About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 16

Previous Section - Chapter 15:23 - 33

Personal Greetings (ch. 16:1 Ė 27)

 

In chapter 16 we see a number and a variety of different people mentioned.  The names reflect people from various cultural and religious backgrounds.  There are Jewish names and many types of Gentile names listed in this chapter.  This tells us the diversity there was in the community of believers in Rome .  It also speaks to the message of the book of Romans, and that is, the gospel of Jesus is for everyone, not just the Jews.  That being said, this book speaks a lot about the Jews, and shows forth the Scriptural principle that states, "To the Jew first, and then to the Gentiles."       

 

In verses 1 and 2 Paul commends Phoebe a sister in the Lord to the Roman believers.  She lived just North West of Corinth in a place called Cenchrea.  Paul calls her a servant of God, and a helper to him.  He tells these Romans to receive her and give her any help that she may need.  In 57 AD, in a male dominated Roman world, this great letter of the Gospel of Grace was most likely delivered to the Roman Christians by a woman.  The name Phoebe means "goddess of the moon."  She definitely grew up in a pagan society with that name, yet she was transformed by Jesus and became a servant of God.  To deliver this letter must have been a great privilege.

 

I find it interesting that Phoebe still retained her very pagan name after becoming a Christian.  It does not appear than anyone told her to change her name. 

 

It is interesting to note that there are at least nine women mentioned in this closing chapter.  It signifies that even in a society run by men that women had a roll to play in Godís Kingdom.  There has been much debate over the years concerning Paul's view of women.  I think he has had way too much criticism over this issue.  Paul was not opposed to women serving the Lord.  He was, however, opposed to women usurping authority away from men as seen in 1 Timothy 2:12.  I believe his thinking was based on the fact that God created man and then created woman to be a helper for man, and this seemed to be the case here with Phoebe.      

 

Twenty six people are greeted by Paul in his closing remarks, all from varied backgrounds.  Prisea and Aquila were Jews.  Aristobulus was Greek.  Rufus was a Roman.  There were men, women, mothers, sisters, prisoners, and even relatives of Paul as seen in verses 7 and 11.

 

Rufus, who is mentioned in verse 13, may well have been the son of Simon, the man who carried Jesusí cross.  All of these people mentioned by Paul are loved by him and loved by the Lord.  They all had a place in the Body of Christ, and a job to do.  

 

Paul was always concerned about the people in the church.  He was always praying that his race, his work, what he was doing for Jesus, would not be in vain, or for nothing.  See Galatians 2:2 and 1 Corinthians 15:58.  As a result, in verse 17 Paul urged these people to watch out for those who would cause division among them, who might put obstacles in their way.  He says "by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naÔve people" as seen in verse 18.  Paulís words here show that there are all types of Christians, even naÔve Christians.  They were not all articulate and a great thinker as he was.  No matter who they were, or at what level of growth they were at, Paul had a heart for their spiritual safety.  We should not think less of those believers with less Scriptural knowledge.  On the other hand, those with less Scriptural knowledge should respect and learn from those with more Scriptural knowledge. 

 

This final warning at the close of his letter shows Paulís love and inward drive to keep these Roman Christians on the right track, for he knew that men would come in and try to lead them astray.  As he told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29.  "For I know that savage wolves will come in and not spare the flock." Paul certainly did not spare his words in calling these men ďsavage wolves."   It almost seems that Paul spent half of his time preaching the gospel and the other half warning of false teachers and trying to correct the wrong they had done to the people of God.  He warns these people of men who would come into their midst and try to take followers after themselves. 

 

In verse 20 Paul says that "God will soon crush satan under your feet."  There are various thoughts to what this might mean.  Some suggest that Paul is speaking of Jesus at the end of this age, and that might be so, but I'm not convinced.  Others suggest that this might have something to do with the Roman government, but I don't know that to be so either.  At the moment, I really can say what Paul had in mind.  One thing is true, and that God has the ability to crush everything and everyone who oppose Him.      

 

Note that it is the God of peace who will do the crushing.  Crushing doesn't seem to be a very peaceful activity, but in the end, it will bring peace.  

 

In verse 21 Paul calls Timothy "his fellow worker".  In other passages Paul calls Timothy his son in the Lord.  In this day when I hear preachers teaching that we must search out fathers in the Lord to submit to, I strongly believe that we must grow up in our faith.  Some people may have spiritual fathers, as Paul was to Timothy, bet we must grow up to adulthood.  We see here that Timothy is now seen as a co-worker by Paul.  He is an equal to Paul, an adult believer.   

 

In verse 22 we see that a man named Turtius was the one who actually wrote down the letter as Paul dictated it to him.  I wonder if Turtius ever interrupted Paul to ask him questions about what he was saying.  Could you possibly imagine being Turtius, writing down these great words that would be read throughout the centuries?  Of course, he only thought that he was writing to the Romans in AD 57.  He never conceived that you or I today, two thousand years later would not only be reading these words but studying and dissecting them as well. 

 

In verse 25 Paul closes his letter.  He says, "Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel."  We note that Paul could not be with these people at all times to keep them in the faith.   He realized that God Himself by His Spirit would establish and keep these people going on the right track.  This is an important point, especially for pastors who try their best to keep people in the faith.  So often a pastor spends lots of time helping, and propping up a brother in the Lord.  He leaves this brother to help someone else, and soon after he leaves the first brother falls down.  As a pastor, you do your best, but the final work has to be done by Godís Spirit. 

 

Paul calls the gospel that he preached "my gospel".  What does this mean?  Is he suggesting that every apostle has his own gospel?  I donít think so, although some today say that each apostle does have his own gospel.  If you understand Galatians 1:8, you know that there is only one gospel.  This gospel is Godís gospel.  Paul was preaching Godís gospel. Yes, he did call it ďmy gospelĒ.  I think he could have easily called it "the gospel that I preach".   All other apostles and preachers preach Paulís gospel, which indeed is the gospel of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul has got to be set aside as an apostle above all apostles.  He, as Abraham, Moses and others appear to have a special place in the history of Godís Kingdom.  So any modern day apostle preaches Paulís gospel.  I donít feel he can claim the gospel as his own, as Paul did.  Besides, there is no real need to do that anyway.  Modern day apostles only re-speak to us what Paul and the rest of the Bible writers have already said.  Anything beyond what is in the Bible is not binding on us as Christians.  This is where many groups have become sects, and even cults.  They make non Biblical issues mandatory for Christians, putting an unfair and unscriptural burden on them.                                           

 

In verses 25 and 26 Paul says that the mystery that has been long hidden in times past has now been revealed through the prophetic writings.  Some interpret these prophetic writings to be New Testament writings such as Paulís letters to the churches.  I don't believe that to be the case.  It's more likely that Paul had the Old Testament prophetic writings in mind that hinted at the coming of Jesus and salvation as in a mystery.  What was once a hint, and in the shadows of prophecy is now revealed in the life of Jesus and the gospel that Paul preached. 

 

"So that all nations might believe and obey Him," are the words found in verse 26, the second last verse of Romans.  We see hear that this gospel is for the whole world, for individuals as well as for nations.  I am sure that Paul preached to and prayed for individuals.  Yet at the same time he saw nations.  He wanted to go to Spain to preach there. The gospel of Godís Grace can change the life of an individual.  As individuals are changed, so a nation is changed.  I believe there is a place for Christians in government and in high places who can effect change in a nation, yet the number one way to bring change in a nation is for individual lives to be changed by the power of God, through Jesus our Lord.

 

So we see that God is interested in both the individual and the nation.  A quick reading of the Old Testament proves this as well.  Nations play a big part at the end of the book of Revelation.  Both in the thousand years of Christ's rule on earth, and in the new earth, nations are set forth as nations who worship Jesus.   

 

Verse 27 ends Paulís letter to the Romans.  "To the only wise God be glory forever, through Jesus Christ."  Paul ends his letter to the Romans as he began it.  Within the first few verses we noted that Jesus Christ our Lord is truly God.  We note in this last sentence that Godís glory is seen in Jesus Christ.  As Jesus Himself said, "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).  With all of the talk of God in our generation, it means nothing unless you attach the name of Jesus to your words about God.  Jesus is God.  Jesus is both Christ and Lord.  Jesus is the only way to God.  There is no other name given under Heaven whereby you can be saved.  If you struggle over this, and think that there is more than one way to God in this day of tolerance and multiculturalism, then you will stumble over Jesus.  You will most likely be offended.  As we have said before, Jesus is a stumbling bock to many and a rock that offends.  

 

We must give thanks to Jesus for the life of Paul and his willingness to be the apostle to the Gentiles.  Paulís influence throughout the Mediterranean region was great and lasted for centuries. It is sad to see that the northern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean are now devoted to Islam, except for Italy and parts west. The Asian and eastern countries where Paul poured out his life has forsaken the gospel of Christ.   Yet Paulís life was far from being lived in vain.  His words, his preaching of the Gospel of Grace has spread far beyond the Mediterranean region.  We, nearly two thousand years later, and half a world away can know and understand Godís Salvation because of the gospel he preached.

 

Concerning these churches on the northern shores of the Mediterranean , it is interesting to note their downfall over the centuries. If you read the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, you will see that God told these churches to change in certain respects. If they didnít, He would remove their candlestick as seen in Revelation 2:5.  I interpret these words to mean that God would remove the church from its respective community, and that is what he did. 

 

Concluding Words

 

Personally, I have learned a lot through this Bible study on the book of Romans.  More than any other study I have undertaken this study has helped me most.  A verse by verse study of the Bible gives a good understanding, especially since you are reading in context, whether the context is a few verses, or the whole book.

 

Other than reading Romans from my NIV Bible, I often used Vineís Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words to look up the meaning of certain Greek words. In preparing my notes, from time to time I referred to Alan Johnsonís two volume book called "Romans, The Freedom Letter" (Moody Press, 1973).  I also referred to F. F. Bruceís book entitled "Paul, Apostle Of The Heart Set Free" to help me with some historical perspective.  (Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1977)  I would highly recommend all three of these books for your own personal study.

 

I also have often used www.blueletterbible.org to help in my study of the Greek text, definition of Greek words, and Greek verb tenses.  I'd highly recommend this web site.

 

In closing, I thank our Lord Jesus Christ who lived the righteous life on my behalf, who also took the punishment for my wretchedness, so I will escape the wrath and anger of God that awaits an unbelieving world.  By His Holy Spirit I am able to live life as I should and experience His presence into eternity.  He has done all that is necessary for me to receive Salvation in all of its various aspects.  Jesus Christ is Lord of all things, visible and invisible, and is the Saviour for all who trust in Him.   I do trust my life with the Lord Jesus Christ.              

 

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