At the end of this letter, in chapter 16, there is a long roll of honour: believers whom Paul wishes to commend for their service in the gospel – including Priscilla and Aquila who had done so much to bless the churches Paul had established. It seems that, by then, they were living back in Rome, which is where they originally came from (Acts 18:2). Having been evicted from Rome by Emperor Claudius, along with all Jews, they had travelled to Corinth and first met Paul. He evidently discipled them and they accompanied him in his missionary journey to Syria and then Ephesus, where Paul may have left them in charge of the church. They themselves met and discipled Apollos, helping God transform him from an eloquent, God-fearing Jew into a fiery and Spirit-filled apologist for the gospel. All it took was some fatherly concern and the courage to challenge the man’s faulty doctrine.
Others in Paul’s list of greetings were faithful workers for the gospel, leaders of ‘churches in households’, other apostles – male and female, women who served selflessly and faithfully, and friends whom Paul greets affectionately. Paul urges them all to be alert to those believers who might cause division and discord within the community. Their talk may be smooth, but their words are like daggers – so watch out! The best way to avoid the worldly traps of the Enemy is to be wise about what is good, so that you can remain innocent about what is evil (v19), rather than imagining that one needs to make a detailed study of every specific form of evil behaviour!
In signing off his great gospel, Paul reminds the churches of the three main purposes of his mission: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (16:20), which refers to Satan’s final doom as predicted in Genesis 3:15, and also “Now to Him who is able to establish you… to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen”. (16:27). The purposes of Paul’s gospel – ‘The Gospel’ – is to destroy the works of darkness, to establish God’s church on earth, and to give complete and total glory to God himself.
And what is the sign that this is gospel is succeeding? “…So that the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith…” (v26). Obedience to Christ is the first sign of true discipleship, and the mark of a genuine new birth. Let us examine ourselves, therefore!