Paul's Passing Thoughts

Romans 16

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on February 26, 2018




Note: teacher’s script does not follow video exactly. The following is not transcribed from the video.  

Well, we come to the last chapter in our Romans study which ends up being 73, for lack of a better term, lessons. I suppose this could be called the final salutations of the letter or sort of a formal wrapping up that we would tend to kind of skim over in our conclusion. However, the chapter is rich with valuable information and encouragement.

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me [NIV].

Phoebe is the courier for this letter, or messenger. This is how the home fellowships communicated with each other; by letter carried form place to place. Most New Testament teaching was oral in meetings and fellowships that occurred “house to house.” The gospel, that is, as discussed last Sunday, the good news of justification and sanctification both, consist of concrete ideas that can be expressed in many different ways. So, when we read something in a letter that we understand in-depth from other Scripture, it makes us wonder how the recipients of Paul’s letters would have understood what he was saying. A very good example of this is Galatians, chapter 2. The answer follows; the letters are reiterations of what was taught in-depth face to face.

Romans is a little different. Paul goes into greater detail because he had never been there to teach sanctification, and the stated reason was due to being busy spreading the gospel of justification where it had not yet been preached. It had already been established in Rome by others.

At any rate, letters deemed valuable as documented doctrine where copied and passed on from place to place. Furthermore, the home fellowships, according to things taught orally, might have been instructed to compile these letters into a collection of holy writ. If nowhere else, we see this clearly in Revelation where John is instructed to make a book of what was being revealed to him. Paul said to Timothy, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.”

Note that Phoebe is our “sister.” This is family of God lingo. She is also a deacon, or one who has the gift of service enhancement. All saints have all of the gifts; what is often referred to as “the gift of “… such and such, refers to one who is particularity gifted in an area of life that is extraordinary, or in other words, an extra ordinary ability regarding a particular gift. Elder and deacon are the two gifts that are to be formally recognized by God’s family. It is, apparently, the best I would argue at this point, the recognition of a gift and not the granting of any kind of authority. These may also be gifts that play a larger role in home fellowship networking.

Cenchreae was close to Corinth and undoubtedly part of the massive and spiritually impressive network of assemblies in Achaia and Macedonia (Greece, a Roman province at the time). Phoebe fellowshipped with the assembly there. Paul instructs the saints at Rome to tend to her needs because more than likely she only had the resources sufficient to deliver the letter.

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-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.
5 Greet also the church that meets at their house.

Following, I have borrowed an excerpt from the internet in our discussion of these two.

Question: “Who were Priscilla and Aquila?”
Answer: The story of these two friends of the apostle Paul is told in Acts 18. Aquila, a Jewish Christian, and his wife, Priscilla, first met Paul in Corinth, became good friends of his, and shared in his work. Eventually the Corinthian church met in their home. These two remarkable people belong in the pantheon of Christian heroes, and their ministry is both an encouragement and an example for us.

When we first meet Aquila and Priscilla, we are told that they had come to Corinth from Italy as victims of Roman persecution, not for their Christian faith but because Aquila was a Jew. The Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome, and no doubt Jews deemed it unsafe to remain in any part of Italy. Aquila and Priscilla found their way to Corinth and settled there, pursuing their trade as tentmakers. When Paul, a tentmaker himself, came to Corinth, he went to see them, no doubt having heard of their faith in Christ. Paul lived and worked with them while founding the Corinthian church.

After a year and a half, Paul left for Ephesus and took Aquila and Priscilla with him. The couple stayed in Ephesus when Paul left, again establishing a church in their home (1 Corinthians 16:19). Then an eloquent preacher named Apollos came through Ephesus. Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures, but he only knew the baptism of John. This means Apollos knew Christ had come and fulfilled John’s prophecies, but he didn’t know the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection, the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit, or the mystery of the church containing both Jews and Gentiles. Priscilla and her husband took Apollos aside and explained these things to him (Acts 18:24-26). Both Aquila and Priscilla possessed an in-depth understanding of doctrine learned from Paul, and this husband and wife team was able to pass it on to another Christian and build him up in the faith.

These two remarkable people set an example for us of hospitality, seen in opening their home to Paul and using their house as a meeting place for churches wherever they went. We are also impressed by their passion for Christ and their hunger for knowledge of Him.

Another hallmark of the lives of Priscilla and Aquila is their desire to build others in the faith. Paul’s last reference to them is in his last letter. Paul was imprisoned in Rome and writing to Timothy one last time. Timothy was pastoring the church at Ephesus, and Aquila and Priscilla are there with him, still faithfully ministering (2 Timothy 4:19). To the end, Aquila and Priscilla were offering hospitality to other Christians, spreading the gospel they had learned from Paul, and rendering faithful service to the Master.

However, what everybody fails to mention is that these two also end up in Rome during the time Paul wrote this letter in Corinth, obtain a home, and have an assembly in their home in Rome also. These two are probably the consummate example of what we call missionaries and what the MO should be. You move into a given area, get a job, obtain a home, and start a fellowship. What we are going to see in this chapter is proof of a vibrant worldwide network of home fellowships. I am using the NIV for this study, but most translations state that these two risked their “necks” for Paul. In my book, this refers to a form of execution by the government or others.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

So, what’s he doing in Rome? As with the 13 others Paul will send greetings to, these are intimate relationships even though he has not yet been to Rome. What we seem to have is saints moving from well established areas to areas where God’s family needs strengthening. One other note here; biblically, a “friend” is a pretty deep relationship. Biblically, it means much more than those you pal around with. Biblically, a friendship can even be closer than family.

6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.

With each request for greeting, Paul appends a compliment indicative of something that distinguishes the particular saint. Completely absent from the list is the whole “sinners saved by grace” mentality. Also completely absent is the cautionary “Jesus gets all of the glory” disclaimer. Paul always had much to say about those who worked hard for the gospel. The word here used for Mary means to work to the point of exhaustion. We know that Paul complimented others who worked to the point of sacrificing their health. Interestingly, Mary is there, but her work is mentioned in the past tense.

7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

Junia can be a female name, so this is more than likely a husband and wife team like Priscilla and Aquila. Whoever they were, they were formidable servants in the assembly and highly revered among the apostles who were before Paul. Remember, a major theme of Romans is the unity of Jew and Gentile to fulfill the purpose regarding THE mystery of the gospel. And remember, Paul’s focus regarding the preaching of the gospel to believers was more and more education concerning the mystery and how it is applied to life, NOT the gospel of first importance (initial salvation) which propagates the church false gospel of progressive justification. Furthermore, don’t conflate the salvation of the mortal body which is future with the past and final salvation of the soul like the church also does to propagate progressive justification. Again, because church is an institution that requires RMR (reoccurring monthly revenue), it behooves the church to claim that it is the only way to future salvation.

8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.
9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.
10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test.
Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.
11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew.
Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.
12 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.
14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them.
15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them.
16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the churches of Christ send greetings.

Paul continues with “dear friends” which remember, the biblical “friend” is a very intimate relationship to begin with and Paul here adds “dear” to it; it’s a double emphasis. Paul also continues with complimenting fellow believers with being hard workers and “co-worker[s]” or “co-laborers.” Apelles is credited with staying faithful to Christ in the midst of trials. In versus 10 and 11 a household that is “in the Lord” is perhaps contrasted with a household that isn’t. But, more than likely, Narcissus was probably an important person in Rome whose close kin had become believers. This would go hand in hand with the mention of Herodian, a Jew, and likely from the household of King Herod. It is therefore more likely that we can assume the household of Aristobulus was saved.

This means that home fellowships in no wise lack means to get big things done in the world. Institutions do not have the market cornered on making an impact on the world. Truth is a powerful thing, and once home fellowships begin to once again make their mark in the world, do not be surprised if those of high worldly status come knocking.

Paul then names three more women who are hard workers for the Lord and the saints. This is indeed an often used designation by Paul that we should take particular note of.

13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

Again, the common understanding of election is somewhat challenged here. If all saints are predetermined, why, in context of unique characteristics among the saints would Paul parse out Rufus as God’s chosen? Some translations render it “choice servant” which sort of makes sense, but more than likely Paul is saying “He’s one of us.” There may be background information unknown to us that makes this significant for the one’s reading it at the time. “Elect” refers to a people group identified by God’s chosen means of salvation for specific purposes, not individuals. It’s a group designation, not something God did to individuals. Rufus wasn’t preselected, he is identified as being part of a group. Christ, according to Scripture is God’s elect, but that doesn’t mean he was preselected for salvation. Angels are elect, but that refers to a group of angels not part of the rebellion. Hence, demons are the non-elect angels.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Salute Rufus, elect in the Lord, and his mother and mine.

English Standard Version
Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.

See the difference?

Also, as with relationships we will see as home fellowships develop more and more, those who have no mother or never knew their mothers will obtain mothers that they never knew or had. And why not if home fellowships are literally visible manifestations of God’s family?

At any rate, what we have here is many people who are close to Paul living among the Roman believers though Paul had never been there as of that writing. We may conclude that the assembly of Christ was VERY transient. Also, it is apparent that venues of home fellowships that were strong and unified in the faith sent believers to areas that were weak. Lastly…

14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them.
15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them.
This is a reference to those who fellowshipped together among the home fellowships.
17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, 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 rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

No doubt, Paul was very well informed about what was going on in Rome because of the people he knew living there. Paul calls for intolerance regarding those who refute “the teaching you have learned.” Obviously, this would have been through oral means delivered by apt teachers and reinforced by letters sent by notable teachers such as James and the apostles. My way of dealing with divisions is really pretty simple; if you have disagreements with our understanding of Scripture that you can’t live with until everyone is convinced in their own minds and according to individual conscience, go start your own home fellowship. Because its not an institution, there isn’t infrastructure and other things at stake. Remember, if a church dissolves and the property and building is sold, in most cases, the proceeds are split between the remaining members or in many cases, the incorporated church is officially owned by the elders! This reality causes its share of disputes in the church.

21 Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews. 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. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.

Paul here sends greeting from others at Corinth. Gaius’ house was where Paul was staying in Corinth, and were Gauis’ hospitality extended to the rest of the assembly that met in his home, not that all believers in Corinth met there. This was Paul’s temporary dwelling and where he fellowshipped at Corinth.

Out of nowhere, we find that Paul’s letter was dictated by some guy named Tertius. It is uncertain whether or not he even tells Paul that he inserted his greeting. And again, we find that a person of worldly importance in Corinth sends his greetings as well.

And lastly overall, it is fitting that Paul concludes with the dominate theme of Romans and the gospel for believers that is sanctification, not justification:

25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with 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 the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

One Response

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  1. John said, on February 28, 2018 at 5:33 PM

    Hard work, you two. Noted.


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