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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Romans 16

 

 

Verses 1-27

Chapter 16

A LETTER OF COMMENDATION (Romans 16:1-2)

16:1-2 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the Church which is in Cenchreae. I want you to welcome her in the Lord in the way that God's people should welcome one another; and I want you to help her in whatever way she needs your help, for she has been a helper to many, and to me, too.

When a person is applying for a new job, he usually gets a testimonial from someone who knows him well and who can pay tribute to his character and ability. When a person is going to live in some strange town, he often takes with him a letter of introduction from someone who knows people in that town. In the ancient world such letters were very common. They were known as sustatikai (Greek #4956) epistolai (Greek #1992), letters of commendation or introduction. We still possess many of these letters, written on papyrus and recovered from the rubbish heaps buried in the desert sands of Egypt.

A certain Mystarion, for instance, an Egyptian olive-planter, sends his servant on an errand to Stotoetis, a chief priest, and gives him a letter of introduction to take with him.

Mystarion to his own Stotoetis, many greetings.

I have sent my Blastus to you for forked sticks for my

olive-gardens.

See then that you do not detain him, for you know how I need him

every hour.

To Stotoetis, chief priest at the island.

That is a letter of commendation to introduce the Blastus who has gone upon the errand. So Paul writes to introduce Phoebe to the Church at Rome.

Phoebe came from Cenchreae which was the port of Corinth. Sometimes she is called a deaconess, but it is not likely that she held what might be called an official position in the Church. There can have been no time in the Christian Church when the work of women was not of infinite value. It must have been specially so in the days of the early Church. In the case of baptism by total immersion, as it then was, in the visitation of the sick, in the distribution of food to the poor, women must have played a big part in the life and work of the Church, but they did not at that time hold any official position.

Paul bespeaks a welcome for Phoebe. He asks the people at Rome to welcome her as God's dedicated people ought to welcome each other. There should be no strangers in the family of Christ; there should be no need for formal introductions between Christian people, for they are sons and daughters of the one father and therefore brothers and sisters of each other. And yet a church is not always the welcoming institution that it ought to be. It is possible for churches, and still more possible for church organizations, to become almost little closed societies which are not really interested in welcoming the stranger. When a stranger comes amongst us, Paul's advice still holds good--welcome such a one as God's dedicated people ought to welcome each other.

A HOUSEHOLD WHICH WAS A CHURCH (Romans 16:3-4)

16:3-4 Give my greetings to Prisca and to Aquila, my fellow-workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks to save my life. It is not only I who have cause to be thankful to them, but all the churches of the Gentiles; and give my greetings to the church that is in their house.

There is no more fascinating pair of people in the New Testament than Prisca and Aquila. Sometimes Prisca is also called Priscilla which is an affectionate diminutive form of her name. Let us begin with the facts about them of which we are sure.

They appear first in Acts 18:2. From that passage we learn that they had previously been resident in Rome. Claudius had issued an edict in A.D. 52 banishing the Jews. Anti-semitism is no new thing, and the Jews were hated in the ancient world as they so often are today. When they were banished from Rome, Prisca and Aquila settled in Corinth. They were tent-makers which was Paul's own trade, and he found a home with them. When he left Corinth and went to Ephesus, Prisca and Aquila went with him and settled there (Acts 18:18).

The very first incident related of them is characteristic. There came to Ephesus that brilliant scholar Apollos; but he had not at this time anything like a full grasp of the Christian faith; so Aquila and Prisca took him into their house and gave him friendship and instruction in that faith (Acts 18:24-26). From the very beginning Prisca and Aquila were people who kept an open heart and an open door.

The next time we hear of them they are still in Ephesus. Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus and in it he sends greetings from Prisca and Aquila and from the church that is in their house (1 Corinthians 16:19). This was long before the days when there was any such thing as a church building; and the home of Prisca and Aquila served as a meeting place for a group of Christian folk.

The next time we hear of them they are in Rome. The edict of Claudius which had banished the Jews had ceased to be effective and no doubt Prisca and Aquila like many another Jew drifted back to their old homes and their old business. We discover that they are just the same--again there is a group of Christian people meeting in their house.

For the last time they emerge in 2 Timothy 4:19, and once again they are in Ephesus; and one of the last messages Paul ever sent was a greeting to this pair of Christians who had come through so much with him.

Prisca and Aquila lived a curiously nomadic and unsettled life. Aquila himself had been born in Pontus in Asia Minor (Acts 18:2). We find them resident first in Rome, then in Corinth, then in Ephesus, then back in Rome, and then finally again in Ephesus; but wherever we find them, we find their home a centre of Christian fellowship and service. Every home should be a church, for a church is a place where Jesus dwells. From the home of Prisca and Aquila, wherever it was, radiated friendship and fellowship and love. If one is a stranger in a strange town or a strange land, one of the most valuable things in the world is to have a home from home into which to go. It takes away loneliness and protects from temptation. Sometimes we think of a home as a place into which we can go and shut the door and keep the world out: but equally a home should be a place with an open door. The open door, the open hand, and the open heart are characteristics of the Christian life.

So much is certain about Prisca and Aquila; but it may be that there is even greater romance in their story. To this day in Rome there is a Church of St Prisca on the Aventine. There is also a cemetery of Priscilla. This cemetery is the burying place of the ancient Roman Acilian family. In it lies buried Acilius Glabrio. He was consul of Rome in A.D. 91 which was the highest office Rome could offer him; and it seems extremely likely that he died a martyr's death as a Christian. He must have been one of the first of the great Romans to become a Christian and to suffer for his faith. Now when people received their freedom in the Roman Empire they were enrolled in one of the great families and took one of the family names as theirs. One of the commonest female names in the Acilian family was Prisca; and Acilius is sometimes written Aquilius, which is very close to Aquila. Here we are faced with two fascinating possibilities.

(i) Perhaps Prisca and Aquila received their freedom from some member of the Acilian family, in which it may be that once they were slaves. Can it be that these two people sowed the seeds of Christianity into that family so that one day a member of it--Acilius Glabrio, no less a person than a Roman consul--became a Christian?

(ii) There is an even more romantic possibility. It is an odd thing that in four out of the six mentions of this pair in the New Testament Prisca is named before her husband, although normally the husband's name would come first, as we say "Mr and Mrs." There is just the possibility that this is because Prisca was not a freedwoman at all but a great lady, a member by birth of the Acilian family. It may be that at some meeting of the Christians this great Roman lady met Aquila, the humble Jewish tentmaker, that the two fell in love, that Christianity destroyed the barriers of race and rank and wealth and birth, and that these two, the Roman aristocrat and the Jewish artisan, were joined for ever in Christian love and Christian service.

Of these speculations we can never be sure, but we can be sure that there were many in Corinth, in Ephesus and in Rome, who owed their souls to Prisca and Aquila and to that home of theirs which was also a church.

TO EVERY NAME A COMMENDATION (Romans 16:5-11)

16:5-11 Give my greetings to my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Give my greetings to Mary who has toiled hard among you. Give my greetings to Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow-prisoners. They are of high mark among the apostles, and they were Christians before I was. Give my greetings to Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Give my greetings to Urbanus, our fellow-worker in Christ, and to my beloved Stachys. Give my greetings to Apelles, a man of sterling worth in Christ. Give my greetings to those who are of the household of Aristobulus. Give my greetings to Herodion, my kinsman. Give my greetings to those of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

No doubt behind every one of these names there is a story which is a romance in Christ. None of these stories do we know, but at some of them we can guess. In this chapter there are twenty-four individual names and there are two interesting things to note.

(i) Of the twenty-four, six are women. That is worth remembering, for often Paul is accused of belittling the status of women in the Church. If we really wish to see Paul's attitude, it is a passage like this that we should read, where his appreciation of the work that women were doing in the Church shines through his words.

(ii) Of the twenty-four names, thirteen occur in inscriptions or documents which have to do with the Emperor's palace in Rome. Although many are very common names, this fact is nonetheless suggestive. In Philippians 4:22 Paul speaks of the saints of Caesar's household. It may be that they were for the most part slaves, but it is still important that Christianity seems to have penetrated even thus early into the imperial palace.

Andronicus and Junias form an interesting pair, because it is most likely that Junias is a female name. That would mean that in the early Church a woman could be ranked as an apostle. The apostles in this sense were people whom the Church sent out to tell the story of Jesus at large. Paul says that Andronicus and Junias were Christians before he was. That means that they must go right back to the time of Stephen; they must have been a direct link with the earliest Church at Jerusalem.

Behind the name of Ampliatus may well lie an interesting story. It is a quite common slave name. Now in the cemetery of Domatilla, which is the earliest of the Christian catacombs, there is a decorated tomb with the single name Ampliatus carved on it in bold and decorative lettering. The fact that the single name Ampliatus alone is carved on the tomb--Romans who were citizens would have three names, a nomen, a praenomen, and a cognomen--would indicate that this Ampliatus was a slave; but the elaborate tomb and the bold lettering would indicate that he was a man of high rank in the Church. From that it is plain to see that in the early days of the Church the distinctions of rank were so completely wiped out that it was possible for a man at one and the same time to be a slave and a prince of the Church. Social distinctions did not exist. We have no means of knowing that Paul's Ampliatus is the Ampliatus in the cemetery of Domatilla, but it is not impossible that he is.

The household of Aristobulus may also be a phrase with an interesting history. In Rome household did not describe only a man's family and personal relations; it included also his servants and slaves. In Rome for long there had lived a grandson of Herod the Great whose name was Aristobulus. He had lived always as a private individual and had inherited none of Herod's domains; but he was a close friend of the Emperor Claudius. When he died his servants and slaves would become the property of the Emperor, but they would form a section of his establishment known as the household of Aristobulus. So this phrase may well describe Jewish servants and slaves who had once belonged to Aristobulus, Herod's grandson, and had now become the property of the Emperor. This is made the more probable by the name mentioned on each side of the phrase. Apelles may quite well be the Greek name that a Jew called Abel would take, and Herodion is a name which would obviously suit one who had some connection with the family of Herod.

The household of Narcissus may have still another interesting story behind it. Narcissus was a common name; but the most famous Narcissus was a freedman who had been secretary to the Emperor Claudius and had exercised a notorious influence over him. He was said to have amassed a private fortune of almost L 4,000,000. His power had lain in the fact that all correspondence addressed to the Emperor had to pass through his hands and never reached him unless he allowed it to do so. He made his fortune from the fact that people paid him large bribes to make sure that their petitions did reach the Emperor. When Claudius was murdered and Nero came to the throne, Narcissus survived for a short time, but in the end he was compelled to commit suicide, and all his fortune and all his household of slaves passed into Nero's possession. It may well be his one-time slaves which are referred to here. If Aristobulus really is the Aristobulus who was the grandson of Herod, and if Narcissus really is the Narcissus who was Cladius' secretary, this means that many of the slaves at the imperial court were already Christians. The leaven of Christianity had reached the highest circles in the Empire.

HIDDEN ROMANCES (Romans 16:12-16)

16:12-16 Give my greetings to Tryphaena and Tryphosa who toil in the Lord. Give my greetings to Persis, the beloved, who has toiled hard in the Lord. Give my greetings to Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and to his mother who was a mother to me too. Give my greetings to Asyncritus, to Phlegon, to Hermes, to Patrobas, to Hermas, and to the brothers who are with them. Give my greetings to Philologos and to Julias, to Nereus and to his sister, to Olympas, and to all God's dedicated people who are with them. Greet each other with the kiss that God's dedicated people use. All the Churches of Christ send you greetings.

No doubt behind all these names lies a story; but it is only about a few of them that we can guess and reconstruct.

(i) When Paul wrote his greetings to Tryphaena and Tryphosa--who were very likely twin sisters--he wrote them with a smile, for the way in which he put it sounds like a complete contradiction in terms. Three times in this list of greetings Paul uses a certain Greek word for Christian toil. He uses it of Mary (Romans 16:6), and of Tryphaena and Tryphosa and of Persis in this passage. It is the verb kopian (Greek #2872), which means to toil to the point of exhaustion. That is what Paul said that Tryphaena and Tryphosa were in the habit of doing; and the point is that Tryphaena (Greek #5170) and Tryphosa (Greek #5173) mean respectively dainty and delicate! It is as if he were saying: "You two may be called dainty and delicate; but you belie your names by working like Trojans for the sake of Christ." We can well imagine a twinkle in Paul's eye as he dictated that greeting.

(ii) One of the great hidden romances of the New Testament lies behind the name of Rufus and his mother, who was also a mother to Paul. It is obvious that Rufus is a choice spirit and a man well-known for saintliness in the Roman Church; and it is equally obvious that Paul felt that he owed a deep debt of gratitude to the mother of Rufus for the kindness he had received from her. Who was this Rufus?

Turn to Mark 15:21. There we read of one Simon a Cyrenian who was compelled to carry the Cross of Jesus on the road to Calvary; and he is described as the father of Alexander and Rufus. Now if a man is identified by the names of his sons, it means that, although he himself may not be personally known to the community to whom the story is being told, his sons are. To what Church, then, did Mark write his gospel? He wrote it to the Church of Rome, and he knew that it would know who Alexander and Rufus were. Almost certainly here we find Rufus again, the son of that Simon who carried the Cross of Jesus.

That must have been a terrible day for Simon. He was a Jew, from far-off Cyrene in North Africa. No doubt he had scraped and saved for half a lifetime to celebrate one Passover in Jerusalem. As he entered the city on that day, with his heart full of the greatness of the Feast he was going to attend, suddenly the flat of a Roman spear touched him on the shoulder; he was impressed into the Roman service; he found himself carrying a criminal's cross. How the resentment must have blazed in his heart! How angry and bitter he must have been at this terrible indignity! All the way from Cyrene for this! To have come so far to sit at the glory of the Passover and to have had this dreadful and shameful thing happen! No doubt he meant, as soon as he reached Calvary, to fling the cross down and stride away with loathing in his heart.

But something must have happened. On the way to Calvary the spell of the broken figure of Jesus must have laid its tendrils round his heart. He must have stayed to watch, and that figure on the Cross drew Simon to himself for ever. That chance encounter on the road to Calvary changed Simon's life. He came to sit at the Jewish Passover and he went away the slave of Christ. He must have gone home and brought his wife and sons into the same experience as he had himself.

We can weave all kinds of speculations about this. It was men from Cyprus and Cyrene who came to Antioch and first preached the gospel to the Gentile world (Acts 11:20). Was Simon one of the men from Cyrene? Was Rufus with him? Was it they who took the first tremendous step to make Christianity the faith of a whole world? Was it they who helped the Church burst the bonds of Judaism? Can it be that in some sense we today owe the fact that we are Christians to the strange episode when a man from Cyrene was compelled to carry a cross on the road to Calvary?

Turn to Ephesus when there is a riot raised by the people who served Diana of the Ephesians and when the crowd would have lynched Paul if they could have got at him. Who stands out to look that mob in the face? A man called Alexander (Acts 19:33). Is this the other brother facing things out with Paul?

And as for their mother--surely she in some hour of need must have brought to Paul the help and the comfort and the love which his own family refused him when he became a Christian. It may be guesswork, for Alexander and Rufus are common names; but maybe it is true and maybe the most amazing things followed from that chance encounter on the way to Calvary.

(iii) There remains one other name which may have a perhaps even more amazing story behind it--that of Nereus. In A.D. 95 an event occurred which shocked Rome. Two of the most distinguished people in the city were condemned for being Christians. They were Flavius Clemens, who had been consul of Rome, and his wife Domatilla, who was of royal blood. She was the grand-daughter of Vespasian, a former Emperor, and the niece of Domitian the reigning Emperor. In fact the two sons of Flavius Clemens and Domatilla had been designated Domitian's successors in the imperial power. Flavius was executed and Domatilla was banished to the island of Pontia where years afterwards Paula saw the cave where "she drew out a long martyrdom for the Christian name."

The point is this--the name of the chamberlain of Flavius and Domatilla was Nereus. Is it possible that Nereus the slave had something to do with the making into Christians of Flavius Clemens the ex-consul and Domatilla the princess of the royal blood? It may be an idle speculation, for Nereus is a common name, but, on the other hand, it may be true.

There is one other fact of interest to add to this story. Flavius Clemens was the son of Flavius Sabinus, who had been Nero's city prefect when Nero sadistically persecuted the Christians after charging them with being responsible for the appalling fire which devastated Rome in A.D. 64. As city prefect Flavius Sabinus must have been Nero's executive officer in that persecution. It was then that Nero ordered the Christians to be rolled in pitch and set alight to form living torches for his gardens, to be sewn into the skins of wild beasts and flung to savage hunting dogs, to be shut up in ships which were sunk in the Tiber. Is it possible that thirty years before he died for Christ, the young Flavius Clemens had seen the dauntless courage of the martyrs and wondered what made men able to die like that?

Five verses of names and of greetings--but they open vistas which thrill the heart!

A LAST LOVING APPEAL (Romans 16:17-20)

16:17-20 Brothers, I urge you to keep your eye on those who, contrary to the teaching which they have received, cause dissensions and put in your way things which would trip you up. Steer clear of them. Such men are not real servants of Christ, our Lord; they are the servants of their own greed. By their plausibility and their flattery they deceive the hearts of innocent folk. I know that you will deal with such people, for the story of your obedience has reached all men. So, then, I rejoice over you. I want you to be wise in what is good, and untainted with what is evil. The God of peace will soon overthrow Satan so that you may trample him under your feet. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Romans was a letter which Paul found very difficult to bring to an end. He has sent his greetings; but before he closes he makes one last appeal to the Christians in Rome to keep themselves from every evil influence. He picks out two characteristics of men hurtful to the Church and to the Christian fellowship.

(i) They are men who cause dissensions among the brethren. Any man who does anything which disturbs the peace of a church has much to answer for. A minister was once talking to a man newly come to his congregation from another town. The man had obviously little of the love of Christ upon him. He said to the minister: "You know such and such a congregation?" naming that of which he had formerly been a member. "Yes," said the minister. "Well," said the man with a certain evil relish. "I wrecked it!" There are people who take a pride in making trouble and who like nothing better than to sow the poisonous seeds of strife. The man who has brought strife to any band of brothers will answer for it some day to him who is the King and Head of the Church.

(ii) They are men who put hindrances in the way of others. The man who makes it harder for someone else to be a Christian also has much to answer for. The man whose conduct is a bad example, whose influence is an evil snare, whose teaching dilutes or emasculates the Christian faith which he pretends to teach, will someday bear his own punishment; and it will not be light, for Jesus was stern to any man who caused one of his little ones to stumble.

There are two interesting words in this passage. There is the word we have translated plausibility (chrestologia, Greek #5542). The Greeks themselves defined a chrestologos (see Greek #5542) as "a man who speaks well and who acts ill." He is the kind of man who, behind a facade of pious words, is a bad influence, who leads astray, not by direct attack, but by subtlety, who pretends to serve Christ, but in reality is destroying the faith. There is the word we have translated untainted with what is evil. It is the word akeraios (Greek #185) and it is used of metal which has no suspicion of alloy, of wine and of milk which are not adulterated with water. It describes something which is absolutely pure of any corruption. The Christian is a man whose utter sincerity must be beyond all doubt.

One thing is to be noted in this passage--it is clear that the latent trouble in the Church at Rome has not yet flared into action. Paul, indeed, says that he believes that the Roman Church is well able to deal with it. He was a wise pastor, because he believed firmly that prevention was better than cure. Often in a church or a society a bad situation is allowed to develop because no one has the courage to deal with it; and often, when it has fully developed, it is too late to deal with it. It is easy enough to extinguish a spark if steps are taken at once, but it is almost impossible to extinguish a forest fire. Paul had the wisdom to deal with a threatening situation in time.

The passage closes with a most suggestive thing. Paul says that the God of peace will soon crush and overthrow Satan, the power of evil. We must note that the peace of God is the peace of action and of victory. There is a kind of peace which can be had at the cost of evading all issues and refusing all decisions, a peace which comes of lethargic inactivity. The Christian must ever remember that the peace of God is not the peace which has submitted to the world, but the peace which has overcome the world.

GREETINGS (Romans 16:21-23)

16:21-23 Timothy, my fellow-worker, sends you his greetings, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. I Tertius, who wrote this letter, send you my greetings in the Lord. Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole Church enjoy, sends you his greetings, as does brother Quartus.

It is tempting to try to identify the group of friends who send their greetings along with Paul's. Timothy was Paul's right hand man, the man whom Paul saw as his successor and of whom he later said that no one knew his mind so well (Philippians 2:19-20). Lucius may be the Lucius of Cyrene, who was one of the prophets and teachers of Antioch who first sent Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys (Acts 13:1). Jason may be the Jason who gave Paul hospitality at Thessalonica and suffered for it at the hands of the mob (Acts 17:5-9). Sosipater may be the Sopater of Beroea who took his Church's share of the collection to Jerusalem with Paul (Acts 20:4). Gaius may be the Gaius who was one of the two people whom Paul baptized at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14).

For the first and only time, we know the name of the amanuensis who actually penned this letter to Paul's dictation, for Tertius slipped in his own greeting. No great man can do his work without the aid that humble helpers give him. Paul's other secretaries are anonymous, so that Tertius is the representative of those humble unknowns who were penmen for Paul.

One of the most interesting things in the whole chapter is the way in which again and again Paul characterizes people in a single sentence. Here there are two great summaries. Gaius is the man of hospitality; Quartus is the brother. It is a great thing to go down to history as the man with the open house or as the man with the brotherly heart. Some day people will sum us up in one sentence. What will that sentence be?

THE END IS PRAISE (Romans 16:25-27)

16:25-27 Now unto him who is able to make you stand firm, in the way that the gospel I preach promises and the message Jesus brought offers, in the way which is now unveiled in that secret, which was for long ages wrapped in silence, but which is now full disclosed, and made known to all the Gentiles--as the writings of the prophets said it would be. and as the command of God now orders it to be--that they might render to him a submission born of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be glory for ever. Amen.

The letter to the Romans comes to an end with a doxology which is also a summary of the gospel which Paul preached and loved.

(i) It is a gospel which makes men able to stand firm. "Son of man," said God to Ezekiel, "stand upon your feet and I will speak with you" (Ezekiel 2:1). The gospel is a power which enables a man to stand foursquare against the shocks of the world and the assaults of temptation.

A journalist relates a great incident of the Spanish Civil War. There was a little garrison of beleaguered men. The end was near and some wished to surrender and so to save their lives; but others wished to fight on. The matter was settled when a gallant soul declared: "It is better to die upon our feet than to live upon our knees."

Life can be difficult; sometimes a man is beaten to his knees by the battering that it gives to him. Life can be perilous,, sometimes a man is like to fall in the slippery places of temptation. The gospel is God's power to save; that power which keeps a man erect, even when life is at its worst and its most threatening.

(ii) It is a gospel which Paul preached and which was offered by Jesus Christ. That is to say, the gospel takes its source in Christ and is transmitted by men. Without Jesus Christ there can be no gospel at all; but without men to transmit it, other men can never hear of it. The Christian duty is that when a man is himself found of Christ, he should straightway go and find others for him. After Andrew was found of Jesus, John says of him: "He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah'" (John 1:40-41).

Here is the Christian privilege and the Christian duty. The Christian privilege is to appropriate the good news for ourselves; the Christian duty is to transmit that good news to others. A famous story tells how Jesus, after the Cross and the Resurrection, returned to his glory, still bearing the marks of his sufferings. One of the angels said to him, "You must have suffered terribly for men down there." "I did," said Jesus. "Do they all know about what you did for them?" asked the angel. "No," said Jesus, "not yet. Only a few know about it so far." "And," said the angel, "what have you done that they should all know?" "Well." said Jesus, "I asked Peter and James and John to make it their business to tell others, and the others still others, until the farthest man on the widest circle has heard the story." The angel looked doubtful. for he knew well what poor creatures men were. "Yes," he said, "but what if Peter and James and John forget? What if they grow weary of the telling? What if, away down in the twentieth century, men fail to tell the story of your love for them? What then? Haven't you made any other plans?" Back came the answer of Jesus, "I haven't made any other plans. I'm counting on them." Jesus died to give us the gospel; and now he is counting on us to transmit it to all men.

(iii) It is a gospel which is the consummation of history. It is something which was there from all ages and which at the coming of Christ was revealed to the world. With the coming of Jesus something unique happened, eternity invaded time and God emerged on earth. His coming was the event to which all history was working up and the event from which all subsequent history flows. After the coming of Christ the world could never be the same again. It was the central fact of history, so that men date time in terms of before and after Christ's birth. It is as if with his coming life and the world began all over again.

(iv) It is a gospel which is meant for all men and which was always meant for all men. It is not a gospel which was meant for the Jews only; its going out to the Gentiles was not an afterthought. The prophets, perhaps scarcely knowing what they were saying, had their hints and forecasts of a time when all men of all nations would know God. That time is not yet; but it is the dream of God that some day the knowledge of him will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, and it is the glory of man that he can help make God's dream come true.

(v) It is a gospel which issues in an obedient world, a world where God is King. But that obedience is not founded on submission to an iron law, which breaks the man who opposes it; it is an obedience founded on faith, on a surrender which is the result of love. For Paul the Christian is not a man who has surrendered to an ineluctable power; he is a man who has fallen in love with the God who is the lover of the souls of men and whose love stands for ever full-displayed in Jesus Christ.

And so the long argument of the letter to the Romans comes to an end in a song of praise.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

FURTHER READING

Romans

C. H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (MC E)

A. M. Hunter, The Epistle to the Romans: The Law of Love (Tch; E)

W. Sanday and A.C. Headlam, Romans (Sixth edition, in two volumes, revised by C. E. B. Cranfield) (ICC G)

Abbreviations

ICC: International Critical Commentary

MC : Moffatt Commentary

Tch: Torch Commentary

E: English Text

G: Greek Text

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

 


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Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Romans 16:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/romans-16.html. 1956-1959.

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