In close connection with the immediately preceding prayer-wish Paul assures the Romans that he recognizes their excellent spiritual qualities. Nevertheless, he has at times felt it necessary to express himself rather boldly for their own benefit, exercising his duty as a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, his aim being to bring the Gentiles to God (15:14-16).
In pleasing humility, ascribing all the glory to God alone, the apostle describes not what he has done but what Christ has accomplished through him in leading many Gentiles to God. He had been privileged to proclaim the gospel of Christ all the way from Jerusalem round about to Illyricum (Yugoslavia-Albania). By means of signs and wonders, performed through the power of the Holy Spirit, that work had been signally blessed. Paul had been a trail-blazer for the gospel. From the very beginning his purpose had been to proclaim the gospel in places and regions where Christ was not known (cf. Isa 52:15). That explains why he had not been able to make an earlier visit to Rome (verses 17-22).
Paul informs the Romans that since his work of establishing churches in the eastern part of the Roman Empire is finished and since for many years he had been yearning to visit his fellow-believers in Rome, he plans to do so on his way to Spain. However, he cannot come immediately, for he must first of all supervise the handing over of a generous bounty which the Gentile believers of Macedonia and Achaia had been collecting for the needy saints in Jerusalem. He adds, “They were pleased to do it and, indeed, they owe it to them; for if the Gentiles have come to share in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. When I have completed this task … I will go to you on my way to Spain. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ” (verses 23-29).
In need of the intercession of the church, Paul asks the Romans to remember him in prayer:
a. that he might be rescued from the plots of the unbelieving Jews:
b. that his ministry to Jerusalem-a ministry of benevolence-might be acceptable to the Jews, so that
c. his coming to the Romans might be a matter of joy, and, together with them, he might be refreshed.
This prayer was certainly answered, though not, in every respect, in a manner Paul had been able to foresee.
As to a, there was indeed a plot against his life by the Jews, but it was discovered in time, so that traveling plans were changed (Acts 20:3);
As to b, Acts 21:17 reports that the brothers in Jerusalem did indeed extend a hearty welcome to Paul and his companions, and glorified God when they heard Paul’s report about the results of mission work among the Gentiles. Whether the Jerusalem saints also received the generous collection with grateful enthusiasm is not reported.
As to c, that petition too was granted, though not at the time and in the manner Paul had envisioned. But see Acts 28:11-15: Phil. 1:12.
The little paragraph ends with the prayer-wish of verse 33 (verses 30-33).
The apostle warmly commends to the church Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchrea, a seaport of Corinth. In all probability she was the lady who delivered the letter to the Roman Church.
Next, he extends his own greetings to many persons-men and women, Gentile and Jewish believers-members of the Roman Church and known to Paul. The list of individuals to whom greetings are sent begins with Prisca and Aquila with whom Paul had made his home when this couple was still living in Corinth. They were tent-makers as was Paul. But of even greater importance was the fact that they were “fellow-workers in Christ Jesus.” So very loyal had they been to Paul that once they had even hazarded their lives for his sake. That may have happened during the riot of Ephesus described in Acts 19:23-41. But we cannot be certain about this.
Paul adds, “(Greet) also the church (that meets) at their house.” It seems that wherever Prisca and Aquila were living-whether in Corinth, Ephesus, or Rome-they were always inviting their fellow-believers to meet with them for the worship service.
Next, Paul sends greetings to Epenetus, “Asia’s firstfruits for Christ.” Among several others to whom greetings are extended is also Rufus. Paul adds, “and his mother and mine,” indicating that the mother of Rufus had been a mother to the apostle also; that is, had rendered motherly service to him. This Rufus reminds us of the Rufus mentioned in Mark 15:21, but whether the same person is indicated in both places is uncertain. At the conclusion of the list Paul writes, “All the churches of Christ extend greetings to you” (16:1-16).
Paul now tells the Roman church to watch out for false teachers. Let the members be on their guard, and this especially for two reasons: (a) by means of smooth talk and flattery these troublemakers try to deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting; and (b) the Roman believers should not spoil the good reputation (for obedience to the truth) they have gained everywhere. Using an expression that reminds us of a saying of Jesus (Matt. 10:16), the apostle adds, “I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” In addition to placing emphasis on the responsibility the Romans should shoulder, he comforts them by reminding them that God, in the exercise of his sovereignty, will crush Satan under their feet soon. He adds, “The grace of our Lord Jesus (be) with you” (verses 17-20).
The greetings which friends are sending to the Roman church follow. The greeters include Timothy, a very dear friend and fellow-worker of Paul; Tertius, the apostle’s secretary, to whom the apostle had dictated the letter; and Gaius, at whose home Paul was staying and who was ever ready to reveal his hospitality in the interest of the entire church (verses 21-23).
By means of a very impressive doxology, one which in many ways reflects the opening verses of the epistle, Paul brings his marvelous epistle to an appropriate close (verses 25-27).
Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001). Vol. 12-13: New Testament commentary : Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Accompanying biblical text is author’s translation. New Testament Commentary (523). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.