Romans (Part 53) – Greetings and Doxology (16:8–27)
Paul mentions several other people in his greetings. The next three appear to be close. He calls them dear friends and coworker. And that seems to contrast with Apelles who is mentioned as “approved in Christ,” showing appreciation without that close tie. Some have wondered whether Apelles is actually Apollos, whom Paul (through the narrative of Acts and in his letters) had never seemed to know well. But that is mere speculation since Apelles is a name on its own.
The household of Aristobulus is next mentioned, and perhaps Herodion is a Jew (“my fellow countryman” 16:11) who has taken a Greek name and is part of the household of Aristobulus. Another household mentioned is that of Narcissus. Three women are next named, possibly of the household of Narcissus. They are Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis.
Rufus and his mother are mentioned. A Rufus is mentioned in the Gospel of Mark. In Mark 15:21 we read of a man, Simon the Cyrenian, who is compelled to carry Jesus’s cross. Mark mentions that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Mark mentions Rufus as if it is someone whom his Christian readers would know. (Why mention Simon’s children otherwise.) Therefore, it is possible that this Rufus in Romans is the same one.
Paul next greets groupings who possibly are parts of some house churches. Asyncritus, Phlgon, Hermes, Patrobas, and Hermas are mentioned in connection with “the brothers who are with them.” Another house church appears to be at the home of Philologus and Julia (and their children? Nereus and his sister). They are also greeted with Olympas and “all the saints who are with them.”
Finally a general greeting to others of the church in Rome whom Paul doesn’t know (or couldn’t remember). He tells them to greet each other with a holy kiss. It was common for relatives and close friends of the Mediterranean world in the first century to greet each other with a kiss. This holykiss appears to be an encouragement by Paul to consider those linked by Christian community as family and close friends, employing the same familiar custom with them.
In verses 17 through 20, Paul extends a warning of sorts. He has spent the letter trying to give his readers the knowledge as to why they (particularly the Jews and Gentiles of the church) should embrace one another as the one people of God. The warning comes to those who choose not to embrace, insisting on their separate ideas and status. These are the people, Paul says, that the church as a whole should avoid. Separation on that basis is not serving Christ, whose one command given was to extend love (John 13:34–35). And so, Paul that, yes, their salvation and embrace of Christ is known to the world, but don’t stop there. Be wise; be discerning; embrace each other.
He ends that warning with an interesting promise. He says, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” He seems to refer back to the Garden promise that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. Although we often connect that only with Christ defeating Satan, I think the extended meaning is that God through Christ has defeated the curse of the flesh (the serpent of Genesis 3 represents creation itself, not just Satan who empowers him). As we embrace Christ and his cause for love, we embrace that atonement work of removing the conflict of the flesh to commune with God and his people in peace.
Paul spends the next few verses offering greetings from those with him: Timothy (who he had taken along from Galatia), Lucius (who could be the Lucius of Cyrene mentioned in Acts 13:1), Jason (who could be the Jason of Thessalonica who was dragged before the judiciary in Acts 17:5–9), and Sosipater (who could be the Sopater of Berea mentioned in Acts 20:4). And next, Tertius, the one taking Paul’s dictation, gives his own personal greeting.
Gaius, Paul’s host, also sends greeting. Paul mentions that Gaius is also host of the whole church. Some interpreters suggest that Paul is writing from Cenchreae, a small city than Corinth, making it possible that Gaius held meetings at his house for the church of Cenchreae (although Phoebe of Cenchraea, based on her wealth and probably large house, would be another candidate. Perhaps Gaius was married to Phoebe!). Perhaps however, Paul is mentioning Gaius as the entire church’s host simply because of his hospitable and caring concern for all.
Erastus, the city’s treasurer is mentioned. Only 100 years ago, was an archaeological find that indicated there was a Corinth official in the first century named Erastus. An inscription in a street pavement mentions a city official named Erastus who contributed the paving of the street from his own funds.
Quartus is last mentioned. We have no other record of a Quartus in Corinth. He stands, I think, for all the unnamed of the church who, through their unknown efforts, continued to build the church of God to its worldwide witness.
Verse 24 is not in the oldest manuscripts. It seems to have been added or moved from verse 20 where he says the same thing.
Finally, Paul closes with a doxology summary of his letter. Some interpreters think Paul did not write this doxology. After all, his other letters don’t end with a summarizing doxology. And the summary, many consider, to not be the point of the letter, which they think is justification by faith or a systematic on soteriology. But the doxology is actually a fitting summary. Note that at the beginning of the book, Paul introduces “God’s good news . . . concerning His Son, Jesus Christ.” Here in the doxology, Paul concludes about “my gospel and the proclamation about Jesus Christ.” Further we read mention of common ideas. Chapter 1 verse 17 speaks of “Goe’s righteousness revealed.” Verse 2 had mentioned promises of “Holy Scriptures.” And verse 5 spoke of the “obedience of faith among all the nations.” These ideas are throughout the doxology: “according to the revelationof the mystery kept silent for long ages but now revealedand made known through the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God to advance the obedience of faith among all nations.”
This then concludes Paul’s great letter, showing us the gospel that urges an appreciation and love for God’s righteousness based on his love extending to us not just individually but in common communal harmony of everlasting love relationship.