Rom 16:1-2: Phoebe was likely the bearer of this letter to the Romans, and Paul commends her as a servant (Greek diakonon, also translated elsewhere as minister, and deacon) of the church in Cenchrea (a smaller city 9 miles from Corinth that served as its eastern harbor). What do these verses teach us about the importance Paul placed upon the service of women in the early church? In what ways might Phoebe have been a minister, even a deaconess, of the church in Cenchrea? See also 1 Tim 5:9-10,16, Tit 2:3-5. Would her ministry have included teaching doctrine to or exercising authority over men in the church? See 1 Tim 2:11-12, 1 Cor 14:34-35. What help might she have had need from the Romans? How might she have been a helper to Paul and others? Note: “helper” refers to help in the form of a patroness or protectress. See also Luke 8:1-3.
Rom 16:3-5: When, where, and under what circumstances had Paul first met Prisca and Aquila? See Acts 18:1-3. Piece together their travels and ministry as described in the Scriptures. See Acts 18:18-19, 24-26, 1 Cor 16:19, and 2 Tim 4:19. Note: 1 Corinthians was written from Ephesus less than a year before Paul wrote this letter to the Romans; 2 Timothy was written almost 10 years later from Rome to Timothy who was in Ephesus. How did Paul regard the importance of their ministry? See Rom 16:3. Under what circumstances might they have risked their own necks to save Paul’s life? See Acts 19:23, 2 Cor 1:8-10.
Rom 16:5-16: Where did the early churches meet? See Rom 16:5,14,15; see also 1 Cor 16:19, Col 4:15, Phm 1:2. Do you think this was by design or necessity? What are the advantages and disadvantages of meeting in homes? Were there other apostles besides the twelve and Paul? See Rom 16:7, Acts 14:14, Gal 1:19, 1 Thess 1:1, 2:6. What does Paul mean by “kinsmen” in Rom 16:7 and 11? See Rom 9:3. Why do you think Paul included such a long list of greetings in this letter? How do you think he came to know so many people in the Roman church when he had never been to Rome? Hint: recall that Prisca and Aquila were some of his closest friends who had previously been expelled along with the rest of the Jews from Rome during the reign of Claudius, Acts 18:2, and who had just recently returned, perhaps upon the succession of Claudius by Nero in 54 a.d., two years before this letter was written. Many of the names that Paul mentions in these greetings were common names for slaves. What does this teach us about the composition of the Roman church? How did the early church view slaves? See also 1 Cor 7:20-22, Gal 3:28, Phm 1:15-17.
Rom 16:17-20: What sort of people might Paul have in mind who would cause dissensions (divisions) and hindrances (stumbling blocks) contrary to the sound doctrine of the faith? See Rom 14:13, Phil 3:17-19. What does Scripture call those who entice by smooth and flattering speech? See Prov 2:16-17, 5:3, 6:24, 7:5,21. How is this description fitting for those who profess to be the bride of Christ but continue to indulge their flesh? See Rom 7:2-4, 2 Pet 2:1-3,18-19. What is his advice for dealing with them? See also Rev 18:4. Why was Paul concerned that the Roman church would be confronted by such false brethren? See Rom 16:19.
Rom 16:21-24: Who were Lucius (Acts 13:1), Jason (Acts 17:5-9), Sosipater (Acts 20:4), Tertius (Rom 16:22), Gaius (1 Cor 1:14, perhaps 3 Jn 1:1), and Erastus (Acts 19:22, 2 Tim 4:20)? Trace Timothy’s ministry. See Acts 16:1, 17:14f, 18:5, 19:22, 20:4, 1 Cor 4:17, 16:10, 2 Cor 1:1, 19, Phil 1:1, 2:19, Col 1:1, 1 Thess 1:1, 3:2,6, 2 Thess 1:1, 1 & 2 Timothy, Phlm 1:1, and Heb 13:23.
Rom 16:25-27: What does Paul mean by “my” gospel, and what was the mystery he refers to that was kept secret (literally “silent”) but was now manifested? See Eph 3:2-7. How was it manifested and made known? To what does a true understanding of the gospel lead?