Serving the Lord Jesus Christ
We are in Romans, chapter 16. Granted, this is not one of the most doctrinally exciting deep passages that you run across in Scripture. There are little things that are sprinkled throughout the closing greetings that we ought to pay attention to and we also need to realize that despite the fact we don’t know most of the twenty-five names that are mentioned here or the two or three that are not specifically mentioned here, nevertheless, under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit preserving and inspiring God’s Word, He has seen fit to preserve this. One reason for that is that it gives us an insight into the personal nature of the Apostle Paul’s ministry. That’s part of any ministry to develop personal relationships with the folks you minister to. We have a lot of opportunity to do that.
It’s not just a big part of the model for the local church which does relate to the teaching of the Word that has parallels to a classroom. It’s not a classroom in the same sense that you have a classroom in a university or even a seminary. I also kind of chuckle now although I used to be a little irritated by the fact that people think I would do well in a seminary. I have to constantly disabuse people of that. People who say that have no idea what goes on in a seminary. In a seminary in a class on Romans, you’ll cover Romans probably in a two-hour class. That means you have about two and half hours a week over approximately an 18-week semester. So that’s going to be approximately twenty-seven hours taking holidays into account. Is that right? We spent more than twenty-seven hours just going through the first chapter.
The word seminary comes from the word seminal, which is a seed. You’re just planting seeds. You’re covering the foundations of something to plant seeds for later production. This is really the model that we should see that pastors go to seminaries to learn the basics and the framework of the books that they study. You may not know this but the word for scholar in Latin has as its ultimate root meaning the word leisure. If you’re working doing a full time job of 40–60 hours you don’t have the leisure that you need to dig into the Word of God. Every pastor should be a scholar.
Different pastors have different other gifts so it means the gift of pastor-teacher doesn’t look the same in each person. There are different personalities. We know that people are given the spiritual gift in different measures so some have it in different ways. Sometimes the gift of pastor-teacher is combined with other gifts such as administration or mercy or helps or some of these other gifts, which are blended in with that gift of pastor-teacher. It’s always going to manifest differently but the core responsibility of a pastor is to train the congregations.
Ephesians 4:10-11 talk about the various gifted leaders of the local church during the 1st century AD. It included apostles and prophets and for the rest of the church age evangelist and pastor-teachers. It’s the role of those gifted men, as the passage says, “To equip the saints to do the work of ministry” We often think of the pastor as the minister. He’s the one who does the ministering. No, he’s like the coach. He’s the trainer. Y’all are the ones who are on the team and out on the field playing the game. The pastor is to coach. He’s the one who trains the team to go out and do the work of ministry. In that process you build many different relationships and so we get a little picture of that in these verses.
I also found out last time that another thing we see in these verses is that I compared it to a fire ant bed in some parts of Texas. It may not look like much, especially if it’s been dry. You just see that the ground has been disturbed. If you know what you’re looking for you know that means it’s a fire ant bed. But if you go up and kick it, then all of a sudden all of these ants come boiling out of the nest. If you’re not careful they will sting you and that’s quite a painful sting, which is why we call them fire ants. There are some verses like that in Scripture. They seem pretty innocuous until someone comes along and starts kicking at it a certain way.
I pointed out last time that there are three verses in this section that relate to the debate that’s been going on in the evangelical church for the last fifty years over the role of women in ministry. One of the books I recommended last time is by a friend and colleague of mine, which he wrote back, in the early 80s called “The Role of Women in Ministry”. He does an excellent job dealing with all the different issues. If you’re coming at this as a believer you’re going to think radically different about this than if you’re not a believer because we believe that things in God’s creation are what they are because God made them that way. Then God tells us how they are distinct.
Non-Christians refer to God’s creation as nature whereas believers view all of God’s creation as His. The word nature almost carries with it a sense of something that is autonomous, something that operates on its own and is not dependent upon a Sustainer/Creator for its ongoing actions. The pagan mindset looks at nature and views it as operating on its own laws whereas as a believer we know that creation operates on the laws God built into it from the very beginning of creation. Or at least they became operative in some sense after creation week and then they were modified after the Fall.
We look at that and try to understand what males are in the home and the family and the church. Then we look at women and the role of females within marriage and the family and the church and we come to different conclusions. When we look at these roles we look at them as God defined them and not as we would shape them based upon our experience. It always goes back to that issue of authority and building up from the Scriptures. I emphasized several things on that last time.
One of the issues that gets brought up is the issue of whether Phoebe as a deaconess meant she held an office in the church. If that is appropriate it’s something totally different from what we describe as the role of a deacon in many churches today. The word deacon just means a servant and this would be a woman who carried out certain responsibilities as she served and carried out her work of ministry within the local church. I don’t think there was an official office in the apostolic period related to a deaconess.
Then I talked about Priscilla and Aquila and the issue there because Paul talks about not allowing women to teach or give instruction to men or to have authority over men in 1 Timothy 2:8-14. That doesn’t mean women aren’t capable teachers. There are many women who are. I even know some women who are better Bible teachers than a lot of pastors and men that I know but that does not justify the fact that they should teach the Bible. That is just the way that God made them. Women have spheres in which they are to primarily function and excel and men have their spheres in which they are to lead and to serve and to excel.
We’re going to get a third verse here that some of the feminists think support their arguments. We’ve gone through Priscilla and Aquila last time and in Romans 16:5 Paul concludes that section and says to greet the church that is in their house so we know that they were hosts for a group of believers who met in their house. That was the way in which many churches met in the early church. They were in Rome at the time and they had been expelled earlier, then they returned. While they were away from Rome Paul met with them. Also he met with them in Corinth. Later when he writes 1 Corinthians they’re in Corinth. They have a house church there. Here he’s sending greetings to the believers that are meeting in their house.
Then we start into a section with a series of greetings to people that we know very little about. We’ll just make some observations as we go through this particular section. He says to greet Epaenetus who is the first fruits of Achaia to Christ. I want you to have your Bible open here in Romans 16:5 and following. If you’re using a NASV or one of the Bibles based on the Nestle-Aland manuscript then it reads that he is the first fruits of Asia but the Majority text says Achaia. Greece was divided into two areas. The northern area was Macedonia that covered areas like Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica. Then when you got down to Athens and south of there this area was described as Achaia. So he was the first convert in Achaia as Paul was moving south from Berea. Epaenetus has now moved to Rome.
In Romans 16:6 Paul says to greet Mary who “labored much for us.” We know almost nothing about this particular Mary except that she was a hard worker for the Roman church. Incidentally the Bible mentions six different Marys. It was a very common name. Miriam was the Jewish name and the majority of the Greek manuscripts use the word Miriam here instead of Mary. She is praised by the Apostle Paul, which is indeed high praise as one who labored much with Paul and his associates.
Then in Romans 16:7 we come to another verse. This is the third verse I mentioned earlier that is used by feminists to argue about the role of women in authority in the early church. This says, “Greet Andronicus and Junia.” This is from the New King James Bible. The King James has Junius. Junius is the form in the Greek and apparently it can apply to either male or female. There are some who have said that this is probably Andronicus’ wife. You can’t be absolutely dogmatic on that just because of the form of the name. A large number of scholars take the position that these are two men that are mentioned here: Andronicus and Junius. That’s not a determinative issue in however this verse is used in the debate over women and the role of women in the church.
This is an example of how translations have changed over the years. The 1984 translation of the NIV uses Junius. Then the 2011 version of the NIV uses Junia. It is the same as today’s NIV, which has been influenced by the gender-neutral issue where they are trying to refer to God as just a person. They try to get away from the masculine pronouns and try to make it a gender-neutral translations. All of this is driven by a secular philosophy that is shaped by the feminist movement. Instead of letting the Bible and the grammar of the Bible shape how the text is translated, they’re imposing the modern feminist ideology upon the text and the translation.
This shouldn’t really surprise anyone who knows anything about post-modernism and its relationship to language and linguistics and hermeneutics. Many of us believe from our readings and study that about 80 to 90% of modern language theory is heavily influenced by evolutionary thought and by post-modernism. That means you have to be extremely careful if you are in that field of study in understanding how that impacts their view of language. I just wanted to bring this out because it is something that is significant. The reason this becomes significant is because of how the rest of the verse is translated, “Greet Andronicus and Junius, my fellow prisoners…” By that Paul indicates that they are fellow Jews and also, somewhere along the line, he has been imprisoned with them.
There are many times Paul was jailed by the various opposing forces. Sometimes it was the Judaizers. Sometimes it was the Gentiles. We don’t have a listing of all of those circumstances in the book of Acts. Luke just tells us about some of them. Apparently these two had worked alongside Paul and served the Lord with him for some time. Then he adds, “Who are of note among the Apostles.” There are some translations because of the difficulty of words that say they were outstanding among the apostles, as if Andronicus and Junius were also apostles. You see that in the 2011 NIV translation. If you translate it that way you have taken a woman, Junia, and elevated her to the position of apostle. This has been used by some who have no knowledge of Greek saying in the early church they had a complete equanimity and they did not say that women couldn’t teach or have authority over men and that you even had women apostles. That’s just not the way the text should be translated. The best translation of this has the idea that they were of note and recognized by the apostles. This emphasizes they were well known by the apostles.
That’s how the NET Bible translates this. I don’t agree with a lot of the things they do with some of the more theological areas in the NET Bible. The New Testament was mostly done by the Dallas Seminary at that time and translates it that these two were well known to the apostles. Several other Bibles translate it in the sense of noteworthy or recognized by the apostles and things of that nature. So that translation resolves this. Paul isn’t saying they were apostles but they were well known to the apostles in authority.
That brings us to an important little study on apostles. It’s important to understand just how this term is used. The word apostle was used in everyday language to refer to someone who was sent on a mission. It had been used of military leaders, notably an admiral and others who had been sent on a mission by the king to carry out a military attack. The noun APOSTOLOS was used that way. That’s the root meaning of the word apostle. It’s someone who is commissioned to carry out a mission.
What’s important there is that in the Bible you have to distinguish between who does the commissioning and what the mission is. So you have someone who commissions someone to a particular mission. There are actually three different types of apostles in the Bible. The first has to do with the twelve, the ones we normally think of as the disciples of Jesus dropping out Judas. It’s a spiritual gift. So that’s the twelve. These are the ones who are commissioned directly by the Lord Jesus Christ. The first thing that we distinguish is who commissioned them. The Lord Jesus Christ did and He sent them on a mission and that is to establish the church in the new dispensation of the Church Age.
Ephesians 2:20 tells us that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Now when you build a house once you lay the foundation, it’s finished. You don’t keep building it for every floor. You lay the foundation and once it’s completed that’s the foundation. The foundation part is over with. So the Apostles with a capital “A” would have been a finite group that was active only in the 1st century when the foundation of the church was established. So that tells us it’s not an ongoing feature in the church.
You’re always going to find a few people who come along and read the New Testament without a good understanding of time factors and how that relates to apostles. And you have a number of people today who appoint themselves as apostles. They might be in the second sense. But that just is so confusing that I don’t think the word ought to be used in any way except referring to the twelve. The Bible does use it in a secondary sense and that refers to others who were commissioned by local churches to take the gospel to other locations. For example, Barnabas in Acts 4:36 is identified as an apostle. He’s never listed among the twelve, among those in Jerusalem. He was commissioned along with Paul by the church in Antioch to go out on what is referred to as Paul’s first missionary journey. So Barnabas is an apostle, lower case “a”. He’s commissioned by a local church. His commission is limited to just that one missionary journey although he did some things later on but that’s not his focal point. So he’s not an Apostle with a capital “A” like the twelve. So you have passages like that that refer to these other apostles.
So if, and I don’t think it’s true, if you’re going to say that Andronicus and Junius were apostles it would be of the lower case “a” and they were just sent on a mission by a local church. The use of the term here does not necessarily have to be equivalent to the twelve or the Apostles. In 1 Corinthians 12:28 apostles are listed among the gifted leaders that God has given to the local church. First apostles and then prophets. That is the pattern of Colossians 2:20 that those two gifts provide the foundation for the local church.
When we get into the end of the Bible in Revelation 21:14 we read, “Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations…” This is the New Jerusalem and the New Earth. “…And on them were the names of the Apostles of the Lamb.” It appears in that passage that there are a limited number of apostles. There are twelve.
We always run into the problem of what do you do about Matthias and there’s a number of different ways that that’s handled. One of the ways is that there’s never an indication by Luke that what Peter did was wrong. It’s always presented very positively and Matthias was always included in the body of Apostles. One solution to that which I think is at least creative and may in fact give us a foundation is a recognition that Peter was thinking in terms of Matthias being an apostle to the Jews. He would be a lower case “a” and he’s commissioned by Peter, not by the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s very clear that Paul was commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ. If you’re going to have a limited number of Apostles, I would rather have Paul in that list than Matthias and certainly not having Judas. It seems like the Apostle Paul would be the one who would be included there but Matthias was always seen as part of that group of the twelve. Some people say, “Well you never hear from him again.” Well, the only ones you ever hear from again are Peter and John, and John never says anything in the rest of Acts. Only Peter and Paul are the ones that talk in the rest of the book of Acts. The fact that nothing else is said about Matthias is irrelevant because nothing else is said about Matthew. Nothing else is said about James, the Less. Nothing else is said about Nathaniel. Nothing else is said about all but two of the Apostles so that’s a specious argument.
The point that I’m making here is that however you handle this particular verse, the least likely thing is that Paul is indicating that a woman here is among the major Apostles. That’s your least solution. Once again you have typical post-modernism and feminism high jacking a traditional text to try to justify your own political or sociological position. The first category of Apostles then is the twelve. The second category is those who are commissioned by local churches through a particular mission, and the third category is the Lord Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 3:1, the writer of Hebrews calls the Lord Jesus Christ the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. In that case it is Jesus Christ who is commissioned by God the Father to go into human history and to die on the cross for our sins. In that sense, He’s the “sent one.” That’s what it means, to be sent on a mission so Jesus is an Apostle in that sense. Those are the three uses of apostle in the New Testament.
Moving ahead, in Romans 16:8 we read, “Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord.” This is obviously someone that Paul was quite affectionate toward and someone who meant a lot to him. So we see how Paul has built these relationships with them. We don’t know anything about Amplias. It’s a common name according to Lightfoot who was one of the great British scholars at the end of the 19th century. It’s a name that’s often connected with the emperor’s household but we can’t speculate about that even though a number of people try to do that. There was a tomb with Amplioti on it in the Christian catacombs in Rome but you can’t draw any connection. So all we can say is that it’s someone for whom Paul had a great deal of affection.
In Romans 16:9 we read, “Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ and Stachys, my beloved.” Again Urbanus was a common name, even a common slave name. There are some who try to connect this to the household of the emperor. Again, that’s more speculation rather than any sort of Biblical fact. What we know is that he was a worker in the local church. He served his ministry. Remember pastors are to train the saints to do the work of ministry. He was a fellow worker in Christ. We know that Stachys was one that was beloved by the Apostle Paul.
In Romans 16:10 we read, “Greet Apelles…” Again this is a name that is found within the imperial household so since several of these are names that are common to servants or slaves in the imperial household, possibly this may indicate that several of those who were slaves in the emperor’s household were Christians. That is at least possible but again we can’t have any kind of certainty there. F.F. Bruce who is again a recognized British scholar in this area and has such a wealth of training in classics, that is, Latin and Greek, that even though their theology may be somewhat off, their study in Rome and Greece is far beyond what you get in universities even today. So Apelles is approved in Christ. This is the Greek word DOKIMOS, which indicates that he’s been tested and evaluated. Probably he’s gone through some opposition and some persecution. He has not yielded or compromised so he has demonstrated that his maturity is rock solid.
Then Paul says at the end of verse 10, “Greet those who are of household of Aristobulus.” Again this is a name that is common. Aristobulus was the name of a grandson of Herod the Great. It’s not at all certain that this is the proper connection, although in the next verse you do have a mention of “Herodion, my countryman.” The fact that this person has a name that contains the name of Herod gives support to the fact that this could include those who are in the household of Herod’s descendants.
Paul goes on and talks about “Greeting those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord”. The name Narcissus was the name of a wealthy and powerful freeman who had been prominent under Claudius and was later put to death by Nero. His slaves would have passed to the emperor because of that and all of his slaves would have been indicated by the name of Narcissus so this is either talking about the original Narcissus or one of the servants of his particular household.
In Romans 16:12 we read, “Greet Trephine and Typhus, who have labored in the Lord.” These could have been identical twins that were given a very similar name, which twins often have. The names are both feminine indicating they are women who “also labored in the Lord.” Again and again we see that Paul is praising those because they are involved in ministry. They’re not just coming to church and sitting and soaking up the Word and filling out their doctrinal notebooks. They are involved in ministry in different ways. They are active in the congregation. They’re helping one another. They’re serving one another, praying for one another, and serving in many different capacities in relation to their spiritual gifts.
Next comes the “beloved Persus who labored much in the Lord.” Then in Romans 16:13 we read, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord and his mother and mine.” Rufus means red and was a common slave name. This indicates that Paul knew the family and that Rufus’ mother had treated Paul as if he were family and he was very close to that particular family. Perhaps Rufus’ mother had taken care of Paul at some particular time. Even today we often say when we’re describing relationships with people that someone is a mother-like figure who was very influential in the way in which you were reared. So Rufus and his mother are mentioned there.
Then in Romans 16:14 we read, “Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them.” This is a group of five names that we have no knowledge of any of them. They were again common names used in the Roman Empire and it’s very possible they all operated within the same house church. Some suggest that maybe they were brothers but again most of anything we say here is simply speculative and we can’t have any certainty there at all.
In Romans 16:15 he says, “Greet Philogus…” This may be a nickname because the name means a lover of words or a lover of the Word. It may be someone who is a scribe or someone working in rhetoric. The rest of the verse says, “…And Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.” It’s very possible this refers to another house church. The mention of the word “Julia” doesn’t tell us anything. It’s sort of comparable to our name John. There are a lot of people named John. I had so many friends named John when I was in high school that my mother made me refer to all of them by their last name so she could distinguish them. Otherwise, she had no idea which one I was talking about. Julia would have been the same way. It was an extremely common name. In fact, it may be the most common of all Roman names. There’s speculation that Nereus may have one of those in Nero’s household but we really can’t be sure.
Then we come to Romans 16:16 where Paul says to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” This is an interesting verse. This isn’t the only place Paul makes mention of the practice of greeting someone with a holy kiss. It’s mentioned also in 1 Corinthians 16:20. Different cultures have different ways of greeting people I don’t know if you have ever had the opportunity to mix with other cultures. In my life I remember that in my last year in Dallas Seminary every student was required to take an elective in Christian education and an elective in missions. It was my last semester and there was a class offered as a mission elective on cross-cultural communication. I thought, “Well, it’s the only things they have so I’m going to take it.” It was kind of interesting because one of the things we had to do was attend different culture churches, even going to a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple and just seeing how these different cultures and different religions operated.
There was a guy in the class who’d had a ministry in a black church for a while. I remember thinking, “Well you really have some interesting observations.” Little did I know that later on I would be working in a cross-culture situation where I would have a ministry with a lot of black pastors. That’s certainly a very different culture. Also going over to Ukraine every year and dealing with a different culture there I’ve seen a lot. Also I'm dealing with a lot of Jews.
I’ve seen that people greet each other differently in these different groups. If you go to a black church as a pastor, there’s sort of this ritual handshake and shoulder bump hug kind of thing that they greet you with each other. But if you go to a synagogue or any number of other Jewish gatherings, the women always offer their cheek. That’s distinctive among that different culture. Quite a few Americans tend to just shake hands but every now and then we might give a hug but we have our ways of greeting one another that are different from blacks or Hispanics or Koreans.
In this culture it was not uncommon to have a kiss on the cheek as a form of greeting but Paul emphasized that this is not to be a lascivious kiss but a holy kiss, a chaste kiss, just a brief little kiss on the cheek. He says, “Greet each other with a holy kiss.” He’s not emphasizing this as a command that would be cross-cultural. The emphasis is on greeting one another and then he says, “The churches of Christ greet you.” This refers to all of those churches where he has been ministering and the churches that he has founded.
When we come to Romans 16:17 all the sudden the greeting section stops and we get into something a little bit different. He starts giving a little reference here to some things going on. “I urge you brethren to note those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you learned and avoid them.” He’s giving another exhortation or challenge to his readers. He’s going to define what he means by divisions and offenses by stating they are contrary to what they have been taught.
The New King James uses the word doctrine. Something has happened to the word doctrine, sort of a dichotomy, which means two parts. Dichotomy has a Latin root and has the idea of dividing things in two. What often happens in seminary and after that is that doctrine is thought of as more abstract theology rather than just teaching. The Greek word DIDACHE means teaching or instruction. That covers everything from instruction on the hypostatic union and the doctrine of the Trinity and some of what people may think are more abstract ideas in the Scripture to how to pray, how to memorize Scripture, and how to apply what you’ve learned in the local church to the voting booth. These are all important areas of what we would call application.
That’s how the military uses the word doctrine. When you read military manuals they use the word doctrine to refer to everything from the original theoretical conception of a mission or developing a weapon or a strategy or tactic all the way to its final, ultimate application on the battlefield. Many of you may have already noticed that many people don’t want to learn doctrine, they just want to learn how to love the Lord, how to apply the Bible. That person has been ingrained with a false meaning of the word doctrine. The word doctrine refers to that whole realm of instruction that comes from the Scripture. Paul is talking about those who are causing division and offenses to what they’ve been taught by the apostles and prophets.
The first word that he uses is a present active indicative of PARAKALEO. “I urge you, brethren, note those who cause offenses and divisions.” He’s exhorting them. He’s challenging them to do something and they need to pay attention to something. The verb is SKOPEO, which means to pay close attention to something, to be watchful. This is something that the deacons in the local church ought to be doing, paying attention to what goes on in the congregation so that they can keep a lid on things that may bubble up and cause problems within the local church.
In the ten years that West Houston Bible Church has been around, we haven’t had any real problems like that. We’ve had a couple of little things that probably no one noticed. They just sort of simmered beneath the surface. I’ve been in congregations where you’ll have someone who all of a sudden reads some book contrary to the pre-trib rapture and they get a burr under their saddle against dispensations or they become too Calvinistic or something like this and start causing problems. We really haven’t had problems like that in this church.
We watch these things and the word that’s used there for divisions is the word DICHOSTASIA, which means causing divisions or causing dissension. This word is used as a manifestation of the works of the sin nature. Galatians 5:19-21 gives a list of the works of the sin nature. “Now the works of the flesh [sin nature] are evident which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness…” The list goes on and in Galatians 5:21 it’s that word “dissensions” listed there. That’s the same word we have in Romans 16:17. It’s also in 1 Corinthians 3:3. It’s left out of the Nestle-Aland text but it’s in the Majority text and probably should be included as part of the original Scripture. It’s a concept that’s always used in a negative sense as a product of those who are arrogant and self-absorbed. I know we don’t have any problem here with people who are arrogant or self-absorbed but other churches have that problem. People who are part of the city and the secular culture certainly have close familiarity with that problem. Divisions are an outburst of the self-absorbed sin nature.
The next word that’s used is offenses, which is SKANDALON, which is where we get our word scandal. Originally it referred to a part of a trap. Do you remember as a kid building a trap to trap a bird? You set a box up and you would put a stick that would hold that box up and you would tie a string around that stick and run it out about fifteen feet. You’d put some bread out there and hope a bird would come up under the box. If they did, you would yank the string and that stick would collapse and the box would fall down and trap the bird. The word that described that stick was a SKANDALON.
The original sense was that it was used as a trap or a snare to capture someone and then it came to have the meaning of a temptation to sin and an enticement to sin or to disobey God. This word is also used in Romans 14:13 where Paul says, “Let us not judge one another anymore but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block [SKANDALON] or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” He is saying that there are those who are creating situations that cause others to sin and cause divisions within the body of Christ which is contrary to what you’ve been taught. We’re to avoid those people.
When people are divisive, just avoid them. Don’t try to engage them. Don’t try to straighten them out. Just avoid them. Don’t let them become a problem in your life as well.
In Romans 16:18 Paul says, “For those who are of such [who are divisive and cause offenses] do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ.” So when someone is operating in self-absorption and arrogance they don’t serve the Lord Jesus Christ but instead they “serve their own belly”. The word belly here is the word for stomach or womb, KOILIA. The figure of speech here technically is called a synecdoche where you look at one part of something and it stands for the whole. What this is talking about is that their belly represents the whole person.
What the figure of speech means is that they’re basically just serving themselves. They’re so self-absorbed and so self-focused that they’re just promoting their own opinion, their own agenda, and their own ideas. As a result of that they’re just causing some problems in the local church. Paul uses the same figure of speech in Philippians 3:19 when he talks about false teachers being enemies of Christ. “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly.” He’s not talking about the fact that they eat too much or they have a problem with gluttony. That may be, but this is referring to the fact that they’re just self-absorbed. They’re just feeding on their own desires. They are narcissists. They are arrogant. This is the idea. “For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ but themselves.”
You only have two options, folks. You’re either serving the Lord or you’re serving yourself. It’s one or the other. There’s no in-between. You’re either walking by the Spirit and serving the Lord or you’re walking according to the flesh and serving yourself. So Paul says, “Those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ but their own belly and by smooth words and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the simple. “ Often you will find that they have a real way with words. They have the gift of gab and they’re able to convince people of things. It sounds good. They present a good argument and they’re a good speaker so people are being entertained. Their ears are being tickled and people like that.
Paul says that the simple are deceived. The word simple there is the word AKAKOS which means someone who is without evil. They’re just basically simple. They’re naïve. They don’t really expect someone to be taking advantage of them in the local church and selling them a bill or goods and telling them a lot of things that aren’t right. They just believe them. After all, they’re such a nice Christian. They have such a good personality. How could they possibly be leading us astray?
In Romans 16:19 Paul says about the Romans, “For your obedience has become known to all.” This is in contrast to these divisive false teachers who are leading people astray. He goes on, “Therefore I am glad on your behalf but I want you to be wise to what is good and simple to what is evil.” That word simple is AKAKOS. The “a” at the beginning is a negative like “un” in English. It basically means something that is unmixed with something else, such as wine mixed with water. Or you might mix metals with something of lesser value in order to decrease its value and still use it.
It could be something spiritual saying you live a life that is unmixed with evil. You’re not hypocritical. You’re not two-faced. You don’t have an ulterior motive. You’re just focused on doing the right thing and living your spiritual life. As a result Paul says, “The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” Whatever Paul means here he’s indicating by the word shortly that this is a particular situation, a particular problem that the Roman church was facing. He’s encouraging them and saying that ultimately the opposition comes from Satan but that God was going to give them the victory and this will work itself out very, very soon.
Then he closes with a common greeting that is very similar to other greetings that he uses in the Scripture which is, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” This is very similar to the way he closes many other epistles. In 1 Corinthians 16:23 he said, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.” In 2 Corinthians 13:14 he says, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” In Galatians 6:18 he says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.” In Ephesians 6:24 he says, “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” In Philippians 4:23 he says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Colossians 4:18 says, “Grace be with you.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:28 he says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:18, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” In 1 Timothy 6:21, “Grace be with you.” 2 Timothy 4:22, “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.” Titus 3:15, “Grace be with you all.” In Philemon 25, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” What’s the emphasis there? Grace, grace, grace, grace. Paul’s emphasizing the gospel of grace; that we need to live in a grace-oriented manner.
This seems like it’s bringing us to a conclusion. But then, guess what? Paul adds some more closing salutations in verses 21–24 and then his final benediction in verses 25–27. We’re going to wrap up tonight’s class here. When I come back from Israel we will spend a little bit of time wrapping up the last seven verses in Romans 16 and then do a final flyover. That will be the Thursday night one week before Thanksgiving. There won’t be any class on Thursday, Thanksgiving. That’s a day for people to spend with their families. It may give you some opportunities perhaps to evangelize and witness to those in your family.
We should wrap up Romans then by the end of November. Then in December, I believe it’s December 4th, we will begin a new series on 1 Peter so in preparation for that it might be helpful to begin reading 1 Peter so you know what we’re going to get into. There are a lot of wonderful things there. One of the major themes it emphasizes is handling adversity. Undeserved adversity. This is important. I believe we live in times when we have not seen the kinds of adversity in our lives that are coming and we need to be spiritually prepared for this. That’s one reason why I’m choosing 1 Peter and also 1 Samuel as the next books we’re studying.