Even though he had never been to Rome, Paul’s heart was at home with many there. He knew the faith and service of some, and wrote to them as an assembly. As the apostle of the nations, he had his service for Christ for those in Rome.
He had a comprehensive service, embracing all the counsels of God, bringing the elements of the gospel together, to make the saints complete in Christ. The fruit will be hereafter. The apostle cites many who served diligently in the sphere in which God had placed them – from those who were of note among the apostles, to Phoebe, the deaconess or servant of the church at Cenchrea, who had been a helper of many. God does not forget any.
The apostle then tells the us to mark those self-important persons who cause divisions, exploiting their own mental abilities and acting contrary to the doctrine they had learned. We are to avoid them. Such insubject activity separates our hearts from God. True hearts, like John the Baptist, knew consciously by the Spirit that everything that is right is from God. Even if we are weak, and lack faithfulness, we have a testimony from God with more power than the pretensions of man. This preserves us. Our hearts are kept simple, while the mischievous hearts, with their fair speeches, are judged.
So Paul says, ‘I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil’ (v.19). God has, in His gracious wisdom, traced out a path in the world for us. We do not need to know all the evil, or even any of it: we are just to walk in the wise and holy path, conversant with what is good, lovely, and of good report. If we know the one right path across the waste, and live by God’s word, we do not need to learn from those who lost themselves. ‘By the words of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer’
Paul ends Romans 16 with salutations, for fellowship in love characterises the spirit of the gospel. Tertius, to whom Paul had dictated the letter, gives his salutation. The Roman epistle, along with the others such as Ephesians and Colossians which had the character of commandments of the Lord: accuracy was important. (See 1 Cor. 14:37). The salutation at the end came from Paul’s own hand, verifying that the whole epistle was his, and that it had inspired apostolic authority.
The apostle closes with ascription of praise to the only wise God, owning Him as the One who is able to establish them according to his gospel. He recalls the character of the testimony contained in that gospel, of which he speaks in so many places in so remarkable a manner.
In this epistle Paul does not develop the mystery: his object is to show how a soul stood in liberty before God. Conscience and justification must be individual. Still he shows that ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1). We are in Christ, and in chapter 12, one body in Christ – the full scope of the counsels of God – a mystery hidden from ages, even though they were in prophetic scriptures (v.26 Darby). He does not unfold the mystery in this epistle, but preached according to the revelation of it: Christ the head of all things, Jews and Gentiles forming one body, united with Him in heaven as Head. This had been kept secret since the world began, though it was in God’s counsels before creation. The foundation for our heavenly and eternal blessings had been laid in Christ’s work. Through all the inspired epistles the truth was made known to the nations ‘according to the commandment of the everlasting God.’
God, whose counsels were not confined to Judaism, commanded His message to be sent to the nations. He had His counsels and views in man, and in the Son, the Seed of the woman, and would accomplish the counsels in power. Now the original purpose of God was being made manifest for the obedience of faith to all nations.
A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans