1I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea;
2that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.
Paul affirms the reputation and character of Phoebe, a sister in Christ and servant of the Lord. The word for servant is the same word for deacon that is used elsewhere in the New Testament, meaning one who serves. There is no reason to infer, however, that she held the office of deacon. Regardless, she was a woman who served the Lord faithfully and ministered willingly to others. Cenchrea was a neighboring city to Corinth. The saints were to receive Phoebe honorably and openly, giving her what she needed. Paul testified that this woman of God had done many things to help others, including himself.
3Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,
4who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles;
5also greet the church that is in their house Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia.
Aquila and Prisca (as in Acts 18:1-3) worked alongside Paul as fellow tentmakers and ministers of the gospel. They had taken Paul into their home, and at some point risked their own lives to save him. This is what all brothers and sisters in Christ should be willing to do for one another. Thus, Paul was thankful as well as all those who knew Paul and believed that he was a servant of God. By preserving his life, these godly friends enabled Paul to continue to carry out his calling as apostle to the Gentiles. Prisca and Aquila had a church in their home to which Paul wanted to send on his greetings. Epaenetus was dearly loved by Paul, and he was the first convert to Christ in Asia.
6Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.
Other than the fact that she labored extremely hard for the sake of the church, we don’t know much else about Mary, another faithful servant of the Lord.
7Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
Andronicus and Junias were perhaps relatives of Paul given that he refers to them as kinsmen rather than brothers or beloved. They also were evidently prisoners with him at one point or another. These individuals had a high reputation of faithfulness even among the other apostles who were chosen by God before Paul ever encountered Christ.
8Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.
Nothing is known conclusively about Ampliatus other than the fact that Paul loved him deeply as a brother in Christ.
9Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.
Again, nothing more is known other than they were counted faithful by Paul for having worked alongside of him. He again expresses his love for these dear people in the Lord.
10Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.
Whether Apelles is another name for Apollos is unclear. That Apelles was faithful and trustworthy in Christ is clear. Paul then sends his greetings on to the household of Aristobulus. Whether or not Aristobulus himself was a believer is not obvious, though certainly some in his household were.
11Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet those of the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord.
Perhaps of the household of Herod, Herodion was a relative of Paul. Narcissus may or may not have been a follower of Christ, but again many in his household evidently were. This Narcissus may have been emperor Claudius’ secretary. We know that the gospel had been taken throughout the entire praetorian guard (Philippians 1:13).
12Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord.
These three women were faithful laborers in Christ and deserved to be greeted from Paul in the name of the Lord.
13Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.
Scholars believe that Rufus was a son of Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross of Christ. Rufus’ mother may have cared for Paul at some time, but scholars do not believe that they were blood relatives. Paul refers to Rufus as a chosen man in the Lord as having been called by Christ unto salvation.
14Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them.
15Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.
These faithful men and women were likely well known in the church at Rome for their faithfulness and service. Since Paul says that there were brethren with them and others with them, it is reasonable to conclude that they may have been those who exercised some degree of oversight over various ministries of the church.
16Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
The kissing was a continuation of the Jewish custom to greet one another by a kiss on the forehead, cheek, or beard. This was common among friends, and it was absorbed into the church as a holy kiss in that it was a way of properly welcoming others into the fellowship as family and friends. Paul had perhaps been told to pass on greetings to this church on behalf of other churches that he had been visiting. He thus sends their greetings on.
17Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.
18For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
Paul warns these mature and faithful believers to be wary lest they fall prey to deception in the church. Even these mature believers could be led astray, thus Paul commanded them to exercise discernment. They were to watch out for those who caused divisions, strife, worthless arguments, and dissension. They were to keep an eye out for those who caused the faithful to doubt or be distracted from studying and keeping sound doctrine. The teaching of the false teachers would be contrary to what Paul had instructed them. False teachers can thus be known by the error of their teaching and also through the result of their teaching, which is faction. Paul commands the believers to stay away from these types of people, deviating from their wicked course, and even shunning them, which is implied in the word. These wicked men do not serve the Lord but themselves and their fleshly appetites. What they are seeking is anything but the glory of God and the welfare of the church. They are only seeking what they can gain, whether recognition, money, status, or some other carnal ambition. They are good talkers who will convince others that they are sheep when in fact they are wolves in sheeps’ clothing. They speak words to gain the confidence and trust of others, though their words are mere empty flattery. Those who are unaware, unsuspecting, and not keeping an eye out will be taken and deceived. We as believers must be aware that it is standard procedure for the devil to enter the body of Christ and try to drag away sheep. He obviously must disguise himself as an angel of light in order to do this (2 Corinthians 11:14). Thus, we must know doctrine so that we don’t fall for false teaching, and we must be discerning enough to see what the fruit is of such a person’s “ministry.” We must suspect that false teachers will exist.
19For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.
Paul compliments this church for its obedience, for their reputation is well-known throughout the Christian world. This brings him great joy, though he is aware that past faithfulness does not guarantee future faithfulness. Thus, he warns them to be wise about good things and innocent of evil things. We are to be shrewd as serpents, having great discernment, but we are to be innocent as doves, free from any guile or sin (Matthew 10:16). The more sin we are familiar with, the easier it is to fall back into it. The more we think on what is good (Philippians 4:8), the more we can experience the peace of God and the steadfastness of commitment to Him (Isaiah 26:3).
20The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
Though Satan is free to roam this earth tempting and deceiving, his doom is sure. When we die to go and be with the Lord, we can be sure that death will have no sting (1 Corinthians 15:55). Sin no longer has any power over us, but we will have to struggle against Satan’s powers and those who serve him on the earth. Soon, since life is but a vapor, we will be with Christ, and we will experience the fullness of our victory in Christ which crushed Satan under our feet (Genesis 3:15).
21Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.
This Timothy is likely Paul’s disciple in Christ to whom he addressed several New Testament epistles. Lucius could be the Lucius in Acts 13:1-3 who was a teacher in Antioch, it could be another form of Luke, or it could be another Lucius altogether. Jason could refer to one of the first converts in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-10), and Sosipater could be the same as Sopater referred to in Acts 20:4-6. These men Paul says were kinsmen, perhaps implying that they were blood relatives.
22I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.
Tertius wrote the letter down for Paul who evidently dictated it to him. He sends on his personal greetings.
23Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother.
Gaius could be the same as the one is 1 Corinthians 1:14 who was a convert of Paul at Corinth. Perhaps the church met at his house. Erastus was obviously the city treasurer, and Quartus could be his physical brother or a brother in Christ. Nothing more is known.
24[The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.]
This verse is not found in the earliest manuscripts.
25Now 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 which has been kept secret for long ages past,
26but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;
27to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.
This is thus the preferred benediction to the letter. Paul exalts God who is able to anchor, establish, strengthen, and build the church which is dear to His heart. The gospel is the seed of faith, and it is propagated by the preaching of it. This gospel is the revelation of things that prophets of old wanted to understand but couldn’t quite decipher (1 Peter 1:10-12). Now the mystery has been revealed that Jesus is the Messiah, that He is building His church, and that the Gentiles are invited into His fold. This had been God’s intention from the beginning, and He alone is wise. God is most certainly worthy of glory forever.
These final chapters have many references to brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul dearly loved these people and was burdened to pray for them all likely by name and regularly. This is a testament to the community and love that was found in the early church, particularly in the churches which held to sound doctrine and grew to maturity in their understanding of Scripture and in their love for one another. In a day and age where travel and communication was much more difficult than it is today, these people did a fantastic job of keeping the faith and communicating love to one another.