Romans

16:17-24

Personal Matters and Doxology, 15:14-16:27

iv] A personal warning and greetings

Argument

In 16:1-2, Paul recommends Phoebe and then in v3-16 he sends personal greetings to a number of believers in Rome. Now, in v17-20, Paul abruptly intrudes a warning against false teachers who could trouble the Roman believers. He warns that the believers in Rome should have nothing to do with those who cause divisions and difficulties by opposing sound doctrine. Such persons are false teachers and are not true servants of Christ. In v 21-23 Paul then passes on the greetings of his companions to the Roman believers, and Tertius, the apostle's amanuensis (secretary), adds his own personal greeting in v24.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 1:1-7. Paul concludes by dealing with a number of personal issues.

 

ii] Background: See 1:8-15.

 

iii] Structure: This passage, serving as a warning against false teachers, presents as follows:

Instruction / exhortation:

Beware of false teachers, v17.

Explanation:

They are deceivers who do not serve the Lord, v18;

Faith, of itself, does not protect a believer from falsehood, v19;

Satan and his minions are inevitably doomed, v20a.

Benediction:

"The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you", v20b.

 

iv] Thesis: See 3:21-31.

 

v] Interpretation:

Having greeted those in Rome who are his supporters, Paul now warns them that not everyone who claims to represent the gospel are necessarily true to the gospel. Those who give an account of the gospel which is different to the one proclaimed by Paul should be noted and avoided. Presumably Paul has in mind "the weak", nomists, but with particular reference to their teachers, rather than those who have been taken in by the heresy of sanctification by obedience. These false teachers are idolaters at heart, driven by their own egos. These representatives of the circumcision party in Jerusalem have obviously been attracted to Rome by the positive response to the gospel of a good number of Roman citizens, a response that brings Paul great joy. So, it is important for these new believers to distinguish between truth and falsehood, good and evil, for evil is inevitably doomed.

 

It is more than likely that "those who cause division and put obstacles in your way", who are driven by their own appetites and who deceive the simple-minded, are those of the Jerusalem circumcision party, the judaizers, those who have made it their mission in life to follow up on Paul's missionary churches in order to correct his libertarian tendencies, so Moo, Schreiner, cf. D.A. Campbell "Romans 1:17 - A crux Interpretum", JBS 1994. It is usually assumed that the false teachers had not yet arrived in Rome, although their arrival may be imminent, so Cranfield, yet the nomism promoted by the judaizers is the very heresy that has been adopted by "the weak", so Paul has simply raised the tone of his critique against those who promote false doctrine (Dodd is one of the few commentators who accepts that the false teachers were already ministering in Rome). Of course, there is a range of views as to the identification of these false teachers: i] libertines, so Dodd; ii] an apocalyptic group of some kind, Jewett; iii] both sides of the present dispute in Rome between the "weak" and the "strong" and thus Paul's words serve as a rebuke to those promoting divisions in the church, Black, Barrett, Morris; iv] false teachers in general, so Dunn; v] teachers gripped by avarice, Cranfield.

 

A number of commentators doubt that chapter 16 is an integral part of Romans, arguing that the letter ends with the blessing in 15:33. There is the suggestion that chapter 16 is actually a personal letter by Paul to the church at Ephesus, recommending Phoebe to them. The argument rests on i] the incongruous nature of the warning in v17-20, given the conciliatory tone of Romans; ii] the fact that Priscilla and Aquila were last heard of in Ephesus; iii] the assumption that Paul would not know so many people in Rome and; iv] the reference to Epaenetus being the aparch thV AsiaV "firstruit of Asia". By themselves, these points certainly cannot carry the argument, and in any case there are good arguments against the Ephesus theory, eg. i] the reference, "all the churches of Christ greet you", v16, is an unlikely reference to Ephesus, and ii] it is hard to imagine chapter 16 as a letter in its own right.

A more radical, and even less likely approach to this section, is to argue that v17-20a is a "non Pauline interpolation", Jewett.

 

vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 16:17

Warnings and greetings, v17-24: Paul now warns his readers to avoid those who cause dissensions and offenses in opposing sound teaching, v17-20. Having given his personal greetings, Paul encourages his readers to "greet one another with a holy kiss", or as we might put it, "extend the hand of fellowship", v16. The idea of intimate fellowship prompts Paul to warn his readers about associating with those who undermine the church with their false doctrine.

adelfoi (oV) "brothers / brothers and sisters" - [now I urge you] brothers. Always a sign that Paul wants the following words taken seriously. "Brothers" can seem somewhat sexist, given that we now address believers as "brothers and sisters", so Moo. "Friends", CEV, solves the problem, but it is not as powerful.

skopein (skopew) pres. inf. "to watch out for" - to watch closely, to look out for, to mark, to scrutinize. The infinitive forms an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, entreaty, "I urge ... that you watch out". In the sense of "pay careful attention to", but also "mark so as to avoid", Cranfield; "be on your guard", Cassirer.

touV .... poiountaV (poiew) pres. part. "those who cause" - the ones making, doing. The participle serves as a substantive.

taV dicostasiaV (a) "divisions" - the divisions, dissensions. The article, as with the article for "obstacles", may indicate Paul has a particular heresy in mind, although Dunn argues that the articles here are stylistic. Paul probably does have a particular problem in mind, but the presence of the articles cannot be used to support this view. "These are well-known divisions", Morris.

ta skandala (on) "[put] obstacles in your way" - [and] the offenses, obstacles, difficulties, cause of stumbling. Used of "the bait stick of a trap, and then trouble generally", Morris.

para + acc. "that are contrary" - along, beside / against [the teaching which your learned]. Here expressing opposition, "against, contrary to"; "against the teaching which you learned." Paul has already affirmed that the Roman believers have been properly schooled in Christian doctrine (cf. 1:8, 6:17), doctrine which Paul similarly holds and seeks to remind the Roman believers of, namely, that "the righteous out of faith shall live" and this apart from law.

ekklinete (ekklinw) pres. imp. "keep away" - [and] turn away, hold aloof. The present tense, being durative, expresses continued vigilance, a continued turning away from the error of the false teachers, although an aorist variant does exist which, if original, would express a decisive turning away. "Turn your back on such people", Junkins.

ap (apo) + gen. "from [them]" - Expressing separation; "away from.

 
v18

These false teachers, who attach themselves to the church, serve "their own appetites." Paul is probably referring to the law-bound members of the circumcision party and their strict adherence to the Mosaic food laws.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why the Roman believers should keep away from "those who cause division and ......"

toioutoi "such people" - of such a kind = such men. Qualitative. Morris argues that the term refers generally to "anyone of this kind", but BAGD has it of persons bearing "certain definite qualities". "Such persons", Jewett.

ou douleuousin (douleuw) pres. "are not serving" - do not serve. These false teachers, the judaizers, members of the circumcision party, are not ministers of Christ.

tw/ kuriw/ (oV) dat. "[our] Lord" - the Lord [of us]. Dative of direct object, of persons, after the verb douleuw, "give service to."

Cristw/ (oV) dat. "Christ" - Standing in apposition to "Lord"; "our Lord, Christ."

alla "but" - Strong adversative / contrastive, as NIV.

th/ koilia (a) dat. "[their own] appetites" - the stomach, belly, hollow [of them]. Dative of direct object after the verb douleuw. The NIV "appetites" generalizes the idea that Paul is referencing gluttony, so Godet, but it is more likely that he is making the point that the judaizers are "preoccupied with food laws", Morris, so Barrett...

dia + gen. "by" - [and] through. Instrumental, expressing means; "by means of".

thV crhstologiaV (a) "smooth talk" - smooth speech, plausible speech, insinuating speech. Hapax legomenon, once only use in the NT. "Ingratiating talk", Berkeley.

eulogiaV (a) "flattery" - [and] blessing = fair speech, fine words. When used positively the word means "praise / blessing", but negatively, as here, it means "flattery". "Pretending to be kind", Junkins; "attractive argument", Phillips; "pious sweet-talk", Thompson. It is possible that "smooth talk and flattery" serves as an example of Granville Sharp's rule where two nouns are associated when an introductory article is present, as here. Dunn, on the other hand, suggests that together the two nouns joined by kai is a hendiadys. "Sweet talk and well-chosen words", Jewett.

exapatwsin (exapataw) pres. "they deceive" - they beguile. Usually viewed as a customary present tense.

taV kardiaV (a) "the minds" - the hearts. The "heart" refers to the seat of rational thought, so "mind".

twn akakwn gen. adj. "of naive people" - of the innocent, guileless. The adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, possessive. Certainly not "simple", REB, possibly "guileless", possibly "unwary", NJB, "unsuspecting people", Williams, but better "innocent people", Junkins, TNT, "unsuspecting innocents", Thompson.

 
v19

Paul again affirms his positive view of the Roman church. He knows that the Roman believers are themselves faithful innocents, so indeed they must take time to understand the truth, reason it through and apply it, yet when it comes to the pious sweet-talk of the false teachers, may they remain innocent.

gar "-" - for. The intention of this conjunction here is unclear but probably more explanatory than causal, and so left untranslated, as NIV. Cranfield says that v19 "supports the exhortation of v17f, but does not explain how." Possibly "this warning is serious, for you are widely known and they (the false teachers) will be sure to make an attack on you", Godet. Better to see a play on words between "innocents" and "obedient", so Moo. The Roman believers are "innocents/obedient" and Paul rejoices in this fact, but beware of those who play on such people. So, Paul wants his readers to be discerning, but above all innocent when it comes to heresy.

eiV + acc. "[everyone]" - to [all]. Here probably reference / respect; "with respect to everyone."

afiketo (afikneomai) aor. "has heard" - [the report of your obedience] reached [to all]. Constative aorist. "The report of their obedience is very widespread", Morris.

uJmwn gen. pro. "about you" - of you. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective, modifying an assumed active noun, eg., "the report concerning your obedience."

hJ uJpakoh "obedience" - It is unlikely that Paul means their submission to the law, so "obedience of faith" is probably intended, but of course, we are then left with the problem, is it the obedience that flows from faith, or the obedience that consists of faith, ie. "obedience to the gospel", Dumbrell? The latter seems likely; Paul recognizes that his readers are children of faith, that they are "innocents".

oun "so" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion.

cairw pres. "I rejoice" - Progressive / durative present tense. "Everyone has heard of your obedience, which makes me very happy", Junkins.

ef (epi) + dat. "over [you]" - concerning [you]. Causal; "because of you."

men ..... de "-" - Adversative comparative construction; "on the one hand ..... but on the other ....." This variant construction is found in some manuscripts, although it is probably an addition. None-the-less, the sense of the construction is probably intended, ie. "the inclusion of men throws the emphasis on the second member", BDF. So, "on the one hand I want you to be wise with regard the good, but on the other hand I want you to be pure with regard the evil."

einai pres. inf. "to be [wise]" - [but I want you] to be [wise]. The infinitive with the predicate accusative adjective "wise" forms an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul wants; "I will that you be wise" = "I want you to be experts", Barclay. The accusative subject of the infinitive is uJmaV, "you".

eiV "about [what is good]" - to [the good]. Here adverbial, expressing reference / respect, "about, concerning"; "with respect to", Meyer. So also eiV to kakon, "with respect to what is evil."

akeraiouV adj. "innocent" - [and] harmless, innocent, pure, guileless [to the evil]. Predicate accusative. Paul wants his readers to be experts when it comes to what is good, happily expanding their innocence in the obedience of faith, but when it comes to what is evil, particularly the heresy promoted by the judaizers, he wants them to "confine their innocence", Moo.

 
v20

Over this struggle stands the promise that the powers of darkness will be defeated, both here and into eternity. In the second part of this verse Paul most likely signs the letter himself. The normal practice was to conclude with the word "farewell" in the hand of the author. Paul reworks this standard conclusion with his key word "grace". Paul knows well the wonder of God's gracious kindness freely given to all who seek it in Christ.

de "-" - but, and. Transitional connective, "now" = "It will not be long until the God of peace ...", Barclay.

thV eirhnhV (h) gen. "[the God] of peace" - cf. 15:33.

suntriyei (suntribw) fut. "will [soon] crush" - will crush, break, shatter, crush [Satan in quickness]. Predictive future tense. In the sense of subdue the enemies of God. A God of peace in warlike mode is somewhat strange, but "part of the true concept of peace is that of God defeating evil", Morris, so that his people may experience the wholeness of spiritual prosperity.

en tacei "soon" - in quickness. Adverbial use of preposition en, temporal, with the noun taxei, "quickness", giving the sense "quickly". Paul may be referring to the parousia, so Kasemann; "Paul is looking forward to the final defeat of the prince of evil, and believes that this defeat will take place soon", Barrett. "The agitators who oppose the Pauline gospel are part of the serpent's seed, and thus their influence will be temporary", Schreiner. Yet, as to timing, the parousia should always be viewed as "immanent" and given that the enemy is to be crushed under the feet of believers, it is likely that Paul has in mind the immediate crushing of the demonic heresy now infecting the Christian church and this by following Paul's advice, so Jewett.

uJpo + acc. "under" - under [the feet of you soon]. Spacial, "under", but illustrating subordination. Although the Lord executes judgment, the victory belongs to his people.

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "[the grace] of [our] Lord" - [the grace] of the Lord [of us, Jesus]. The genitive may be classified as: adjectival possessive; ablative, source / origin; verbal, subjective. This final phrase is commonly used by Paul at the end of his letters, possibly an authenticating postscript in his own hand. Of course, this prompts numerous theories as to origin of the verses that follow. "Grace" is the sum of God's mercy, his covenant mercy whereby forgiveness is bestowed on a member of the covenant, and this eternally so, when a just condemnation would be more appropriate.

"be" - The implied verb is best viewed as imperative, not indicative, and so Paul concludes with a prayer wish, "I pray that ...", CEV; "may the merciful kindness of our Master ..", Junkins.

meq (meta) + gen. "with [you]" - Expressing association. When extended having the sense, "abide with you always."

 
v21-24

Paul adds the greetings of those presently with him in Corinth. Timothy had certainly earned the description "my fellow-worker". Lucius is possibly Luke. The other two may be those referred to in Acts 17:5-7, 9, 20:4.Paul's secretary then adds his greeting. Gius, Paul's host, also sends his greeting. He may be the same person as Titus Justus, Acts 18:7. He opened his house to the believers after they were removed from the Corinthian synagogue. The church probably met in his house and so Paul stayed with him. Nothing is known of Erastus and Quartus. The final verse, v24, repeats 20b and is not found in most manuscripts.

 

Romans Introduction

 

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