Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Apelles.—This name is also found among the dependents of the emperor. Horace, in the well-known phrase, “Credat Judæas Apella” (Ep. 1, v. 100) takes it as a typical Jewish name.
Approved in Christ.—Whose fidelity to Christ has been tried, and has stood the test.
Aristobulus’ household.—Aristobulus, a grandson of Herod the Great, was educated and lived in a private station at Rome. From the friendly terms on which he stood with the Emperor Claudius, it seems not unlikely that, by a somewhat common custom, his household may have been transferred to the emperor at his death. In that case, his slaves would be designated by a term such as we find in the Greek.
Romans 16:10 - Romans 16:11.
There does not seem much to be got out of these two sets of salutations to two households in Rome; but if we look at them with eyes in our heads, and some sympathy in our hearts, I think we shall get lessons worth the treasuring.
In the first place, here are two sets of people, members of two different households, and that means mainly, if not exclusively, slaves. In the next place, in each case there was but a section of the household which was Christian. In the third place, in neither household is the master included in the greeting. So in neither case was he a Christian.
We do not know anything about these two persons, men of position evidently, who had large households. But the most learned of our living English commentators of the New Testament has advanced a very reasonable conjecture in regard to each of them. As to the first of them, Aristobulus: that wicked old King Herod, in whose life Christ was born, had a grandson of the name, who spent all his life in Rome, and was in close relations with the Emperor of that day. He had died some little time before the writing of this letter. As to the second of them, there is a very notorious Narcissus, who plays a great part in the history of Rome just a little while before Paul’s period there, and he, too, was dead. And it is more than probable that the slaves and retainers of these two men were transferred in both cases to the emperor’s household and held together in it, being known as Aristobulus’ men and Narcissus’ men. And so probably the Christians among them are the brethren to whom these salutations are sent.
Be that as it may, I think that if we look at the two groups, we shall get out of them some lessons.
I. The first of them is this: the penetrating power of Christian truth.
Think of the sort of man that the master of the first household was, if the identification suggested be accepted. He is one of that foul Herodian brood, in all of whom the bad Idumæan blood ran corruptly. The grandson of the old Herod, the brother of Agrippa of the Acts of the Apostles, the hanger-on of the Imperial Court, with Roman vices veneered on his native wickedness, was not the man to welcome the entrance of a revolutionary ferment into his household; and yet through his barred doors had crept quietly, he knowing nothing about it, that great message of a loving God, and a Master whose service was freedom. And in thousands of like cases the Gospel was finding its way underground, undreamed of by the great and wise, but steadily pressing onwards, and undermining all the towering grandeur that was so contemptuous of it. So Christ’s truth spread at first; and I believe that is the way it always spreads. Intellectual revolutions begin at the top and filter down; religious revolutions begin at the bottom and rise; and it is always the ‘lower orders’ that are laid hold of first. ‘Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called,’ but a handful of slaves in Aristobulus’ household, with this living truth lodged in their hearts, were the bearers and the witnesses and the organs of the power which was going to shatter all that towered above it and despised it. And so it always is.
Do not let us be ashamed of a Gospel that has not laid hold of the upper and the educated classes, but let us feel sure of this, that there is no greater sign of defective education and of superficial culture and of inborn vulgarity than despising the day of small things, and estimating truth by the position or the intellectual attainments of the men that are its witnesses and its lovers. The Gospel penetrated at first, and penetrates still, in the fashion that is suggested here.
II. Secondly, these two households teach us very touchingly and beautifully the uniting power of Christian sympathy.
A considerable proportion of the first of these two households would probably be Jews-if Aristobulus were indeed Herod’s grandson. The probability that he was is increased by the greeting interposed between those to the two households-’Salute Herodion.’ The name suggests some connection with Herod, and whether we suppose the designation of ‘my kinsman,’ which Paul gives him, to mean ‘blood relation’ or ‘fellow countryman,’ Herodion, at all events, was a Jew by birth. As to the other members of these households, Paul may have met some of them in his many travels, but he had never been in Rome, and his greetings are more probably sent to them as conspicuous sections, numerically, of the Roman Church, and as tokens of his affection, though he had never seen them. The possession of a common faith has bridged the gulf between him and them. Slaves in those days were outside the pale of human sympathy, and almost outside the pale of human rights. And here the foremost of Christian teachers, who was a freeman born, separated from these poor people by a tremendous chasm, stretches a brother’s hand across it and grasps theirs. The Gospel that came into the world to rend old associations and to split up society, and to make a deep cleft between fathers and children and husband and wife, came also to more than counterbalance its dividing effects by its uniting power. And in that old world that was separated into classes by gulfs deeper than any of which we have any experience, it, and it alone, threw a bridge across the abysses and bound men together. Think of what a revolution it must have been, when a master and his slave could sit down together at the table of the Lord and look each other in the face and say ‘Brother’ and for the moment forget the difference of bond and free. Think of what a revolution it must have been when Jew and Gentile could sit down together at the table of the Lord, and forget circumcision and uncircumcision, and feel that they were all one in Jesus Christ. And as for the third of the great clefts-that, alas! which made so much of the tragedy and the wickedness of ancient life-viz. the separation between the sexes-think of what a revolution it was when men and women, in all purity of the new bond of Christian affection, could sit down together at the same table, and feel that they were brethren and sisters in Jesus Christ.
The uniting power of the common faith and the common love to the one Lord marked Christianity as altogether supernatural and new, unique in the world’s experience, and obviously requiring something more than a human force to produce it. Will anybody say that the Christianity of this day has preserved and exhibits that primitive demonstration of its superhuman source? Is there anything obviously beyond the power of earthly motives in the unselfish, expansive love of modern Christians? Alas! alas! to ask the question is to answer it, and everybody knows the answer, and nobody sorrows over it. Is any duty more pressingly laid upon Christian churches of this generation than that, forgetting their doctrinal janglings for a while, and putting away their sectarianisms and narrowness, they should show the world that their faith has still the power to do what it did in the old times, bridge over the gulf that separates class from class, and bring all men together in the unity of the faith and of the love of Jesus Christ? Depend upon it, unless the modern organisations of Christianity which call themselves ‘churches’ show themselves, in the next twenty years, a great deal more alive to the necessity, and a great deal more able to cope with the problem, of uniting the classes of our modern complex civilisation, the term of life of these churches is comparatively brief. And the form of Christianity which another century will see will be one which reproduces the old miracle of the early days, and reaches across the deepest clefts that separate modern society, and makes all one in Jesus Christ. It is all very well for us to glorify the ancient love of the early Christians, but there is a vast deal of false sentimentality about our eulogistic talk of it. It were better to praise it less and imitate it more. Translate it into present life, and you will find that to-day it requires what it nineteen hundred years ago was recognised as manifesting, the presence of something more than human motive, and something more than man discovers of truth. The cement must be divine that binds men thus together.
Again, these two households suggest for us the tranquillising power of Christian resignation.
They were mostly slaves, and they continued to be slaves when they were Christians. Paul recognised their continuance in the servile position, and did not say a word to them to induce them to break their bonds. The Epistle to the Corinthians treats the whole subject of slavery in a very remarkable fashion. It says to the slave: ‘If you were a slave when you became a Christian, stop where you are. If you have an opportunity of being free, avail yourself of it; if you have not, never mind.’ And then it adds this great principle: ‘He that is called in the Lord, being a slave, is Christ’s freeman. Likewise he that is called, being free, is Christ’s slave.’ The Apostle applies the very same principle, in the adjoining verses, to the distinction between circumcision and uncircumcision. From all which there comes just the same lesson that is taught us by these two households of slaves left intact by Christianity-viz. that where a man is conscious of a direct, individual relation to Jesus Christ, that makes all outward circumstances infinitely insignificant. Let us get up to the height, and they all become very small. Of course, the principles of Christianity killed slavery, but it took eighteen hundred years to do it. Of course, there is no blinking the fact that slavery was an essentially immoral and unchristian institution. But it is one thing to lay down principles and leave them to be worked in and then to be worked out, and it is another thing to go blindly charging at existing institutions and throwing them down by violence, before men have grown up to feel that they are wicked. And so the New Testament takes the wise course, and leaves the foolish one to foolish people. It makes the tree good, and then its fruit will be good.
But the main point that I want to insist upon is this: what was good for these slaves in Rome is good for you and me. Let us get near to Jesus Christ, and feel that we have got hold of His hand for our own selves, and we shall not mind very much about the possible varieties of human condition. Rich or poor, happy or sad, surrounded by companions or treading a solitary path, failures or successes as the world has it, strong or broken and weak and wearied-all these varieties, important as they are, come to be very small when we can say, ‘We are the Lord’s.’ That amulet makes all things tolerable; and the Christian submission which is the expression of our love to, and confidence in, His infinite sweetness and unerring goodness, raises us to a height from which the varieties of earthly condition seem to blend and melt into one. When we are down amongst the low hills, it seems a long way from the foot of one of them to the top of it; but when we are on the top they all melt into one dead level, and you cannot tell which is top and which is bottom. And so, if we only can rise high enough up the hill, the possible diversities of our condition will seem to be very small variations in the level.
III. Lastly, these two groups suggest to us the conquering power of Christian faithfulness.
The household of Herod’s grandson was not a very likely place to find Christian people in, was it? Such flowers do not often grow, or at least do not easily grow, on such dunghills. And in both these cases it was only a handful of the people, a portion of each household, that was Christian. So they had beside them, closely identified with them-working, perhaps, at the same tasks, I might almost say, chained with the same chains-men who had no share in their faith or in their love. It would not be easy to pray and love and trust God and do His will, and keep clear of complicity with idolatry and immorality and sin, in such a pigsty as that; would it? But these men did it. And nobody need ever say, ‘I am in such circumstances that I cannot live a Christian life.’ There are no such circumstances, at least none of God’s appointing. There are often such that we bring upon ourselves, and then the best thing is to get out of them as soon as we can. But as far as He is concerned, He never puts anybody anywhere where he cannot live a holy life.
There were no difficulties too great for these men to overcome; there are no difficulties too great for us to overcome. And wherever you and I may be, we cannot be in any place where it is so hard to live a consistent life as these people were. Young men in warehouses, people in business here in Manchester, some of us with unfortunate domestic or relative associations, and so on-we may all feel as if it would be so much easier for us if this, that, and the other thing were changed. No, it would not be any easier; and perhaps the harder the easier, because the more obviously the atmosphere is poisonous, the more we shall put some cloth over our mouths to prevent it from getting into our lungs. The dangerous place is the place where the vapours that poison are scentless as well as invisible. But whatever be the difficulties, there is strength waiting for us, and we may all win the praise which the Apostle gives to another of these Roman brethren, whom he salutes as ‘Apelles, approved in Christ’-a man that had been ‘tried’ and had stood his trial. So in our various spheres of difficulty and of temptation we may feel that the greeting from heaven, like Paul’s message to the slaves in Rome, comes to us with good cheer, and that the Master Himself sees us, sympathises with us, salutes us, and stretches out His hand to help and to keep us.
in Christ—or, as we should say, "that tried Christian"; a noble commendation.
Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household—It would seem, from what is said of Narcissus in Ro 16:11, that this Aristobulus himself had not been a Christian; but that the Christians of his household simply were meant; very possibly some of his slaves.Apelles to be Apollos, of whom you read, Acts 18:24, and in other places. Epiphanius saith, he was teacher in the churches of Smyrna, before Polycarpus.
Approved in Christ; one who hath showed himself a faithful and sincere Christian, who hath given many proofs of his sincerity, zeal, and constancy. This is a high encomium; to be
in Christ is much, to be approved in Christ is more: tried gold is most precious. In a time of trial, to stand fast, and hold his own, is a Christian’s greatest praise.
Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household; the word household is not in the Greek, but is added to fill up the sense; you have the like in the next verse, and in 1 Corinthians 1:11. Aristobulus himself is not saluted; either he was dead, or as yet unconverted to the faith of Christ; but it seems there were several Christians in or belonging to his family, whom the apostle here salutes. See the next verse. Luke 10:1. However, he was one that was approved in Christ; approved of God in Christ, who approves of none but in Christ; not of any on account of their own commendations, or those of others; for not he that commendeth himself is approved of God, nor whom others commend; and oftentimes what is highly esteemed of men, is abominable in the sight of God; nor does he approve of any on the score of their own works and duties, or as in themselves considered, whose righteousness in as filthy rags, and they themselves polluted and unclean; but as in Christ his well beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased, and with all in him; and so God's elect are, as this man was approved of in him the beloved, even in his own Son, in whom both persons and services are accepted: moreover he was approved of by Christ, and that from eternity, as presented to him in the glass of his Father's purposes and decrees; and in time, as adorned with his own grace, and clothed with his justifying righteousness, and as faithfully serving him in his day and generation: he was also proved to be in Christ; he had proved it to himself, to his own satisfaction, by observing, upon self-examination, that Christ was in him; and he had made it to appear to others, by his faith in Christ, love to him, zeal for him, and close attachment to his Gospel, against all errors and heresies, whereby they are approved are made manifest; and that in the face of all opposition and persecution: he was tried and proved, and so approved by a variety of tribulations and afflictions; his faith remained firm, and he abode by the interest of a Redeemer; and so he was tried, or proved, as the Arabic version renders it, "in the religion of Christ"; in which he was sincere, upright, and faithful; his faith was unfeigned, his love without dissimulation, he was an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile: if a preacher of the word, he did not corrupt it, but in sincerity, and as in the sight of God and Christ, spoke it; and if only a private believer, he was one that desired the sincere milk of the word, and was in all respects a sincere upright man in Christ; so the word here used may be understood, being the reverse of reprobate, rejected, spurious, adulterate and disapproved: in a word, this character shows, that he was not only approved of God and Christ, but of all good men, and particularly the apostle; and that on account of his being in Christ, united to him, and closely attached to his service and interest, and was an honour to it:
salute them which are of Aristobulus's household. This was also a Greek name, though in use among the Jews; there was one of this name master of Ptolomy, king of Egypt, who was of Jewish extract, and of the priests,
"In the hundred fourscore and eighth year, the people that were at Jerusalem and in Judea, and the council, and Judas, sent greeting and health unto
Aristobulus, king Ptolemeus' master, who was of the stock of the anointed priests, and to the Jews that were in Egypt:'' (2 Maccabees 1:10)
One of the sons of Hyrcanus, the high priest of the Jews, was called by this name; Herod had a son of this name, and it was a name much in use in his family, and among his descendants: who this man was is not known, nor is he himself saluted by the apostle; either because he was now dead, or was absent from Rome at this time; for some say he was sent into Britain, our isle, to preach the Gospel, of which he is said to be bishop, and one of the seventy disciples; See Gill on ; or perhaps he might not be a believer in Christ, only his household believers, and therefore they only are taken notice of.Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Romans 16:10. Apelles (comp. Hor. Sat. I. v. 100) is not to be confounded with the celebrated Apollos (Acts 18:24; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:4), as Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Grotius, and others have done. Whether he was a freedman remains an open question, owing to the frequency of the name, which also occurs of freedmen.
τὸν δόκιμον ἐν Χ.] i.e. the tried Christian. Christ, the personal object of his believing fidelity, is conceived as the element wherein he is approved. Comp. φρόνιμος ἐν Χ., 1 Corinthians 4:10, and similar passages.
τοὺς ἐκ τῶν Ἀριστοβούλου] those of the people (perhaps: slaves) of Aristobulus, comp. 1 Corinthians 1:11. That Paul means the Christians among them, is self-evident; in the similar salutation, Romans 16:11, he adds it redundantly. Aristobulus himself was therefore no Christian; unless he (so Grotius) had been already dead, in which case he might have been a Christian.Romans 16:10. Ἀπελλῆν τὸν δόκιμον ἐν Χριστῷ: Apelles, that approved Christian. In some conspicuous way the Christian character of Apelles had been tried and found proof: see Jam 1:12, 2 Timothy 2:15. The name is a familiar one, and sometimes Jewish: Credat Judœus Apella, Hor., Sat., I., v., 100. By τοὺς ἐκ τῶν Ἀριστοβούλου are meant Christians belonging to the household of Aristobulus. Lightfoot, in his essay on Cæsar’s Household (Philippians, 171 ff.), makes Aristobulus the grandson of Herod the Great. He was educated in Rome, and probably died there. “Now it seems not improbable, considering the intimate relations between Claudius and Aristobulus, that at the death of the latter his servants, wholly or in part, should be transferred to the palace. In this case they would be designated Aristobuliani, for which I suppose St. Paul’s οἱ ἐκ τῶν Ἀριστοβούλου to be an equivalent. It is at least not an obvious phrase, and demands explanation” (Philippians, 175).10. Apelles] A Greek name. It is used by Horace, in a well-known passage, (Satires, I. v. 100,) as a name common among Jews.
approved in Christ] i.e. one who has been tested and found true, as a “member of Christ.” Perhaps he had borne special suffering or sorrow with strong faith.
them which are of Aristobûlus’ household] Lit. those from amongst Aristobulus’.—Aristobulus’ name is Greek: we know no more of him. He may, or may not, have been a Christian; and the latter is slightly the more likely alternative. See next verse, and cp. Php 4:22.—“Those from amongst his” household, or people, are probably the converts in his familia, or establishment, of slaves and freedmen.Romans 16:10. Τὸν δόκιμον, approved) an incomparable epithet [This man was of tried excellence.—V. g.]—τοὺς ἐκ τῶν) Perhaps Aristobulus was dead, and Narcissus too, Romans 16:11, and all in their respective families had not been converted. Some of them seem not to have been known by face to Paul, but by the report of their piety. Faith does not make men peevish, but affable. Not even the dignity of the apostolic office was any hindrance to Paul.
It occurs in Horace as the name of a Jew, under the form Apella ("Satire," i. 5, 100).
Them which are of Aristobulus' household
Possibly household slaves. They might have borne the name of Aristobulus even if they had passed into the service of another master, since household slaves thus transferred, continued to bear the name of their former proprietor. Lightfoot thinks that this Aristobulus may have been the grandson of Herod the Great, who was still living in the time of Claudius.
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