This is the last chapter of the book of Romans. Paul sends many personal salutations to the saints in Rome. Paul had never visited the Christian assembly in Rome before he wrote the letter (which became the book of Romans). Yet he knew many of them individually and his heart dwelled on them. These are individuals Paul served and co-served with. Paul’s heart is attached to those who had received service he rendered and those who had served others along with him.
Who is Paul? He is the one who by grace of God had searched into the deep counsels of God, who had been allowed to see secret things that could not be made known to man, and who was probably the greatest servant God ever had in the New Testament time after our Lord ascended. Yet this Paul remembered all these humble Christians, even those devoted women, and remembered what they had done for him and for the Lord. This is love; it is the real proof of the power of the Spirit of God; it is true charity.
Only if we know how easily we can be lured into the falsehood of human pride and religiosity can we really appreciate what came out of Paul’s heart in this seemingly simple chapter at the end of the epistle. Slight talents, and a bit of privilege to serve, one’s heart could already be out of touch of God’s people and assembly, thinking that he is better and special, even belonging to a special class. History has shown this to be a rule with an established religion rather than an exception. Christianity is no exception. May we fear this horrible religious condition which leads to spiritual death. Let us always humble ourselves and learn from Paul, a true servant to the Lord.
There is more revealed in this chapter.
“… I wish you to be wise as to that which is good, and simple as to evil.” Romans 16.19b. Paul gives here a precious rule for our walk, namely, to be simple concerning evil, and wise unto what is good. This is not merely wisdom talk. Only true faith in Christ could have given such a rule and at the same time have enabled us to walk by it. The fact that we as Christians may be simple concerning evil is a blessing and deliverance. The man of the world needs to acquaint himself with evil in order to avoid it. In this world of snares, he must corrupt his mind and accustom himself to thoughts of evil, in order not to be entrapped by it. But a child of God who follows the lead of the Holy Spirit may focus his eyes on the Lord Himself and be able to walk by (rather than walk through) the snares without having to acquaint himself with them.
Be simple concerning evil! Some boast their experience of evil claiming that they have learned good through evil. Thank God, by His mercy we may experience evil yet still come out knowing good. But this is by His mercy, not according to the principle of new life. The principle of the new life is to be simple concerning evil. We need not to know evil. Never pretend or venture to be more experienced than we need to concerning evil.
Chapter 16 ends with a glorious doxology.
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith, to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” Romans 16.25-27.
This is more than a glorious summary of the wonderful truth of each individual’s salvation as presented in this epistle. Paul refers to the greatest mystery that God had never revealed before but has now revealed. If we consider this along with the other epistles written by Paul, such as the book of Ephesians, it is clear that Paul refers to the body of Christ, the assembly, rather than individuals. It is this mystery, concerning the assembly and the summing up of all things into one under Christ, that had been entirely unknown because God had been silent on that subject in the ages. But the mystery was now revealed and communicated to the Gentiles by prophetic writings.
Note that Paul says “prophetic writings”, not “the writings of the prophets.” The prophetic writings certainly include the scriptures in the Old Testament, but the epistles now addressed to the Gentiles are also prophetic writings because they possess the very same nature.
In short, blessed are we who have received such glorious revelation through the prophetic writings of the apostle Paul who wrote according to the revelation of the Holy Spirit.