This morning we will conclude our study through Romans with the thirty-second and final message of this series. In this book, the Apostle Paul systematically taught the doctrine of salvation. He laid out the universal need for salvation and explained how any person could receive it through faith in Jesus Christ. He walked through the various phases of salvation, and even explained the works of God beforehand that made it possible. Paul went on to describe how people who have been saved should live their lives in light of their salvation. He declared that the gospel is the message of salvation and that Christians everywhere are its messengers.
In the last chapter of Romans, Paul expressed greetings and love to the brethren. Like last week, the message today is pretty straightforward. All of the verses are direct and simple to understand. Still, there are a few new things that we can learn and some old truths that we will reinforce as we study this final chapter together.
I. WELCOME THE ENVOY (Romans 16:1-2)
As has been stated previously in this series, the Apostle Paul wrote the letter of Romans while wintering in the city of Corinth. He gave it to a woman named Phoebe and she delivered it on his behalf. Phoebe was a servant or deaconess at the church in Cenchrea, a port city about 7 miles southeast of Corinth. It is widely believed that the church met in her house. She was highly regarded for helping other people, including Paul himself, who traveled via ship through this port on occasion. Paul obviously had a great deal of trust in Phoebe, seeing that he chose her to be the emissary of this epistle to the Romans. He urged them to welcome her with warmth and hospitality, and to provide for whatever she might need upon her arrival.
II. GREETINGS TO THOSE IN ROME (Romans 16:3-16)
Despite having never been to Rome personally, Paul knew many of the members of the Roman church from previous experience. He greeted several of them by name in this portion of his letter. It is fascinating to consider the broad range of differences between these individuals and how they came together to form the church. Rome was the capital city of the empire, and it attracted all sorts of people from various places and for different reasons.
Priscilla and Aquila were a missionary couple who lived, worked, and travelled with the Apostle Paul. They were from Rome originally, but had been expelled from the city along with all Jews by the Emperor Claudius in around 49 AD. Paul met them while they lived in Corinth and stayed with them for 18 months. They travelled with him to Ephesus and stayed there after he left. While in Ephesus they were responsible for mentoring Apollos, who was another one of the early Christian evangelists. When Claudius died in 54 AD, the Jewish expulsion was ended and Priscilla and Aquilla returned to Rome sometime thereafter where they hosted the Christian church in their house.
Epaenetus was the first Christian convert from Asia, and therefore held a special place in Paul’s heart. A friend of Paul, he may have accompanied Priscilla and Aquilla when they returned from Ephesus, which is in Asia, to Rome.
Nothing is known about the Mary mentioned in this passage other than her tireless labor on behalf of Christ. Andronicus and Junias were a male/female pair who were probably Jewish and well known and respected among the apostles. The exact nature of their relationship is unknown - they may have been a married couple, siblings, friends, etc. The identities of Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, and Apelles are unknown as all of these are common slave names found in the imperial household of Rome. Aristobulus could refer to the grandson of Herod the Great, while Herodian was likely a Jew.
Narcissus may have been a wealthy freedman of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Tryphaena and Tryphosa were probably sisters, and may have been twins based upon the similarity of their names. Based upon her name, Persis is believed to have been a woman of Persian descent who may have been brought to Rome as a slave. Some scholars believe that Rufus is the grown-up son of Simon of Cyrene (Mark 15:21), who carried the cross for Jesus Christ. Nothing is known about the remaining people listed in Paul’s greeting - Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas.
III. A FINAL WARNING (Romans 16:17-20)
In the midst of his greetings, Paul paused to give a final warning to the Roman Christians. He urged them to be watchful and wary of those who would cause dissension among the congregation by teaching things that were contrary to what they had already learned. He characterized these types of men as slaves to their own appetites eager to deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. False teachers were actively working to undermine the purity of the gospel by adding to it or perverting it in some way, and Paul wanted to ensure that the Roman church would not be led astray. He did not question their obedience, but cautioned them in hopes that they would remain “innocent in what is evil”. Paul encouraged the Romans to be hopeful because God would soon crush Satan under their feet.
IV. GREETINGS FROM THOSE IN CORINTH (Romans 16:21-24)
Paul was not alone while he lodged in Corinth. He and his companions were most certainly speaking in and working with the church there during his stay in the city. Therefore, when he wrote this letter to the Christians in Rome he included greetings from some of the people who were with him at the time.
Timothy was a young disciple whom Paul mentored to become his protégé. He was from Lystra, and began traveling with Paul during his second missionary journey. Timothy had been well grounded in the faith by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. After joining Paul’s missionary team, he travelled to Galatia, Macedonia, Philippi, Thessalonica, and numerous other locations. During these years Timothy became a trusted friend and coworker to Paul. He may have assisted in the writing of some of Paul’s letters. While Paul was in prison, Timothy served as his representative to the churches. Even after Paul’s death, Timothy continued preaching in Ephesus where tradition holds that he was eventually martyred for his faith.
Lucius may have been one of the founders of Paul’s home church in Antioch (Acts 13:1) or he may have been the evangelist Luke who was one of Paul’s disciples and who wrote the third gospel along with the book of Acts. Jason is believed to be the same man who had been jailed for allowing Paul, Timothy, and Silas to stay at his house while in Thessalonica (Acts 17:59). Sosipater is probably the same person as Sopater of Berea (Acts 20:4).
Tertius was Paul’s amanuensis who wrote this letter as Paul dictated it aloud. This was Paul’s common practice. Gaius was the host of the church in Corinth where Paul was residing. He is believed to have been baptized by Paul (1 Corinthians 1:14). Erastus was the city treasurer in Corinth. Archeologists have actually discovered a paved stone in the ancient ruins of this area bearing his name and the title “Commissioner of Public Works”. Nothing significant is known about the man named Quartus.
V. PAUL’S CLOSING EXALTATION (Romans 16:25-27)
In the final words of his letter Paul stated that God was able to establish the Roman church according to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The message of salvation by faith in Jesus is the bedrock upon which the Christian church stands. The truths regarding salvation which Paul taught about extensively in this book serve as foundational doctrine upon which Christianity is built. In Christ, the mystery of salvation has been revealed and God has been made known to all nations leading many to the “obedience of faith”.
There were those in Corinth with Paul who sent their greetings. There were those in Rome who received these greetings when they arrived. There was the one who carried the letter between them. All of these people, regardless of their particular station, were in some way messengers of the gospel. Some were evangelists who travelled as missionaries from one place to the next. Others were leaders or laity in their respective local churches. All were Christians - men and women who had been born again through faith in Jesus Christ. All had been called to tell others the good news of salvation.
Like them, we as Christians today continue to be the messengers of salvation. This generation needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed with the same passion and clarity as Paul shared it with the Romans. We must be unashamed of and undeterred in our quest to spread the good news. So while our study of salvation may have come to an end, the challenge to share it with this lost world has only begun...