Romans 16

Thursday Evening Bible Study

May 28, 2009


Paul winds up the letter with some personal stuff. Remember that Paul is in Corinth, writing to the church in Rome.

:1-2 Phebe

:1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,

:2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.

commendIn 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. If you zoom into Corinth you notice that it’s located on an “isthmus”.  Corinth had two harbors, one on the east and one on the west of the isthmus. Cenchrea was the harbor on the east.

Phoebe – 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; a deacon. Circle the word in your Bibles.

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.

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?

in a manner worthyaxios 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?

a helperprostatis a woman set over others; a female guardian, caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources.

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

:3-5 Priscilla and Aquila

:3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,

fellow workerssunergos a companion in work, fellow worker. Circle the word “workers” in your text.

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.

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

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 NKJV) The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily 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 returned to Rome, and now once again, they have a church in their home (Rom. 16:5)

A few years from this time, just before Paul is executed in Rome, Paul writes to Timothy in Ephesus, and Aquila and Priscilla had again moved back to Ephesus. (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 risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.

These people risked their lives for Paul.

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 NKJV)  And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him.

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.

:5 Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.

beloved – circle the word in your text.

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

firstfruits – 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.

Note: Pay attention to how many people Paul knows in Rome, even though he hasn’t been there yet himself.

:6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us.

We know nothing about this Mary.

laboredkopiao to grow weary, tired, exhausted with toil or burdens or grief. Circle the word in your text.

:7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

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

countrymensuggenes 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).

among the 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).

in Christ before me – These guys had come to Christ before Paul had.

:8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord.

Amplias –a common name among slaves.

belovedcircle the word in your text.

:9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved.

Urbanus – a common, Roman, slave name, meaning “from the city”. Circle the words “worker” and “beloved”.

:10 Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.

Aristobulus – He may have been the brother of Herod Agrippa I, making him a close ally of the Emperor Claudius.

:11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

Herodion my countryman – possibly a 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.

NarcissusScholars think that he was the personal secretary of Emperor Claudius.

It is possible that at least two households within the palace had Christians in them. These may have been some of the folks Paul mentions when he in prison in Rome and writes back to the Philippians:

(Phil 4:22 NKJV)  All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar's household.

:12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord.

Tryphena and Tryphosa – probably sisters, possibly twins. Both their names come from the same root word, meaning “softness”

laboredkopiao to grow weary, tired, exhausted with toil or burdens or grief. Circle the words “labored” (2x) and “beloved”

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

This doesn’t mean that Paul was a brother of Rufus, it means that he considered Rufus’ mother to be like a mother to him.

(Rom 16:13 NLT) …his dear mother, who has been a mother to me.

Circle the word “mine”.

Mark tells us –

(Mark 15:21 NKJV) Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.

It’s possible that this Rufus was the son of the man who carried the cross of Jesus. What an incredible legacy to grow up with.

:14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them.

The language indicates that one of the house churches was among these folks.

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

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

:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.

kissphilema a kiss; a sign of fraternal affection, Christians were accustomed to welcome or dismiss their companions in the faith. Circle the word in your text.

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. Just simple, brotherly love.

You see in Paul’s letter a picture of the church looked like in Rome.

After Paul mentions Phoebe, he mentions 28 people, and a couple of common traits keep popping up. I had you circle them.



The church is all about loving one another. Jesus said,
(John 13:34-35 NKJV) "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. {35} "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

The chief thing that will show the world that we belong to Jesus is that we love one another like He loves us.

What’s difficult is that we tend to love a little differently than God loves.
Our love tends to be based on things we like about people. Usually we tend to love people that are a little more like us.
We are drawn to people who dress like we do, enjoy the same food as we do, like the same movies that we do, people who smell like we do.
But did you notice the wide variety of people in the church in Rome?

Simple tentmakers. Slaves. Men and women. People of high standing in the imperial court.

Often our churches are made up of people who are from the same economic or educational background. We often are people from the same political bent. They say when it comes to race and color, that Sunday morning is the most segregated day of the week.

It shouldn’t be so. We ought to love one another.

The longer you spend in one church, you are going to run into people that you don’t really care for much.

Some people are rude and obnoxious. Some tell bad jokes. Some people are socially awkward – they get you into a conversation and expect you to carry the conversation while they just stare at you.

Do you love them?

John wrote,
(1 John 4:7-8 NKJV) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. {8} He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.



The church is all about serving the Lord together.
Some of that serving requires hard work. Working until you are exhausted.
Sometimes we don’t really want to be serving anyone…
An 18th-century vagabond in England, exhausted and famished, came to a roadside Inn with a sign reading: “George and the Dragon” He knocked. The innkeeper’s wife stuck her head out a window. “Could ye spare some victuals?” he asked. The woman glanced at his shabby, dirty clothes. “No!” she shouted. “Could I have a pint of ale?” “No!” she shouted. “Could I at least sleep in your stable?” “No!” she shouted again. The vagabond said, “Might I please...?” “What now?” the woman screeched, not allowing him to finish. “D’ye suppose,” he asked, “that I might have a word with George?”
Have you ever stopped to define what you think a mature Christian looks like?
Is it someone who knows a lot of facts about the Bible?
Is it someone who knows how to quote Bible verses from memory?
Is it someone who knows stories of what God did in the Jesus movement in the 60’s and 70’s?
Is it someone who has been going to the same church for twenty years?
Is it someone who is in charge of a ministry and has lots of people to boss around?

I’d say that each of those things might be a bit deceptive and not exactly what a mature Christian looks like.

A mature Christian is one who has learned to serve Christ.

Jesus said,

(Mark 10:42-45 NKJV) …"You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. {43} "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. {44} "And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. {45} "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

How long do you have to know the Lord before you can serve Him? You can start right away.
You can serve in an official capacity – like being an usher, teaching a Children’s class, or helping in the kitchen.
You can serve in an unofficial capacity – picking up trash around the grounds, making a point to look for new people in church and being kind and friendly to them, praying over the prayer list each week.
Just learn to serve, not be served.

:17-18 A warning

:17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

noteskopeo to look at, observe, contemplate

The idea is to pay close attention to someone who fits this description.

Don’t ignore them.  Mark them.

divisionsdichostasia dissension, division. Literally, “twice standing”. These people are causing people to divide into groups.

offensesskandalon the movable trigger of a trap, any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall

We saw Paul use this word when he was talking about handling the “gray” issues –

(Rom 14:13 NKJV)  Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.

Whereas Paul was trying to show the people how to operate in love and not cause another person to stumble, these people were forcing certain issues and causing others to stumble.

“If he stumbles, why should I care?” they might say.

doctrinedidache teaching; that which is taught

This is a pretty broad word. Don’t just think of it describing only things like who God is or how we are saved. It can carry some pretty practical things as well.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about things like not being angry at others, learning to forgive, not lusting in your heart, loving your enemies, praying, not being anxious about the future, not judging others, and practicing what you preach. At the end of it all …
(Mat 7:28 NKJV) And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching,

avoidekklino to turn aside, keep aloof from one's society; to shun one


Watch out for dividers.

Some cause division through bad doctrine.
Through history there have been groups that come up and divide the church with their bad doctrine. Groups like Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and even people in some of the mainline denominations who would deny that Jesus is God, or that the Bible is the Word of God.
Some cause division in the name of keeping doctrine pure.
I call them “heresy-hunters”. Often their books take things that pastors say out of context, twisting words, and causing the church to think in a very small manner.

Eventually people with this mindset get to the point where it’s just “me and you, and I’m beginning to worry about you”.

Some cause division by causing people in church to take sides.
Sometimes it’s not an issue of doctrine, but just not liking the way someone does something in church.
Most church splits are not over doctrine, but over very silly things like deciding what color the carpet should be.
These people will force you to take their side of an argument or disagreement.
We’ve seen churches (including our own) split over the strangest things.

:18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.

bellykoilia the whole belly; the innermost part of a man, the soul, heart


Division and selfishness.

If you’re ever going to learn to get along with others in this life, you’re going to have to learn somewhere along the line that you can’t always have it your way. There comes a time when you have to sacrifice your rights and your desires for the sake of others.
Paul wrote,
(Phil 2:1-4 NLT) Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? {2} Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose. {3} Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. {4} Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.

Unity comes when you are willing to sacrifice your own comfort for the sake of others. Unity only can come when you are willing to humble yourself and to serve others.

Too often we can fall into a trap of thinking that true happiness comes when we finally get all of our needs met.

But the truth is that God’s desire for us finding true fulfillment is in learning to meet the needs of others and helping them out.

smooth wordschrestologia – fair speaking; the words “sound good”

flattering speecheulogia – praise; polished language; this is the word often used for a “benediction”, a “eulogy”

deceiveexapatao – to deceive; to cheat

simpleakakos – harmless, free from guilt.  Literally, “not evil”.  NIV has “naïve”, NAS has “unsuspecting”.


Watch out for flattery.

Men seldom flatter without a purpose; and they who listen to such music may expect to pay the piper.
Aesop (Fl. C. 550 B.C.)
Flattery is like chewing gum--enjoy it briefly, but don't swallow it!
--James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 207.
In ancient Greece, the politically crafty philosopher Aristippus had learned to get along in court by flattering the tyrant King Denys. Aristippus looked down his nose at some of his less prosperous fellow philosophers and wise men who would not stoop that low. One day he saw his colleague Diogenes washing some vegetables and he said to him disdainfully: “If you would only learn to flatter King Denys you would not have to be washing lentils.”
Diogenes looked up slowly and in the same tone replied, “And you, if you had only learned to live on lentils, would not have to flatter King Denys.”
--James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 206.
(Prov 26:28 NLT) A lying tongue hates its victims, and flattery causes ruin.

:19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.

wisesophos wise; cultivated, learned

goodagathos of good constitution or nature; good, pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy

simpleakeraios unmixed, pure as in wines or metals; of the mind, without a mixture of evil, free from guile, innocent, simple

evilkakos of a bad nature; base, wrong, wicked; troublesome, injurious, pernicious, destructive, baneful


Be innocent with wickedness.

I don’t think we need to be so naïve that we don’t know what is evil, but we certainly don’t need to be playing with fire.
I know that some pastors listen to some of the garbage radio talk shows, supposedly so they can know what their people are listening to.  That’s a dangerous approach.  God says,

(Deu 12:29-31 NKJV)  "When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, {30} "take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' {31} "You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

You don’t need to be experienced in evil things.  You need to stay away from them.
I grew up as a pretty good kid. I received the Lord in eighth grade. I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t smoke.  I didn’t drink.  I have to admit that there were times when people would be sharing their testimony about the hard life they had before Jesus, that I’d kind of wish I had experienced some of those things.  That’s a dangerous thing to wish for.  Stay far away from evil.


Be smart with the good things.

We don’t need to be ignorant of everything.  Know what’s good.  Get a doctorate in what is good.  There’s too many good things to do that you don’t need to waste time with the bad stuff.

:20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.

If we keep ourselves innocent in evil things, and smart in good things, we’ll see victory over Satan.

crushsuntribo break, to break in pieces; crush


Victory comes in obedience.

Sometimes we can’t help it when we’re tempted.
Luther said, “You can’t stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.”
Joseph couldn’t control whether or not he was tempted:
(Gen 39:7-10 NKJV)  And it came to pass after these things that his master's wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, "Lie with me." {8} But he refused and said to his master's wife, "Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. {9} "There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" {10} So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.

Joseph worked for this household.  He was going to be near this woman every day.  He could do nothing about that aspect.

(Gen 39:11-13 NKJV)  But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, {12} that she caught him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me." But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. {13} And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside,

But when the temptation came too close, he ran.

It cost him.  He ended up in prison for a false accusation.  But he still stayed close to the Lord.

And God rewarded him for his obedience.

:20 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

:21 Timothy, my fellow worker, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my countrymen, greet you.

Timothy – Paul’s younger disciple. During Paul’s second and third journeys, Timothy would often be sent on short assignments to check up on the churches.

Timothy had been with Paul earlier in Macedonia, when he had written to the Corinthians –

(2 Cor 1:1 NKJV)  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:
Now Timothy is in Corinth with Paul when he writes to the Romans.

fellow workersunergos a companion in work, fellow worker

:22 I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord.

This can be a bit confusing if you don’t understand the way Paul worked. Who is “Tertius”?

He’s Paul’s secretary. Paul is dictating this letter to Tertius. Tertius can’t resist and inserts this little greeting from himself.

:23 Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother.

Gaius – there was a man named Gaius in the Corinthian church (1Cor. 1:14)

(1 Cor 1:14 NKJV)  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,

treasurer – Erastus was the city treasurer in Corinth, a prominent man.

:24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

:25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began

:26 but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith;

The mystery is that God would ever do something as radical as saving pig-dog Gentiles.

:27 to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.

:25 to establishsterizo (“steroids”) to make stable, place firmly, fix; to strengthen, make firm


Stability comes from God

The world around us is lacking a bit of stability.
It’s not just the stock market that’s been telegraphing “trouble” about the economy. The price of thoroughbreds has watched Wall Street’s gyrations. Yearlings that sold for an average of $27,295 in 1994 were fetching $54,506 in 2000. But recent sales have seen a 20 percent declines from a year ago.
Moral: If you invest in horses, don’t expect stable prices.
Sometimes we wonder how we can ever keep going. We want to quit and run away. God is strong enough to keep us steady.
Jude writes,
(Jude 1:24 NKJV) Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
Isaiah writes,
(Isa 40:28-31 NKJV) Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. {29} He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. {30} Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, {31} But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

Are you waiting eagerly and expectantly for the Lord? Are you looking for Him to show up?

He’ll renew your strength, whether it’s enough for you to mount up with eagles’ wings, or just enough to keep walking.