Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
DIRECTIONS, AND A
1. I commend unto you Phœbebe our sister, which is a servant--or
of the church which is at Cenchrea--The word is "Cenchreæ," the
eastern part of Corinth
That in the earliest churches there were deaconesses, to attend to the
wants of the female members, there is no good reason to doubt. So early
at least as the reign of Trajan, we learn from PLINY'S celebrated letter to that emperor--A.D. 110, or 111--that they existed in the Eastern
churches. Indeed, from the relation in which the sexes then stood to
each other, something of this sort would seem to have been a necessity.
Modern attempts, however, to revive this office have seldom found
favor; either from the altered state of society, or the abuse of the
office, or both.
2. Receive her in the Lord--that is, as a genuine disciple of the Lord
becometh saints--so as saints should receive saints.
assist her in whatsoever business she hath--"may have"
need of you--some private business of her own.
for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also--(See
3-5. Salute Priscilla--The true reading here is "Prisca" (as in
a contracted form of Priscilla, as "Silas" of "Silvanus."
and Aquila my helpers--The wife is here named before the husband (as
and Ro 16:26,
according to the true reading; also in
probably as being the more prominent and helpful to the Church.
4. who have for my life laid down--"who did for my life lay down"
their own necks--that is, risked their lives; either at Corinth
(Ac 18:6, 9, 10),
or more probably at Ephesus
(Ac 19:30, 31;
They must have returned from Ephesus (where we last find them in the
history of the Acts) to Rome, whence the edict of Claudius had banished
and doubtless, if not the principal members of that Christian
community, they were at least the most endeared to our apostle.
unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the
Gentiles--whose special apostle this dear couple had rescued from
5. Likewise the church that is in their house--The Christian assembly
that statedly met there for worship. "From his occupation as tent-maker,
he had probably better accommodations for the meetings of the church
than most other Christians" [HODGE]. Probably this devoted couple had
written to the apostle such an account of the stated meetings at their
house, as made him feel at home with them, and include them in this
salutation, which doubtless would be read at their meetings with
Salute my well beloved Epænetus, who is the first-fruits--that is,
the first convert
of Achaia unto Christ--The true reading here, as appears by the
manuscripts, is, "the first-fruits of Asia unto Christ"--that is,
Proconsular Asia (see
it is said that "the household of Stephanas was the first-fruit of
Achaia"; and though if Epænetus was one of that family, the two
statements might be reconciled according to the received text, there is
no need to resort to this supposition, as that text is in this instance
without authority. Epænetus, as the first believer in that
region called Proconsular Asia, was dear to the apostle. (See
None of the names mentioned from
are otherwise known. One wonders at the number of them, considering
that the writer had never been at Rome. But as Rome was then the center
of the civilized world, to and from which journeys were continually
taken to the remotest parts, there is no great difficulty in supposing
that so active a travelling missionary as Paul would, in course of
time, make the acquaintance of a considerable number of the Christians
then residing at Rome.
6. Greet--or "salute"
Mary, who bestowed much labour on us--labor, no doubt, of a womanly
7. Andronicus and Junia--or, as it might be, "Junias," a contracted
form of "Junianus"; in this case, it is a man's name. But if, as is more
probable, the word be, as in our version, "Junia," the person meant was
no doubt either the wife or the sister of Andronicus.
my kinsmen--or, "relatives."
and my fellow prisoners--on what occasion, it is impossible to say,
as the apostle elsewhere tells us that he was "in prisons more frequent"
which are of note among the apostles--Those who think the word
"apostle" is used in a lax sense, in the Acts and Epistles, take this to
mean "noted apostles" [CHRYSOSTOM,
JOWETT]; others, who are not clear that the word
"apostle" is applied to any without the circle of the Twelve, save where
the connection or some qualifying words show that the literal meaning of
"one sent" is the thing intended, understand by the expression used
here, "persons esteemed by the apostles" [BEZA,
HODGE]. And of course, if "Junia" is
to be taken for a woman, this latter must be the meaning.
who also were in Christ before me--The apostle writes as if he envied
them this priority in the faith. And, indeed, if to be "in Christ" be
the most enviable human condition, the earlier the date of this blessed
translation, the greater the grace of it. This latter statement about
Andronicus and Junia seems to throw some light on the preceding one.
Very possibly they may have been among the first-fruits of Peter's
labors, gained to Christ either on the day of Pentecost or on some of
the succeeding days. In that case they may have attracted the special
esteem of those apostles who for some time resided chiefly at Jerusalem
and its neighborhood; and our apostle, though he came late in contact
with the other apostles, if he was aware of this fact, would have
pleasure in alluding to it.
8. Amplias--a contracted form of "Ampliatus."
my beloved in the Lord--an expression of dear Christian affection.
9, 10. Urbane--rather, "Urbanus." It is a man's name.
our helper--"fellow labourer"
10. Salute Apelles approved--"the approved"
in Christ--or, as we should say, "that tried Christian"; a noble
Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household--It would
seem, from what is said of Narcissus in
that this Aristobulus himself had not been a Christian; but that the
Christians of his household simply were meant; very possibly some of
11. Salute Herodion, my kinsman--(See on
Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the
Lord--which implies that others in his house, including probably
himself, were not Christians.
12. Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord--two active
Salute the beloved Persis--another woman.
which laboured much in the Lord--referring probably, not to official
services, such as would fall to the deaconesses, but to such higher
Christian labors--yet within the sphere competent to woman--as Priscilla
bestowed on Apollos and others
13. Salute Rufus, chosen--"the chosen"
in the Lord--meaning, not "who is one of the elect," as every believer
is, but "the choice" or "precious one" in the Lord. (See
We read in
that Simon of Cyrene, who was compelled to bear our Lord's cross, was
"the father of Alexander and Rufus." From this we naturally conclude
that when Mark wrote his Gospel, Alexander and Rufus must have been
well known as Christians among those by whom he expected his Gospel to
be first read; and, in all likelihood, this was that very "Rufus"; in
which case our interest is deepened by what immediately follows about
his mother and mine--The apostle calls her "his own mother," not so
much as our Lord calls every elderly woman believer His mother
(Mt 12:49, 50),
but in grateful acknowledgment of her motherly attentions to himself,
bestowed no doubt for his Master's sake, and the love she bore to his
honored servants. To us it seems altogether likely that the conversion
of Simon the Cyrenian dated from that memorable day when "passing
[casually] by, as he came from the country"
"they compelled him to bear the" Saviour's cross. Sweet compulsion, if
what he thus beheld issued in his voluntarily taking up his own
cross! Through him it is natural to suppose that his wife would be
brought in, and that this believing couple, now "heirs together of the
grace of life"
as they told their two sons, Alexander and Rufus, what honor had
unwittingly been put upon their father at that hour of deepest and
dearest moment to all Christians, might be blessed to the inbringing of
both of them to Christ. In this case, supposing the elder of the two to
have departed to be with Christ ere this letter was written, or to have
been residing in some other place, and Rufus left alone with his
mother, how instructive and beautiful is the testimony here borne to
14, 15. Salute Asyncritus, &c.--These have been thought to be the
names of ten less notable Christians than those already named. But this
will hardly be supposed if it be observed that they are divided into two
pairs of five each, and that after the first of these pairs it is added,
"and the brethren which are with them," while after the second pair we
have the words, "and all the saints which are with them." This perhaps
hardly means that each of the five in both pairs had "a church at his
house," else probably this would have been more expressly said. But at
least it would seem to indicate that they were each a center of some few
Christians who met at his house--it may be for further instruction, for
prayer, for missionary purposes, or for some other Christian objects.
These little peeps into the rudimental forms which Christian fellowship
first took in the great cities, though too indistinct for more than
conjecture, are singularly interesting. Our apostle would seem to have
been kept minutely informed as to the state of the church at Rome, both
as to its membership and its varied activities, probably by Priscilla
16. Salute one another with an holy kiss--So
The custom prevailed among the Jews, and doubtless came from the East,
where it still obtains. Its adoption into the Christian churches, as
the symbol of a higher fellowship than it had ever expressed before,
was probably as immediate as it was natural. In this case the apostle's
desire seems to be that on receipt of his epistle, with its
salutations, they should in this manner expressly testify their
Christian affection. It afterwards came to have a fixed place in the
church service, immediately after the celebration of the Supper, and
continued long in use. In such matters, however, the state of society
and the peculiarities of different places require to be studied.
The churches of Christ salute you--The true reading is, "All the
churches"; the word "all" gradually falling out, as seeming probably to
express more than the apostle would venture to affirm. But no more seems
meant than to assure the Romans in what affectionate esteem they were
held by the churches generally; all that knew he was writing to Rome
having expressly asked their own salutations to be sent to them. (See
17. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and
offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned--"which ye
and avoid them--The fomentors of "divisions" here referred to are
probably those who were unfriendly to the truths taught in this epistle,
while those who caused "offenses" were probably those referred to in
as haughtily disregarding the prejudices of the weak. The direction as
to both is, first, to "mark" such, lest the evil should be done ere it
was fully discovered; and next, to "avoid" them (compare
2Th 3:6, 14),
so as neither to bear any responsibility for their procedure, nor seem
to give them the least countenance.
18. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ--"our Lord
Christ" appears to be the true reading.
but their own belly--not in the grosset sense, but as "living for low
ends of their own" (compare
and by good words and fair speeches deceive the simple--the unwary, the
19. For your obedience--that is, tractableness
is come abroad unto all. I am glad therefore on your behalf--"I
rejoice therefore over you," seems the true reading.
but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and
simple--"harmless," as in
from which the warning is taken.
evil--"Your reputation among the churches for subjection to the
teaching ye have received is to me sufficient ground of confidence in
you; but ye need the serpent's wisdom to discriminate between
transparent truth and plausible error, with that guileless simplicity
which instinctively cleaves to the one and rejects the other."
20. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly--The
apostle encourages the Romans to persevere in resisting the wiles of
the devil with the assurance that, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ,
they are "shortly" to receive their discharge, and have the satisfaction
of "putting their feet upon the neck" of that formidable enemy--symbol
familiar, probably, in all languages to express not only the
completeness of the defeat, but the abject humiliation of the conquered
Though the apostle here styles Him who is thus to bruise Satan, the God
of peace," with special reference to the "divisions"
by which the church at Rome was in danger of being disturbed, this
sublime appellation of God has here a wider sense, pointing to the
whole "purpose for which the Son of God was manifested, to destroy the
works of the devil"
and indeed this assurance is but a reproduction of the first great
promise, that the Seed of the woman should bruise the Serpent's head
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen--The "Amen" here
has no manuscript authority. What comes after this, where one would have
expected the epistle to close, has its parallel in
&c., and being in fact common in epistolary writings, is simply a mark
21. Timotheus, my work-fellow--"my fellow labourer"; see
The apostle mentions him here rather than in the opening address to
this church, as he had not been at Rome [BENGEL].
and Lucius--not Luke, for the fuller form of "Lucas" is not "Lucius"
but "Lucanus." The person meant seems to be "Lucius of Cyrene," who was
among the "prophets and teachers" at Antioch with our apostle, before he
was summoned into the missionary field
He had probably accompanied or followed the apostle from Thessalonica
22. I, Tertius, who wrote this--"the"
epistle--as the apostle's amanuensis, or penman.
salute you in the Lord--So usually did the apostle dictate his
epistles, that he calls the attention of the Galatians to the fact that
to them he wrote with his own hand
But this Tertius would have the Romans to know that, far from being a
mere scribe, his heart went out to them in Christian affection; and the
apostle, by giving his salutation a place here, would show what sort of
assistants he employed.
23. Gaius mine host, and--the host
of the whole church--(See
It would appear that he was one of only two persons whom Paul baptized
with his own hand (compare
His Christian hospitality appears to have been something uncommon.
Erastus the chamberlain--"treasurer."
of the city--doubtless of Corinth. (See
and Quartus a brother--rather, "the" or "our brother"; as Sosthenes
and Timothy are called
Greek). Nothing more is known of this Quartus.
24. The grace, &c.--a repetition of the benediction precisely as in
save that it is here invoked on them "all."
25. Now to him that is of power--more simply, as in
"to Him that is able."
to stablish--confirm, or uphold
you, according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ--that
is, in conformity with the truths of that Gospel which I preach, and not
I only, but all to whom has been committed "the preaching of Jesus
according to the revelation of the mystery--(See on
which was kept secret since the world began--literally, "which hath
been kept in silence during eternal ages."
26. But is now made manifest--The reference here is to that
peculiar feature of the Gospel economy which Paul himself was specially
employed to carry into practical effect and to unfold by his
teaching--the introduction of the Gentile believers to an equality with
their Jewish brethren, and the new, and, to the Jews, quite unexpected
form which this gave to the whole Kingdom of God (compare
&c.). This the apostle calls here a mystery hitherto undisclosed, in
will show, but now fully unfolded; and his prayer for the Roman
Christians, in the form of a doxology to Him who was able to do what he
asked, is that they might be established in the truth of the Gospel,
not only in its essential character, but specially in that feature of
it which gave themselves, as Gentile believers, their whole standing
among the people of God.
and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of
the everlasting God, made known to all nations for--in order to
the obedience of faith--Lest they should think, from what he had
just said, that God had brought in upon his people so vast a change on
their condition without giving them any previous notice, the apostle
here adds that, on the contrary, "the Scriptures of the prophets"
contain all that he and other preachers of the Gospel had to declare on
these topics, and indeed that the same "everlasting God," who "from
eternal ages" had kept these things hid, had given "commandment" that
they should now, according to the tenor of those prophetic Scriptures,
be imparted to every nation for their believing acceptance.
27. To God, &c.--"To the only wise God through Jesus Christ,
be"--literally, "to whom be"; that is, "to Him, I say, be the glory for ever.
Amen." At its outset, this is an ascription of glory to the power
that could do all this; at its close it ascribes glory to the wisdom
that planned and that presides over the gathering of a redeemed people
out of all nations. The apostle adds his devout "Amen," which the
reader--if he has followed him with the astonishment and delight of him
who pens these words--will fervently echo.
On this concluding section of the Epistle, Note, (1) In the minute
and delicate manifestations of Christian feeling, and lively interest in
the smallest movements of Christian life, love, and zeal, which are here
exemplified, combined with the grasp of thought and elevation of soul
which this whole Epistle displays, as indeed all the writings of our
apostle, we have the secret of much of that grandeur of character which
has made the name of Paul stand on an elevation of its own in the
estimation of enlightened Christendom in every age, and of that
influence which under God, beyond all the other apostles, he has already
exercised, and is yet destined to exert, over the religious thinking and
feeling of men. Nor can any approach him in these peculiarities without
exercising corresponding influence on all with whom they come in contact
(2) "The wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove"--in
enjoining which our apostle here only echoes the teaching of his Lord
--is a combination of properties the rarity of which among Christians
is only equalled by its vast importance. In every age of the Church
there have been real Christians whose excessive study of the serpent's
wisdom has so sadly trenched upon their guileless simplicity, as at
times to excite the distressing apprehension that they were no better
than wolves in sheep's clothing. Nor is it to be denied, on the other
hand, that, either from inaptitude or indisposition to judge with manly
discrimination of character and of measures, many eminently simple,
spiritual, devoted Christians, have throughout life exercised little or
no influence on any section of society around them. Let the apostle's
counsel on this head
be taken as a study, especially by young Christians, whose character
has yet to be formed, and whose permanent sphere in life is but
partially fixed; and let them prayerfully set themselves to the
combined exercise of both those qualities. So will their Christian
character acquire solidity and elevation, and their influence for good
be proportionably extended. (3) Christians should cheer their own and
each other's hearts, amidst the toils and trials of their protracted
warfare, with the assurance that it will have a speedy and glorious
end; they should accustom themselves to regard all opposition to the
progress and prosperity of Christ's cause--whether in their own souls,
in the churches with which they are connected, or in the world at
large--as just "Satan" in conflict, as ever, with Christ their Lord;
and they should never allow themselves to doubt that "the God of peace"
will "shortly" give them the neck of their Enemy, and make them to
bruise the Serpent's head
(4) As Christians are held up and carried through solely by divine
power, working through the glorious Gospel, so to that power, and to
the wisdom that brought that Gospel nigh to them, they should ascribe
all the glory of their stability now, as they certainly will of their
victory at last
(5) "Has the everlasting God . . . commanded" that the Gospel
"mystery," so long kept hid but now fully disclosed, shall be "made
known to all nations for the obedience of faith"
Then, what "necessity is laid upon" all the churches and every
Christian, to send the Gospel "to every creature!" And we may rest well
assured that the prosperity or decline of churches, and of individual
Christians, will have not a little to do with their faithfulness or
indifference to this imperative duty.
The ancient subscription at the end of this epistle--though of course
of no authority--appears to be in this case quite correct.