Romans 16:1-16

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

December 22, 1999


Paul winds up the letter with some personal stuff.

:1-2 Phebe

:1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

commendsunistao – to place together, to set in the same place, to bring or band together; to set one with another; by way of presenting or introducing him

In the early church, there were no "Motel Sixes". Typically when you traveled, you needed to stay with friends. It was a common practice for a church to write a letter of commendation for a person in the church, letting people know that this person could be trusted.

Cenchrea – Paul is writing to the Romans from Corinth. Corinth had two harbors, one on the east and one on the west of the isthmus. Cenchrea was the harbor on the east.

Phebe – She was apparently the one who traveled from Corinth to Rome to bring Paul’s letter. Her name means "bright" or "radiant". We know nothing more of her than what is here.

servantdiakonos – one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister; a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use; a waiter, one who serves food and drink

It’s interesting that Paul gives her this title. Paul saw it okay to have women involved in ministry.

This doesn’t mean that she was the pastor of the church. Paul taught that a woman was not to teach or be in authority over men in the church (1Tim. 2:12). But that still leaves lots and lots of room for ministry.

They can "teach and be in authority" over other women and children. They can prophecy in the church. They can serve in many other capacities as men.

Paul teaches on the requirements of those who serve as "deacons" in the church.

(1 Tim 3:8-13 KJV) Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; {9} Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. {10} And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. {11} Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. {12} Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. {13} For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

It has been suggested that verse 11 may either refer to the wives of the deacons, or a separate office, that of "deaconess".

Some of the writings of the early church fathers have many allusions to deaconesses. Because they were so careful in their ministry to those of the opposite sex, the office of deaconess was necessary for things like baptism or visiting the women.

Paul trusted this gal enough to entrust her with his copy of the letter to the Romans. Aren’t you glad she was a faithful person?

: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.

as becomethaxios – suitably, worthily, in a manner worthy of. He wants them to treat her right.

We are saints. Do we treat others as saints ought to treat people?

(Eph 4:29-32 NASB) Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. {30} And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. {31} Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. {32} And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

succourerprostatis – a woman set over others; a female guardian, protectress, patroness, caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources. It’s based on proistemi, a very similar word to paristemi, upon which the word "assist" in this verse is found.

The idea is that Paul is telling them to help her because she has helped many others, including Paul.

Reaping and sowing.

There are some people who wait for others to be nice to them first. Then if someone doesn’t meet their expectations, they get upset and decide they have a good reason to not be a nice person themselves.

Other people don’t wait for others to be nice to them. They are "proactive" in their relationships. They reach out before others reach out to them.

businesspragma – that which has been done, a deed, an accomplished fact; what is done or being accomplished; spec. business, a commercial transaction. Their help of Phebe was to be "pragmatic". They were to help her on her business trip.

:3-5 Priscilla and Aquila

:3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:

Her name was "Prisca", and "Priscilla" is a "diminuitive", like calling her "Prissy".

Priscilla was the wife and Aquila was the husband. The order of their names is usually given in this order. It has been suggested that Priscilla was the prominent one in ministry since her name always appears first.

helperssunergos – a companion in work, fellow worker

Aquila was a Jew from Pontus, which is an area in Asia, modern Turkey.

At some point in their life, they moved to Rome and lived there for a while until the Emperor Claudius kicked all the Jews out of Rome (Acts 18:2). When they left Rome, they went to live in Corinth, making a living as tentmakers, when the first met Paul.

They take an interest in Paul, took him into their home, and they worked together as tentmakers. (Acts 18:3).

When Paul eventually leaves Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla will accompany him to Ephesus, where he leaves them. (Acts 18:18-19)

While they’re in Ephesus, they’ll meet a young preacher named Apollos, and take an interest in him. Apollos had some rough edges, but they take him aside, train him, and he becomes a powerful witness. (Acts 18:26)

When Paul comes back to Ephesus to visit, and then later writes a letter back to the Corinthians, he mentions that they have a church in their home there in Ephesus. (1Cor.16:19)

(1 Cor 16:19 KJV) The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

Now, as Paul is writing to the church in Rome, apparently Aquila and Priscilla had been sent on back to Rome, and now once again, they have a church in their home (Rom. 16:5)

Then finally, just before Paul is executed in Rome, he writes to young Timothy, now the pastor in Ephesus, where Aquila and Priscilla have moved back to. (2Tim.4:19)


Friends to serve.

Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla seemed to be what we might call "friends". They had some things in common, being Jewish and tentmakers. But they had more than that, they had Jesus. And they served the Lord together. They were a part of what Paul might call his "leadership team".

Paul was not always an easy guy to get along with.

The noted commentator William Hendricksen makes the following observation:

During his missionary career Paul had colleagues and fellow-workers. But he deemed it necessary to oppose Peter to his face (Gal. 2:11f.). With Barnabas he had such a sharp disagreement that the two parted company (Acts 15:39). There was a time when Paul refused to allow Mark to remain one of his companions (Acts 15:38). He was going to reprimand Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2). And Demas was going to desert him (2 Tim. 4:10). But even though Prisca and Aquila in a sense stood closer to him than any others—for they were his companions both in trade and in faith—as far as the record shows, between Paul, on the one hand, and Prisca and Aquila, on the other, there was always perfect harmony! (Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981], p. 503)

I think it says something about them that Paul never had a negative thing to say of them.

: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.

We aren’t sure what Paul is referring to, but there is one possible situation. When Paul was in Ephesus, the silversmith Demetrius provoked the entire city to riot on account of Paul. He claimed that Paul was ruining Ephesus because so many people were turning to Jesus and not buying Demetrius’ silver idols. The entire city went into the huge amphitheater and were crying for action.

(Acts 19:30 KJV) And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not.

Some have suggested that Priscilla and Aquila stepped in here somehow and got Paul out of danger.

:5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house.

They’re at it again. They’ve opened up their home to the regular meeting of believers.

Home fellowships are a great place to learn ministry.

Keep in mind, Paul has already told us that he doesn’t want to build on another’s foundation (Rom. 15:20), so he is not going to Rome to establish a church because there is already a church in existence there. He’s passing through to visit friends.

:5 Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.

Epainetus – we know nothing more of this guy, other than he might have been related to some other folks that Paul mentions to the Corinthians –

(1 Cor 16:15-16 KJV) I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) {16} That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.

This family was "addicted" to ministry.

firstfruits – Paul probably is meaning that this guy was one of the first to believe in Corinth.

Achaia – This is the southern part of Greece, of which Corinth was a major city. This is where Paul is writing from.

Apparently Epaenetus had moved from Corinth to Rome.

:6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.

We know nothing of who this Mary was.

labourkopiao – to grow weary, tired, exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief); to labour with wearisome effort, to toil

:7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners,

Andronicus and Junia – may have been a husband and wife.

kinsmensuggenes – of the same kin, akin to, related by blood; in a wider sense, of the same nation, a fellow countryman

These folks might have been Jews, or Paul might mean that they came from Tarsus, or even that they are relatives.

fellowprisoners – we don’t know what Paul means specifically here. He wasn’t in his long term prison mode yet. But he had been arrested and put in jail many times (2Cor. 11:23).

:7 who are of note among the apostles

An interesting phrase. Paul is calling these men whom we don’t know, "apostles". Sometimes the word only is used to refer to the "twelve". But the word is used to describe more guys than just the "twelve". Barnabas and Paul were called "apostles" even though they were not a part of the "twelve" (Acts 14:14).

:7 who also were in Christ before me.

These guys had come to Christ before Paul had.

:8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord.

Amplias – as some of these other names, this was a common name among slaves.

belovedagapetos – beloved, esteemed, dear, favorite, worthy of love

I love the way the New Testament writers used this word. They loved one another. Even those that were slaves.

(Gal 3:28 NASB) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

:9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.

Urbane – a common, Roman, slave name, meaning "from the city".

helpersunergos –a companion in work, fellow worker

:10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household.

approveddokimos – accepted, particularly of coins and money.; accepted, pleasing, acceptable

In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into moulds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century, more than eighty laws were passed in Athens, to stop the practice of shaving down the coins then in circulation. But some money changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money. They were men of honour who put only genuine full weighted money into circulation. Such men were called "dokimos" or "approved". (Donald Barnhouse)

Appelles had apparently been in many tests and had passed the tests.

Aristobulus' household

From John MacArthur –

From his careful study of New Testament times, the noted biblical scholar J. B. Lightfoot suggests that Aristobulus may have been the brother of Herod Agrippa I and the grandson of the Herod the Great. If so, he would have been a close ally of the Emperor Claudius. When Aristobulus died, his household—including his wife, children, slaves, and possessions—would have become the property of the emperor, although they would still have been referred to as the household of Aristobulus. It is therefore possible that this group of believers could have been part of the imperial household.

:11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord.

Herodion my kinsman – again, possibly another relative of Paul’s. "Herodion" may be an indication that this person was also related to the household of Herod. Many of the Herods had names similar to this.


MacArthur –

Some scholars believe with J. B. Lightfoot that, like Aristobulus, the Narcissus mentioned here was closely connected to the Emperor Claudius as his secretary. Because all contact with the emperor had to be channeled through the secretary, he became extremely wealthy through the many bribes he received for granting access to, or simply for corresponding with, the emperor. It is therefore possible that at least two households within the palace had Christians in them. If so, those believers may have been among the saints "of Caesar’s household" who joined Paul, then imprisoned in Rome, in sending greetings to the church at Philippi (Phil. 4:22).

:12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.

Tryphena and Tryphosa – probably sisters, possibly twins. Both their names come from the same root word, truphe – "softness, effeminate, luxurious living"

labourkopiao – to grow weary, tired, exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief); to labour with wearisome effort, to toil

:13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.

This doesn’t mean that he was a brother of Rufus, it means that he appreciated her.

Mark tells us –

(Mark 15:21 KJV) And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.

It’s possible that this Rufus was the son of the man who carried the cross of Jesus.

:14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them.

It’s possible there was one of the house churches among these folks.

:15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them.

Julia – a common name for a female slave.


William Barclay writes,

"In a.d. 95 there happened an event which shocked Rome. Two of the most distinguished people in Rome were condemned for being Christians. They were husband and wife. The husband was Flavius Clemens. He had been consul of Rome. The wife was Domatilla and she was of royal blood. She was the granddaughter of Vespasian, a former Emperor, and the niece of Domitian, the reigning Emperor. In fact the two sons of Flavius Clemens and Domatilla had been designated Domitian’s successors in the imperial power. Flavius was executed and Domatilla was banished to the island of Pontia where years afterwards Paula saw the cave where "she [Domatilla] drew out a long martyrdom for the Christian name." And now the point—the name of the chamberlain of Flavius and Domatilla was Nereus. Is it possible that Nereus the slave had something to do with the making into Christians of Flavius Clemens the ex-consul and Domatilla the princess of the royal blood? Again maybe it is an idle speculation, for Nereus is a common name, but again, maybe it is true." (Letters to the Romans [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1957], p. 237)

and his sister – do you think Paul had a problem remembering some names like I do?


The church is made of people.

I think that sometimes ministry would be a lot easier if there weren’t people involved.

But the truth is, ministry is all about people. Don’t lose sight that God wants you to impact the lives of real people. People with names. People with backgrounds. People you know.

:16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.

kissphilema – a kiss; the kiss with which, as a sign of fraternal affection, Christians were accustomed to welcome or dismiss their companions in the faith

Not the same as our kisses. The men kissed men, women kissed women.

The kiss was either on the forehead, cheek, or in the case of men, on the beard.

The kiss was to be "holy". Pure. Nothing sensuous about it. It’s all about love.

(John 13:34-35 KJV) A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. {35} By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.