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A Letter of Commendation
Chapter 16
Chap. 16:1-27—This chapter is a letter of commendation for a sister named “Phebe,” coupled with salutations to various brethren in Rome. It includes a warning to withdraw from divisive persons who might mislead them, and closes with a doxology that links the two parts of Paul’s ministry together as being the means of establishing the saints in all the truth of God.
Vss. 1-2—Paul writes, “I commend to you Phebe our sister, who is minister of the assembly which is in Cenchrea.” This letter of commendation formally introduced Phebe to the assembly in Rome. She was travelling from Cenchrea (the port of Corinth, two miles away) to that area for some personal “matter,” and was probably the carrier of the epistle.
The use of such letters were common practise among brethren in the early Church (Acts 18:2727And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: (Acts 18:27); 2 Corinthians 3:11Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? (2 Corinthians 3:1)). The existence of them shows the care they had in inter-assembly communion. There were dangers that threatened the fellowship of the saints, and they needed to be careful who they received—on a personal level (1 Tim. 5:2222Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure. (1 Timothy 5:22)) and collectively as assemblies (Acts 9:26-2826And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. (Acts 9:26‑28)). False brethren were coming into the Christian profession with bad doctrine and unholy practises, and they were corrupting the saints (2 Cor. 11:12-1512But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. 13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:12‑15); Gal. 5:7-127Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? 8This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. 9A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. 10I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. 11And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. 12I would they were even cut off which trouble you. (Galatians 5:7‑12); 2 Peter 2:11But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1); 1 John 4:1-61Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 4Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 5They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. 6We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1‑6); Jude 44For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)). In view of this danger, the fellowship of the saints was not open, nor was it closed—but it was guarded. Such care should still be used among Christian assemblies that seek to be Scripturally gathered. In fact, since the corruption in the Christian profession is greater today than ever before, this care is needed more than ever. If a person in fellowship at the Lord’s Table goes to an assembly where he or she is known, a letter is nice to have, but not necessary (2 Cor. 3:1-31Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? 2Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 3Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. (2 Corinthians 3:1‑3)). But if a person is visiting an assembly where he or she is not known, a letter of commendation should be used.
We might wonder what this sister was doing functioning as a “minister of the assembly” in Cenchrea when Scripture teaches that sisters are not to minister publicly from the Word of God and teach in the assembly (1 Cor. 14:34-3534Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:34‑35); 1 Tim. 2:11-1211Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. (1 Timothy 2:11‑12)). However, this question reflects a common misunderstanding. The problem is that the inquirer is trying to understand the passage by using the conventional (commonly accepted) meanings that men have attached to Biblical terms. Sad to say, Christendom has invented unscriptural meanings to many Scriptural terms, and these ideas have been popularized and accepted by the masses. But this has led to much confusion. Having our minds coloured by these unscriptural thoughts makes it difficult to learn the true meaning of a passage.
In the example before us, it is a mistake to think that a “minister” is a clergyman (a so-called Pastor who leads a congregation of Christians). As mentioned in our comments on “ministry” in chapter 12:7, a minister is a person (male or female) who carries out a service for the Lord in either spiritual (Acts 6:44But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:4); 1 Peter 4:1111If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11)) or temporal things (Matt. 10:41-4241He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. (Matthew 10:41‑42); Acts 6:2-3; 13:5; 19:222Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. (Acts 6:2‑3)
5And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister. (Acts 13:5)
22So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season. (Acts 19:22)
; 1 Tim. 3:1010And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. (1 Timothy 3:10)). Since a sister, according to the order in Scripture, is not to minister from the Word of God in the assembly (publicly), it would have to be that Phebe ministered to the assembly in temporal things. J. N. Darby states in his translation footnote that the word can be translated “deaconess,” which is a servant who serves in temporal things. He said that she may have swept the floor of the meeting room where the saints met in Cenchrea, or something like that (Notes and Jottings, p. 284). She would not have been in the official office of a deacon because that was to be filled by men (1 Tim. 3:8-138Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:8‑13)). Since Paul states that she was “a helper of many,” she may have had the gift of “helps” (1 Cor. 12:2828And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28)).
Various Greetings
Chap. 16:3-16—Paul then takes the opportunity to send his greetings to a number of brethren whom he knew in Rome––some were from personal interaction and some he had heard of through others. He devotes more time to greeting the saints here than in any other epistle. This was due to the fact that he had not been to Rome yet and desired to convey his love to them on a personal level and thus make way for his coming visit. We see in these greetings delicate touches of affection and some tender recollections of those whom he knew from earlier days. It gives us insight as to the genuineness of the love that flowed among the fellowship of saints in those days. (Paul mentions 26 names and refers to many others who are not named. There are nine women mentioned in the chapter.)
Vss. 3-5a—“Priscilla and Aquila” are mentioned first. Their names are found in no less than six places in Scripture; three times Priscilla’s name is first (Acts 18:1818And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow. (Acts 18:18); Rom. 16:33Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: (Romans 16:3); 2 Tim. 4:1919Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. (2 Timothy 4:19)) and three times Aquila’s name is first (Acts 18:2, 262And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. (Acts 18:2)
26And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. (Acts 18:26)
; 1 Cor. 16:1919The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. (1 Corinthians 16:19)). Stating her name first does not mean that she was a forward woman who took the lead in their marriage. A careful look at these six passages will show that she is put first because the emphasis in the passage is on the domestic side of things, where the woman is to “rule the house” (1 Tim. 5:1414I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. (1 Timothy 5:14)). But when the emphasis is on teaching or assembly matters, Aquila is put first––a sphere in which the brothers are to lead. Thus, they were a model Christian couple. They, like Phebe, are said to be “helpers” in the work of the Lord. Perhaps they had the gift of “helps” too.
On one occasion they “risked” their lives to help Paul. We are not told where or when this took place, but it certainly shows their commitment to the cause of the gospel and their deep love for the Apostle. The fact that Paul says they “laid down [staked] their own neck” (singular), shows that they were one in their purpose in serving the Lord. Paul, and the brethren everywhere, thanked the Lord for them. This is a tremendous commendation.
Furthermore, we find that their home was open to the saints, and that they were willing to have assembly meetings “in their house.” From verses 14-15, we take it that the saints at Rome did not necessarily all meet in one location. It appears that there was more than one gathering, but the assembly was one. From 1 Corinthians 14:2323If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? (1 Corinthians 14:23), we see that this was the case in Corinth as well. In large metropolises and poor means of travel, it just wasn’t practical for all in an assembly in a given locality to meet in one place.
Vs. 5b—Paul greets “Epaenetus” next. He notes that he was “the firstfruits of Achaia,” which means that he was the first convert in that region. However, this runs in collision with 1 Corinthians 16:1515I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) (1 Corinthians 16:15) which states that Stephanas and his house were the first ones to get saved in that area. But there is really no difficulty. “Achaia” here in Romans 16:55Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. (Romans 16:5) (in the KJV) is a translation error; it should read “Asia.” Hence, Epaenetus was the first one to get saved in Asia Minor (southwest Turkey) and Stephanas was the first to get saved in Achaia (southern Greece).
Vss. 6-7—“Maria” is saluted; she is remembered for her much labour done for the Apostle. Then “Andronicus and Junia” are mentioned, being relatives (“kinsmen”) of Paul. Some have thought that this was a husband and wife team, because “Junia” can be masculine or feminine. However, this seems unlikely because they were imprisoned together, and jails don’t have women incarcerated with men. He says that they were “of note among the apostles,” which means that they were held in high esteem by them on account of the service they rendered. It does not say that they were imprisoned at the same time and place as Paul, but were fellow-sufferers in that way. These dear servants were Christians before Paul, and this leads us to wonder whether they had prayed for the conversion of their learned “kinsman.”
Vss. 8-10—“Amplias,” “Urbane,” “Stachys” are saluted with little comment. “Apelles” is mentioned as being “approved” in Christ. The word “approved” means that he had been tried in some way, and that he had stood the test. It may have been that he had been pressured to recant in regard to his faith, but he would not deny the Lord. “Aristobulus” is not saluted, but those of his household are. This would mean that while the man himself was not saved, some of his servants were. He was the grandson of Herod the Great, but God had reached some of his servants with the gospel and they had been saved. Paul sent greetings to them. The same thing had happened to some of Caesar’s household (Phil. 4:2222All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household. (Philippians 4:22)). This shows the power of the grace of God.
Vs. 11—“Herodian,” we assume was a Jew, since he was a “kinsman” (relative) of Paul. Having been given that name suggests that he was (or had been) a servant in Herod’s household.
As with Aristobulus, “Narcissus” is not greeted, but those of his household are. Again, this would mean that while the man himself was not saved, some of his servants were. History records a great man of means by this name who lived at that time, who was influential with Claudius Caesar. This may have been the very man.
Vs. 12—“Tryphena and Tryphosa” are saluted as those who were labouring in the Lord. Judging from the similarity of their names, many have thought that they were probably sisters in the flesh, as well as sisters in the Lord. “Persis” is mentioned as having “laboured” much in the Lord. The fact that it is stated in the past tense indicates that this sister was now older and unable to carry on as she once did. Nevertheless, the service she rendered is remembered by the Apostle. (It is unlikely that she was not able to continue serving because she was sick, because in that case, Paul would have sent his sympathies to her. Nor is it likely that she had ceased from labouring because she had gotten cold in her soul. In that case, he would not have saluted her with such warm greetings.) As a rule, Paul didn’t call sisters “beloved” because it might be seen as an inappropriate display of affection toward the opposite sex (1 Tim. 5:22The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. (1 Timothy 5:2)). But in this case, being that Persis was probably older, he did call her beloved.
Vs. 13—“Rufus” is saluted. Expositors seem to agree that he is the same person mentioned in Mark 15:2121And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross. (Mark 15:21). It says that “Simon a Cyrenian” was compelled by the Roman soldiers to carry the tail end of the cross of our Lord “behind” Him (Luke 23:2626And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. (Luke 23:26)). Then there follows a comment that seems to be a casual remark—“the father of Alexander and Rufus.” From the way Mark inserts this, it seems that the relationship was so well-known among the saints that Paul didn’t need to expand upon it. The conclusion can be drawn that this event left an indelible impression on Simon’s family, and they were later saved. Simon’s wife was also saved, whom Paul mentions here as Rufus’s “mother.” He adds that she had been a mother to Paul too––in the sense that she filled a mother’s role with him.
Vs. 14—There are five persons mentioned in this verse that are not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture––“Asyncritus,” Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes.” By adding, “And the brethren which are with them,” seems to indicate that they did not meet with those in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, but elsewhere in the city. They are greeted along with the others in the chapter, indicating that they were not acting in independence, but were considered as being on the same ground of fellowship.
Vs. 15—Another five persons are mentioned in this verse––“Philologus,” “Julia,” “Nereus,” “his sister,” and “Olympas.” Again, these believers are not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture. By adding, “And all the saints which are with them,” Paul seems to indicate that these brethren were also meeting in a different house in that vast city. They, too, like those in verse 14, were in fellowship with the other saints in the city as being on the same ground of fellowship.
Vs. 16—Warm greetings among the Roman saints was encouraged in the form of “a holy kiss.” His desire is that they would show genuine love and care for one another. He sends greetings from “all the assemblies of Christ.”
A Cautionary Warning
Vss. 17-18—Before closing the letter, Paul issues a warning to the Roman saints concerning divisive persons. He says, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences [stumbling blocks] contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (W. Kelly Trans.). Paul gave a similar warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29-3029For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:29‑30). It shows that we need to be on our guard against those who have a tendency to gather people around themselves. Such persons will often have a complaint about some weakness among their brethren, especially with the leaders, and will use it as their rallying point. It will often have the semblance of godly concern, and unsuspecting persons will be taken by it.
All such activity is, of course, of the flesh (Gal. 5:2020Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, (Galatians 5:20)) and “contrary to the doctrine” that we have learned––which is that all Christians should walk together in practical unity with “no divisions” among them (1 Cor. 1:1010Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)). A “division [schism]” is an inward rift among brethren (1 Cor. 11:1818For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. (1 Corinthians 11:18)), whereas a “heresy [sect]” is an outward split among brethren, when a party breaks away and no longer meets in practical fellowship with the others (1 Cor. 11:1919For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. (1 Corinthians 11:19)). Since 1 Corinthians 11:18-1918For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 19For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. (1 Corinthians 11:18‑19) speaks of a “sect [heresy]” after mentioning a “division [schism],” it indicates that one will lead to the other, if it is not judged.
The evil work alluded to here in Romans 16 is that which a division-maker does within the fellowship of the saints. The brethren are not told to excommunicate him (formally put him out of fellowship), but to “avoid” him. Note: Paul says, “Them which cause divisions;” he does not say, “Them which follow in a division.” We learn from this that we are to distinguish between the leaders and the led in these kinds of rifts. We are, therefore, to avoid the leader(s), but to reach out and try to help those who are being drawn away by the divisive movement. Paul says, “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly.” Thus they do not have the Lord’s glory before them, but their own selfish interests. The means by which they get a following is through “good words and fair speeches,” and the kind of people who are deceived by these divisive workers are those who are “simple” and “unsuspecting.”
Absalom is a type of a divisive man in the assembly (2 Sam. 15-18). He drew ones after himself, who “in their simplicity,” “knew not anything” (2 Sam. 15:1111And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing. (2 Samuel 15:11)). His method was to agree with those who had a complaint, and to kiss them. The result was that he “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Sam. 15:1-61And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. 2And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. 3And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. 4Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! 5And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. 6And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. (2 Samuel 15:1‑6)). The forming of his party didn’t happen overnight; it took “four years” (2 Sam. 15:77And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the Lord, in Hebron. (2 Samuel 15:7)). (The KJV says “forty,” but it is apparently a Hebrew copyist’s mistake.) Slowly but surely, Absalom swung many after himself. Let us then be wary of men with good exteriors who fawn over us; they could be setting a trap for our feet.
Vss. 19-20—Paul commends the Roman saints for their “obedience” (it was a testimony to men everywhere) and he believed that they would act with the same obedience on his instructions regarding divisive persons. It would be a means of their preservation. Paul gave this warning because, even though they had begun well, he feared that they might get turned aside in some way. Hence, he encouraged them to keep their focus on right and wholesome things. He desired that they would be “wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” This is because occupation with evil (either the wrongs of the world or the failures of brethren) can swallow us up and turn us aside. G. Davison warned, “Those who are occupied with failure will become a failure!”
Paul reminded them that a time was coming “shortly” when God would “bruise [crush] Satan” who is behind all these evil movements among the Lord’s people. Until then, we have to be on our guard. Satan’s final demise will take place when he is cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:1010And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10)). Paul adds, “Under your feet.” Thus, the children of God are going to triumph through Christ in the end! Until then, Paul commends the saints at Rome to “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Closing Salutations
Vss. 21-24—In closing, Paul sends greetings to the Roman believers from those who were with him. Eight persons are named––“Timotheus” (Paul’s fellow-worker), “Lucius,” “Jason,” and “Sosipater” (Paul’s relatives), “Tertius” (the actual hand-writer of the epistle), “Gaius” (in whose house Paul lodged), “Erastus” (the treasurer of the city of Corinth), and “Quartus.”
These brethren co-jointly commended the saints at Rome to “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Two Themes of Paul’s Ministry—the Means By Which a Believer is Established
Vss. 25-27—Paul expresses one last desire which he had for the Roman saints (indeed for saints in every place)—that God would “establish” them in the truth. He mentions that this involved two thing—having an understanding of his “gospel” and having an understanding of the “mystery.” These constitute the two great themes of his ministry (Eph. 3:8-98Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: (Ephesians 3:8‑9); Col. 1:23-2823If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 24Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: 25Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: (Colossians 1:23‑28)) and are predicated by the word “according” in verse 25.
•  “According to my gospel, and preaching of Jesus Christ.”
•  “According to the revelation of the mystery.”
Note: Paul did not consider a person established in the truth until he not only grasped the truth of the gospel, but also grasped the truth of the Mystery. Today, most Christians are thankful to know that they are saved through believing the gospel, but they seem to have little concern for the revelation of the Mystery.
Paul’s gospel tells of the glory of God in meeting our need as sinners, and that through believing its message, we are brought into the possession of many spiritual blessings in the risen and ascended Christ. The Mystery, on the other hand, tells of God’s glory in Christ, the Head of the Church. It unfolds our corporate relationships and collective privileges in connection with the calling and destiny of the Church. This would include the practical arrangements concerning the Church’s present function on earth, in giving expression to the truth that it is one body. Ignorance of what the Mystery unfolds is at the bottom of much of the confusion in the Church today. W. Kelly said, “It is one of the melancholy signs and proofs of where the Church is now, that even in the most earnest children of God there is but little thought of refreshing the heart of the saints. Zeal is absorbed in the simple conversion of sinners. The glory of God in the Church goes for nothing, and the love of Christ for His body and every member is ignored for the most part (The Epistle to Philemon, p. 148).
The Mystery is not something that is mysterious; it is a sacred secret that has been “hid” in God’s heart from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 3:99And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: (Ephesians 3:9)). It has to do with God’s great purpose to glorify His Son in two spheres (in heaven and in earth) in the coming millennial kingdom (“the Dispensation of the fulness of Times”Eph. 1:8-108Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:8‑10)), through a specially formed vessel of testimony—the Church, which is the body and bride of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:25-3222And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22‑23)
25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:25‑32)
; Rev. 21:9-22:59And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. 10And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; 12And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. 14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. 16And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. 17And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. 18And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. 19And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; 20The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. 21And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. 22And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. 23And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. 24And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it. 25And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. 26And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. 27And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life. 1And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: 4And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. 5And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 21:9‑22:5)). Ephesians focuses on the calling and destiny of the Church in its public association with Christ, whereas Colossians and 1 Corinthians unfold the present character and practical functioning of the Church while it is here on earth.
Vs. 26—Paul says that while this truth was once hidden, it is now made manifest “by prophetic Scriptures.” These are not the writings of the prophets in the Old Testament, because the revelation of the Church was not given to them; it was unknown by those “in other ages” (Eph. 3:55Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; (Ephesians 3:5)). Paul is speaking of New Testament prophets who had been given the truth of the Mystery to communicate to the Church. This would be the epistles in general (Notes and Jottings of J. N. Darby, p. 328). W. Kelly said that these Scriptures would be, “the inspired writings in general, of the New Testament, for the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (The Bible Treasury, vol. 13, p. 352). Paul must have been speaking anticipatively, because many of the epistles had not been written at the time of his writing to the Romans.
Paul’s reason for stating his desire for the establishing of Roman saints was that they would then not only be intelligent in the purpose of God, but also be less likely to be swayed by those who worked to divide the flock.
Vs. 27—Paul gives a final benediction: “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.”