A Verse by Verse Study of Romans 15:22 – 16:27
The Book of Romans, Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, appears nothing like what we might think of as a letter, and in fact it’s more like a church sermon. Paul wanted to give the churches in Rome all the possible points on God’s gospel message in the form of a letter in case he was never able to deliver this message himself.
But now, at the end of the book, we will see what more resembles a letter with greetings to specific people, and discussion of specific plans for Paul and others in the ministry of Jesus Christ.
This is often the part of the passage that either gets skimmed over or ignored, but there are some important pieces of information found in these verses – incredible examples of followers of Jesus acting in faith and obedience.
this blog post is about obedience of faith, and the benefits of obedience in the Bible.
An Example of Obedience of Faith: Paul
As I mentioned in the last post, Paul wanted to spread the gospel to new frontiers, places where the gospel had not yet reached. And in verses 22-24, Paul now explains to the Romans that this is why he has been delayed in visiting them, but he still plans on visiting them on his way to Spain. Paul is looking forward to encouragement and fellowship with the Christians in Rome before he heads off to Spain, which will renew his strength for the next leg of his mission.
These were Paul’s plans, but things don’t always work out the way we hope they do. He did go to Rome, but not as a missionary on his way to Spain. He went to Rome as a prisoner awaiting trial before Caesar, where he would preach the gospel on a different kind of frontier.
The Benefit of Obedience: An Eternal Prize
You see, even though Paul’s plans for his mission trip got interrupted, he didn’t let that stop him from continuing his mission. Paul demonstrated obedience in faith – a deep trust in God and obedience to God’s command to serve one another and share the gospel. He demonstrated the kind of faith and obedience God is calling all of us to follow – obedience no matter the circumstances, even when it seems impossible.
As is evident throughout Romans, and all of Paul’s letter in the New Testament, you can see that through Paul’s obedient life, he experienced what it was like to have joy in all circumstances. He knew that the benefit of obedience to God was an eternal prize – a prize that infinitely outweighed any earthly prize.
The Benefit of Obedience: God’s Power and Strength to Help Us
After Paul’s release from Roman imprisonment which happens at the end of the Book of Acts, we have reason to believe that Paul did make it to Spain and preached the gospel there.
Sometimes it may seem like nothing is going right. The enemy’s efforts to thwart our plans and purposes seem to be working, our own anxieties and fears seem to be taking over our sense of hope and courage. But like Paul, when we continue to act in faithful obedience even in less-than-optimal conditions (like imprisonment) God will empower us and enable us to get through even the most difficult times. He promises to give us his own power and strength to help us to obey him and follow his ways.
Paul didn’t know the future. He most likely thought he was going to be put to death. But he persisted in obeying God. And it turned out that imprisonment was part of God’s plan – through Paul, several prisoners and a prison guard chose to have faith in Jesus.
But Paul was also released! And he continued preaching the gospel. Imprisonment might deter a lot of people from continuing to do what got them there in the first place, but not Paul! Paul was actually imprisoned three times, and on this occasion his imprisonment lasted two years!
The Benefit of Obedience: Support Through the Prayer of Others
In verses 25-29, Paul shares his present plans. He was writing this letter from the city of Corinth, where he was resting before he planned to go to Jerusalem. He had received a collection of money along the way for the Christians in Jerusalem who were being persecuted, and he planned to stop in Jerusalem before heading to Rome, even though he was warned that if he went to Jerusalem he would be arrested.
The Gentile Christians felt moved to help the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, because it was from them that they received the gospel in the first place. And it for this reason that Paul was determined not to pass by Jerusalem. He wanted to bless the Christian Jews there.
In verses 30-33, Paul pleads with the Christians in Rome to pray for him. What were Paul’s prayer requests?
- Paul sensed the awaiting danger in Jerusalem, and he knew he needed prayer to get through that difficulty.
- Paul also wanted the Christians in Rome to partner with him in his ministry through their prayers. Pastors and church leaders need our prayers. Never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain them through the support of a congregation’s prayer.
- Paul also asked for prayer that the people in Jerusalem would accept the money collection, and that they would allow Paul to bless them with his ministry. The church in Jerusalem was very conservative, and many still followed the Jewish customs and traditions. They likely viewed people like Paul as being too “liberal”.
- And finally, Paul asked them to pray that he would be able to finally visit them with a joyful heart. This prayer was answered, though not quite in the way we would have expected. Paul did come to them in joy, but he was also in chains.
And that concludes Romans 15.
Other Examples of Obedience in Faith: The Early Church
Now in Romans 16:1-16 Paul begins to address the Roman Christians by name, and we learn a little bit about the early church and the first Christians in ministry.
Christians in the early church were ostracized, persecuted, imprisoned, and martyred. It was not an easy time to be a Christian and going into full time ministry was even harder. Yet the early church continued to grow. People continued to enlist in serving Christ, discipling others, and spreading the gospel. This took faith, and it took obedience.
We are all called into ministry – to serve one another and share the gospel – but would we have had the faith and courage to be obedient like the people Paul describes in this letter?
Paul has never been to Rome, yet he knew many of the Christians in Rome by name, and that is because he met many of these people during his travels, as they would also have been travelling as part of their ministries.
The Benefit of Obedience: Modeling Obedience Encourages Obedience in Others
Paul now lists several members of the church in Rome. These were ordinary men and women who found strength and courage in numbers to be obedient in faith to Jesus’ command to spread the gospel and disciple one another.
Others’ obedience will encourage you to obey, and your obedience will encourage obedience in others.
In verse 1, we can see that Paul values what women could do in ministry. He introduces Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. She is on her way to Rome, and it is thought that she was the one that delivered Paul’s letter. Paul commends Phoebe in his letter, which was important and often necessary because there were many false prophets and people who tried to take advantage of the generosity of Christians. He wanted the Romans to know that they could trust her and that she was a great help to him.
In verses 3-5, Paul greets Priscilla and Aquila. This husband and wife is mentioned in the book of Acts three times and were associates of Paul and helpers of Apollo, who took over Paul’s ministry when he moved on to spread the gospel. Paul mentions that a church meets in their home. This gives us a picture of what the early church looked like. There would be several “congregations” meeting in different houses since there were no church buildings yet. And each house church would probably have its own elder or pastor.
In verses 5-15, Paul now greets a whole list of people, but only those in which something is known about them will be mentioned here.
- Epaenetus: who was among the very first converts of Achaia in Corinth. He was apparently a dear friend to Paul, and in the New King James Version (NKJV) he calls him ‘beloved’ which is not a term that Paul used for just anyone.
- Andronicus and Junia: these were fellow Jews who were former cellmates with Paul. They were well regarded among the apostles as they had become Christians even before Paul did. It is thought by some, that they were also apostles, though not of the original twelve.
- Amplias: There was a tomb uncovered which dates in the late first or early second century, found in the early Christian catacombs of Rome with the name Amplias inscribed on it, and some believe that this was the tomb belonging to this same Amplias In Paul’s letter.
Roman Law forbade burials within the city limits, and so the Catacombs was a place that bodies were buried. However, the Catacombs were also used by the early church to hide from the Roman authorities as well as continue to worship God together.
- Aristobulus: Charles Spurgeon (a well-known theologian who lived between 1834-1892) believed that Paul greeted the house of Aristobulus, rather than Aristobulus himself, because Aristobulus may not have been a Christian, but many in his household were.
- Rufus: This may be the same man mentioned as a son of Simon the Cyrene who carried the cross for Jesus. However, Rufus is a common name. Here Paul says that Rufus was picked out by the Lord, which has the idea that he had some fame among the Christians of Rome. Which would make sense if his father carried Jesus’ cross.
- Nereus: In 95 AD two distinguished Romans (a husband and wife) were executed for becoming Christians. Their chief servant’s name was Nereus, which may be this same person mentioned by Paul, and he would have brought his Roman masters the gospel message.
There are many more names in Paul’s list, but unfortunately not much is known about them.
One interesting fact that we do know, is that 13 of these names appear in inscriptions or documents connected to the emperor’s palace in Rome. We know that there were Christians among Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22) and Paul may have been writing to them.
The Benefit of Obedience: Pleasing God and Approval from Others
Many men and women of the early church, as Christians today, tirelessly served the Lord in faith and obedience, without recognition or fame.
But Paul takes time to notice them and mention each one by name. Notice how he uses uplifting words about each one, to build up God’s people. Paul was generous in paying compliments, but he was always sincere.
Paul says, in Romans 14, that living life in this way – in faith and obedience – will not only please God, but others will approve also. God wants us to live righteously, and although we won’t always do this perfectly, when we choose to obey and live righteously, it gets noticed by others – Christians and non-Christians. We become a light in the darkness and people are drawn to that light.
The Benefit of Obedience: It Develops Authentic Relationships
In verse 16, Paul tells them to greet each other with a sacred kiss. This might sound strange, but this was a common greeting in this culture, and Luke 7:45 shows just how important it was. In this verse, Jesus rebukes a Pharisee who did not greet Jesus with a kiss when Jesus was invited into his home, but the woman who washed
Jesus’ feet, wouldn’t stop kissing his feet.
Paul was reminding them to continue showing genuine concern and compassion for one another. To love one another.
When we obey the commands in the Bible, our complete outlook and mindset becomes transformed. We develop a true compassion and love for people and this leads to deep and authentic bonds with others.
What else can we get out of this list of greetings?
The Benefit of Obedience: We Can Accomplish Great Things for God
This list is evidence that the letter to the Romans was written to ordinary people, not professional theologians. But because of their love for the Lord and obedience to him, Paul could recollect them by name. He sent them messages of love which became forever embalmed in Scripture.
This reminds us not to only consider the “greats” of Christianity, but we should consider all Christians who tirelessly work for God and are never given recognition. This reminds us to love all who Christ loves and value all of Christ’s servants.
When we serve Christ in this way, we won’t always see the fruits of our labor, but believe me, there will be fruit. And I believe we will get to know about in eternity! Great things are accomplished for Christ when we obey.
But remember, obedience in faith means serving others even when never earning any recognition.
A Conclusion to Romans
Evidence that the bible is Historically Accurate
This list also shows us that this is a real story with real people. Skeptics often argue that the Bible is a myth, or a conspiracy, or a forgery. Now this is my own perception of this list of people, but if this were a conspiracy or forgery, would the writers take the time to greet and thank random people who were not even famous enough to be verified?
What purpose does this list serve in making the story more convincing? The little details which personalize the writing in the Bible, show that the writers of the Bible were real and sincere people, who were alive at the time of Jesus, many of whom witnessed His resurrection, and became Christ followers at the risk of persecution and death.
This list of followers of Jesus had no special vocational training, many were poor, and they were outcasts among society, yet they had enough faith to obey the call to follow and serve Christ.
The Bible Teaches that Men and Women Share Equal Value
This was unheard of in ancient times. What Jesus taught was truly revolutionary! Men and Women are equally loved and valuable to God.
Notice the women in ministry mentioned in this chapter: Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary, Junia, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Julia. All these women served the Lord in some form of ministry. You can see here that Paul valued and honored their service to the Lord.
Women in those days were secondary citizens, but because of their faith in Jesus, they had the courage to obey their calling to ministry.
Paul’s Warning About Dividers and Deceivers
In verse 17-18, Paul gives the Christians in Rome a final warning about dividers and deceivers. There would be people whose purpose was to cause division among God’s people, and there would be people whose purpose was to deceive God’s people into believing a different gospel message. Paul says, once they have been recognized for what they are, stay away from them. They might be pretending to serve Christ, but they are only serving their own personal interests.
While harmony and unity are important, never forget Paul’s warning. Some Christians today are so afraid of division and disharmony, that they don’t want to ‘argue’ over differences of opinion or belief. But Paul is telling us here, that we should measure everything against God’s Word, and when we recognize that someone is teaching a different gospel – or intentionally causing division – we need to point them out and stay away from them.
There are so many churches who fall under the umbrella of ‘Christianity’. Don’t choose a church based on personal taste or aesthetics, or even friendliness. First and foremost, make sure that their teaching aligns with God’s Word.
Our Future Joy
In verse 20, Paul reminds us that God will soon crush Satan, and notice that Paul says that Satan will be under our feet. God will do the crushing, but Satan ends up under our feet. Paul is reminding them to stay on guard and stay innocent of any wrong and he wants to renew their hope in a future free of suffering, Satan, and sin.
In verses 21-23, Paul sends greetings from his friends and associates in Corinth:
- Timothy, one of Paul’s closest and most trusted associates
- Tertius, Paul’s scribe who wrote down the letter as Paul dictated. This was Paul’s normal practice, but this is the only letter where Paul’s scribe is mentioned by name, and
- Gaius was a Christian who had such a reputation for hospitality that Paul thought of him as the host of the whole church.
The Mystery of the Missing Passage
And just a little interesting fact to point out, did you notice that most Bible translations don’t include verse 24, except for the King James Version and NKJV?
Without getting into too much detail, the King James Bible was translated in 1611, and at that time there were far fewer copies of Bible manuscripts available (I believe there were only about 99) to study from and compare for Bible translation.
But now, in present day, we have over 5800 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and even older copies than we had before, including the Dead Sea scrolls.
The Bible translations that do not include some of the verses that the King James Version does, such as Romans 16:24, excluded these verses because they were not found in the majority of confirmed copies of manuscripts. In case you don’t have a King James Bible, here is verse 24, in the NKJV:
‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen’.Romans 16:24 (NKJV)
As you can see, it’s nothing heretical, and in fact it adds a nice closing to the letter. However, Bible scholars are very meticulous and only want to include what they believe to be in the original manuscripts with nearly 100% certainty.
All Praise to God
Paul concludes his letter by giving praise to God in verses 25-27. Paul gives all the glory to God and reminds the Romans that it is God who can make them strong. With all the dangers facing the Romans and every church today, Paul fittingly concludes that God is able to make us strong. Paul also reminds us that the gospel is for everyone and all that we need to do is believe and obey.
If there is anything that the Book of Romans explains from beginning to end, it’s the greatness and the glory of God’s plan of salvation, through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
What I love about this passage, are the real-life examples of obedience to God no matter how dire the circumstances. These were the most ordinary men and women, yet God used them to spread and cultivate a saving faith in Jesus. If you were to measure the likelihood of the successful spread of Christianity by observing it’s followers, you would probably have thought that Christianity would not exist today.
But Jesus is mentioned in every major world religion. Art, music, literature, politics, and almost every aspect of our culture has been influenced by Jesus and Christianity.
God used a small group of ordinary people, who because of their obedience, did incredible things!
What is the benefit of obedience in the Bible? Aligning your life with God’s will and achieving the amazing and incredible plan that he has for your life!
The Blessings of Obedience by Andrew Murray – Obedience is not the most popular topic. We live in a society that is most concerned about how rules inconvenience us, and we look for ways that we can do our own thing and get away with it. But obedience is much more than following rules; it is a state of the heart. By missing this truth, we miss out on the blessing of complete obedience.