Some have questioned whether Romans chapter 16 was truly part of the epistle we have been studying. In this final chapter as it appears in our Bibles, Paul sends greetings to twenty-six different people, mentioning twenty-four by name. Is it likely that he would know so many people in Rome so well when he had never yet visited that city? Superficially this may seem a cogent argument. However, the fact is that no authorities on the New Testament text attach this passage to any other book; and it is entirely likely that Paul had got to know many of these people in other places, from which they had returned to Rome. There was much travel between Rome and the cities of Asia Minor and Greece, where there were churches of God. Some of those addressed by Paul, like Priscilla and Aquila, might have been among those exiled for a time from Rome by Claudius in 49 AD.
We cannot comment on all of Paul’s rich words of greeting, or all the names mentioned. They certainly add colour and interest to the New Testament account of Christian service in the churches. The saints in Rome are asked to receive and assist Phoebe, obviously an exemplary sister, who may have been the bearer of the letter. Priscilla and Aquila ‘risked their lives for me’, says Paul. Mary ‘worked very hard for you. Andronicus and Junias … have been in prison with me …? they are outstanding among the apostles’. Others are designated, ‘my dear friend’ or ‘whom I love in the Lord’. It is most impressive to observe the large place given to women in the church in this list of greetings. Some ‘worked very hard in the Lord’. Then, the mother of Rufus (strangely un-named) who had been a mother to Paul himself. Greetings which exude warmth, and a deeply sincere Christian love.
And now, a final caution. ‘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. Everyone, says the beloved apostle, has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you’. There is a deep well of spiritual wisdom in these words. Then there follow final greetings passed on from Timothy and several others. Paul’s scribe Tertius injects his own salute, reminding us of the immense labour, then and now, of ‘back room’ workers supporting the servants of Christ who are ‘up front’ in the work of the Lord.
In concluding our very sketchy remarks on this most notable and weighty New Testament epistle, we refrain from comment on the closing doxology. It stands with dignity and reverence, an adoring ascription of glory to the eternal God who has revealed Himself in infinite grace, bringing all nations to faith and obedience.
‘Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to 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 nations might believe and obey Him – to the only wise God be glory for ever through Jesus Christ! Amen.’