Relate Appropriately

Explore the Bible Series

February 26, 2006


Background Passage: Romans 16:1-27

Lesson Passage: Romans 16:1-7; 17-20; 25-27


Introduction: The Sixteenth Chapter of Romans concludes this splendid epistle.  Paul set his heart on commending many of his friends in Rome and sending his regards from trusted companions in Corinth.  In the midst of these warm greetings, Paul included a sobering section on the dangers of false teachers that threatened the church at Rome.  Important lessons on corrective church discipline, therefore, punctuate this chapter. 


Lesson Outline:


I.                    Paul’s Greetings to Friends in Rome (16:1-16)

A.     A commendation for Phoebe (vv. 1-2): This notable woman lived in Cenchrea, the port city nine miles southeast of Corinth, on the Greek Peloponnese.  Paul referred to this esteemed woman as a “sister” and a “servant” (diaconon).  This last term has persuaded some expositors that Phoebe served as a deaconess in the church at Cenchrea. The apostle encouraged the church at Rome to receive this wonderful servant in a manner worthy of the saints. Verse Two indicates that she may have carried this letter to Rome.

B.     A catalog of Paul’s acquaintances in Rome (vv. 3-16)

1.      Prisca and Aquila (vv. 3-5a): These names almost certainly refer to Paul’s old tent-making friends.  They were Jewish Christians who once lived in Italy and came to Corinth when Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome.  Luke mentioned Aquila first when referring to this couple, but Paul gave Priscilla (Prisca) priority (See also II Timothy 4:19).  This dear couple had risked their lives, at some point, for Paul’s sake, and had labored faithfully with the apostle for some time.

2.      Epaenetus (v. 5b): Otherwise unknown in Scripture, this dear friend of Paul was the first convert in Asia Minor.

3.      Mary (v. 6): Another person, known only to the Lord, appears in Paul’s list.  She was a tireless laborer in the Lord’s Kingdom, and Paul commended her for her selfless work.

4.      Andronicus and Junias (v. 7): Paul made three comments about these Christian companions: (1) they were his kinsmen (probably means they were fellow Jews), (2) they suffered imprisonment with Paul, (3) the apostles esteemed highly this couple.

5.      Ampliatus, Urbanus, and Stachys (v. 8-9): We know nothing of these persons.  Some commentators believe these were common slave names; therefore, these individuals may have come from the ranks of the slave population of Rome. Whatever the case, Paul loved them dearly.

6.      Apelles (v. 10a): Again, we know little about this man.  Paul called him “approved in Christ.”  The word “approved” means “tried, tested, or assayed.”  This person may have encountered some grave hardship for the sake of the gospel and had shown himself faithful and approved in the face of this trial.

7.      Aristobulus (v. 10b): This name may refer to the grandson of Herod the Great.  Perhaps his family came to faith in Christ, and Paul warmly greeted the whole household.

8.      Herodian (v. 11a): This name may indicate a connection to the lineage of Herod.

9.      Household of Narcissus (v 11b): Some believe this man may have served as a trusted advisor to Emperor Claudius.  If so, this Narcissus committed suicide shortly after the ascension of Nero.  Paul’s comments, therefore, may only relate to members of this man’s household.

10.  Tryphaena and Tryphosa (v. 12a):  Perhaps these women were twin sisters. Paul commended them for their labor for Christ.

11.  Persis (v. 12b): Here name indicates that she may have come to Rome from Persia.

12.  Rufus and his mother (v. 13): Some believe this may refer to the son of Simon of Cyrene (See Mark 15:21.  His mother, perhaps the widow of Simon, had doubtless shown some great kindness to Paul, thus the apostle refers to her as his mother. 

13.  Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas (v.14): We know nothing of these persons.  Some have speculated that these were common, first-century slave names.

14.  Philologus and Julia (v. 15):  Probably a husband and wife, they have been the parents of Nereus and Olympas.


II.                 A Final Warning Against Those Who Cause Divisions (16:17-20)

A.     The character of these enemies of the church

1.      those who cause dissentions” (v. 17): These people stand apart as a separate group in the congregation.  They form an identifiable faction that has a different message, agenda, and leadership than the rest of the church.

2.      and hindrances” (v. 17b): This words denotes the bait used in a trap; thus, these people lure unsuspecting people into a snare of danger.

3.      contrary to the teaching which you learned” (v 17c): The language Paul used describes the divisive people laying their teachings along side those of the apostles. Note, these people did not always vigorously oppose the teachings of the apostles: rather, they taught parallel ideas, close to the truth, but slightly off-center. Instead of practicing orthodoxy (sound doctrine) and orthopraxy (sound practice), they taught “paradoxy” and “parapraxy.”

4.      slaves of their own bellies” (v. 18a): They were slaves of their own appetites.

5.      smooth and flattering speech” (v. 18b):They used fair speech and vain flattery to deceive the hearts of the undiscerning.

B.     The proper response to these enemies of the church

1.      keep an eye on…” (v. 17): Take notice of them.  Do not let them work undetected and unobserved.

2.      turn away from them” (v. 17b): Avoid such persons. Don’t give them your attention.

3.      be wise in what is good” (v. 19): Fill your mind and heart with good things, and your heart will have no room for the poison of the false teachers.

4.      innocent in what is evil” (v. 19b): The Roman believers, Paul urged, must keep their hearts pure from the defilement of these divisive false teachers.

C.     An encouraging promise (v. 20): Paul promised that the Romans would soon experience victory over the enemy of their souls, Satan.  Ultimately, the false teachers would not win the day.  The work of Satan will come to an end when God will crush Satan under the feet of the Roman believers.  Notice that the feet that will crush Satan are the feet of the saints.  One day, Christians will tread upon their great enemy.


III.               Paul’s Salutation (16:21-27)

A.     Timothy: Paul encountered this young man during the First Missionary Journey, and this new convert quickly became a trusted missionary colleague of the apostle.  Our New Testament contains two epistles written to Timothy, and the Book of Acts and the Pauline letters have several references to the important role he played in the early church.

B.     Lucius: a kinsman (again, probably a reference to his Jewish heritage) of the apostle who may have the other son of Simon of Cyrene (thus, the brother of Rufus).

C.     Jason: This is probably the same man mentioned in Acts 17:5-9.  If so, a Jewish mob attacked him in Thessalonica.

D.     Sosipater: May be the Sopater of Berea (Acts 20:4).

E.      Tertius: This man served as Paul’s amanuensis for the Epistle to the Romans.

F.      Gaius: This man opened his home to Paul during the apostle’s sojourn in Corinth (See Acts 18:17).

G.     Erastus: The public treasurer in Corinth who had become a Christian.

H.     Quartus: F.F Bruce reasoned that Quartus (“the fourth”) was a brother to Tertius (“the third”).


Conclusion:  A final doxology to the veracity of God’s word and the power of the Lord to preserve his people.