Romans 16 – Rabbi Paul’s Final Words To The Community

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Paul Commends Phoebe To The Christians And Messianic Jews In Rome; He Asks Those Who Received This Letter To Send His Greetings To Others In Rome; He Sends Greetings To The Believers In Rome From Others; He Warns Messiah’s Followers About False Teachers; He Assures Them Of Final Victory; He Prays For Them; He Offers Final Praise To God.

We are at the end of one of the greatest letters ever written, one of the greatest works of theology ever written. It tells us so much about God, and how God works; and the only way we can be reconciled to God and receive eternal life; and the way to live a good life now – by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit who lives in Messiah’s followers.

While this last part of Paul’s letter might seem boring to some; and while some may skip over it, I assure you it is part of the Word of God, and therefore it is important. There are spiritual treasures to be found by those who are willing to dig into it.

In this last part of Paul’s letter to the Romans, the Rabbi does seven things:

He commends Phoebe to the Christians and Messianic Jews in Rome.

He asks those who received this letter to send his greetings to others in Rome.

He sends greetings to the believers in Rome from others.

He warns Messiah’s followers about false teachers.

He assures them of final victory.

He prays for them.

He offers final praise to God.

First, Paul commends Phoebe to the Christians and Messianic Jews in Rome. I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon (servant) of the church in Cenchreae. Cenchreae was a town on the coast, close to Corinth. That tells us that Paul was probably writing this letter from somewhere in Achaia – Greece.

I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. If someone is given a prophecy, that does not mean he occupies the office of prophet. If someone serves, that does not means he holds the office of deacon. There are many good women here at Shema who serve the community here. That does not mean they are deacons.

Phoebe was a servant of the Lord’s people in Cenchreae. She had helped many in various ways, including Paul. She was about to travel to Rome, and Paul wanted Messiah’s followers there to know that she was worthy of being helped by the community in Rome. If she needed hospitality while she was there – housing, food, some money to support her as she served the Lord while she was there, Paul wanted the believers there to help her in a gracious way.

Second, Paul asks those who received this letter to send his greetings to others there. While this list of the names of people to whom he is sending greetings might seem dull, there are valuable things to be learned from it.

One of the things this list accomplishes is to let the believers in Rome know that, even though Paul hadn’t been in Rome, he already knew a lot of people there. He already had a lot of friends and supporters there. This was important for them to know, since he intended to visit Rome and raise funds there for his trip to Spain. If everyone knew that Paul already had a lot of friends and supporters in Rome, it would make it easier for Paul to raise money from them.

In this list, Paul mentions 26 individuals, two families and three “house churches” or “house synagogues.” This teaches us that not all the believers in Rome met together at the same time and place. Messiah’s Community in Rome was made up of various “sub-communities.”

About a third of the people who are mentioned are women. That tells us that women served the Lord in a very significant way in Messiah’s Community. Women and the things they did were welcomed and respected; and their contributions were significant. That is a good lesson for us today. Women are capable of doing so much, and they and their help should be welcomed, valued and respected.

At least four, and probably five of the people on this list were Jewish. This confirms that the community in Rome was made up of Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Messiah Yeshua. Aquila was a Messianic Jew and a tent-maker like Paul. Priscilla was his wife, and was probably Jewish too. Paul first met this couple in Corinth. They worked with Paul to serve the Lord. They were committed to ministry, and they were very committed to Paul. The Rabbi adds: They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Paul emphasizes that not only was he appreciative for everything they had done, but all the communities of the Gentiles were grateful for the wonderful ministry of these Jewish saints. Aquila and Priscilla had an extensive ministry and were appreciated by many. It was good for the Romans to know that Paul was so close to such an important and well-known and well-respected couple.

Greet also the church that meets at their house. At this point in the development of the Faith, Christians in Rome didn’t have buildings set apart for worship, what we would call churches. Messiah’s followers met in peoples’ home. This was a community of believers that met at the home of Aquila and Priscilla – what we would call a house church.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Messiah in the province of Asia. Paul was close to another important person, Epenetus. Of the hundreds of thousands of people, more likely millions of people, who lived in Asia (think western Turkey) – Epenetus was the very first to follow Messiah. That made him very special.

Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. No details about Mary are given other than she worked very hard for the believers in Rome. I appreciate that. As a spiritual leader of a community, I know that there are those who work hard to help those in the community, and those who work little; and those who work not at all. I prefer those who work hard, and I am sure the Lord does too.

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Messiah before I was. Paul was close to two more important people. These Messianic Jews had known the Lord for a long time – longer than Paul did. They served the Lord like Paul did and suffered for the Lord by being imprisoned, like Paul was.

They were well-known among the apostles, and possibly were apostles themselves, in the sense of being traveling missionaries.

Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.

Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Messiah: he worked for the Lord like Paul did, and maybe worked with Paul to serve Messiah’s Community and proclaim the Good News to those outside the Community.

and my dear friend Stachys.

Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Messiah has stood the test. Apelles was tested by time and circumstances and remained faithful to Messiah. There will be those whose loyalty to Messiah stands the test, and there will be those whose loyalty to Messiah doesn’t stand the test. It is a tremendous thing to be tested and remain faithful to Messiah. And it is an honor to have someone like Paul notice a person like that and write: his fidelity to Messiah has stood the test. I want to be like faithful, loyal Apelles. How about you?

Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. Those who were either part of the family of Aristobulus, and who served the family of Aristobulus, had come to a knowledge of the Son of God.

Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Another Messianic Jew.

Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. Some of those who were part of the family of Narcissus had become followers of Messiah.

Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Again, there are those who work hard, serving the Lord by serving the Community and by proclaiming the Good News to those outside the Community, and there are those who don’t. These women worked hard by serving Messiah’s Community in various ways, and no doubt engaged in evangelism outside the community.

Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. Paul commends Persis for her hard work. Not only are there those who work hard for the Lord, and those who don’t – but there are those who work very hard for the Lord. Persis was one.

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord (or a choice man in the Lord), and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. The mother of Rufus had helped Paul. She probably provided hospitality and care to Paul. She is a good example for us to follow.

Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them. This is a group of five people and others with them. This is another house church.

Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them. This is another group of five people, and others with them. This is another house church.

Greet one another with a holy kiss. A kiss can express love or friendship. Kissing each other with a holy kiss, not a sensual kiss, was practiced in the early Christian community; and it has practiced by some over the centuries. The believers in Rome loved each other and cared for each other.

Paul sent greetings to various people in Rome. Third, now Paul sends greetings from others. All the churches of Messiah send greetings. Paul was known and respected by many communities in the Eastern part of the Roman empire. He started many of them. He was in contact with them. And so, he sent their greetings to the faithful in Rome. This also communicated to the believers in Rome that Paul was known and respected by many communities; therefore those in Rome should respect him as well.

Fourth, Paul warns the Christians and Messianic Jews in Rome about false teachers. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Messiah, but their own appetites.

By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. There are true teachers, and there are false teachers. It is essential for us to be able to differentiate between them. False teachers cause division; they harm people (put obstacles in your way); they teach false doctrine (contrary to the teaching you have learned); they serve themselves and their interests, not Messiah and His interests; they are persuasive (smooth talk and flattery); they are able to deceive those who are naive.

There were false teachers 2,000 years ago, and there are still false teachers today. So, don’t be naive. Be skeptical. Be wise. Be discerning. Don’t believe everything that everyone who claims to follow Messiah tries to teach you.

Fifth, Paul assures them of final victory. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. Humanity is broken, and every individual human being is broken. We are broken because of what happened in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve listened to Satan’s temptations and joined his rebellion. As a result of that, we are very damaged. We lack wholeness; we lack integrity; we lack peace. God however, is the opposite. He is full of well-being and wholeness and integrity; full of peace. Only He can bring peace to peaceless people. That’s why He’s called the God of peace.

Alluding to the first Messianic prophecy, found in Genesis 3, a time is coming when the head of Satan, the serpent, will be crushed by the Seed of the Woman. And since we belong to Messiah, Satan will be crushed under our feet as well. The great Adversary and all of his fallen angels will be completely defeated and Messiah and His people will be victorious and experience everlasting peace! All the damage, the harm, the brokenness that the serpent has caused humanity, will one day end – for Messiah’s followers.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. Soon – but not now. Soon, but not yet. So, until Satan is crushed under our feet, it is essential for us to stay very close to the God of peace.

God is the God of peace because only He can give peace, true peace, real peace, lasting peace. Only He can bring wholeness to those who are not whole; completeness to those who lack so much that is essential to their well-being. You want peace? You need to make a serious commitment to Yeshua, the Prince of Peace. Then the Spirit of the God of peace will produce peace in you – a peace that comes from knowing God; knowing that are right with God; knowing that you will live forever – a peace not dependent on circumstances.

Sixth, Paul prays for them – a prayer that is very short and very sweet. The grace of our Lord Yeshua be with you. Grace is someone being kind to you, even though you don’t deserve it. Grace is someone doing something good for you that you don’t deserve. You feel unworthy of God’s kindness or love? You are. However, He is kind and loving anyway.

Paul prays that they are supplied with the grace that comes from the Lord Yeshua. The Lord Yeshua is able to give them all the grace they will ever need because He is full of grace. That is His nature. That is what He is like. That is what He desires to do for His people. And the Lord Yeshua is able to give them all the grace they will ever need because He is Lord. He has all the power, all the authority, all the resources to give them all the grace they will ever need. He is like a fountain that is constantly overflowing with grace. When one grace runs out, the Lord Yeshua is there with another grace to replace it.

Paul was probably in Achaia (Greece), getting ready to travel to Jerusalem to bring the money that he raised from Messiah’s followers in Greece to the impoverished Messianic Jews in Jerusalem. Others were with him. As he did before, he sends more greetings from them to the Christians and Messianic Jews in Rome.

Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews. Paul was in the company of and working with four other Messianic Jews, including Timothy, who worked closely with Paul, and to whom two of Paul’s letters were written.

I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. Paul dictated this letter. Tertius was the one who actually wrote it. He too sent his greetings.

Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Hospitality, making people feel welcome; inviting them into your home, your life, helping them feel welcome in Messiah’s Community, is a great gift.

Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings. Many of the first Christians were slaves or people of low position. The director of public works was a significant position. It’s nice to know that there was someone with a significant position who was a believer.

Finally, seventh, Paul ends this great letter by offering final praise to God. The Rabbi praises God for establishing them through the Gospel. Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Yeshua the Messiah, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith – to the only wise God be glory forever through Yeshua the Messiah! Amen.

Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Yeshua the Messiah … so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith. Humanity is not established. Humanity is unestablished, impermanent, shaky like a house of cards. Only God is able to establish us – take our weak, impermanent lives and give them stability; give them permanence. He does that through the Good News, and by our response to becoming aware of Messiah’s incarnation and perfect life, atoning death, resurrection, ascension and the giving of His Spirit. If we want our lives to be established, to have eternal substance, we must respond to the Gospel with faith and obedience.

The message I proclaim about Yeshua the Messiah, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings. The salvation of a remnant of humanity, including the Chosen People and the Gentiles, was revealed in the prophets, but had only become clear through the arrival of the Son of God.

It was God’s command, God’s will, to reveal these things when He did. In keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God.

God, who revealed our salvation through the Messiah to the prophets, and God who made our salvation possible by sending the Messiah when He did – is very wise, and should be honored by us, now and forever; and only Yeshua enables us to truly honor God – now and forever. To the only wise God be glory forever through Yeshua the Messiah! Amen.

And the proper response to this amazing God and all He has done and is doing and will do for us can be put in one word: “amen.” Amen means: what has been said is true. It is faithful. I agree. Amen!

Let’s pray:

Lord, thank You for Paul, this great man.Thank You for this letter, one of the greatest works of theology ever written, which tells us so much about You and how You work; and the only way we can be reconciled to You and live forever; and the way to live a good life now – by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit who lives in Messiah’s followers.

Help us to understand the truths that are in this letter and put them into practice.

Help us to be like Phoebe, who served Your people in various ways.

Help us be like Aquila and Priscilla who were so committed to serving You.

Help us be like Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis, women who worked hard for You.

Help us be like Andronicus and Junia, who were not deterred from serving You after being imprisoned.

Help us be like Apelles, whose fidelity to Messiah stood the test.

Help us be like Gaius, who was known for his hospitality.

Help us be aware of and avoid all false teachers.

Thank You that we are assured of final victory, and that You will soon crush Satan under our feet. Until that happens, help us stay very close to You so that we will be safe.

Lord, You are the God of peace. Bless us with shalom rav – great peace.

May the grace of our Lord Yeshua be with us.

Thank You for establishing us through the Gospel. Help us to continually respond to the truth with faith and obedience.

Thank You that because of Yeshua the Messiah, we can truly honor You – now and forever. And we look forward to honoring You forever.

Amen!

By | 2017-02-21T19:43:13+00:00 February 18th, 2017|Categories: Commentaries by Rabbi Loren, Sermons by Rabbi Loren|Tags: , |Comments Off on Romans 16 – Rabbi Paul’s Final Words To The Community

About the Author:

Rabbi Loren Jacobs is the senior rabbi and founder of “Congregation Shema Yisrael” (which means “Hear O Israel”). Congregation Shema Yisrael is a Messianic synagogue which was started in 1986 when Rabbi Loren and his wife Martha moved to Michigan to proclaim the Good News about the Messiah to the Jewish people living in the metro Detroit area. Rabbi Loren was raised in a Jewish home in the Chicago area, and became a Messianic Jew in 1975. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute’s Jewish Studies program in 1979 and received a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Literature from Northeastern Bible College in New Jersey in 1986. His wife Martha is a fifth generation Messianic Jew, which is quite unusual. They have two adult children and two grandchildren.