In Part 15, Paul spoke of bearing with others' weaknesses; not just for their sakes but as a ministry unto them for the Lord. Just as Paul ministered to the church in Rome by his letter and to the Gentiles in his ministry, we too are to minister to one another in our kindness, patience and care when a fellow believer isn't as strong as we are in faith. Now in the final chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul takes the times to speak of his fellow brethren to the Roman church. In his words, we see reflected the very concern, care and Godly love that he encouraged those in Rome (and us as well) to show and nurture:
"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that 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." (Romans 16:1-2, NASB)
In the Greek, the word servant is diakonos, from which we get the word deacon. Given Paul's description of Phoebe's efforts, it would seem to fit that she was a deacon in the church.
"Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house." (Romans 16:3-5a, NASB)
These are the same folks that Paul stayed with in Acts 18; the fact that Paul calls her "Prisca" here may have been a nickname for her that was used by friends:
"After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers." (Acts 18:1-3, NASB, emphasis mine)
Paul then takes the time to individually mention individual brothers and sisters in Christ:
"Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet those of the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord. Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them. Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you." (Romans 5b-16, NASB)
Of the people Paul spoke of in his letter, Andronicus and Junias were in prison with Paul when he wrote this, while others served individually, and yet others still oversaw "house churches" that were the gathering places for the believers in their cities or towns. In whichever fashion they served, they did so at much risk, knowing that if caught, they could be stoned by the Jews, arrested and jailed, tortured or executed by the Romans. Paul spoke of all of them lovingly, and took great care to mention each one.
Then Paul takes a moment to give them one more word of warning and advice:
"Now 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. For 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. For 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." (Romans 16:17-19, NASB, emphasis mine)
In Paul's day, there were those that caused all sorts of trouble by spreading dissension and rumors. They didn't serve the Lord, but rather served their own desires ("appetites" as Paul said), which fueled their actions and ran completely contrary to what the Lord said concerning putting anothers' good above our own and bearing with anothers' weakness. Sadly, these are still with us; they continue to cause division and feed upon causing trouble within the Body whenever it suits them. They speak flatteringly and smoothly enough, but their words are poison and their hearts are far from the Lord. Through Paul, the Lord advises us not to listen to them, but to instead heed the Word we have received from Him alone. We are not to be acquainted with evil, but good; if we choose to heed the Lord, we are seeking good.
Paul then closes his letter with a few final thoughts and greetings:
"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother. [The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.] " (Romans 16:20-24, NASB, emphasis mine)
First, Paul reminds the church in Rome that the Lord will "crush Satan under your feet"; this resonates with Christ's promise that:
"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it."(Matthew 16:18, NASB, emphasis mine)
Then, after blessing them with the grace of the Lord, Paul passes on greetings from Timothy and several others who are working with Paul, even as he is in jail. We learn that Tertius is physically writing the letter for Paul, but it is still appropriate to say it came from Paul's hand. It is to Paul that the Lord spoke, and Paul is articulating this letter to Tertius so that it may be written. But all the same, it is still Paul's letter.
Finally, Paul closes with this:
"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 which has been kept secret for long ages past, but 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; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen." (Romans 16:25-27, NASB)
In this last part of his letter, Paul expresses that Jesus Christ is indeed the one scripture spoke of by the prophets, and that the message of the Gospel has been spread by God's commandment to all nations. This further reinforces that it has been God's plan all along to save not just the nation of Israel, but all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike. It also reinforces that Jesus Christ is indeed the only way to God the Father.
In this last chapter, Paul displays the very care he spoke of earlier, along with warning us of those who would stir up division and spread their own false message in the church. The way we are to proceed is not to listen to that which is contrary to scripture, but instead to embrace what has been taught in scripture and to cling to that which is indeed good: the Word of God.
In part 17, we'll conclude this study with a brief review of each chapter's message, and the overall message of Romans.
I bid you all peace.