Paul’s Personal Greetings and Appreciation of Christian Workers (Romans 16:1-24)
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, November 20 and Sunday, November 21, 2021
The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.
With all my heart I believe that Christ wants his church to be unshockable, democratic, permissive—a fellowship where people can come in and say, “I’m sunk!” “I’m beat!” “I’ve had it!” Alcoholics Anonymous has this quality. Our churches too often miss it.
—Keith Miller and Bruce Larson, Edge of Adventure
My theme today is:
Paul’s final greetings.
We must be thankful for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Phoebe (verses 1-2)
- So, we are finishing up Romans this week and next week.
- Paul has shared deep theology in Romans chapters 1-11.
- Paul has shared a lot about Christian living in Romans chapters 14-15.
- Now, Paul is giving final greetings.
- MacArthur: This chapter, which has almost no explicit teaching and contains several lists of mostly unknown people, is the most extensive and intimate expression of Paul’s love and affection for other believers and co-workers found anywhere in his NT letters. It also provides insights into the lives of ordinary first-century Christians and gives an inside look at the nature and character of the early church.
- I have heard some share that Paul cannot say “hello” without declaring the Gospel. We see that in this section as we see some great theology in verse 20.
- Thomas Schreiner suggests that the repeated phrases “in Christ” and “in the Lord” throughout Romans 16 demonstrate that Paul’s relationships were “rooted in the new life of Christ.” This makes the greetings of Romans 16 far more than pleasantries — rather, they are concrete expressions of the very gospel about which Paul writes so powerfully earlier in the letter.
- Let’s read verses 1-2, Romans 16:1-2: 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.
- N. T. Wright points out that we cannot prove it, but it is likely that the one who delivers the letter read the letter. In this case that is Phoebe. This would be a woman giving the public reading of Scripture.
- Notice that the ministry of women in the Roman church is quite evident in this chapter. Paul referred to nine prominent women: Phoebe, Prisca, Mary, Tryphena, Thyphosa, Persis, Rufus’ mother, Julia, and Nereus’ sister.
- This is really powerful how Paul commends Phoebe and calls her a servant. It could actually be rendered as “deaconess.”
- This also tells where she is from “Cenchrea.”
- In verse 2 Paul tells them to “welcome” or “receive her,” but receive her “in the Lord.”
- Paul wants them to help her in whatever she needs from them.
- She has been a patron, or “helper” of many including Paul. Phoebe served as a patron, probably with financial assistance and hospitality.
- Other greetings (verses 3-16)
- Paul sends greetings to 26 individuals (16:3–16).
- Let’s read verses 3-16, Romans 16:3-16: 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. 5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 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. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 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 gives quite a list of greetings, with a few additional details.
- Prisca and Aquila (2 people): fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their life for Paul. Paul gives thanks to them and all the churches among the gentiles, including the church in their house. 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Philem 2 are all similar.
- Prisca is given the diminutive name Priscilla in Acts (Acts 18:2–3, 18, 26).
- Epaenetus (total of 3 people now): Paul’s beloved and the first convert in Asia.
- Verse 6 mentions Mary (total of 4 people) (This is not the mother of Jesus, but another Mary).
- Verse 7: Andronicus and Junia (6 people greeted now). Paul calls them outstanding among the apostles, fellow prisoners and they were in Christ before Him. Junia is a female.
- CSB: The word “apostle” can be used in a nontechnical sense, referring to a messenger rather than a commissioned apostle such as Paul.
- Verse 8: Ampliatus (7 people greeted), beloved in the Lord. MacArthur: A common name among the emperor’s household slaves at that time; he may have been one of those in “Caesar’s household” (Php 4:22).
- Verse 9: Urbanus, fellow worker and Stachys (9 people greeted). Stachys is beloved.
- Verse 10: Greet Apelles, approved in Christ… that is a powerful statement. Also, the household of Aristobulus (9 people greeted). Since Paul does not greet him personally, he was probably not a believer, although some relatives and household servants apparently were. One noted biblical scholar believes that he was the brother of Herod Agrippa I and the grandson of Herod the Great.
- Verse 11: Herodian, Paul calls him a kinsman. Maybe this means he is Jewish. Household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord (11 people greeted).
- Verse 12: Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord; also Persis, beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord (15 greeted).
- Verse 13: Rufus (16 greeted). Paul says that he is chosen in the Lord. His mother has been a mother to Paul.
- Verse 14: Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas (21 greeted) also the brothers with them.
- Verse 15: Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas (26 greeted), and all the saints who are with them.
- Verse 16: now greet one another with a holy kiss.
- All the churches of Christ greet you.
- Paul wants them all to greet each other in an affectionate way.
- The idea of a holy kiss is throughout the Scriptures: 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Pet 5:14
- The kiss was a way of showing affection then and still is in other cultures.
- Notice how important community and hospitality was to the apostle Paul.
Marcella, who was born to a noble Roman family in 325, was highly revered by Jerome, the 4th-century translator of the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible. This noblewoman offered her palace as a sanctuary for Christians who were being persecuted, and was active in leading Bible classes and prayer meetings among the other noblewomen.
Though widowed at an early age and having no children, she chose to not remarry and instead devoted herself to serving Christ and the church. When Pope Damasus commissioned scholar Jerome to make a newly revised translation of the Gospels, taking the latest available Hebrew and Greek texts and translating them into Latin, Jerome moved into Marcella’s retreat house palace for the duration of his task. For three years, he depended upon Marcella and her other house guests to critique his ongoing work, which eventually became a classic, the Latin Vulgate Bible.
Marcella founded the first convent for women in the Western church, and gave liberally of her wealth to help other Christians, clearly showing to her fellow noblewomen that greater rewards and fulfillment come from storing up treasures in heaven than from hoarding treasures on earth.
- Paul’s appeal (verses 17-20)
- Read with me verses 17-20, Romans 16:17-20: I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
- Watch out for those who cause divisions.
- Notice that Paul says that he “appeals” to them. This is a final instruction.
- Watch out!!! This is important.
- Those who cause divisions or create obstacles, but Paul does not leave it at that. Paul is talking about those who cause divisions or create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that he has taught.
- Paul says to avoid them.
- They do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ but their own appetites (verse 18).
- They deceive the hearts through what “smooth talk and flattery…”
- In verse 19 Paul compliments them. Their obedience is known to all. That is really nice. In Romans 1:8 Paul wrote about this.
- Paul rejoices over them.
- Paul wants them to be wise to what is good and innocent to what is evil.
- Verse 20 is powerful. No matter what you face, the God of peace. God is a God of peace, BUT He will soon crush satan under “their” feet. Notice that? Paul says that God will crush satan under their feet.
- One writes: Note Paul’s careful grammar: God himself is the one crushing Satan; he happens to use our feet. We are involved in the fight, but any victories in our fight are not merely our work, but God’s (cf. 1 Cor. 15:10).
- It was God who established peace in the church (16:20), not Satan, who probably placed the dissenting teachers in proximity to the body to disrupt it. On the role of believers in judging angels, including Satan, see 1Co 6:3.
- Then, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
- More greetings (verses 21-24)
- Let’s read verses 21-24, Romans 16:21-24: Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. 22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23 Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
- Paul gives more greetings.
- ESV Study Bible: In vv. 21–23 those who are with Paul greet the Romans. Timothy is Paul’s most famous coworker (see 1 Timothy) and was probably his most beloved colleague in ministry. Lucius is likely not Lucius of Cyrene mentioned in Acts 13:1, nor is he Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts. Jason is likely the same person named in Acts 17:5–7, 9. And Sosipater is probably the same person as Sopater from Berea (Acts 20:4)
- Timothy, Paul’s fellow worker.
- Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Paul calls them his kinsmen. They were likely Jewish.
- Verse 22: Tertius was his scribe, his amanuensis.
- Verse 23: Gaius is his host. The whole church greets them. Erastus is the city treasurer and then Quartus also greets them.
- Verse 24 is not in the earlier manuscripts.
- I need to make a quick note about verse 24: it is not in the oldest manuscripts. Please know that these manuscripts were copied and copyists worked hard for accuracy and we have well over 5000 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament and most all of them do not differ. Where there are differences something like 99% are grammatical and the rest of the differences are not doctrinal. This is one of those cases. Whether this was original or not it does not affect the doctrine of Christianity. What likely happened is that a copyist made a marginal note and the next person copying the text thought it belonged in the text.
- Do we give people thanks like Paul does in this passage?
- Can we be a servant like Phoebe (verse 1)? She helped many (verse 2).
- Do we receive God’s servants like they were instructed to (verse 2)?
- Can we be fellow workers “in Christ” like Prisca and Aquila? (verses 3-4)?
- Can we work hard for the gospel like Mary (verse 6)?
- Are we ready to go to prison for the faith (verse 7; see also 2 Tim. 3:12)?
- Can we find something good to say about others? Look how encouraging Paul is in this passage? He is encouraging all of them. He is finding good things to say about them. He is positive.
- We may not greet with a holy kiss, but can we love one another (verse 16)?
- We must stay away from those causing stumbling blocks and dissension (verse 17). We must stay true to proper doctrine/teaching (verse 18).
- We must NOT be a slave to our own desires, but to Christ (verse 18).
- We must NOT be deceived and we must not deceive others (verse 18).
- May the report of our obedience to Christ spread (verse 19).
- We must be wise to what is good (verse 19).
- We must pursue innocence in evil (verse 19).
A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him.
It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited.
The pastor made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone then he sat back in his chair, still silent.
The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and dead.
Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The pastor glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, ‘Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the firey sermon. I will be back in church next Sunday.’
 Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 92.
 John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 16:1–27.
 John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 16:8.
 John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 16:10.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).