Lesson 16: Paul’s final greetings and Doxology  (16:1-27)


It is easy to skip over the names and greetings in this final passage. However, we can learn many interesting things in taking a little time. One of the most important is Paul's personal relationship with so many people. He knows many details about them. He is concerned their many services to the Lord are acknowledged. Many commentators have wondered in awe at the number of people Paul knew. The diversity of ethnic backgrounds, social standing, and gender is astonishing. Although Paul was not their pastor, his pastoral love and encouragement for them are evident throughout.

Personal greetings to the friends in Rome (16:1-15)

vv. 1-2

It is somewhat surprising the first person Paul mentions is Phoebe, a woman from Cenchreae. Cenchreae was an important port city just eleven kilometres southeast of Corinth.[1] Doubtlessly, Paul knew her from his extended stay in Corinth. His first reference to her is “our sister” in the faith. Most commentators believe she was the one who carried Paul’s letter to Rome. As a trusted envoy, she would have needed a letter of recommendation. So, Paul commends her to the Christians in Rome. The Greek word for “commend” was often used in such letters of recommendation.

Paul also acknowledges Phoebe as a “servant of the church.“ The Greek word for “servant” has a broad meaning, including deacon (15:8) or even government agent (13:4). Paul describes himself as a servant of God (2 Corinthians 6:4). So the question is whether Paul used the word “servant” for Phoebe in a religious or common sense. Early in church history, the word came to mean “deacon” (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8, 12). The way Paul describes her here and the use of the verb introducing her (“being”), suggests that she was more than the messenger for the letter. As a deacon in the Cenchreae church, she would have had many responsibilities and tasks. She had done these very well, or Paul would not have entrusted the letter to her.

Paul provides two purposes for his commendation of Phoebe. First, he expects the church in Rome to “welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints.” Paul has already indicated what this would involve (12:10-13). Second, the church should “help her in whatever she may need” because “she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” The help Phoebe needed likely involved some particular project or concern of hers in Rome. Phoebe especially deserved assistance as a “patron” because of her financial help to others and Paul.  “Patrons” were usually men of high social status who provided benefits to their clients in return for public honour. Evidently, she was an unusually gifted woman of wealth and social status. 

It is also interesting to contrast the role of “deacon” with “patron.” A deacon was involved in lower service by Greco-Roman standards. A patron, on the other hand, would be a person expecting much public honour.  However, Paul does not indicate Phoebe received recognition from her home church. This could well reflect the gospel's transformation on a Greco-Roman honour system ubiquitous in those cultures. [2]

vv. 3-15

Paul now sends greetings to twenty-six people, twenty-four of whom he identifies by name. In several instances, he also adds a personal statement of appreciation. The diversity of the persons is quite surprising, but their unity in Christ diminishes these distinctions.  The most important aspect of a person is their faith in Christ.[3]


We already know the church in Roman included both Gentiles and Jews. It is not surprising then that we would find both Roman and Jewish names on this list.  It was also known that the gospel attracted many people of lower social standing. Names like Ampliatus (v. 8), Urbanus (v. 9), Hermes (v. 14), Philogous and Julia (v. 15) were common names for slaves.[4] On the other hand, Aristobulus (v. 10) was the grandson of Herod the Great and friend of Emperor Claudius, while Narcissus (v. 11) was a well-known and wealthy freedman. These last two were family names, so it was likely they were not Christians, even though many in their households had become believers.

The most interesting aspect of the people mentioned is their gender. Of the twenty-six persons mentioned, nine were women: Prisca (v. 3), Mary (v. 6), likely Junia[5] (v. 7), Tryphaena and Tryphosa and Persis (v. 12),  Rufus’ mother (v. 23), Julia and Nereus’ sister (v. 15). Obviously, Paul thought very highly of the women who worked in the churches. Prisca is Paul’s “fellow worker.” Four women are specifically identified as those who “worked hard.” However, the particular work they did is not mentioned. Junia, a Jew who was imprisoned with Andronicus and Paul for their faith, is referred to as being “well known to the apostles.”[6]  So, not only did Paul know her but other apostles as well.  We can conclude from this list that Paul held the role of women in the church in the highest regard.


What is truly astonishing in the list of people is their unity as people of God despite their gender, social status or ethnic background.  Paul refers to them as “in Christ” (vv. 3, 7, 9, 10) and “in the Lord” (vv. 8, 11, 12, 13). Twice he uses “sister” and “brother” (vv. 1, 14). He refers to them as “my beloved” (vv. 5, 8, 9).  And as “fellow workers” (vv. 3, 9, 12) and fellow sufferers (vv. 4, 7).

v. 16

Paul concludes this list with a universal command and encouragement: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Paul has just greeted them by writing, but if he were with them in person, he would greet them with a “holy kiss.” This is his instruction for the believers in all the churches (1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26).  It was also the instruction of Peter (1 Peter 5:14). The idea seems to be that a greeting should not just be verbal but also include physical contact. The kiss was a common greeting among the Jews and this custom also entered the early Christian church. Interestingly, Paul calls it “holy.” It may be, when this practice was introduced to the non-Jews, Paul wanted to avoid any misunderstanding.[7]

Paul also wants to encourage them by stating, “all the churches of Christ” know about them and send their greetings to them. It would not be surprising that, when visiting the churches from Jerusalem to Illyricum, the faith of the Roman church was discussed.

Final Exhortations (16:17-24)

vv. 17-20 Warnings

Paul is always concerned about the attacks of Satan against the church.  It is never far from his mind, and so it is not surprising after his warm greetings, and just before ending the letter, he again warns the church to “watch out” for false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Galatians 1:6-8; Colossians 2:8, 18; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-8; 4:2-4). His main concern, as always, is those who “cause divisions” within the church's unity by teaching what is “contrary to the doctrine” of the gospel.  In verse 18, Paul explains why such people should be “avoided.” His apprehension is they will “deceive the hearts of the naive.” All members of the church must be vigilant in protecting the doctrinally weak. Truth in doctrine is essential for salvation; Satan, since the Garden of Eden, has ever since been attempting to subvert God’s truth.

    Although Paul is confident the faith of the Roman church is healthy, he gives one more exhortation: “be wise in what is good and innocent as to what is evil.”  The word “good” refers to both the teaching of the gospel and living the gospel. And the word “wise” means recognizing, loving, and following the good.  When unsure of doctrine or behaviour, we can ask ourselves: Does it agree with Scripture? Does it glorify the Lord Jesus Christ? Does it promote spiritual maturity?

Paul ends this warning with the guarantee of assurance that the God they serve will triumph over Satan's attacks. Although Satan was entirely defeated on the cross, he remains active in the world.

vv. 21-24 Greetings

Paul had sent his greetings to the Christians. Now he includes greetings from eight “fellow workers.” Of these, “Tertius,” who was the scribe writing Paul’s letter, adds his greeting. “Gaius,” as mentioned earlier, was likely the host where Paul wrote this letter.

Doxology (16:25-27)

v. 25

Paul begins the verse with “now,” signalling an end to the greetings and the beginning of the doxology. Doxologies express praise, honour, glory and strength to God. Doxologies were always part of Jewish worship in the temple (1 Chronicles 16:28-29; Psalms 29:1-2; 96:7). When the early Jewish Christian church began, they became common there as well (1 Peter 4:11; Hebrews 13:21). Even after the church became more Gentile, they continued to be an important part of worship.

The doxology has four parts: the power of God, the gospel of Christ, evangelism of the world, and praise to the wisdom and glory of God. First, Paul begins with God's power, for only God “is able to strengthen you.” The word “strengthen” means to establish, set firmly, and support. This recalls Paul’s introduction to the Philippians church: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Only God can bring about a single people of God from so diverse a humanity as Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, males and females making them “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Second, God establishes the believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Here Paul describes it as “my gospel”; that is, the gospel he preaches (1:8), which is the “proclamation of Jesus Christ” (net). This gospel is a “mystery that was kept secret for long ages.” The gospel was “kept secret” or “hidden” until the time of Christ. Then it was “disclosed” or “revealed” (Ephesians 3:5). This gospel is the proclamation of Jesus Christ himself (Colossians 2:2) and equally available in the same way to the Gentiles (Colossians 1:27; Ephesians 3:6-13; cf. 6:19).  It is also especially good news for believing Jews who look forward to a time when “all Israel will be saved” (11:28). And so, it is the gospel of hope that Christ will return to establish the new heaven and earth.

vv. 26-27

Third, the gospel was revealed but has also been “made known” to the whole world.  Before Christ came, God revealed himself only to Israel. With the defeat of Satan through the death and resurrection of Christ, the revelation of the gospel is known “to all nations.”  Paul lists several ways in which the gospel is made known: “through the prophetic writings,” which is a reference to the Old Testament Scriptures understood in light of Christ’s work; the gospel was made known “according to the command of God” referring to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) as well as Christ’s command to the apostles before his ascension (Acts 1:8); the gospel was made known to “bring about the obedience of faith” meaning salvation is only possible through faith in Christ; and, the gospel was made known by “the only wise God”; the wisdom of God refers to Christ himself (1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5).  Once again Paul makes it clear that faith without obedience is dead (James 2:14-17).

In the final and fourth part of the doxology, Paul states that God is now and forever gloried through Jesus Christ, who is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). It was Jesus, the perfect image of God (Hebrews 1:3), who brought glory to the Father through his incarnation, life, death and resurrection (John 17:1). And it is believers, through our union with Christ, who are also able to honour and glorify God since we, too, are created in his image.

Questions for Reflection

Study it

1. [16:1-2] Why did Paul mention Phoebe first?  Why was it necessary to commend her? What do we learn about her?

1. [16:3-16] How is diversity in the church described in these verses? How is unity in the church described?

2. [16:3-16] What do you think the role of women was in the churches Paul established?

3. [16:7] Do you think Junia was a man or a woman?  What grounds do you base it on? Was she identified as an apostle or only known by apostles?

4. [16:16] What did Paul mean by “holy kiss”?

5. [16:17-18] What warnings does Paul give?  What questions can we ask ourselves to identify them?

6. [16:19] What is the meaning of “good” and “evil”?

7. [16:20] If Christ defeated Satan on the cross, what did Paul mean by “will soon crush Satan”? How has the cross changed things?

8. [16:22] What was Tertius’ role in the letter? Where was the letter written?

9. [16:25-27] Identify the four parts of the doxology and list how God has manifested the gospel of Christ. Compare the doxology with the opening of the letter (1:1-5).

10.           [16:27] What is the purpose of a doxology?

Live it

1. Does this passage help you understand women’s role in the church?

2. How does this passage affect your understanding of various ministries in the church? Does it give you insight into men-only ministries or women-only ministries? What about ministries that are associated with a specific ethnic group?

3. Identify the warnings in vv. 17-19. Are these warnings relevant today?

4. How do people greet one another in your church?  Is there any physical contact?  Do you think this is important?  What are the dangers?

5. How, in your own life, would you understand and follow Paul’s exhortation to be innocent concerning evil and wise concerning good?

6. Is saving faith possible without obedience?  How do you reconcile these two in your own Christian life? How does justification relate to saving faith, and how does sanctification relate to obedience?

7. Do you end your prayers in a doxology?

[1] Recall that Paul wrote this letter from Corinth.

[2] Thielman, 712.

[3] Stott, 395-398

[4] Stott, 395.

[5] The name could also be masculine. The only variation between feminine and masculine names is a different accent.  The masculine form of the name is not found in any Roman literature or inscription, while the feminine form is quite common (more than 250 times in Greek and Latin inscriptions).

[6] Some translations have “Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles” (nasb).  However, it is more likely that the preposition is “to” rather than “among.”  These three then are not apostles, but are known to the apostles.

[7] Schreiner, Romans, 772.