Romans 16, Final
Jan 19, 2011
In Romans 16 many of the people Paul greets are unknown to us.
(14) Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them. (15) Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. (16) Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
There is little that one can add to this. But then Paul gives the group a warning against others in Rome who had been teaching things contrary to the gospel of Christ. Paul names no one, nor does he even tell us the particular doctrines being taught. Yet he warns the saints in Rome against these teachings.
(17) Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. (18) For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Jesus Christ, but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
At that time in history, the only serious heretical competition to the gospel--apart from the Judaizers--was the Gnostic teaching of Simon Magus. It does not seem likely that Paul was referring to the Judaizers here, for that problem was more prevalent the nearer one came to Jerusalem.
Simon Magus figured prominently in the account of Philip's evangelistic trip to Samaria in Acts 8. Simon had been baptized along with many others (Acts 8:13), but his heart was not right. He wanted to buy the power of the Spirit (8:18), but Peter exposed his heart and intentions to use the power of God for personal gain.
Some years later, during the reign of Claudius, Simon Magus went to Rome to preach the gospel of his new religion. Essentially, he taught Greek, Egyptian, and other pagan doctrines, while adding pieces of Christianity to the mix. According to Irenaeus,
"This man, then, was glorified by many as if he were a god; and he taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father, while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit." [Against Heresies, I, xxiii, 1]
Simon went to Rome during the reign of Claudius and enjoyed considerable success. In fact, a statue was erected in his honor. The editor of the bound volumes of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D., says in a footnote, "In 1851 I recognized this stone in the Vatican, and read it with emotion. I copied it as follows: Semoni Sanco Deo Fidio Sacrum." (See Vol. 1, p. 187.)
This is the statue mentioned by Justin in the mid-second century and also by Irenaeus a few years later. Justin writes this in his First Apology, ch. xxvi,
"There was a Samaritan, Simon, a native of the village called Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Caesar, and in your royal city of Rome, did mighty acts of magic, by virtue of the art of the devils operating in him. He was considered a god, and as a god was honoured by you with a statue, which statue was erected on the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription, in the language of Rome: "Simoni Deo Sancto,' (To Simon, the holy God)."
Simon was said to still be in Rome when Peter first preached the gospel in that city in the early days of Claudius (45-46 A.D.). He went there after escaping from Herod Agrippa's prison as recorded in Acts 12. Peter escaped to Caesarea, and Herod followed him but died there (12:19). Peter eventually went to Rome.
It is recorded that, while in Rome, Peter and Simon had a second confrontation, for Eusebius tells us in flowery language,
"However, this success of his [Simon] was short-lived. Close on his heels, in the same reign of Claudius, the all-gracious and kindly providence of the universe brought to Rome to deal with this terrible threat to the world, the strong and great apostle, chosen for his merits to be the spokesman for all the others, Peter himself. Clad in the divine armor, like a noble captain of God, he brought the precious merchandise of the spiritual light from the East to those of the West, preaching the good news of light itself and the soul-saving word, the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, when the divine word had made its home among them, Simon's power was extinguished and destroyed at once with the man himself." [History of the Church, II, 14, 15]
Eusebius wrote in the early 4th century after Rome had been conquered by Constantine and when it appeared that Christianity had overcome all other false religions, including Gnosticism. His view was somewhat premature, of course, but we do learn from this that Simon had taught his religion in Rome in the early days of Claudius while Paul was yet an obscure teacher in Tarsus working as a tentmaker.
Twelve years later, however, Paul wrote to the saints in Rome as an experienced apostle. When he warned the saints to keep an eye on those teaching falsehoods, it is most likely that he was referring specifically to those who taught Gnosticism in Rome. Paul continues,
(19) For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil. (20) And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
Paul's reference to Gen. 3:15 suggests that the false teachings mentioned in the previous verses were based on the original serpent's lie. Paul also uses contrasting ideas for emphasis, saying "the God of peace" would crush the head of the serpent. In other words, it is not by violence, but by peace that the light of truth exposes the works of darkness.
Paul then gives his second benediction (after the one in 15:33). But Paul is not yet finished. Perhaps he came back to his letter the next day and thought of one more greeting:
(21) Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. (22) I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.
It seems that Paul had far more relatives in his entourage than we had realized. We also learn that the scribe to whom Paul dictated this letter was Tertius. We know nothing else about him.
(23) Gaius, host to me and to whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, greets you, and Quartus, the brother.
It was in the home of Gaius that the Corinthian church met. Paul personally had baptized him along with Crispus (1 Cor. 1:14). So from this we see that Paul's epistle was written from Corinth just before returning to Jerusalem. Erastus was "the city treasurer" of Corinth.
(24) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
This third benediction appears to have been added much later and was not part of the original gospel. The NASB puts brackets around it and explains in a footnote that some ancient manuscripts do not include this verse. The Emphatic Diaglott tells us that it should be omitted. Ivan Panin's Numeric New Testament, which determines authenticity by the gematria of the Greek text, also omits it. The verse serves no real purpose, other than a third benediction that is not even the final one.
Verses 25-27 are Paul's final benediction. Since I am out of space on this blog, I will let you read it for yourself. This concludes our study in Romans.
This is the final part of a series titled "Romans 16." To view all parts, click the link below.