From Kretzmann’s Popular Commentary published in 1921-1922 PAUL E. KRETZMANN, M.A., PhD., B.D. FOREWORD Dr. Kretzmann’s Popular Commentary possesses a unique distinction. It is not a scientific or critical commentary in the sense in which these terms are usually employed. It contains no detailed discussions of grammatical technicalities, of etymology, of variations in the manuscripts, and of heterodox opinions. Its aims are practical; it is a commentary for the people. Its purpose is to open to the common people the portals to the marvelous treasure house of God’s wisdom, not in order that people might admire the golden portals, but that they might adore the divine fullness of God’s wisdom and truth. The Popular Commentary is a Lutheran commentary composed in the spirit of Luther, whose one paramount desire was to have all people read and understand, believe and live the Bible. It is a commentary such as Luther would have written, had he lived in America today, a commentary of the Bible and for the Bible.
ROMANS CHAPTER 16
A Recommendation, Greetings, and a Final Admonition. Romans 16:l-27.
A recommendation of Phoebe: V. 1. I commend unto you Phoebe, our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea, v.2. that ye receive her in the Lord as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you; for she hath been a succorer of many, and of myself also.
The epistle proper had ended with the fifteenth chapter, but Paul here, in the form of a postscript, adds various personal matters. He commends to the special care of the brethren at Rome Phoebe, a Christian sister, very likely the bearer of this letter to Rome. She was a member of the congregation at Cenchrea, the eastern port of the city of Corinth, and held the office of a deaconess. Just as the congregation at Jerusalem had elected deacons to minister to the poor and needy, so other congregations in apostolic times had deaconesses, principally for the work among women, 1 Tim. 3, ll. Phoebe was about to make the journey to Rome, leaving from the western port of the city of Corinth, Lechaeum. The apostle wanted the Christians of Rome to receive her in the Lord, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, as it behooved saints. They were not only to show her hospitality, but also to render her every service that would aid he in whatever business she might have need of them. In this way the Christians of Rome were to give evidence of their mutual communion with Christ. Paul gives Phoebe a fine testimony, saying that she had acted as a true friend, guardian, helper, patroness of many, including himself. As a fellow-Christian, therefore, and as one that had distinguished herself in the service of the Lord, she should be shown every consideration and gladly given the assistance she might require. Note: It would be of great value to the Church if all Christians that travel to other parts of the country or the world where orthodox congregations are located, would apply to their pastors for letters of recommendation, and if the brethren in every congregation would receive their fellow-Christians in the spirit of Christ. Christian kindness and courtesy costs little and may bring rich returns.
Greetings sent by Paul to friends and acquaintances: V.3. Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus, v.4. who have for my life laid down their own necks; unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. V.5. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the first-fruits of Achaia unto Christ. V.6. Greet Mary, who bestowed much labor on us. V.7. Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. V.8. Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord. V.9. Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved. V.10. Salute Apelles, approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household. V.11. Salute Herodion, my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord. V.12. Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labor in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which labored much in the Lord. V.13. Salute Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. V.14. Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. V.15. Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. V.16. Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.
This is a beautiful passage and most interesting on account of the light which it throws upon the intimacy of love which united the early Christians. Incidentally, the interest which Paul showed in the individual Christians, and the manner in which he brings out their special merits, is very characteristic. His first salutation, or greeting, goes to Priscilla, or Prisca, and her husband Aquila, the wife being named first as being the more gifted and energetic. These two were old friends of the apostle and earnest workers for the kingdom of Christ. Paul had lodged with them at Corinth, Acts 18:2, and they had worked with him not only at the same trade, that of tent-makers, but also in the same cause, that of Christ. They had accompanied him to Ephesus, Acts 18:18, and there also had been his co-laborers for the Kingdom. And now, as at Ephesus, they had gathered a house-congregation at Rome: true missionaries always. Paul gives them the testimony that in the interest of his life they had risked their own necks, probably at the time of the Ephesian tumult, Acts 19, for which reason not only he owed them sincere thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles, since through their efforts the life of Paul had been preserved for further labors in the vineyard of the Lord. Such self-devotion and self-sacrifice in the interest of the Gospel and its extension may well serve as an example to this day. Paul includes in his greetings also the congregation which was accustomed to assemble at their house. Cp. 1 Cor. 16, 19.
Of the persons mentioned in the other greetings of Paul we have no other information. Of Epaenetus it is said that he was the first-fruits of Asia (not Achaia) for Christ; he was the first man out of the Roman province of Asia to be won for Christ. Of Mary, a Jewess according to her name, the apostle states that she at some time had rendered him assiduous service. According to some readings, her toil was in the interests of the believers at Rome. Andronicus and Junias are mentioned as related to Paul and as at one time his fellow-prisoners. Cp. 2 Cor 11:23. These two men were of note, distinguished, highly respected among the apostles in the wider sense of the term, or by the apostles in the narrower sense of the word. They had also been in Christ before Paul, had been converted in the early days of the Church, before the Lord Himself had called Paul as the instrument of His grace. Amplias is characterized by Paul as his beloved in the Lord and Stachys as his beloved; but of Urban he says that he is his helper in the Lord, that he was active in the service of Christ, and of Apelles, that he was an approved, a tried Christian, that he had given evidence of the faith living in him. Paul included in his salutation also those Christians that belonged to the household of one Aristobulus and of one Narcissus, slaves that belonged to their estates. Such lowly brethren were just as near and dear to the great apostle as the most influential members of the congregation. Herodion is mentioned as Paul’s relative. Tryphena, Tryphosa, and particularly Persis are included in the list as women that worked for the Lord, whose love found a way to spread the Gospel by individual service. Rufus is distinguished as the chosen in the Lord, one of those that are precious in the sight of God and distinguished in His service before men. The special designation is all the more apt since Rufus was probably the son of the Simon that bore the cross of Christ, Mark 15:21. The mother of Rufus had shown the apostle much motherly love and care, probably at the time when he was in Jerusalem, and he therefore honors her with the title “mother.” The men and women named in vv. 14 and 15 were such as were known to Paul, with whom he had become acquainted, of whom he had heard, but with whom he had not entered into such intimate relations as with the rest, mentioned above, Note how the titles “beloved” and “well beloved” bring out the depth of Christian sympathy and love which was characteristic of the first period of Christianity. In sending greetings to all the house-congregations, the apostle has remembered all the members of the Roman church. And he now admonishes them to give evidence of the communion of love in which they stood by saluting one another with the holy kiss. This was not an indiscriminate token of natural affection, but a custom which continued for a long time in the first congregations, after prayer and before the celebration of the Holy Communion, the men saluting the men and the women the women, thus expressing their mutual affection and equality before God. The apostle finally sends greetings from all the congregations. His plan of visiting Rome at the first opportunity was well known, and therefore the Christians in all the cities that he visited commissioned him to remember them to the brethren at Rome.
A warning against false teachers: V.17. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned and avoid them. V.18. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. V.19. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad, therefore, on your behalf; but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. V.20. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you! Amen.
This warning comes into the postscript in the nature of an after-thought. Very likely the congregation at Rome had not yet been troubled, but Paul feels it necessary to warn his Christians against a danger which might strike them at any time. It is not the open enemies of the Christian Church that work the greatest harm, but the false teachers that call themselves after the name of Christ and purport to believe in, and to teach, the Bible, and who, by insidious propaganda, subvert the foundations of sound teaching. St. Paul, therefore, warns the believers at Rome and the Christians of all times against such people as teach a doctrine at variance with the plain truths as he has proclaimed them. He begs them, as Christian brethren, most earnestly to mark them, literally, to keep their eye on them, to be on the constant lookout for them, that cause factions and scandals contrary to the doctrine which they had learned, which had been preached in Rome all these years, and to turn away from these false teachers. The apostle may have had in mind such opponents and disturbers of the peace as had attempted to hinder the course of the Gospel in Antioch, in Galatia, and in Achaia. Such men would undoubtedly try to enter into the congregation at Rome also and to spread their false teaching. But Paul distinctly tells the Roman Christians and the true believers of all times that they are not only to reject the false doctrine, but also to avoid the false teachers of every kind and degree. It i s the express will of God that Christians and Christian organizations with sound Biblical basis must separate themselves, and remain separate, from all denominations in which false doctrine and false teachers are permitted. All unionism, which attempts to unite truth and falsehood in the same church organization, is clearly condemned in this passage. Cp. 2 Thess 3:6; Titus 3:10; 1 Cor 5:11; 2 John 10.
The reason for this unequivocal stand is given by Paul: For such men, people that belong to their class, are not engaged in the service of Christ, our Lord, but in that of their own belly, and through specious talking and pretty words they deceive the hearts of the unwary, v.18. Although false teachers pretend to be serving the Lord Jesus Christ, this assumed zeal is intended to make an impression upon the unwary: base interests of their own are their real object. With an insinuating tone and in fine style, with glittering words and attractive phrases they try to cover up their real intention. “The description here given is applicable, in a great degree, to errorists in all ages. They are not actuated by zeal for the Lord Jesus; they are selfish, if not sensual; and they are plausible and deceitful.’’ (Hodge.)
“The Church of God has ever been troubled with such pretended pastors- men who feed themselves, not the flock; men who are too proud to beg and too lazy to work; who have neither grace nor gifts to plant the standard of the Cross on the devil’s territories, and by the power of Christ make inroads upon his kingdom, and spoil him of his subjects. On the contrary, by sowing the seeds of dissension, by means of doubtful disputations, and the propagation of scandals, by glaring and insinuating speeches, for they affect elegance and good breeding, they rend Christian congregations, form a party for themselves, and thus live on the spoils of the Church of God.” 23)
The apostle now shows why he has uttered his warning, v.19. As distinguished from the simple, the unwary, the obedience which the believers of Rome gave the Gospel had gone out to all men, it was known in all Christian congregations. Paul had full confidence in them that they would be able to meet also such a situation with the proper wisdom, in accordance with the obedience to the Gospel which they had always shown. And yet he cannot help conveying a feeling of his anxiety. He is rejoicing over them, but just the same he wants them to be wise toward the good, but pure and innocent with reference to the evil, to all that which is bad, not to be enmeshed in the net of false doctrine. At the same time, it is a comforting thought for both Paul and the Christians at Rome that the God of peace will crush, tread under foot, Satan, in whose service the false teachers are standing, and that shortly. The day is not far distant when the Lord will crush Satan, stamp him out, render him helpless forever, and thus deliver them that are His from all attacks of the old Evil Foe. Cp. Gen. 3:15. The benediction: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, closes this section of the postscript. It is God’s powerful mercy which alone can establish and uphold the Christians in all conditions of life.
Greetings from companions and friends of Paul: V.21. Timotheus, my work-fellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. V.22. I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord. V.23. Gaius, mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus, the chamberlain of the city, saluteth you, and Quartus, a brother. V.24. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all! Amen.
In many of the letters of Paul, Timothy’s name is associated with that of Paul in the opening salutation, especially if he was personally known in the congregation and had rendered valuable services in some way. This was not the case at Rome, but as a fellow-worker of Paul he naturally took a deep interest also in the Roman Christians and sent his regards. Together with his name are mentioned those of Lucius, Jason, Acts 17:5, and Sopater, Acts 20:4. It is very probable that these men were the delegates of their respective congregations in the matter of the collection for the poor at Jerusalem and had come to Corinth to accompany Paul from this city to Judea. Tertius, the amanuensis, or scribe, that wrote the letter at Paul’s dictation, inserted his own salutation. Then Paul continued dictating, sending greetings from Gaius, in whose house he was lodging, who kept open house for all Christians near and far, 1 Cor 1:14. Even from Erastus, the quaestor, the treasurer of the city, a salutation was included. Although their number was small from the beginning, 1 Cor. 1:26, there were always some of the richer and more influential people that were won for Christ by the preaching of the Gospel. Paul here repeats his apostolic benediction, for his heart is burning with fervent love toward the Christians of Rome, and he would fain have them assured of the fullness of God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ, their Savior.
The concluding doxology: V.25. NOW to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, v.26. but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: v.27. to God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever! Amen.
It is altogether in harmony with the rich content of the letter to the Romans that Paul closes it with such a remarkable doxology, a veritable effusion of glowing thoughts, interwoven with a beautiful eulogy of the Gospel. He gives all glory to God, to Him that is able to make the Christians firm and constant in faith and holy life. God establishes, confirms, the believers in their faith according to the Gospel; that is both norm and means through which God works. This Gospel, so far as its contents are concerned, is nothing but the preaching of Jesus Christ, who is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, of all true evangelical preaching. The Gospel is further described as being a mystery, namely, the secret concerning Christ and salvation in Christ. It had been hidden, kept secret, unknown and undiscoverable by human reason, from ancient times, from eternity. The counsel of God for the redemption of mankind had been hid in God, Eph 3:9, and it had not been made known in its fullness and glory for several millenniums after the creation of the world. But now this mystery has been uncovered, made known, become manifest. Jesus Christ has carried out the counsel of God for salvation, the revelation has been committed to the apostles with the command to preach it to all creatures. And the preaching is being done through the Scriptures of the prophets, the apostles always referring to the promises of the Messiah and demonstrating their fulfillment in Christ. Through the preaching of the Gospel the very writings of the prophets are made clear and are shown to contain glorious Gospel-truths. And so the work of the New Testament ministry is being carried forward according to the commandment of the eternal God, unto the obedience of faith, to work this obedience in the hearts of men, to he made known to all the Gentiles. In brief, the Gospel, revealed in the preaching of the New Testament, is to serve for the salvation of all men. And God, who works faith in Christ Jesus through the Gospel, will through that same preaching strengthen and confirm the believers in faith unto the end. To Him, therefore, who alone is wise, who is the essence of all wisdom, as is shown by His wonderful plan for the salvation of all men, be glory forever and ever, through Jesus Christ, our Savior! Glory be to the Father and to the Son, equal in power, majesty, and glory, throughout eternity! Amen.