To Those in Rome
Those in Rome
They were much more than fellow workers with Paul, for whom they risked their own necks. Probably more than once, they put their own lives in jeopardy to protect Paul’s. From a human perspective, they prevented Paul’s life and ministry from being cut short before he had fulfilled his role in God’s plan. They obviously rendered selfless service to many other Christians as well, because Paul goes on to make the remarkable statement that to them not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Wherever they traveled and lived, that Jewish couple ministered unstintingly and without prejudice.
The context also suggests that she had ministered in the church at Rome for some time, and possibly was a founding member who labored selflessly to establish and develop the fellowship of Christians in the capital of the empire.
Andronicus and Junias had a special and perhaps unique relationship to Paul. Because Junias may be a woman’s name, these two might have been husband and wife. And because many of the individuals mentioned in this passage were Jews, kinsmen indicates not only that they were fellow Jews but probably means also that they, along with Herodion (v. 11) and Jason and Sosipater (v. 21) were Paul’s relatives. If that is true, Paul must have felt a special warmth in seeing his kinsmen in the flesh become his kinsmen in spirit.
Because those two believers were converted before Paul, it is quite possible that they had suffered persecution under Paul (then named Saul), whose great zeal against the church would not have been diminished by their being his relatives. It is also possible that the prayers of those relatives for Paul’s salvation—and perhaps their witnessing to him—may have been instrumental in his eventual surrender to the Savior. If those things are true, the reconciliation of Andronicus and Junias with Paul when he came to Christ would have been all the more gratifying.
Ampliatus is greeted as Paul’s beloved in the Lord. From history and archaeology we learn that Ampliatus was a common name among slaves. And because slaves were not allowed to bear the name of free men, this beloved friend of Paul must have been, and possibly still was, a slave. Many slaves in the imperial households of that day had that name, and because Ampliatus was then in Rome, it is conceivable that he was among the believers in “Caesar’s household” mentioned by Paul in his letter to the church at Philippi (Phil. 4:22).
The next two saints to whom Paul sends greetings are Urbanus and Stachys. Urbanus was a common Roman name, suggesting that he may have been a Roman citizen. Paul speaks of him as our fellow worker in Christ, but gives no indication of how or where he ministered for Christ. Our could refer to Paul and any number of other co-workers, or it could refer to Paul and the church at Rome. If the latter, then Urbanus would have to have worked with Paul somewhere else before going to Rome and serving the church there.
Unlike Urbanus, the name Stachys, which means “ear of corn,” was Greek and uncommon. Since he is called beloved, he would have been closely associated with Paul, but we do not know where or in what relationship. As mentioned above, many of those to whom Paul sends greetings were not outstanding leaders in the early church. That fact reveals the apostle’s deep and sincere love for fellow believers and for fellow workers in particular, no matter how little known they were or how insignificant their service was from a purely human perspective.
We know nothing about Paul’s relationship to Apelles, and cannot be certain how the two were personally acquainted. But whether from his own experience with this man or from reliable reports from others, Paul recognized Apelles as being approved in Christ. Dokimos (approved) carries the idea of being tried and tested, and was used of precious metals, such as gold and silver, that passed tests for purity. Whatever his field of service in Christ may have been, Apelles performed it well.
Aristobulus and household
Paul’s next greeting was to a group of believers whose names and number we do not know. They are simply identified as those who are of the household of Aristobulus, who himself is not identified. Because he is not greeted, it seems certain he was not a Christian. The Greek phrase says only “of Aristobulus,” the word household being implied. How many of his household were Christians, and whether they were family members, servants, or both we are not told.
From his careful study of New Testament times, the noted biblical scholar J. B. Lightfoot suggests that Aristobulus may have been the brother of Herod Agrippa I and the grandson of the Herod the Great. If so, he would have been a close ally of the Emperor Claudius. When Aristobulus died, his household—including his wife, children, slaves, and possessions—would have become the property of the emperor, although they would still have been referred to as the household of Aristobulus. It is therefore possible that this group of believers could have been part of the imperial household.
As with Andronicus and Junias (v. 7), Paul greets Herodian as my kinsman, who, for the same reason explained above, was Paul’s physical kinsman and therefore a Jew, as well as his spiritual kinsman in Christ. As the name indicates, Herodian was related to the Herod family in some way and therefore may have been associated with the household of Aristobulus.
Like Aristobulus, Narcissus was probably not a believer, but some of those of his household were in the Lord.
In verse 12, Paul greets and commends three women. The first two, Tryphaena and Tryphosa, possibly were twin sisters, whose names mean “delicate” and “dainty,” respectively. Those words may have characterized their lives before salvation, but spiritually they were active and faithful workers in the Lord.
Persis doubtless received her name from her native land of Persia. Not only was she the beloved, suggesting (by the definite article the) she was loved by everyone who knew her, but she also was one who had worked hard in the Lord. Because the work of Tryphaena and Tryphosa is spoken of in the present tense and that of Persis in the past tense, it may have been that the first two were younger women and still active and that Persis was an older saint who had already lived her most productive years. But all three were noted for their work for and in the Lord.
Paul speaks of Rufus as a choice man in the Lord. Eklektos (choice) has the literal meaning of chosen, or elected. Paul could hardly be speaking about his being chosen for salvation, since, as made clear earlier in the epistle, every believer is “predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). In that sense, every Christian is equally chosen “in [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). The idea here, as the New American Standard Bible rendering indicates, is that Rufus was choice in the general sense in which that word is used today. He was an extraordinary Christian, known for his love and work for the Lord and for the Lord’s people.
The greeting to his mother and mine does not mean Rufus was Paul’s natural brother but that Rufus’s mother, somewhere and in some way during Paul’s travels and ministry, had cared for the apostle as if he were her own son. Like many other Jews converted at or soon after Pentecost, Simon and his family may have chosen to stay in Jerusalem and therefore have had the opportunity to know and befriend Paul during his visits there.
Paul makes no comment about Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, and Hermas. The mention of the brethren with them indicates that the five men named here were leaders of one of the many assemblies of believers in Rome. In this context, brethren would include all believers there, including women.
The careful research of William Barclay sheds light on one of the individuals Paul mentions in this beautiful passage. About Nereus Barclay writes:
In A.D. 95 there happened an event which shocked Rome. Two of the most distinguished people in Rome were condemned for being Christians. They were husband and wife. The husband was Flavius Clemens. He had been consul of Rome. The wife was Domatilla and she was of royal blood. She was the granddaughter of Vespasian, a former Emperor, and the niece of Domitian, the reigning Emperor. In fact the two sons of Flavius Clemens and Domatilla had been designated Domitian’s successors in the imperial power. Flavius was executed and Domatilla was banished to the island of Pontia where years afterwards Paula saw the cave where “she [Domatilla] drew out a long martyrdom for the Christian name.” And now the point—the name of the chamberlain of Flavius and Domatilla was Nereus. Is it possible that Nereus the slave had something to do with the making into Christians of Flavius Clemens the ex-consul and Domatilla the princess of the royal blood? Again maybe it is an idle speculation, for Nereus is a common name, but again, maybe it is true. (Letters to the Romans [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1957], p. 237)
The practice of the holy kiss, or kiss of love, continued for many years in the early church. It probably came to an end by being corrupted by sensuous perversion. Some centuries later, it was somewhat revived in the form of a liturgical kiss, which was purely formal and ritualistic, not personal or spiritual.