus and Junia, Rom 16:7. Some take them for a man and his wife, and the original will well enough bear it; and, considering the name of the latter, this is more probable than that they should be two men, as others think, and brethren. Observe, (1.) They were Paul's cousins, akin to him; so was Herodion, Rom 16:11. Religion does not take away, but rectifies, sanctifies, and improves, our respect to our kindred, engaging us to lay out ourselves most for their good, and to rejoice in them the more, when we find them related to Christ by faith. (2.) They were his fellow-prisoners. Partnership in suffering sometimes does much towards the union of souls and the knitting of affections. We do not find in the story of the Acts any imprisonment of Paul before the writing of this epistle, but that at Philippi, Acts 16:23. But Paul was in prisons more frequent (2Co 11:23), in some of which, it seems, he met with his friends Andronicus and Junia, yoke-fellows, as in other things, so in suffering for Christ and bearing his yoke. (3.) They were of note among the apostles, not so much perhaps because they were persons of estate and quality in the world as because they were eminent for knowledge, and gifts, and graces, which made them famous among the apostles, who were competent judges of those things, and were endued with a spirit of discerning not only the sincerity, but the eminency, of Christians. (4.) Who also were in Christ before me, that is, were converted to the Christian faith. In time they had the start of Paul, though he was converted the next year after Christ's ascension. How ready was Paul to acknowledge in others any kind of precedency!
5. Concerning Apelles, who is here said to be approved in Christ (Rom 16:10), a high character! He was one of known integrity and sincerity in his religion, one that had been tried; his friends and enemies had tried him, and he was as gold. he was of approved knowledge and judgment, approved courage and constancy; a man that one might trust and repose a confidence in.
6. Concerning Aristobulus and Narcissus; notice is taken of their household, Rom 16:10, Rom 16:11. Those of their household who are in the Lord (as it is limited, Rom 16:11), that were Christians. How studious was Paul to leave none out of his salutations that he had any knowledge of or acquaintance with! Aristobulus and Narcissus themselves, some think, were absent, or lately dead; others think they were unbelievers, and such as did not themselves embrace Christianity; so Pareus: and some think this Narcissus was the same with one of that name who is frequently mentioned in the life of Claudius, as a very rich man that had a great family, but was very wicked and mischievous. It seems, then, there were some good servants, or other retainers, even in the family of a wicked man, a common case, 1Ti 6:1. Compare 1Ti 6:2. The poor servant is called, and chosen, and faithful, while the rich master is passed by, and left to perish in unbelief. Even so, Father, because it seemed good unto thee.
7. Concerning Rufus (Rom 16:13), chosen in the Lord. He was a choice Christian, whose gifts and graces evinced that he was eternally chosen in Christ Jesus. He was one of a thousand for integrity and holiness. - And his mother and mine, his mother by nature and mine by Christian love and spiritual affection; as he calls Phebe his sister, and teaches Timothy to treat the elder women as mothers, 1Ti 5:2. This good woman, upon some occasion or other, had been as a mother to Paul, in caring for him, and comforting him; and Paul here gratefully owns it, and calls her mother.
8. Concerning the rest this is observable, that he salutes the brethren who are with them (Rom 16:14), and the saints who are with them (Rom 16:15), with them in family-relations, with them in the bond of Christian communion. It is the good property of saints to delight in being together; and Paul thus joins them together in his salutations to endear them one to another. Lest any should find themselves aggrieved, as if Paul had forgotten them, he concludes with the remembrance of the rest, as brethren and saints, though not named. In Christian congregations there should be smaller societies linked together in love and converse, and taking opportunities of being often together. Among all those to whom Paul sends greeting here is not a word of Peter, which gives occasion to suspect that he was not bishop of Rome, as the Papists say he was; for, if he was, we cannot but suppose him resident, or at least how could Paul write so long an epistle to the Christians there, and take no notice of him?
Lastly, He concludes with the recommendation of them to the love and embraces one of another: Salute one another with a holy kiss. Mutual salutations, as they express love, so they increase and strengthen love, and endear Christians one to another: therefore Paul here encourages the use of them, and only directs that they may be holy - a chaste kiss, in opposition to that which is wanton and lascivious; a sincere kiss, in opposition to that which is treacherous and dissembling, as Judas's, when he betrayed Christ with a kiss. He adds, in the close, a general salutation to them all, in the name of the churches of Christ (Rom 16:16): “The churches of Christ salute you; that is, the churches which I am with, and which I am accustomed to visit personally, as knit together in the bonds of the common Christianity, desire me to testify their affection to you and good wishes for you.” This is one way of maintaining the communion of saints.
The apostle having endeavoured by his endearing salutations to unite them together, it was not improper to subjoin a caution to take heed of those whose principles and practices were destructive to Christian love. And we may observe,
I. The caution itself, which is given in the most obliging manner that could be: I beseech you, brethren. He does not will and command, as one that lorded it over God's heritage, but for love's sake beseeches. How earnest, how endearing, are Paul's exhortations! He teaches them, 1. To see their danger: Mark those who cause divisions and offences. Our Master had himself foretold that divisions and offences would come, but had entailed a woe on those by whom they come (Mat 18:7), and against such we are here cautioned. Those who burden the church with dividing and offending impositions, who uphold and enforce those impositions, who introduce and propagate dividing and offending notions, which are erroneous or justly suspected, who out of pride, ambition, affectation of novelty, or the like, causelessly separate from their brethren, and by perverse disputes, censures, and evil surmisings, alienate the affections of Christians one from another - these cause divisions and offences, contrary to, or different from (for that also is implied, it is para tēn didachēn), the doctrine which we have learned. Whatever varies from the form of sound doctrine which we have in the scriptures opens a door to divisions and offences. If truth be once deserted, unity and peace will not last long. Now, mark those that thus cause divisions, skopein. Observe them, the method they take, the end they drive at. There is need of a piercing watchful eye to discern the danger we are in from such people; for commonly the pretences are plausible, when the projects are very pernicious. Do not look only at the divisions and offences, but run up those streams to the fountain, and mark those that cause them, and especially that in them which causes these divisions and offences, those lusts on each side whence come these wars and fightings. A danger discovered is half prevented. 2. To shun it: “Avoid them. Shun all necessary communion and communication with them, lest you be leavened and infected by them. Do not strike in with any dividing interests, nor embrace any of those principles or practices which are destructive to Christian love and charity, or to the truth which is according to godliness. - Their word will eat as doth a canker.” Some think he especially warns them to take heed of the judaizing teachers, who, under convert of the Christian name, kept up the Mosaical ceremonies, and preached the necessity of them, who were industrious in all places to draw disciples after them, and whom Paul in most of his epistles cautions the churches to take heed of.
II. The reasons to enforce this caution.
1. Because of the pernicious policy of these seducers, Rom 16:18. The worse they are, the more need we have to watch against them. Now observe his description of them, in two things: - (1.) The master they serve: not our Lord Jesus Christ. Though they call themselves Christians, they do not serve Christ; do not aim at his glory, promote his interest, nor do his will, whatever they pretend. How many are there who call Christ Master and Lord, that are far from serving him! But they serve their own belly - their carnal, sensual, secular interests. It is some base lust or other that they are pleasing; pride, ambition, covetousness, luxury, lasciviousness, these are the designs which they are really carrying on. Their God is their belly, Phi 3:19. What a base master do they serve, and how unworthy to come in competition with Christ, that serve their own bellies, that make gain their godliness, and the gratifying of a sensual appetite the very scope and business of their lives, to which all other purposes and designs must truckle and be made subservient. (2.) The method they take to compass their design: By good words and fair speeches they deceive the hearts of the simple. Their words and speeches have a show of holiness and zeal for God (it is an easy thing to be godly from the teeth outward), and show of kindness and love to those into whom they instil their corrupt doctrines, accosting them courteously when they intend them the greatest mischief. Thus by good words and fair speeches the serpent beguiled Eve. Observe, They corrupt their heads by deceiving their hearts, pervert their judgments by slyly insinuating themselves into their affections. We have a great need therefore to keep our hearts with all diligence, especially when seducing spirits are abroad.
2. Because of the peril we are in, through our proneness and aptness to be inveigled and ensnared by them: “For your obedience has come abroad unto all men - you are noted in all the churches for a willing, tractable, complying people.” And, (1.) Therefore, because it was so, these seducing teachers would be the more apt to assault them. The devil and his agents have a particular spite against flourishing churches and flourishing souls. The ship that is known to be richly laden is most exposed to privateers. The adversary and enemy covets such a prey, therefore look to yourselves, 2Jo 1:8. “The false teachers hear that you are an obedient people, and therefore they will be likely to come among you, to see if you will be obedient to them.” It has been the common policy of seducers to set upon those who are softened by convictions, and begin to enquire what they shall do, because such do most easily receive the impressions of their opinions. Sad experience witnesses how many who have begun to ask the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward, have fatally split upon this rock, which proves it to be much the duty of ministers, with a double care, to feed the lambs of the flock, to lay a good foundation, and gently to lead those that are with young. (2.) Though it were so, yet they were in danger from these seducers. This Paul suggests with a great deal of modesty and tenderness; not as one suspicious of them, but as one solicitous for them: “You obedience has come abroad unto all men; we grant this and rejoice in it: I am glad therefore on your behalf.” Thus does he insinuate their commendation, the better to make way for the caution. A holy jealousy of our friends may very well comport with a holy joy in them. “You think yourselves a very happy people, and so do I too: but for all that you must not be secure: I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. You are a willing good-natured people, but you had best take heed of being imposed upon by those seducers.” A pliable temper is good when it is under good government; but otherwise it may be very ensnaring; and therefore he gives two general rules: - [1.] To be wise unto that which is good, that is, to be skilful and intelligent in the truths and ways of God. “Be wise to try the spirits, to prove all things, and then to hold fast that only which is good.” There is need of a great deal of wisdom in our adherence to good truths, and good duties, and good people, lest in any of these we be imposed upon and deluded. Be ye therefore wise as serpents (Mat 10:16), wise to discern that which is really good and that which is counterfeit; wise to distinguish things that differ, to improve opportunities. While we are in the midst of so many deceivers, we have great need of that wisdom of the prudent which is to understand his way, Prov. 14:8. [2.] To be simple concerning evil - so wise as not to be deceived, and yet so simple as not to be deceivers. It is a holy simplicity, not to be able to contrive, nor palliate, nor carry on, any evil design; akeraious - harmless, unmixed, inoffensive. In malice be you children, 1Co 14:20. The wisdom of the serpent becomes Christians, but not the subtlety of the old serpent. We must withal be harmless as doves. That is a wisely simple man that knows not how to do any thing against the truth. Now Paul was the more solicitous for the Roman church, that it might preserve its integrity, because it was so famous; it was a city upon a hill, and many eyes were upon the Christians there, so that an error prevailing there would be a bad precedent, and have an ill influence upon other churches: as indeed it has since proved in fact, the great apostasy of the latter days taking its rise from that capital city. The errors of leading churches are leading errors. When the bishop of Rome fell as a great star from heaven (Rev 8:10), his tail drew a third part of the stars after him, Rev 12:4.
3. Because of the promise of God, that we shall have victory at last, which is given to quicken and encourage, not to supersede, our watchful cares and vigorous endeavours. It is a very sweet promise (Rom 16:20): The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet.
(1.) The titles he gives to God: The God of peace, the author and giver of all good. When we come to God for spiritual victories, we must not only eye him as the Lord of hosts, whose all power is, but as the God of peace, a God at peace with us, speaking peace to us, working peace in us, creating peace for us. Victory comes from God more as the God of peace than as the God of war; for, in all our conflicts, peace is the thing we must contend for. God, as the God of peace, will restrain and vanquish all those that cause divisions and offences, and so break and disturb the peace of the church.
(2.) The blessing he expects from God - a victory over Satan. If he mean primarily those false doctrines and seducing spirits spoken of before, of which Satan was the prime founder and author, yet doubtless, it comprehends all the other designs and devices of Satan against souls, to defile, disturb, and destroy them, all his attempts to keep us from the purity of heaven, the peace of heaven here, and the possession of heaven hereafter. Satan tempting and troubling, acting as a deceiver and as a destroyer, the God of peace will bruise under our feet. He had cautioned them before against simplicity: now they, being conscious of their own great weakness and folly, might think, “How shall we evade and escape these snares that are laid for us? Will not these adversaries of our souls be at length too hard for us?” “No,” says he, “fear not; though you cannot overcome in your own strength and wisdom, yet the God of peace will do it for you; and through him that loved us we shall be more than conquerors.” [1.] The victory shall be complete: He shall bruise Satan under your feet, plainly alluding to the first promise the Messiah made in paradise (Gen 3:15), that the seed of the woman should break the serpent's head, which is in the fulfilling every day, while the saints are enabled to resist and overcome the temptations of Satan, and will be perfectly fulfilled when, in spite of all the powers of darkness, all that belong to the election of grace shall be brought triumphantly to glory. When Joshua had conquered the kings of Canaan, he called the captains of Israel to set their feet upon the necks of those kings (Jos 10:24), so will Christ, our Joshua, enable all his faithful servants and soldiers to set their feet upon Satan's neck, to trample upon, and triumph over, their spiritual enemies. Christ hath overcome for us; disarmed the strong man armed, broken his power, and we have nothing to do but to pursue the victory and divide the spoil. Let this quicken us to our spiritual conflict, to fight the good fight of faith - we have to do with a conquered enemy, and the victory will be perfect shortly. [2.] The victory shall be speedy: He shall do it shortly. Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come. He hath said it, Behold, I come quickly. When Satan seems to have prevailed, and we are ready to give up all for lost, then will the God of peace cut the work short in righteousness. It will encourage soldiers when they know the war will be at an end quickly, in such a victory. Some refer it to the happy period of their contentions in true love and unity; others to the period of the church's persecutions in the conversion of the powers of the empire to Christianity, when the bloody enemies of the church were subdued and trampled on by Constantine, and the church under his government. It is rather to be applied to the victory which all the saints shall have over Satan when they come to heaven, and shall be for ever out of his reach, together with the present victories which through grace they obtain in earnest of that. Hold out therefore, faith and patience, yet a little while; when we have once got through the Red Sea, we shall see our spiritual enemies dead on the shore, and triumphantly sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. To this therefore he subjoins the benediction, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you - the good-will of Christ towards you, the good work of Christ in you. This will be the best preservative against the snares of heretics, and schismatics, and false teachers. If the grace of Christ be with us, who can be against us so as to prevail? Be strong therefore in the grace which is in Christ Jesus. Paul, not only as a friend, but as a minister and an apostle, who had received grace for grace, thus with authority blesses them with this blessing, and repeats it, Rom 16:24.
As the Apostle had before sent his own salutations to many of this church, and that of the churches round him to them all, he here adds an affectionate remembrance of them from some particular persons who were now with him, the better to promote acquaintance and fellowship among distant saints, and that the subscribing of these worthy names, known to them, might the more recommend this epistle. He mentions, 1. Some that were his particular friends, and probably known to the Roman Christians: Timotheus my work-fellow. Paul sometimes calls Timothy his son, as an inferior; but here he styles him his work-fellow, as one equal with him, such a respect does he put upon him: and Lucius, probably Lucius of Cyrene, a noted man in the church of Antioch (Acts 13:1), as Jason was at Thessalonica, where he suffered for entertaining Paul (Acts 17:5, Acts 17:6): and Sosipater, supposed to be the same with Sopater of Berea, mentioned Acts 20:4. These Paul calls his kinsmen; not only more largely, as they were Jews, but as they were in blood or affinity nearly allied to him. It seems, Paul was of a good family, that he met with so many of his kindred in several places. It is a very great comfort to see the holiness and usefulness of our kindred. 2. One that was Paul's amanuensis (Rom 16:22): I Tertius, who wrote this epistle. Paul made use of a scribe, not out of state nor idleness, but because he wrote a bad hand, which was not very legible, which he excuses, when he writes to the Galatians with his own hand (Gal 6:11): pēlikois grammasi - with what kind of letters. Perhaps this Tertius was the same with Silas; for Silas (as some think) signifies the third in Hebrew, as Tertius in Latin. Tertius either wrote as Paul dictated, or transcribed it fairly over out of Paul's foul . The least piece of service done to the church, and the ministers of the church, shall not pass without a remembrance and a recompence. It was an honour to Tertius that he had a hand, though but as a scribe, in writing this epistle. 3. Some others that were of note among the Christians (Rom 16:23): Gaius my host. It is uncertain whether this was Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4), or Gaius of Macedonia (Acts 19:29), or rather Gaius of Corinth (1Co 1:14), and whether any of these was he to whom John wrote his third epistle. However, Paul commends him for his great hospitality; not only my host, but of the whole church - one that entertained them all as there was occasion, opened his doors to their church-meetings, and eased the rest of the church by his readiness to treat all Christian stranger that came to them. Erastus, the chamberlain of the city is another; he means the city of Corinth, whence this epistle was dated. It seems he was a person of honour and account, one in public place, steward or treasurer. Not many mighty, not many noble, are called, but some are. His estate, and honour, and employment, did not take him off from attending on Paul and laying out himself for the good of the church, it should seem, in the work of the ministry; for he is joined with Timothy (Acts 19:22), and is mentioned 2Ti 4:20. It was no disparagement to the chamberlain of the city to be a preacher of the gospel of Christ. Quartus is likewise mentioned, and called a brother; for as one is our Father, even Christ, so all we are brethren. — Henry
The end of the Book of Acts, though the history of the church is yet being written, but sadly not as gloriously overall, to which I and others must take blame, and seek to be better and work on higher ground, to the glory of God. TOC
Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
See New Testament Table of Contents, and read the Introductory Notes here.