58. Romans 16:1-27


In conclusion

Paul is finally saying good-bye to his Roman readers. As usual, he acknowledges significant people in the church to which he is writing, and he relays greetings to them from people who are with him.

He begins his list of acknowledgements by commending to them Phoebe from the church in Cenchrea. It is probable that Phoebe is the one who carried the letter to Rome, and Paul was acknowledging her faithfulness to deliver it and was further asking the Roman church to receive her and help her in any way she might need help.

Next Paul sends greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.”

We learn in Acts 18:1-4 that Paul met Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth on his second missionary journey. Aquila and Priscilla had recently arrived from Italy because the emperor Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. This couple were tent-makers, and they had apparently been Christians for some time. It’s possible they were converted by new believers who had returned from Jerusalem at Pentecost, or perhaps by others later. At any rate, when Paul arrived in Corinth, he stayed with Aquila and Priscilla and worked with them in the tent-making business.

While he was with them in Corinth, Paul went every Sabbath to the synagogue to persuade Jews and Greeks to trust Jesus, and he stayed there a year and six months. When he left to head for Antioch, Aquila and Priscilla left also. They landed in Ephesus, and although the people begged Paul to stay, he did not, but Aquila and Priscilla did. They became leaders in the church in Ephesus. Acts 18:24-28 records how they taught the powerful preacher Apollos, explaining “the way of God more accurately” so his preaching included the baptism into Christ and indwelling Holy Spirit.

In 2 Timothy 4:19-22, Paul’s last letter, we read his greetings to the people he loved in Ephesus. Paul wrote this letter while imprisoned in Rome, and while it was addressed to Timothy, his greetings were to believers in Ephesus because that is where Timothy lived. First on his list of those being greeted were Priscilla and Aquila.

In verse 4 of Romans 16, Paul makes mention of something not mentioned elsewhere: that Aquila and Priscilla risked their lives for him. No details are given, but this comment tells us much about their commitment to the gospel. Moreover, verse 5 tells us that they hosted a local congregation in their house.

Interestingly, Paul mentions at least nine women in this list of fellow saints whom he wanted to greet. Some people say that Paul hated women, but his acknowledgment of them and his appreciation for their work for the Lord suggests otherwise. He recognized the women in the church as working for God in their own rights, and he credited them for their dedication publicly in this letter which he knew would be read to the church. He does not refer to them as to second-class “workers” or condescend to them. He greets them as he greets his brothers in the Lord and acknowledges their individual commitments to ministry.

From the list of names it appears that at least the majority of those Paul mentions are Gentiles who were converted to Christianity. “Mary” in verse 6, is one of six people by this name in the NT. Apart from this mention, we don’t know anything about her—but “Mary” could be a Jewish name.

The NIV Study Notes give us insight into the identities of those named in this letter. “Junias” in verse 7 is a feminine name. The names in verses 8 through 10 were common slave names found in the imperial household. It is possible that Aristobulus, in verse 10, was a grandson of Herod the Great and a brother of Herod Agrippa 1. Paul’s reference to “my kinsman” may be a reference to Aristobulus’ being a Jew. Narcissus in verse 11 is, sometimes, identified with Tiberius Claudius Narcissus, a wealthy freedman of the Roman emperor Tiberius.

Tryphaena and Tryphosa were possibly sisters and maybe even twins. It was common for person so closely related to be given names from the same root. “Persis” means “Persian woman”.

Rufus may be the son of Simon of Cyrene who carried Jesus’ cross. Mark 15:21 says, “They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.” The fact that Alexander and Rufus were explicitly mentioned here indicates that the early church knew them well, and when Mark penned this gospel, he was identifying Simon by mentioning his well-known sons.

Those named in verses 14-15 cannot be further identified, but the names tell us that they were either slaves or freedmen in the Roman church.


Divisions and obstacles

In verses 17-18 Paul urges the Roman church “keep your eye on those who cause dissension and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”

With these words, Paul warns against counterfeit gospels and subtle heresies. These are driven, he states, by people’s appetites. The unsuspecting are deceived and beguiled by the smooth talk and confusing and mesmerizing explanations and talk, but Paul states that the bottom line for those who teach heresy is their own self-indulgence. People’s external fervor may look sincere and religious, but false teachers gain personally from their converts. They love the notoriety, the power, the money people give—and external piety can sell false religion well.

Paul has strong words for teachers of false gospels elsewhere in his writings as well. Galatians 1:8-9 says, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

Those who teach falsehood and pass it off as truth are accursed, according to Paul. When a person knows what the Bible says and refuses to submit to it, that person moves from being deceived to dishonest. James is clear that those who teach Scripture are held to a more strict standard of judgment than those who don’t (James 3:1).

Paul’s instructions to his protégé Timothy identifies the nature of some types of false teaching as contrasted with truth: As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than {furthering} the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:3-5).

Timothy, who was a young man but assigned by apostolic authority and the grace of God to lead the church in Ephesus, was to actively instruct people what NOT to believe or to teach. He was not to allow church members to become caught up in speculations, myths, genealogies, and strange doctrines. These things deflect from furthering the “administration of God which is by faith”. This reality of God’s administration is the truth of the new covenant (see Ephesians 3:9), and the miracle of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension is the truth people need to know. The reality of Pentecost and the fact that one does not become part of the church without being born again—a consequences of believing in Jesus’ and His finished work—is what members of Christ’s body were to contemplate and teach.

Later in the same letter Paul expands his instructions to Timothy about handling “strange doctrine”: “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited {and} understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness {actually} is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment” (1 Timothy 6:3-6).

If people take issue with the clear gospel and confuse it, advocating a different doctrine than the one Paul preached, these people are conceited, without understanding, and have morbid interests in controversial questions, and meaning of words. These discussion breed envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction. Interestingly, these kinds of frictions Paul identifies as being between men of depraved minds who are deprived of the truth, men who view godliness as a means of personal gain. In other words, such people are accursed because they are not born again and changed by a new heart. No matter how much a person claims to be a Christian, this sort of wrangling and trouble-making is the mark of a depraved person.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul gives further description of the sorts of behaviors that will threaten the unity of the body of Christ.

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-7).

Paul warns that sly and flattering teachers will arise and will seduce and deceive weak women. This passage describes the sorts of self-centered arguments and destructive compulsions that will become more and more prevalent. He warns all of us against these sins and points out that these hide under “a form of godliness” which has denied the true power of godliness. Paul also warns, by implication, that women in particular must not be weak and weighed down with sin, indulging and led on by their impulses. There is no place in the body of Christ for women who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Feigned confusion and refusal to submit to God’s word sets such women up to be deceived by unscrupulous men. The “damsel in distress” façade is not biblical womanhood. By the same token, men are not to be drawn into the net of “helpless” women. Men are not to indulge their power to mislead and use women for their own gain by pretending to protect and guide women who entrap them with a false neediness.

Paul calls both men and women to integrity. We each answer to God alone. We are to relate to one another from a position of strength, not of weakness. This is only possible as we know who we are in the Lord Jesus, and relating to one another is as to the Lord. When we know truth and are confident of our position as a son or daughter of God, no other human can threaten that identity. We do not have to fear being scorned or ridiculed or shamed, even if others treat us disrespectfully. If we related to the other from the strength of our true identity, we do not have to fall prey to the other’s indulgence or manipulation.


Crushing Satan

Verse 20 states a promise: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” This clause echoes Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Interestingly, in verse 20 Paul doesn’t say the God of peace will soon crush Satan under His feet, but under your feet. This statement reflects on the reality that the church IS Christ’s body. Satan’s ultimate defeat will come about because of God’s own work through His own body. We will not crush Satan, but Jesus teaches and ministers and reveals truth through us. Sinners will come to know the gospel because we have been Jesus’ witnesses. As Christ’s body, our feet, under the direction of Him as our Head, will stand victorious over Satan on the turf that he claimed.


Hidden Mystery

In his closing, Paul says, “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, {leading} to obedience of faith; o the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.”

Paul reiterates that God is establishing the church by the gospel which Paul preached and by the proclamation of Jesus Christ. Our confidence and hope IS the gospel of the Lord Jesus. We are secure and established, rooted deeply, as we commit to Him alone and allow Him to remove from our attention all distractions which deflect our attention from His purposes.

Moreover, Paul says that this establishment of the church by the authority and keeping power of the gospel and the revelation of the Lord Jesus is happening exactly according to they mystery that was hidden “for long ages past”. Now, however, this mystery is being revealed by the command of God through the prophetic writings for the purpose of all nations believing and obeying Him.

In other places Paul identifies this “mystery”. Ephesians 3:2-11, for example, says in part, “when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; {to be specific,} that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.”

The previously hidden mystery is the mystery of Christ. He was not made known in previous generations as He is now known. The core of this mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and members of the body, fellow partakers in the promise of Jesus through the gospel.

Colossians 1:24-27 says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Of {this church} I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the {preaching of} the word of God, {that is,} the mystery which has been hidden from the {past} ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Again Paul identifies the erstwhile mystery as involving the Gentiles. More specifically, he identifies the “riches of the glory of this mystery” as being “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” In other words, the heart of the previously hidden mystery was the fact of the new birth, the indwelling Holy Spirit who would Himself write the law on our hearts and transfer us from being in Adam to being in Christ. This previously hidden mystery would make us new people with new hearts and new identities—and, especially shocking to the Jews who were God’s people by divine fiat, is the fact that Gentiles share in this grace of God.

Without benefit of the history of the law and the heritage of Isaac, Gentiles are ushered into God’s presence and kingdom simply by His divine act of rebirth. This mystery—that in Christ we are one new people and sharing one identity, regardless of our heritage, is the mystery hidden from the ages.

To Timothy Paul wrote, “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, [w]as vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16). In this passage Paul identifies “godliness” as a great mystery. It is identified and summarized in the reality of Jesus who was revealed in flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, and taken up in glory.

In other words, Paul is saying that Jesus’ entire earthly mission identifies and summarizes godliness. God Himself became man and lived out godliness in a human body. This miracle was a singularity, and because of Jesus, we are ushered into this mystery of godliness. We become part of God’s family when we place our faith in the Lord Jesus and recognize His work and atonement as being absolutely finished!

In verse 26 Paul says this previously hidden mystery is revealed and made known through the prophetic writings. This fact is mentioned other places as well. In Romans 1:1-4 Paul says, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called {as} an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,”

He clarifies right at the beginning of this powerful treatise on salvation that the gospel of God was promised “through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures”. In other words, although the reality of the new covenant was veiled to Israel, still it was foretold in surprising detail through the prophets. It’s full meaning was missed partly because Israel didn’t have a paradigm by which to understand the miracle of God becoming incarnate in a human body and defeating death. These were things that had to play out in time before three-dimensional human beings bound by time could begin to “see” and know the full reality. Nevertheless, when Jesus did come, it became clear that the prophets had foretold the whole thing.

Luke records these words from Zacharias when God loosed his tongue after John the Baptist was born: “Blessed {be} the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant—As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES, And FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US; To show mercy toward our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.”

Zacharias was not yet able to see the fullness of his own words, but God gave him this revelation, and he faithfully declared it: Salvation has come from God, just as the prophets of old promised. God has sent deliverance from our enemies; He is keeping His promises to us. The eternal, spiritual, renewed reality of this realization of what the prophets had foretold was not fully known until the new covenant was introduced—and even then, there are aspects of these promises that are still future. But the spiritual reality of bondage and the fact that evil is the enemy of God has become clear now in a way it was not clear before Jesus came. Jesus’ coming shone the light on the fact that our depravity is fatal, but there IS hope: faith in the Lord Jesus!

In Romans 3:19-22 Paul further says, “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law {comes} the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law {the} righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even {the} righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;”

Both the Law and the prophets witnessed to the fact that God was sending righteousness to humanity that was NOT related to the law. It is righteousness directly from God!

Galatians 3:8 further says, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, {saying,} "ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.”

Again, Paul clarifies that the Old Testament witnessed to the fact that God would justify the Gentiles by faith. He promised this blessing to Abraham when He said, “All nations of the earth will be blessed in you.”

The coming of Jesus put color ad three dimensions to the Old Testament prophecies. His life and death and resurrection and ascension—followed by Pentecost and the rapid growth of the church—disclosed what God had previously promised. This mystery was not without precedent or a means of confirmation. God gave Scripture hundreds of years in advance so that, when the time came, there would be historical, Scriptural proof that Jesus was Who He claimed to be, and that the church being one body composed of Jews and Gentiles was also God’s original plan.



Ask God to continue to reveal His will to you. Ask Him to direct your study and to make this mystery of godliness more and more real to you at a deeper level of your life. Ask Him to plant you firmly in Himself and to confirm your identity as His child. Ask Him to help you relate to people from a place of strength, from you identity as His own son or daughter, instead of from a place of fear or uncertainty.

Ask God to show you how to love those in your life for Him. Ask Him to reveal to you whatever you need to surrender and to hold you in reality and truth.

God is faithful. Let His word soak into your mind and heart. Praise God for saving you, and allow yourself to be a living sacrifice for His own glory.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!



Key Words/Phrases

Divisions and obstacles

Wise about good

Innocent about evil

Crush Satan under your feet


Study Questions

1. What do we know about Priscilla and Aquila?

1 Corinthians 16:19

Acts 18:1-4

Acts 18:18-19

Acts 18:24-28

2 Timothy 4:19-22


2. How many women are listed in Paul’s greetings? What does the presence of these women tell us about the early church and about Paul’s attitude toward women?


3. What do we know about the nationalities of those in Paul’s list? About their personal details?


4. Who was Rufus?

Mark 15:21


5. Against what sorts of divisions and obstacles is Paul warning in verse 17-18?

Galatians 1:8-9

1 Timothy 1:3-5

1 Timothy 6:3-6

2 Timothy 3:1-7


6. To what does verse 20 allude?

Genesis 3:15


7. What is the “mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known…” in verses 25-26?

Ephesians 3:2-11

Colossians 1:24-27

Colossians 2:2-3

1 Timothy 3:16


8. How was this revealed mystery foretold, according to verse 26?

Romans 1:1-4

Luke 1:68-73

Romans 3:20-21

Galatians 3:8



9. How has studying Romans changed you?

10. What has been the biggest “Aha” for you in your journey through this book?


Ask God to reveal to you what He wants you to know from the Bible, and ask Him to teach you truth and reveal reality to you as you study His word.


Copyright 1999-2012 Graphics Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised September 11, 2012. Use of this site and forum signifies your acceptance of the Terms and Conditions. Send comments and questions to

HOME ......|...... FORUM ......|...... OUR STORIES ......|...... BIBLE STUDIES ......|...... FAF WEEKENDS ......|...... ABOUT US ......|...... RELATED WEBSITES