We finish Romans today with a look at Romans 16. Any look at these verses will be incomplete, because there are at least 25 names plus a few households greeted. Without addressing all of these, we will miss something. However, there are a few notable names to consider:
1. Romans 16:1: Phoebe. She is a “servant” of the church at Cenchrea. Or perhaps a “deacon” of that church, depending on whether or not Paul envisions that label as a title. It’s hard to see why Phoebe would be highlighted if she did not hold a church leadership role, so there is precious little reason to deny her the same title that is given to others. Further, this is the second mention of Cenchrea in Scripture: it’s a port city near Corinth and where Paul cut his hair in relation to a vow (Acts 18:18).
The main thing I see is this: Phoebe is first on his mind at this point. Perhaps she is headed to Rome, which seems likely. She has helped and supported the work of Paul and the expansion of the Gospel. I would love to see more, but I don’t have anything else on her in my resources.
2. Romans 16:3 brings up Prisca and Aquilla, also known as Priscilla and Aquilla. These two show up in Acts 18, 1 Corinthians 16, and 2 Timothy 4. I like them as a couple team in ministry. One cannot divide the work of the pair, and I think that’s great.
3. Acts 16:7 gives us Junia, labeled in some texts as Junias. This is a Greek word that if you slice it one way, you get a man’s name, and another way gives you a woman’s name. I agree with the Early Church Fathers that this a woman, likely named Junia. There is debate what relationship Andronicus and Junia have—they could be siblings or spouses. We don’t know.
We do see them both held up as “outstanding among the apostles.” That can be taken two ways: as “outstanding apostles” or as “considered outstanding by the apostles.” I’m inclined to read “The Twelve minus Judas plus Paul” where the word “Apostles” shows up, so I think these are two have done much and are considered outstanding among those twelve specific leaders. That is not to take anything from their work—and I could be wrong, because I know there are places where “apostles” equals “those who go out to spread the Gospel” in the New Testament.
4. Romans 16:21 gives us Timothy. I find it interesting that most of the time, Timothy is a co-author with Paul, but here is simply present and sending his greeting.
5. Romans 16:22 brings up Tertius, Paul’s amanuensis for the letter. This is helpful in understanding the context and structure of letter-writing.
6. Romans 16:23 brings up a “Gaius,” which is like saying “Bob!” in modern English. There is also Erastus, who was an official in the city of Corinth—thus guiding us to know where Paul wrote Romans from. Quartus? We know nothing there.
7. Finally, though, is the commendation: to Him who is able to establish you…be the glory forever. It’s a beautiful benediction, likely written in Paul’s own hand after Tertius finished his work.
Here we find what matters the most:
The Gospel as the Revelation of God’s mystery, manifested in Christ. The Gospel, seen in the Scriptures. The Gospel, made known to all people, leading to repentance and obedience.
The Gospel, to the glory of God through Jesus Christ.
May that be our benediction as well.
Nerd Note: Try a little nerd activity and see how many of the names in Romans show up elsewhere, and see what we know about them.