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Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

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ROMANS Chapter 16

THE epistle concludes with various salutations. The names which occur in this chapter are chiefly Greek; and the persons designated had been, probably, inhabitants of Greece, but had removed to Rome for purposes of commerce, etc. Possibly some of them had been converted under the ministry of the apostle himself during his preaching in Corinth and other parts of Greece. It is remarkable that the name of Peter does not occur in this catalogue; which is conclusive evidence, contrary to the Papists, that Peter was not then known by Paul to be in Rome.

Verse 1. I commend. It was common then, as now, to bear letters of introduction to strangers, commending the person thus introduced to the favourable regards and attentions of those to whom the letters were addressed, 2 Corinthians 3:1; Acts 18:27. This epistle, with the apostle's commendation, was designed thus to introduce its bearer to the Roman Christians. The mention of Phebe in this manner leaves it beyond a doubt that she was either the bearer of this epistle, or accompanied those who bore it to Rome. The epistle was therefore written, probably, at Corinth. (See Introduction.)

Our sister. A member of the Christian church.

Which is a servant. Greek, "Who is a deaconess." It is clear, from the New Testament, that there was an order of women in the church known as deaconesses, Reference is made to a class of females whose duty it was to teach other females, and to take the general superintendence of that part of the church, in various places in the New Testament; and their existence is expressly affirmed in early ecclesiastical history. They appear to have been commonly aged and experienced widows, sustaining a fair reputation, and fitted to guide and instruct those who were young and inexperienced. Comp. 1 Timothy 5:3,9-11; Titus 2:4. The Apostolical Constitutions, Book iii., say, "Ordain a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministries toward the women." Pliny, in his celebrated letter to Trajan, says, when speaking of the efforts which he made to obtain information respecting the opinions and practices of Christians, "I deemed it necessary to put two maid-servants who are called ministrae [that is, deaconesses] to the torture, in order to ascertain what is the truth." The reasons of their appointment among the Gentiles were these:

(1.) The females were usually separate from the men. They were kept secluded, for the most part, and not permitted to mingle in society with men, as is the custom now.

(2.) It became necessary, therefore, to appoint aged and experienced females to instruct the young, to visit the sick, to provide for them, and to perform for them the services which male deacons performed for the whole church. It is evident, however, that they were confined to these offices, and that they were never regarded as an order of ministers, or suffered to preach to congregations, 1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:34.

Of the church, etc. This is the only mention which occurs of a church at that place. It was probably collected by the labours of Paul.

At Cenchrea. This was the sea-port of Corinth. Corinth was situated on the middle of the isthmus, and had two harbours, or ports: Cenchrea on the east, about eight or nine miles from the city; and Lechaeum on the west. Cenchrea opened into the AEgean Sea, and was the principal port. It was on this isthmus, between these two ports, that the Isthmian games were celebrated, to which the apostle refers so often in his epistles.

Verse 2. That ye receive her, etc. That you acknowledge her as being in the Lord, or as being a servant of the Lord; that is, as a Christian. Comp. Romans 14:3; Philippians 2:29.

As becometh saints. As it is proper that Christians should treat their brethren.

She hath been a succourer of many. The word used here \~prostativ\~) means, properly, a patron, a help, and was applied by the Greeks to one who presided over an assembly; to one who became a patron of others; who aided or defended them in their cause; and especially one who undertook to manage the cause of strangers and foreigners before the courts. It was, therefore, an honourable appellation. Applied to Phebe, it means probably that she had shown great kindness in various ways to the apostle, and to other Christians; probably by receiving them into her house; by administering to the sick, etc. Such persons have a claim on the respect and Christian attentions of others.

{q} "receive her in the Lord" Philippians 2:29

Verse 3. Greet Priscilla and Aquila. Salute; implying the apostle's kind remembrance of them, and his wishes for their welfare.

Priscilla. Priscilla was the wife of Aquila. They are mentioned in Acts 18:2,26; 1 Corinthians 16:19. Paul at first found them at Corinth. Aquila was a Jew, born in Pontus, who had resided at Rome, and who had left Rome, and come to Corinth, when Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome. See Barnes "Acts 18:2". It is probable that they were converted under the preaching of Paul. Paul lived with them, and they had the advantage of his private instruction, Acts 18:3; comp. Romans 16:26. At the death of Claudius, or whenever the decree for the expulsion of the Jews was repealed, it is probable that they returned to Rome.

My helpers. My fellow-workers. They had aided him in his work. A particular instance is mentioned in Acts 18:26. They are mentioned as having been with Paul when he wrote the first epistle to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 16:19.

In Christ Jesus. In the Christian cause.

{r} "Priscilla and Aquila" Acts 18:2

Verse 4. Who have for my life. In order to save my life.

Laid down their own necks. To lay down the neck is to lay the head on a block to be cut off with the axe; or to bow down the head as when the neck was exposed to be cut off by the sword of the executioner The meaning is, that they had hazarded their lives, had exposed themselves to imminent danger, to save the life of Paul. On what occasion this was done is not known, as it is not elsewhere referred to in the New Testament. As Paul, however, lived with them, (Acts 18:3) and as he was often persecuted by the Jews, it is probable that he refers to some such period when he was persecuted, when Aquila and Priscilla took him into their house at the imminent hazard of their lives.

All the churches of the Gentiles. All the churches that had been founded by the apostles. They felt their obligation to them for having saved the life of him who had been their founder and who was their spiritual father.

Verse 5. The church that is in their house. Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned (Acts 18:26) as having received Apollos into their family, to instruct him more perfectly. The church in their house is also mentioned, 1 Corinthians 16:19. This may mean either the church that was accustomed to assemble for worship at their hospitable mansion; or it may mean their own family with their guests, regarded as a church. In those times Christians had no houses erected for public worship, and were therefore compelled to meet in their private dwellings.

Salute. The same word before translated "greet."

Who is the firstfruits. One who first embraced Christianity under my preaching in Achaia. The first-fruits were a small part of the harvest, which was first gathered and offered to the Lord, Exodus 22:29; 23:10; Leviticus 2:12; Deuteronomy 18:4. In allusion to this, Paul calls Epenetus the first fruits of the great spiritual harvest which had been gathered in Achaia.

Achaia. See Barnes "Romans 15:26". This name and those which follow are chiefly Greek, but we know little of the persons mentioned, except what is here recorded.

{s} "Salute my well-beloved Epenatus" 1 Corinthians 16:19

Verse 6. Who bestowed much labour on us. Who laboured much for us. Nothing more is known of her but this honourable mention of her name. It is probable that these persons were formerly residents in Greece, and that the apostle had there become acquainted with them, but that they had now removed to Rome.

Verse 7. My kinsmen. In Romans 9:3, the apostle calls all the Jews his kinsmen, and it has been doubted whether he means anything more here than that they were fellow-Jews. But as many others who were Jews are mentioned here without this appellation, and as he especially designates these persons, and Herodian, (Romans 16:11,) it seems probable that they were remote relatives of the apostle.

My fellow prisoners. Paul was often in prison; and it is probable that on some of those occasions they had been confined with him. Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:23, "In prisons more frequent."

Who are of note. The word translated of note, (\~epishmoi\~) denotes, properly, those who are marked, designated, or distinguished in any way; used either in a good or bad sense. Comp. Matthew 27:16. Here it is used in a good sense.

Among the apostles. This does not mean that they were apostles, as has been sometimes supposed. For,

(1.) there is no account of their having been appointed as such.

(2.) The expression is not one which would have been used if they had been. It would have been, "who were distinguished apostles." Comp. Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1.

(3.) It by no means implies that they were apostles. All that the expression fairly implies is, that they were known to the other apostles; that they were regarded by them as worthy of their affection and confidence; that they had been known by them, as Paul immediately adds, before he was himself converted. They had been converted before he was, and were distinguished in Jerusalem among the early Christians, and honoured with the friendship of the other apostles.

(4.) The design of the office of apostles was to bear witness to the life, death, resurrection, doctrines, and miracles of Christ. Comp. Matthew 10; Acts 1:21,22; 22:15. As there is no evidence that they had been witnesses of these things, or appointed to it, it is improbable that they were set apart to the apostolic office,

(5.) The word apostles is used sometimes to designate messengers of churches; or those who were sent from one church to another on some important business; and if this expression meant that they were apostles, it could only be in some such sense as having obtained deserved credit and eminence in that business. See Philippians 2:25; 2 Corinthians 8:23.

Who were in Christ, etc. Who were converted before I was. The meaning is clear. The expression, in Christ, means to be united to him, to be interested in his religion, to be Christians.

{t} "in Christ" Galatians 1:22

Verse 8. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 9. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 10. Approved in Christ. An approved or tried Christian; approved and beloved by Christ.

{1} "household", or "friends"

Verse 11. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 12. Tryphena and Tryphosa. These names, with the participle rendered "who labour," are in the feminine gender, and these were probably two holy women, who performed the office of deaconesses, or who ministered to the sick, and who with Persis, thus by example, and perhaps by instruction, laboured to promote the spread of Christianity. Pious females then, as now, were able to do much in their proper sphere to extend the truths and blessings of the gospel.

Verse 13. Chosen in the Lord. Elect in the Lord; that is, a chosen follower of Christ.

And his mother and mine. "His mother in a literal sense, and mine in a figurative one." An instance of the delicacy and tenderness of Paul; of his love for this disciple and his mother, as if he were of the same family, Religion binds the hearts of all who embrace it tenderly together. It makes them feel that they are one great family, united by tender ties, and joined by peculiar attachments. See what the Lord Jesus declared in Matthew 12:47-50, and his tender address to John when he was on the cross, John 19:28,27.

{u} "chosen in the Lord" Ephesians 1:4; 2 John 1:1

Verse 14. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 15. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 16. Salute one another. Greet one another in an affectionate manner; that is, treat each other with kindness and love, and evince all proper marks of affection.

With an holy kiss. This mode of salutation has been practised at all times; and particularly in eastern nations. It was even practised by men. See Barnes "Luke 22:47,48". The use of the word holy here serves to denote that Paul intended it as an expression of Christian affection; and to guard against all improper familiarity and scandal. It was common, according to Justin Martyr, (Apology,) for the early Christians to practise it in their religious assemblies.

The churches of Christ. That is, the churches in the vicinity of the place where the apostle wrote this epistle; probably the churches particularly in Achaia.

{y} "The churches of Christ" 1 Corinthians 16:20; 1 Peter 5:14

Verse 17. Now I beseech you. One great object of this epistle had been to promote peace between the Jewish and Gentile converts. So much did this subject press upon the mind of the apostle, that he seems unwilling to leave it. Re returns to it again and again; and even after the epistle is apparently concluded, he returns to it, to give them a new charge on the subject.

Mark them. Observe attentively, cautiously, and faithfully, (Philippians 3:17) be on your guard against them. Ascertain who are the real causes of the divisions that spring up, and avoid them.

Which cause. Who make. Probably he refers here to Jewish teachers, or those who insisted strenuously on the observance of the rites of Moses, and who setup a claim for greater purity and orthodoxy than those possessed who received the Gentile converts as Christian brethren. The Jews were perpetually thus recalling the Christian converts to the law of Moses; insisting on the observance of those rites; troubling the churches, and producing dissensions and strifes, Galatians 3:1; 5:1-8; Acts 15:1,24.

Divisions. Dissensions; parties; factions, 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:20. The very attempt to form such parties was evil, no matter what the pretence. They who attempt to form parties in the churches are commonly actuated by some evil or ambitious design.

And offences. Scandals; or that give occasion for others to fall into sin. These two things are different. The first means parties; the other denotes such a course of life as would head others into sin. The Jew would form parties, on the pretence of superior holiness; the Gentiles, or some bold Gentile convert, might deride the scrupulous feelings of the Jew, and might thus lead him into sin in regard to what his conscience really forbade. See Romans 14:15. These persons on both sides were to be avoided, and they were to refuse to follow them, and to cultivate the spirit of unity and peace.

Contrary to the doctrine. To the teaching which you have received in this epistle and elsewhere; the teaching that these divisions should cease; that the Jewish ceremonies are not binding; that all should lay aside their causes of former difference, and be united in one family. See Romans chapters 14 and 15.

And avoid them. Give them no countenance or approbation. Do not follow them. Comp. 1 Timothy 6:3,4,6; 2 John 1:10; Galatians 1:8,9. That is, avoid them as teachers; do not follow them. It does not mean that they were to be treated harshly; but that they were to be avoided in their instructions. They were to disregard all that they could say tending to produce alienation and strife; and resolve to cultivate the spirit of peace and union. This would be an admirable rule if always followed. Let men make peace their prime object; resolve to love all who are Christians, and it will be an infallible gauge by which to measure the arguments of those who seek to promote alienations and contentions.

{w} "and offenses" 1 Timothy 6:3-5
{x} "avoid them" Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14

Verse 18. Serve not. Obey not. Though they are professedly, yet they are not his real friends and followers.

But their own belly. Their own lusts; their own private interests; they do this to obtain support. The authors of parties and divisions, in church and state, have this usually in view. It is for the indulgence of some earthly appetite; to obtain office or property; or to gratify the love of dominion.

And by good words. Mild, fair, plausible speeches; with an appearance of great sincerity, and regard for the truth. Comp. Colossians 2:4; 2 Peter 2:3. Men who cause divisions commonly make great pretensions to peculiar love of truth and orthodoxy; and put on the appearance of great sincerity, sanctity, and humility.

And fair speeches. Greek, (\~eulogiav\~) eulogy, praise, flattery. This is another very common art. Flattery is one of the most powerful means of forming parties in the church; and a little special attention, or promise of an office, or commendation for talents or acquirements, will secure many to the purposes of party, whom no regard for truth or orthodoxy could influence a moment.

Deceive the hearts of the simple. The minds of the unsuspecting, or those who are without guile, (\~twn akakwn\~). The apostle means to designate those who are simple-hearted, without any disposition to deceive others themselves, and of course without any suspicions of the designs of others. He has thus drawn the art of making parties with the hand of a master. First, there are smooth, plausible pretences, as of great love for truth. Then, an artful mingling of attentions and flatteries; and all this practised on the minds of the unsuspecting, drawing their hearts and affections towards themselves. Happy would it have been if the art had been confined to his own times.

{y} "and by good words" \\Php 3:19\\
{z} "fair speeches" Colossians 2:4; 2 Peter 2:3

Verse 19. For your obedience, etc. Romans 1:8. Your mild, obedient disposition to learn, and to obey the precepts of the teachers of religion.

I am glad, etc. I rejoice that you evince such a disposition. But he immediately adds, that this was just the temper to be imposed upon, and cautions them against that danger.

Wise unto that which is good. Evince understanding of that which is adapted to promote good and worthy ends.

Simple concerning evil. Greek, harmless. Not disposed to do wrong; having no plan, and yielding to none of the allurements of evil. You have shown your wisdom in obeying the gospel. I would have you still evince wisdom towards every good design; but to be unacquainted with any plan of evil. Do not yield to those plans, or follow those who would lead you into them.

{a} "abroad unto all men" Romans 1:8
{b} "wise unto that which is good" Matthew 10:16
{1} "simple" or, "harmless"

Verse 20. And the God of peace. The God who promotes peace, Romans 15:33.

Shall bruise. The language here refers to the prediction in Genesis 3:15. It here means to subdue, to gain the victory over. It denotes Paul's confidence that they would gain the victory, and would be able to overcome all the arts of those who were endeavouring to sow discord and contention among them.

Satan. The word Satan is Hebrew, meaning, originally, an accuser, a calumniator, and then an enemy. It is given to the prince of evil spirits from his enmity to God and men. He is here regarded as the author of all attempts to promote discord in the church, by whomsoever those attempts were made. Hence they who attempt to produce divisions are called "his ministers," 2 Corinthians 11:15. God would disappoint their malignant purposes, and promote the prevalence of peace.

The grace. The favour; the mercy, etc. The Lord Jesus is the Prince of Peace, (Isaiah 9:6 comp. Luke 2:14; John 14:27); and this expression is a prayer to him, or an earnest wish expressed, that the design of his coming might be accomplished in promoting the prevalence of order and peace. Comp. 1 Corinthians 16:23; Revelation 22:21.

{c} "God of peace" Romans 15:33
{2) "bruise" or, "tread" {d} "Satan" Genesis 3:15
{e} "shortly" Revelation 12:10
{f} "Amen" 1 Corinthians 16:23; Revelation 22:21

Verse 21. Timotheus. Timothy; to whom the epistles which bear his name were written. He was long the companion of Paul in his labours, Acts 16:1; 1 Corinthians 16:10; 2 Corinthians 1:1,19; Philippians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; Hebrews 13:23.

And Lucius. He is mentioned in Acts 13:1 as a prophet and teacher, a native of Cyrene. Nothing more is known of him.

My kinsmen. Romans 16:7

Verse 23. I Tertius. Of Tertius nothing more is known than is mentioned here.

Who wrote this. It is evident that Paul employed an amanuensis to write this epistle, and perhaps he commonly did it. Tertius, who thus wrote it, joins with the apostle in affectionate salutations to the brethren at Rome. To the epistle Paul signed his own name, and added a salutation in his own hand-writing. Colossians 3:18, "The salutation by the hand of me Paul;" and in 2 Thessalonians 3:17, he says that this was done in every epistle. \\1Co 16:21\\.

In the Lord. As Christian brethren.

Verse 23. Gaius mine host. Who has received me into his house, and shown me hospitality. The word host means one who entertains another at his own house without reward.

And of the whole church. Who has opened his house to entertain all Christians; or to show hospitality to them all. He was baptized by Paul himself at Corinth, (1 Corinthians 1:14) and was so highly esteemed by the church, that John wrote an epistle to him, 3 John 1:1. He was probably a wealthy citizen of Corinth, who freely opened his house to entertain Christians, and for the purpose of religious worship.

Erastus. Erastus is mentioned (Acts 19:22) as having been sent by Paul with Timothy into Macedonia. He is also mentioned (2 Timothy 4:20) as having resided at Corinth.

The chamberlain. A chamberlain is, properly, an officer who has charge of a chamber, or of chambers. In England, the lord chamberlain is the sixth officer of the crown, and has charge of the king's lodgings and wardrobe, etc. He has also an important rank on days of public solemnities, as the coronation day, etc. The word used here is commonly in the New Testament translated steward. It properly means one who has charge of domestic affairs, to provide for a family, to pay the servants, etc. In this place it means one who presided over the pecuniary affairs of the city; and should have been translated the treasurer; the city treasurer; an office of trust and of some importance, showing that all who were converted at Corinth were not of the lowest rank. This is implied in 1 Corinthians 1:26, "Not many wise men, not many mighty, not many noble, are called," implying that there were some such.

Quartus, a brother, A fellow-Christian.

{g} "Gaius" 1 Corinthians 1:14; 3 John 1:1
{h} "Erastus" Acts 19:22

Verse 24. No Barnes text on this verse.

{i} "grace of our Lord" Romans 16:20

Verse 25. Now to him. This and the two following verses are found in many manuscripts at the close of the fourteenth chapter. Its proper place, however, is here; and the apostle thus concludes the whole epistle with an ascription of praise.

To him, etc. To God; be glory, Romans 16:20.

Is of power. Greek, Is able; who has power, Ephesians 3:20;; Jude 1:24, "Now unto him that is able to keep you from failing," etc. God only can keep Christians in the path of salvation; and it was well to bring that truth prominently into view at the close of the epistle.

To stablish you. To strengthen and confirm you.

According to my Gospel. According to the gospel which I preach; the doctrines which I have been defending in this epistle. It is called his gospel, not because he was the author of it, or because others did not preach it also, but because he had been particularly defending it in this epistle. The doctrines which he had advanced were just those which were fitted to strengthen and confirm them--the doctrine of justification, of election, of perseverance, and of the protection and favour of God to both Jews and Gentiles. These were the doctrines which he had defended; and it might easily be shown that these are the doctrines that give stability to the Christian faith, hope, and love.

And the preaching of Jesus Christ. Not his personal preaching; but according to that preaching of which Christ is the author and the subject; and particularly, as the following clause shows, to the doctrines by which the partition between the Jews and the Gentiles was broken down, and by which they were admitted to the same privileges and hopes.

According to the revelation. According to the communication of that which has been so long concealed, but which is now made manifest. The word revelation, refers to the publication of the plan by the gospel.

Of the mystery. The word mystery means, properly, that which is hidden or concealed, and is thus applied to any doctrine which was not before known. It does not mean necessarily that which is unintelligible; but that which had not been before revealed. See Barnes "Matthew 13:11". The word here seems to refer to the principal doctrines of the gospel; its main truths, which had been concealed, especially from the entire Gentile world, but which were now made known.

Which was kept secret. Which was kept in silence, Greek, (\~sesighmenou\~) were not divulged or proclaimed.

Since the world began. In all past times. This refers particularly to the Gentiles. The Jews had some obscure intimations of these truths, but they were now made known to all the world. The phrase "since the world began" is, in Greek, "in eternal times;" that is, in all past times; or, as we should say, they have been always concealed.

{j} "to him that is of power" Ephesians 3:20; Jude 1:24
{k} "revelation of the mystery" Ephesians 1:9; Colossians 1:26,27

Verse 26. But now is made manifest. Is revealed, or made known; that which was so long concealed is now divulged, i.e. God's plan of saving men is now made known to all nations.

And by the Scriptures, etc. By the writings of the prophets. The prophetic writings contained the doctrines, obscurely indeed, but so as to be an important means of disseminating and confirming the truth, that the Gentiles should be made acquainted with the gospel. To those writings the apostle had repeatedly appealed in his defence of the proposition, that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentile world, chapters 10, 11, 15. The prophetic writings, moreover were extensively scattered among the Gentile nations, and thus were readily appealed to in defence of this position. Their writings being thus translated, and read, were an important means of propagating the truths of the Christian religion.

According to the commandment, etc. By his command through Jesus Christ; made known in the gospel of his Son.

The everlasting God. God who is eternal, and therefore unchanged. He who has indeed concealed this truth, but who has always intended that it should be revealed.

To all nations. Matthew 28:19. Comp. Colossians 1:23.

{l} "all nations" Matthew 28:19

Verse 27. To God only wise. The apostle here resumes the doxology which had been interrupted by the parenthesis. The attribute of wisdom is here brought into view, because it had been particularly displayed in this plan which was now revealed. It evinced, in an eminent degree, the wisdom of God. That wisdom was evinced in devising the plan; in adapting it to the renewing of the heart; the justification of the sinner; his preservation, guidance, and sanctification; and in the manner in which the Divine attributes had all been seen to harmonize. All this the apostle had illustrated in the previous parts of the epistle; and now, full of the convictions of this wisdom, he desires that all the praise and honour should be to God. The tendency of the plan is to promote His glory. The obligation on all who are benefited by it is to give him praise.

Be glory. Praise; honour.

Through Jesus Christ. By means of the work which Jesus Christ has performed; through him now as Mediator and Intercessor in the heavens.

The subscription, "written to the Romans," etc., is evidently added by some other hand, but by whom is unknown. Paul assuredly would not write this to inform the Romans that it was sent by Phebe, whom he had just commended to their kindness. It has been shown, moreover, that no reliance is to be placed on any of the subscriptions to the epistles. Some of them are known to be false. By whom they were added is unknown. In this case, however, the fact which it states is correct, that it was written from Corinth, and sent by Phebe.


{m} "To God only wise" 1 Timothy 1:17; Jude 1:25

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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 16". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". <>.  


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