We’ve often hear our parents and grandparents tell us what it was like in the good old days, which for them were their golden years. How they walked to school through four-feet of snow, run to visit the outdoor toilet in freezing temperatures, all stand around the furnace-vent from the basement or the wood-burning stove in the kitchen or fireplace in the living room. How little food they had to eat and the little money they had to spend. But they turned out alright! Sounds like I’m talking about myself!

The thought crossed my mind, I wonder what it was like in the USA 100 years ago. Here’s a taste of what was going on in March of 1919.

World War I was over and most Americans were eager for peace and security; but, 1919 would prove to be anything but. Revolution and unrest ran rampant across Europe and North America, the Flu Pandemic continued from the prior year with a third brutal wave in the Spring; terrorist bombings rocked seven U.S. cities in June; the first of a series of “Red Scares”1 began when the government passed an act that blacklisted anyone thought to be involved with communism; race riots rocked the nation, and hundreds of workers went on strike across the country. The adoption of constitutional amendments giving women the right to vote and establishing Prohibition denoted the high-water mark of the moral impulse of the Progressive era.

Voters grew disillusioned during President Woodrow Wilson’s years, with many feeling the President and the Progressive Democrats went too far with their liberal ideas. The terrorist bombings further alienated people from the government because war seemed to do more to feed these liberal ideas as citizens questioned the reasons and results of the conflict.

In 1920, America elected Warren Harding with over 60% of the vote and Progressive Democrat candidates suffered for Wilson’s sins and the events from 1919. Many historians today summarize 1919 as rivaling 1968 as the worst year in twentieth-century American history. But even more sinister, the Great Depression would begin with the Wall Street Stock Market crash in October 1929 and last until October 29, 1939

Here’s our look at some US statistics for 1919:

President: Woodrow Wilson
Vice President: Thomas R. Marshall
Population: 104,514,000 (Today it’s 325,700,000)

Federal spending: $18.49 billion (Today it’s $4.5 trillion)
Consumer Price Index: 17.3 (Today it’s 251.7)
Unemployment: 1.4% (Today it’s 4.0%)

Year in General:

After moving from its southern rural roots, jazz establishes Chicago as its capital. The city will become home to such jazz greats as trumpeter Louis Armstrong and pianist Jelly Roll Morton.

185,440 people die in the third wave of the Flu Pandemic.

Dial telephones are introduced by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. The first rotary dial telephones in the Bell System are installed in Norfolk, Virginia.

Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity is confirmed when the Royal Astronomical Society sees the predicted effect during a solar eclipse.

Eighty-three African-Americans are lynched by southern Democrats – many of them soldiers returning home from World War I. At the same time, the Ku Klux Klan became the military wing of the Democrat Party and began operating out of 27 states.

The pamphlet, Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States: 1898-1918 is published by the NAACP. The report is used to appeal to lawmakers to end the social, political, and economic terrorism associated with lynching.

The pop-up toaster, short wave radios, and arc welders were invented in the US in 1919.

The most popular baby names for boys were John, William, James, Robert, and Charles. For girls, Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, and Ruth.

What did it cost?

1 lb of Bacon, $0.52

1 lb Beef Rib Roast $0.39

1 lb Loaf of Bread $0.12

1 lb of Butter $0.55

1 Head of Cabbage $0.02

1 lb of Cheese $0.35

2 lb Chicken $0.72

1 lb of Coffee $0.42

1 Dozen Eggs $0.47

5 lbs Flour $0.41

1 Gallon of Milk $0.66

5 lbs Sugar $0.97

5 lb Watermelon $0.10

1 Gallon of Gas $0.25

(Today’s costs adjusted for inflation)

Two bedroom room cottage $1,213.00 ($16,124 today)

Brand New Chevrolet Touring Car $1,110.00 ($14,755 today)

First Frigidaire self-contained refrigerator $775.00 (over $10,300 today)

Vacuum cleaner with all attachments $64.00 ($864.00 today)

Basic Radio $75.00 ($997 today), Custom built radio $495.00 ($6,580 today)

Temporary Federal Income Tax initiated just two years earlier.

Homeowners Insurance did not exist

$0.25 in 1919 at the grocery store would buy what you pay $3.32 for today.

But here’s the reality: average weekly earnings were $13.55 ($180.00 today)

We can thank God for bringing our grandparents and parents through those early days, but we need to ask Him for help because some of them are still the same and growing worse. There’s no sense in wishing for things to return to the way they used to be. Today’s circumstances are what we’ve been given to deal with, but God has all the tools available to help us navigate around life’s pitfalls and barriers. Take what is and make it what God wants it to be. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

Red Scares began when Vladimir Lenin starts a revolution in Russia that changes the Russian government from monarchy to communism. As a result, the U.S. passed an act that would blacklist anyone that had been thought to be involved with communism.

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Dr. Robert R. Seyda



Early church scholar Origen notes that according to his understanding, the term Satan here refers to any spirit opposed to God. For in the Hebrew language Satan means “a powerful adversary.”1 But just as the Apostle Paul teaches, if they behave and demonstrate that they are the kind of people he says they are then he promises that Satan’s aggressiveness will soon be crushed under their feet by the God of Peace. However, the same God of Peace will stir up Satan in the hearts of those who do not keep His peace with a pure heart and a clean conscience.

But there’s a reason for this. Those who neglect the blessing of peace will suffer the bitter pangs of the adversary’s assault until they remember the sweetness of the peace they once enjoyed. So, says Origen, it makes sense to respect both of these things. After all, didn’t God allow Satan to go into the Garden of Eden to tempt Adam and Eve, and didn’t He allow Satan to provoke Job to prove whether or not he served God out of love or obligation? In doing so, the adversary is defeated every time His people resist the devil’s temptation. 2

Then Ambrosiaster believes that God will use Paul to bring peace to the situation in Rome so that, more or less, the devil’s head will be crushed, and they will then be able to exercise more power over him. It was by using his head that Satan misled and fooled Eve in the Garden of Eden, so by crushing Satan’s head it means stomping out his ability to speak lies so such misinformation is stopped in its tracks. No doubt Satan gets angry at that idea because he wants people to remain in sin and under his influence.

So Paul’s hope is to encourage the Romans while they wait for his arrival, knowing that what he will bring with him help to calm the disagreements there between the Jewish and Gentiles members as Jesus calmed the winds and the waves. Paul believes that they wanted such peace and he couldn’t wait until God gave him the opportunity to be with them and teach them a better way of handling their difficulties.3 And Pelagius turns it into positive thinking by noting that the Lord gave His people power to tread upon all scorpions, snakes, and allies of the enemy so that they may not prevail over them so that they can walk over him free and unchained4.5

At this juncture, John Bengel adds that in the course of this whole epistle Paul names the enemy using various terms, but here he calls him Satan for the first time. In fact, throughout all of his epistles Paul calls him Satan nine times, and the devil six times (including Hebrews]. Bengel also noted that the Scriptures treat God and Christ directly, but Satan and the Antichrist are treated indirectly. Every victory achieved by faith is designed to elevate a new sense the ultimate eternal destruction for Satan, his demons, and his fallen angels.6

As far as the God of Peace keeping Satan from making progress and the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ helping believers to make progress, Charles Hodge reflects on Paul’s message to the church in Rome that just as a spirit of divisiveness produces false teachers that cause divisions and disgrace in the Church, the Apostle Paul is giving them the assurance that God has a remedy for that by calling Him the God of Peace. In other words, God is the author of peace in the comprehensive scriptural sense of that term.

Then Bengel states that by Paul saying that the God of Peace will crush Satan’s head, is not something way out in the future but that He will give His people the power to put Satan under their feet now. Since Satan is seen as constantly “working in the children of disobedience7 the evil done by them is sometimes ascribed to him as the instigator, and sometimes to the immediate agents who are his willing instruments. It is Paul’s prayer for God to use him as an instrument to bring more peace and cooperation among the blessed believers in Rome.8

Jewish writer David Stern writes from his perspective on the God of Peace crushing the head of the god of war – Satan. For him, the imagery used here by Paul draws on Genesis 3:15.9 Also, in a Jewish work written around 108 B.C., we read: “And Beliar10 will be bound by Him. And He will give power to His children to tread upon the evil spirits.11 According to Genesis, it is the seed of the woman, understood to be the Messiah,12 who will “bruise” or “crush” the serpent’s “head.” But here it is God who crushes the Adversary under our feet. Therefore, by implication, Yeshua is identified both with God and with those who trust in Him.13

Another Jewish writer not only ties this to Eve but also to the Garden of Eden. He notes that Paul mentions a group within the congregation in Rome who were teaching against a lot of what is taught so far in this Epistle. Specifically, he addresses the problem of “gentilizing14 with regard to the issue of doing away with kosher foods. In verse eighteen above Paul states, “For they that are such serve not our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, but their own belly,” And those who keep telling the Gentile believers in Rome to keep on eating anything they want no matter who does or doesn’t like it, is compared to Satan here in verse twenty.

Paul’s reference to the phrase “will bruise Satan’s head,” from the Garden of Eden story is interesting. That’s because the problem that started the whole thing in the garden was also food related. Paul tells them that what they already learned should be enough to help them deal with the problem between them and the Gentiles from a Jewish point of view. This is also another way of seeing that Paul was not teaching a “Torah-less” gospel by using this phrase to remind the Gentiles of their obligation to all that God said. But it was also an attempt by Paul to win the trust of the Jewish contingent in the congregation there.15

16:20b May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all.

This was a standard benediction for the Apostle Paul. In fact, he uses it involving the Trinity when he closes his second letter to the Corinthians: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.16 For the Bishop of Cyr, this was Paul’s way of transitioning from focusing on Satan to focusing on the Savior. The only thing standing between a believer’s victory or defeat is the grace of God. A person can choose which path to follow. To put this another way, if we do go out the door of God’s throne room of Grace and Mercy with things still unsettled, He doesn’t lock the door so we can’t get back in.17

Apparently, there were some even in the late 1700s in Europe who doubted the divinity of Jesus. For them, says Robert Haldane, Paul’s blessing at the end of this chapter shatters their deception. This form of expression involving grace coming from the Lord Jesus was always understood to import the deity of Christ, and it is still so understood to be right. It is essentially and necessarily a prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ; if He is not God what grace did He bestow on His people? “My grace,” He answered Paul who prayed to Him for the removal of the thorn in his flesh, “is sufficient for you; for My strength is made perfect in weakness.18

Haldane believes that this implies there is a constant supply of grace flowing from Christ to His people. If Christ so communicates His holy influences to His people in all ages, in all countries, to every individual, at every instant of time, what can He be but the Almighty God? This implies that those bought by the blood of Christ are to be supplied with grace by Him continually, in order to secure their standing in the truth. All their perseverance is dependent on this. Of His Church it is said, “I, the Lord, do keep it; I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.1920

In this day and age of “free superabounding grace,” it becomes necessary to understand that such grace is not to be used in the sense of the medieval practice of “indulgences.” That means, no one can earn God’s grace and forgiveness in advance so that when sin is committed it is already forgiven. Just because you are a child of God, that does not mean you can sin with impunity, thereby never fearing any punishment or discipline because of your actions, especially when they go against the Word and Will of God. The Apostle John made it crystal clear that if we do sin, God is willing and able to forgive us of the sin as long as we repent and ask forgiveness,21 with the solemn pledge never to do it again.22

1 1 Samuel 29:4; 2 Samuel 19:22; 1 Kings 11:14, 23, 25

2 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

3 Ambrosiaster: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

4 See Luke 10:19

5 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

6 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 368

7 Ephesians 2:2; Colossians 3:6

8 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 698

9 Cf. Luke 10:19; Hebrews 2:7-9

10 Beliar is another term used for Satan. It is spelled bĕliya`al, see Deuteronomy 13:13; Judges 19:22; 20:13; 1 Samuel 1:16; 2:12; 10:27; 25:17, 25; 30:22; 2 Samuel 16:7; 20:1;23:6; 1 Kings 21:10, 13; 2 Chronicles 13:7; 2 Corinthians 6:15 (NIV)

11 The Testament of Levi 18:12

12 Galatians 4:4

13 David H. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

14 Gentilizing means asking the Jews to adopt the Gentile’s rules for selecting the food and drink to consume.

15 Messianic Bible: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

16 2 Corinthians 13:14; See 1 Corinthians 16:23; Galatians 6:18; Philippians 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:18; Philemon 1:25; Revelation 22:21

17 Theodoret of Cyr: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

18 2 Corinthians 12:9

19 Isaiah 27:3

20 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 646

21 1 John 1:9

22 John 5:14; 8:11

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Dr. Robert R. Seyda



On the other hand, Paul knew that just like a ship sailing along under blue skies and on calm waters, the possibility for sudden storms to come rolling in across the waves always existed. King Solomon felt the same way when he was asked by God what he needed to lead His people, even as his father David did so successfully. Solomon said: “Give your servant an understanding heart able to administer justice to your people so that I can discern between good and bad.”1 Perhaps Solomon recalled the psalm in which his father wrote: “I will follow the path of integrity. When will you come to meet me? I will run my life with a sincere heart inside my own house.”2 If David and Solomon felt their need for God’s guidance in their house, how much more those Christian leaders in the House of God? After all, did Christ Himself tell His disciples: “I am sending you out like sheep with wolves all around you. Be wise like snakes and gentle like doves.3

Paul grew accustomed to taking ownership of what he believed to be critical issues in the church. He once wrote the Corinthians and told them that when it came to rights and wrongs, stop thinking like children and start thinking like adults.4 And to the Ephesians he wrote that when it came to knowing what lifestyle to choose as a believer: “Don’t be foolish, try to understand what the will of the Lord is.5

He also had a word of advice for the Philippians: “This is my prayer: I pray that your love will grow more and more. I pray that you will have a better understanding and be wise in all things. I pray that you will know what is the very best. I pray that you will be true and without blame until the day Christ comes again… In that way, you can prove yourselves to be without blame. You are God’s children and no one can talk against you, even in a sin-loving and sin-sick world. You are to shine as lights among the sinful people of this world.6 Furthermore, he told the Colossians: “I ask God that you may know what He wants you to do. I ask God to fill you with the wisdom and understanding the Holy Spirit gives.7

Early church scholar Origen puts Paul’s admonition in context. He points to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians when he said: Don’t think like children, grow up and act like adults, but when it comes to being biased, be innocent like kids.8 The Lord also said much the same thing when he complained that the sons of darkness – those who neither knew or understood who God was – in this world are smarter when it comes to understanding their own generation than the sons of light – those who both knew and understood who God was – do with theirs9.10

Then, Pelagius hears Paul saying that if the believers in Rome paid so much attention to those they should not listen to, how much more should they pay attention to someone they ought to listen to! Didn’t they know that these heretics might come to them because they knew the Romans are prone to swallow anything they hear? Paul rejoiced that the believers in Rome were willing to learn, but they should be careful about what they learn. He wanted them to be wise when it came to knowing what was good for them, but don’t spend any time trying to decide if you should do something that may be wrong. That way, Paul says, they will be able to bring those who come to mislead them down from their high pedestals so they can then walk right over them on their way out the door.11

When it comes to Paul’s commendation of believers, John Calvin finds that simplicity is what impresses Paul the most in Christians. Some take great pride in pointing at their precise practice of Christian ordinances as a personal mark of distinction. On the other hand, humble Christians must not confuse them with those who count it a high privilege to be able to say they live an exceptionally high moral and virtuous, life, and doing so without knowing anything about the Bible. Calvin sees Paul approving of the Romans because they were obedient and teachable, yet he encourages them to exercise wisdom and judgment. Being too trusting exposes them to being taken advantage of. Paul happily congratulates them for not being worldly-minded, but yet he cautioned them about being led astray by what we called in German, the “schlockmeisters,” – a person who sells simple junk as if it were highly priced goods.12

On Paul’s admonition for the readers of this letter to remain faithful to what they believe, Calvin sees this clause in verse nineteen about having wisdom on how to be good but ignorant on how to be bad as allowing for two interpretations: The noun hypakoē, rendered “obedience” by KJV, may either be expressed as their obedience dedication to the Gospel and their faith,13 or, as their obedient disposition, as in, their readiness to follow the instructions of their religious teachers.

If the first meaning is adopted, the sense of the passage reads like this, “You must be on your guard against false teachers, for since your character is so high, your faith being everywhere spoken of, it would be a great disgrace and tragedy if you were to be led astray by them.” However, if the second meaning is adopted the sense would be, “It is absolutely necessary that you be on guard against false teachers because your readiness to learn from your teachers is so great and known everywhere. This, in itself, is very commendable, but you must join consideration with your carefulness.” Calvin feels that this second meaning is the better of the two and the one we should use in this case14.15

Verse 20a: The God who brings peace will soon crush Satan’s head and give you power over him.

The children of God face no greater enemy than Satan the deceiver. At this point, it may be good to understand the Jewish concept of Satan. Judaism does not teach or believe in the devil as a person, but they do believe in what they call, “the Satan.” Here is what one Jewish writer said that the word Satan means: “challenge,” “difficulty.” or “distraction.” When placed with the Hebrew article ha – it becomes, haSatan, and refers to “the challenger.” This describes Satan as the entity that is the embodiment of man’s moral challenges. HaSatan can only operate with God’s approval. It involves choosing good over evil enough of a challenge so that it ends up being a meaningful choice. In other words, haSatan is a force whose mission is to add difficulty, challenges, and growth to life’s experiences. Contrast this with Christianity, which sees Satan as God’s fiercest opponent. In Jewish thought, the idea that there exists anything capable of setting itself up as God’s opponent would be considered overly polytheistic – meaning you are setting up the devil to be a god or demigod.16

However, Paul takes a different view. He makes an inference to the Word of God which reads: “Adonai, God, said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all livestock and wild animals. You will crawl on your belly and eat dust as long as you live. I will put animosity between you and the woman, and between your descendant and her descendant; he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.17 Rabbi Nachmanides tells us that Jewish scholars in the past taught that this curse placed upon the serpent was that it would only be able to produce offspring once in seven years. This comes from an answer given by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya18.19 In like manner, Satan may not take action immediately because you put up resistance, but as the snake he is, he will continue to look for places where he can lay his eggs of doubt and rebellion.

Of course, some Rabbis dispute this idea of seven years because they note that most snakes lay eggs every year. But there is one curious fact that does point to what the Rabbi had in mind. The female serpent begins her journey to find an area with an abundance of food that will also provide a good spot for her to give birth. Snakes have been recorded as journeying more than twenty kilometers away from the den to find food – although scientists speculate that they went further. Only once the female selects her area will she allow her body to ovulate and fertilize her eggs. However, if she determines that there is not enough food or the weather conditions would not make incubating her young an easy task, she can store the male snake’s sperm inside her reproductive tract, without being used, for up to seven years, at which point she can still fertilize her eggs.

In addition to this, the rest of the verses quoted about such ends with this admonition, “From now on you and the woman will be enemies, as will your offspring and hers. You will strike his heel, but he will crush your head.” Rabbi Nachmanides goes on to tell us that this is taken metaphorically to mean that mankind will have an advantage over the serpent. Humans will walk on the ground while snakes must crawl. And if a person steps on them, they may bite the person’s heel, but that person will crush their head. This is certainly in harmony with what the writer of Hebrews said: “It is true that we share the same kind of flesh and blood because Jesus became a man like us. He died as we must die. Through His death, He destroyed the power of the devil who holds the power of death.20 And the Apostle John echoes this truth about Christ’s power over the devil.21 We see this played out in John’s revelation.22

1 1 Kings 3:9 – Complete Jewish Bible

2 Psalm 101:2

3 Matthew 10:16

4 1 Corinthians 14:20

5 Ephesians 5:17

6 Philippians 1:9-10; 2:15

7 Colossians 1:9

8 1 Corinthians 14:20

9 Luke 16:8

10 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

11 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

12 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

13 See Romans 1:8

14 See 2 Corinthians 10:6; Philemon 1:21

15 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 697

16 Social Culture Jewish Newsgroups: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers, What does Judaism believe about Satan?

17 Genesis 3:14-15

18 Mind over Matter: Teachings of The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, Translated by Dr. Arnie Gotfryd, Jerusalem, 2003, p. 57

19 Rabbi Nachmanides: On Genesis, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 83-84

20 Hebrews 2:14

21 1 John 3:8

22 Revelation 12:9; 20:1-3

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Dr. Robert R. Seyda



Early church scholar Ambrosiaster speaks about dilemmas Paul faced in his ministry and missionary endeavors. As early as the Apostolic age, self-appointed apostles went around trying to build a reputation as true representatives of Christ and the Church. First Paul warns against their concepts before he cautions against their character. The thing that upset Paul more than anything else involved their trying to persuade believers to adopt the Jewish way of thinking about ceremonial laws in order to make their Christian faith even stronger. This same argument is made today, only it no longer involves circumcision, kosher foods, laws on washing one’s hands a certain way before a meal, new moons, feasts, and festivals to attain a right standing before God. Today it involves undergoing certain church practices involving rites, rituals, regulations, and ceremonies, which must be done in particular ways by particular people to be holy sacraments that dispense grace according to church teachings.1

Then Chrysostom makes it clear that none of this is lead by the Spirit of God, it is all part of the devil’s weaponry. As long as the body is united, Satan can find no way of getting in to cause disharmony and division. So, where does division come from? It originates from doctrines being taught which are contrary to the teachings of Jesus passed on by the Apostles. Chrysostom also speaks of it as Paul’s admonition to the Jewish interlopers in the church at Rome. Their words sound wonderful, but they are deceptive. However, they do not fool everyone, only the hearts of the simple-minded.2

Some other early church leaders say interesting things about what they saw in the church during their days in the Fourth century AD. First, the Bishop of Jerusalem talks about how some heretics and false apostles were offering poison pills of godless doctrines coated with the honey of Christ’s name.3 Then, early church scholar Jerome calls it nothing but flattering words. For him, flattery is always dangerous, deceitful, and distasteful. Even Greek philosophers defined flattery as a tasteless enemy. Sometimes truth is harsh, bitter, stern, unpleasant, and offensive to those who are being tested but it’s the best remedy for their spiritual illness.4

However, Pelagius feels that Paul is speaking of those in the church who in his day were raised in Jewish culture and customs and became overzealous by doing away with fasting and abstinence; disagreeing with apostolic teaching and placing obstacles in the path of the believers they must hurdle or sidestep in order to go further in their faith. They preached adherence to new moons and sabbaths and other feast days for the sake of their stomachs, not their souls.5

John Calvin sees Paul mentioning a changeless blemish by which false prophets are distinguished from the true servants of Christ. For one thing, they see no benefit in giving all the glory to Christ but seek the benefit for their own egotistical craving. Calvin notes that such charlatans deceitfully creep in, assuming another character in order to conceal their wicked intent. Calvin also sees Paul pointing out, in order that no one might be deceived, the arts and crafts these tricksters adopted – they ingratiated themselves by an easy to swallow sales pitch. Calvin admits that some preachers of the Gospel exhibit a courteous and pleasing manner they couple with tolerance by neither flattering people’s good deeds with egotistic praises, nor excuse their vices with sternness. Such impostors allure people with flattery while indulging their vices to keep them as followers and disciples. For Calvin, anyone who is not discerning enough to avoid these traps of deceptions is severely under-informed of God’s Word.6

Adam Clarke has some strong words to say about those who come into an assembly for the purpose of causing strife and disharmony. Clarke notes that there are some ancient Greek manuscripts of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans in which verse eighteen can be paraphrased as follows: “Give them have no Holy Kiss of love nor peace, because they come only to cause divisions, and by doing so divide the flock of Christ into groups who oppose one another. And out of these factions scandals are produced; and this is contrary to that doctrine of peace, unity, and brotherly love which you learned. Keep a sharp lookout for such people and see that they do no harm. If possible, avoid them – give them no endorsement, and offer no religious fellowship to them.7

Like British scholar Adam Clarke, Scottish theologian Robert Haldane expresses no leniency for those who come only to divide and cause discord in the Body of Christ. For him, the force of the passage lies in Paul’s warning to the church in Rome that factious persons are to be watched and guarded against. Don’t just ignore them and hope they go away. Their motives are wrong, and their efforts are contrary to the Gospel’s teaching on unity among all believers in one Savior, these are things they’ve already been taught. To remember they are all one, as united in Christ, the head of the body.

Such persons are to be avoided and remain uninvited. People who come in with a high opinion of themselves and their knowledge more often than not sow division in the Church. They are to be more shunned than if they came with an infectious disease. And those church members acquainted with them should not depend solely on their own ability to discern and continue associating with them. If they do, they open themselves up to conversations on subjects they know little about. Such persons are in the service of Satan. It’s his will to deceive the strongest of God’s people if allowed to operate unhindered.8

With regard to the trouble makers that Paul warned the believers about, Charles Hodge shares some insights. While he urges pastors to welcome all faithful ministers and Christians, they must have nothing to do with those who cause divisions and discord. Hodge thinks there were probably two evils being considered in the Apostle’s mind when he wrote this passage. One, the divisions caused by erroneous doctrines, and two, the disruption and disharmony caused by abusive attitudes of such false teachers. When we look back over early church history, all the distraction caused by false teaching reflected the corrupt moral character of the messenger.

This was the case to a certain extent with the Judaizers who not only upset the church by insisting on the observance of the Mosaic ceremonial laws but also pressed some of their doctrines to an immoral extreme.9 It was still more obviously in the case of those with errors in their doctrines that were infected with worldly philosophy. Paul mentioned this to the Colossians and to Timothy.10 These teachings were equally opposed to the doctrines taught by the Apostle Paul. For those who caused these dissensions, Paul commands Christians first to evaluate – to notice carefully and not allow them to continue their scheme uninterrupted; and secondly, to avoid – to break off any connection with them.11 To do otherwise, would be like a homeowner continuing to feed the mice they are trying to get rid of.

Hodge goes on to describe the character of such malcontents. The reason they are to be avoided is that the disease of false doctrine they carry is highly infectious. The way Paul describes them here in verse eighteen is very accurate. It also defines such false teachers at any age in church history. They are not motivated by zeal for the Lord Jesus and His kingdom, but any fame and fortune they can use to brag about themselves. In that way, they are the most deceitful.12 The Greek nouns chrēstologia, rendered by the KJV as “good words,” and eulogia, which is translated by the KJV as “fair speeches,” do not differ all that much in what they mean in the context of this narrative by Paul.

Basically, chrēstologia means, “presenting a smooth motivational speech intended to encourage being fair,” and eulogia means, “using polished language in a finely constructed speech.” Both are an attempt to impress and thereby gain influence over those who are easily persuaded. The way Paul describes such persuadable people with the Greek adjective akakos. It defines child-like adults who trust those in authority without question because they see no reason why anyone would want to hurt them13.14 Just like a child who believes Santa Clause is real and the Easter bunny lays eggs just because Mommy and Daddy told them so.

16:19 Everyone’s heard of your openness to counsel, and I am very happy about that. But I want you to be wise about what it means to be good and innocent when it comes to your knowledge of how to be evil.

Here we see the Apostle Paul’s fatherly or protective spirit manifesting itself. He rejoiced over what they learned and put into practice, but he’s also aware that sometimes even the most informed of believers is led astray by clever arguments. It’s like parents who warn their children about hot stoves and crossing the street before looking both ways. Paul felt the same way about the Romans as he did the saints in Thessalonica,15 and desired to see them continue on the path of growing in Christ and in God’s Word.

This was Paul’s concern for those in Ephesus as well who walked in the light of the true Gospel,16 and to the Colossians he wrote: “We give thanks to God for you because we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus. We thank God for your love for all those who belong to Christ. We thank God for the hope that is being kept for you in heaven. You first heard about this hope through the Good News which is the Word of Truth. The Good News came to you the same as it is now going out to all the world. Lives are being changed, just as your life was changed the day you heard the Good News.17

1 Ambrosiaster: On Romans, op. cit, loc. cit.

2 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 32

3 Cyril of Jerusalem: The Catechetical Lectures 4.2

4 Jerome: Against the Pelagians 1.26.

5 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

6 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

7 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 297

8 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 643

9 See 1 Corinthians 5:1-5

10 Colossians 2:10-23; 1 Timothy 4:1-8

11 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 696-697

12 Cf. Philippians 3:18-19; 2 Timothy 3:5-6

13 See Proverbs 14:15

14 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit. p. 697

15 1 Thessalonians 1:8-9

16 Ephesians 1:15-17

17 Colossians 1:3-6

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Dr. Robert R. Seyda



John Calvin takes up the subject of the holy kiss. To him, it is clear from many parts of Scripture that a kiss was a daily and common symbol of friendship among the Jews.1 It became a custom during apostolic times for Christians to kiss one another before partaking of the Lord’s Supper in testifying by that kiss their unity and friendship, and then giving their contribution to the following Agape meal.2 With all of this they confirmed their loyalty to God and each other with a holy kiss. Calvin points to one of Chrysostom’s homilies.3 However, Calvin does not endorse the way it was used in the Roman Catholic Church in Europe during his time. He didn’t like the way they kissed the paten4 during the Eucharist. However, Calvin does not see Paul endorsing the Holy Kiss as any part of a ceremony but only as a way of exhorting them to cherish brotherly and sisterly love. And by sending salutations from the churches, he was endeavoring, as much as possible, to bind all the members of Christ’s body by the mutual bond of God’s love.5

On the subject of how these early Christians greeted one another, John Bengel calls their salute with a Holy Kiss as the “flower of faith and love.6 Bengel also notes that this sign of unity came after prayers were said. Paul mentions the Holy Kiss at the conclusion of his first epistle to the Thessalonians, in both his epistles to the Corinthians and here in Romans. It was known as the “kiss of peace.” Paul wrote these epistles in the early days of the Church period. It appears, however, that the purity of brotherly love went missing and so the practice was discarded because abuses arose. That may be the reason why in writing to the Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians while he was in prison, he gave no charge concerning this Holy Kiss.7

Adam Clarke also raises the point that there is no mention of the Apostle Peter in Paul’s greetings. So this begs the question: If Peter visited Rome or was present in Rome during this time, Paul certainly would not exclude him in his salutations at the beginning of this list of names? Also, the fact that Paul addressed the people to remedy their previous disagreements that became an issue, wouldn’t this request have been passed on to Peter as Paul’s personal message to him? So for Clarke, this was another nail in the coffin of the erroneous argument that Peter ever made it to Rome.8

On the subject of greeting one another with a holy kiss, Robert Haldane feels that Paul is telling the members in Rome to salute one another with a Holy Kiss as part of his salutation. In other words, it would be like writing someone a letter who was part of a larger group, and in order not to leave anyone out tell them that since you can’t be there, to hug one another in your stead. It is understood by most scholars that this Holy Kiss was an expression in the family of God much like it was, and is today, among members of the same family. Even though much ridicule was cast on this practice by some, it was encouraged by the Apostles. It is again and again repeated and was practiced by all the primitive churches. Peter calls it a kiss of love. Justin Martyr, in giving an account of the weekly assemblies of Christians of the second century says, “We mutually salute one another by a kiss, and then we bring forward the bread and the cup.” And the form is still maintained by the Church of Rome in what they call the osculum pacis9.10

16:17-18 Brothers and sisters, I want you to be very careful of those who cause arguments and hurt people’s faith by teaching things that are against what you learned. Stay away from them. People like that are not serving our Lord Christ. They are only pleasing themselves. They use fancy talk and say nice things to fool those who don’t know about evil.

There are two basic types of people who cause division and discord in the Body of Christ. One of which encourages you to do certain things you were taught by others not to do. The other which teaches that there are things which you now are doing that should not be done. The best way to discern the truth is to ask these simple questions of each one: Is what they’re saying calculated to bring you closer to Christ so that you grow up higher in Him and deeper in God’s Word. If the answer is “No,” then forget it; if the answer is “Yes,” then have them show you why, and have them show it to you in the Scriptures.

So while Paul is open and gracious in his recommendation of those who serve Christ with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength he also knows there are those who are saints in name only. Thus he warns the Roman believers about those who come around preaching a gospel that is different than the one they heard before and after their conversion. And if any such pretenders were in the congregation in Rome, Paul gives the same message to them he gave to the Thessalonians: “If anyone does not want to listen to what we say in this letter, remember who they are and stay away from them. In that way, they will be put to shame. Do not think of them as someone who hates you. But counsel them a fellow Christian.11

As said before, such people seldom bring harmony to a congregation, instead they spark disharmony. Luke tells us about such teachers from Judea that tried to convince the church in Antioch to adopt their legalistic point of view. They taught: “Unless you go through the religious act of becoming a Jew as Moses taught, you cannot be saved from the punishment of sin.12 Paul and Barnabas debated them and were thus chosen to go to Jerusalem to talk to the Apostolic Council to clear up this matter.

When such divisions occur in a church, it usually ends up with people taking sides. Paul warned the Corinthians about this: “Do not be divided into little groups. Think and act as if you all had the same mind.13 When you do this, said Paul, you act as though you’ve never been saved. He tells them: “When you are jealous and fight with each other, you are still living in sin and acting like sinful men in the world.14 Paul pointed out to the Galatians that much of this discord starts with people trying to change the Gospel message.15 The Apostle writes the Philippians and tells them that there were those trying to add new things to God’s Word, claiming that one must do this or say that in order to be a true believer.16 And to the Colossians Paul said this: “Be careful that no one changes your mind and faith by much learning and big sounding ideas. Those things are what men dream up.”17

The main objection that Paul reserves for these self-styled evangelists and teachers is that they try to serve more than one master. One is God, and the other is the two-headed monster named fame and fortune. But our Lord made it clear that such an attempt at dual loyalty doesn’t work.18 Some accused Paul of this, but as he told the Galatians: “Do you think I am trying to get the favor of men, or of God? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant owned by Christ.19 In fact, at one time Paul wanted to send someone to the believers in Philippi but only young Timothy proved loyal because everyone else was only interest in what they wanted from Jesus instead of what Jesus wanted from them.20

Paul talks about such ministers being “motivated by their appetite.”21 The LORD God gave the prophet Micah as a warning about such individuals: “Here is what Adonai says in regard to the prophets who cause my people to go astray, who cry, ‘Peace’ as soon as they are given food to eat, but prepare for war against anyone who fails to put something in their mouth.2223 And to the people of Israel God said this about those who just stand by and watch it happen: “Why doesn’t even one of you shut the doors and thus stop this useless lighting of fires on my altar? I take no pleasure in you,” says Adonai-Tzva’ot [The Lord of Hosts], “and I will not receive an offering from you.24 Paul wanted to inform young Timothy to watch out for such people: “Men who are not able to use their minds in the right way because of sin argue all the time. They do not have the truth. They think religion is a way to get much for themselves.25

In fact, things got so bad in Israel, that they no longer wanted to hear the straight word from the Lord. So God told Isaiah: “Go and write this down in front of them. And write on a tablet, that it may be seen for all years to come. For these people will not obey. They are not true sons. They will not listen to the teaching of the Lord. They say to the men who can tell what will happen in the future, ‘Don’t see look at what you see in your special dreams.’ They say to those who speak for God, ‘You must not tell to us what is right. Speak pleasing things to us, tell us what we like to hear. Get out of our way. Get off the path you’re on. We do not want to hear any more about the Holy One of Israel.26 How is it possible that something that happened 2,700 years ago sounds as if it is happening again today?

1 See 1 Corinthians 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14

2 An agape meal is also known as a “Lovefeast,” a communal meal following Communion to commemorate all the meals that Jesus shared with His disciples during His ministry as a sign of community sharing in fellowship. In Greek, it is called koinonia.

3 Chrysostom: Homilies on 2 Corinthians 13:12, #30

4 The eucharistic vessel known as the paten is a small shallow plate or disc of precious metal upon which the element of bread is offered to God at the Offertory of the Mass, and upon which the consecrated Host is again placed after the Fraction. Catholic Encyclopedia

5 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

6 See 1 Peter 5:14

7 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p.366

8 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit. p. 296

9 Latin for, “Kiss of Peace,” See Psalm 85:10

10 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit. p. 641

11 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

12 Acts of the Apostles 15:1

13 1 Corinthians 1:10; 11:18

14 Ibid. 3:3

15 Galatians 1:7

16 Philippians 3:2-3

17 Colossians 2:8 – New Life Version

18 Matthew 6:24

19 Galatians 1:10

20 Philippians 2:19-21

21 Cf. Philippians 3:19

22 Micah 3:5 – Complete Jewish Bible

23 In the days of the prophets, people had no money to give them for their expenses, but feeding and housing them was their way of saying,”Thank You.” Today the blessing is doubled by providing both lodging and food, and a love offering.

24 Malachi 1:10 – Complete Jewish Bible

25 1 Timothy 6:5

26 Isaiah 30:8-11

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Dr. Robert R. Seyda



16:12b-14 Greetings to the beloved Persis. She also worked very hard for the Lord. Greetings also to Rufus, one of the Lord’s chosen people, and to his mother, who has been a mother to me too. Give my greetings to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and all the brothers in Christ who are with them.

Now Paul sends greetings to a dear friend named Persis. Her name actually means, “that which divides.” Obviously, she was not a trouble-maker, but based on her faith and faithfulness she helped divide those who were unconditionally committed to Christ and the Gospel from those who were not. It is also notable that Paul uses “my beloved,” when referring to dear male friends, but here uses “the beloved,” when referring to a female servant of the Lord. Some scholars suggest that the name Persis is a camouflaged way of saying that she was Persian. But there is no evidence for this.

Ambrosiaster says about Persis, that she appears to be more honored than Rufus and his mother because she worked so hard for the Lord. Her ministry must have been one of encouragement and service to the saints for Christ’s sake when they were under pressure and in need because they fled their homes and were being attacked by unbelievers.1 Also, Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper suggests that Mary, who was mentioned above, and Persis here were evangelists employed in making the Gospel known in the same way as today’s Salvation Army uses women in their ministry. These godly women exerted their influence in every possible way to aid Paul in making Christ known. Whatever personal gifts or means they possessed were dedicated to the Lord whose saving grace they experienced. Paul thus commends them for their sacrificial and generous service.2

Next, Paul sends greetings to Rufus (which means “red”) and his mother, someone whom Paul thought of as a mother to him also. We are told that Rufus was the son of Simon the Cyrenian the man the Romans compelled to carry Christ’s cross on the way to Calvary.3 As such, Rufus became a follower of Christ and left the Jewish community in Cyrene on the north coast of Africa in eastern Libya with his mother and emigrated to Rome as a missionary to help establish the church there. According to the Greek Orthodox Church’s list of the Seventy Disciples Christ sent out, Rufus became the Bishop of Thebes in Greece. Other than this, there is little else known about Rufus or his brother Alexander.

That brings us to Asyncritus. His name means, “incomparable.” He is also in the list of the Seventy Disciples Christ sent out. Church history claims that he became the Bishop of Hyrcania in Asia. This area is south-east of the Caspian Sea in modern Iran. According to the Greek Orthodox Church, Asyncritus died a martyr for the cause of Christ. In the list of the Seventy Disciples Jesus sent out he is number thirty-four.

Now we come to Phlegon. His name means, “burning or zealous.” Since this was not an often used name in those days, some scholars believe it may be a pseudonym so as to keep his real identity a secret from the authorities in Rome and those outside Rome who might read this letter. However, according to the Greek Orthodox Church roster of the seventy disciples sent out by Jesus, Phlegon is listed as the Bishop of Marathon, Greece.

Then find Hermes as the next one to whom Paul sends greetings. We note that this was a common name for servants in the imperial households of Rome. According to the Greek Orthodox Church’s list of the seventy that Jesus sent out, Hermes is listed as number thirty-eight, the Bishop of Dalmatia. It is said that he also died as a martyr for the cause of Christ.

This leads us to Patrobas, which means, “one who walks in the steps of his father.” The Greek Orthodox Church lists him as the Bishop of Puteoli, also part of Naples, at number thirty-seven. Not much else is said of him in Church or secular history. And that brings us to Hermas. The Greek Orthodox Church lists him at number thirty-eight as the Bishop of Philippi. He is reported to be the author of a book called “Pastor,” (aka “The Shepherd of Hermas”), which was read publicly in some churches in Greece.4 But this is disputed by the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church who classify it as an apocalyptic (meaning “revelatory”) work which makes one last call to repentance for all believers before the final persecution during the tribulation takes place. However, it does not directly discuss the end of the current age. This is an essential aspect of a revelation without which a work may be revelatory but not a revelation.

When it comes to identifying Hermas, Origen mentions him as the author of “The Shepherd of Hermas,” which seemed to be a useful book to Origen and one inspired by God. It appears that the reason Paul does not praise him is that Hermas himself tells us in his book that he was converted only after many sins. Scripture tells us not to rush to honor someone who just repented from sin nor to give them praise as long as the angel of repentance is still hovering over them.5 However, Origen does not give the location of this scripture, nor can it be found in any Biblical text.

16:15-16 Give our greetings to Philologus and Julia, to Nereus and his sister, to Olympas, and to all of God’s people with them. Greet each other with a holy kiss. All the churches that belong to Christ send their greetings to you.

Paul continues with his list of greetings and now comes to Philologus. His name means, “A lover of words or of learning.” On the Greek Orthodox Church’s lists of the seventy Jesus sent out, he is number forty-one as the Bishop of Sinope, a city near the Black Sea. It is said in some documents that he was appointed Bishop by the Apostle Andrew. Paul lists him with Julia. Most believe that she was the wife of Philologus since their children are named next. Bible historians consider both of them as members of the imperial court – part of Caesar’s household.6 Her name means, “curly hair.” Nothing else is known of her in the Bible.

That brings us to Nereus. His name is a derivative of Neptune the god of the sea. It is thought that he was the son of Philologus since he is included with his sister. Even though it appears that Paul knew the names of all the family members, for some reason he did not mention the sister’s name. According to tradition, Nereus was beheaded at Terracina, a city about 50 miles SE of Rome, probably during the reign of Roman Emperor Marcus Cocceius Nerva between 96-98 AD.

They are followed by Olympas, which is a derivative of Olympus, whose name means, “heavenly.” The Greek Orthodox Church lists him as one of the seventy disciples sent out by Christ and was martyred for the name of Christ. However, he is mentioned as being a bishop. He no doubt was part of a larger group that either met in their home or where part of the church there in Rome because Paul extends his greeting to all of God’s people with Philologus and his household.

In response to Paul’s call for these brothers and sisters to greet each other with a “holy kiss,” early church scholar Clement says that if we are called into the kingdom of God, let us walk worthy of the kingdom by loving God and our neighbor. However, this Christian love is not proven by kissing one another. A friendly hug and shaking of the hand are sufficient. But in Clement’s lifetime, since greeting each other with a kiss was expected, he believes that there were some who took advantage of this and “made the church sanctuary reverberate with a kiss.” Those who did so had no love in their hearts for the person they kissed. It is for this very reason that Clement calls it a shameless use of a kiss which can only cause suspicion and lead to gossip. The Apostle calls it a holy kiss. This means that either the hand, cheek, or forehead were involved, not the lips.7

On this same subject, early church scholar Origen makes the point that from this and other statements it appears that it was the custom in the Apostolic Church to greet one another with a kiss after the prayers were said. The Apostle Paul also calls this a holy kiss. It caught Origen’s attention that Paul also included greetings to all the churches that belong to Christ. So he wonders how Paul could write that all the churches and send greetings when they were not all gathered together for the writing of this epistle. Origen believes this means that every church that Paul visited shared the same spirit of unity. Although there were separated by distance, they were still part of the same Body of Christ. So Paul felt free to speak on behalf of them all.8

Then Ambrosiaster opines that Paul asks that all those to whom he wrote and those he names be greeted with a holy kiss, that is, in the peace of Christ, not in the desire of the flesh because these kisses are spiritual, not physical. By saying “churches of Christ” Ambrosiaster feels that by Paul saying churches of Christ, he used it as an exclusionary term since there may have been churches in which Christ did not rule and reign as Lord. He reminds us that King David the Psalmist called the company of evildoers an assembly of the wicked9.10

Also, Chrysostom makes note of the fact that by this salutation Paul intended to show that there was no reason for anyone to have pride that they were somehow better than others. The great were not to despise the small, nor were the small to envy the great, but pride and envy were to be banished by the kiss which made everyone equal. Therefore, he not only asks them to greet each other in this way but he also sends them greetings from other churches who feel about him the way he wants them to feel about him.11

1 Ambrosiaster: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

2 Lockyer, Herbert; All the Women of the Bible Compilation, Zondervan, Kindle Edition.

3 Mark 15:21

4 Lives of Illustrious Men by St. Jerome

5 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

6 See Philippians 4:22

7 Clement of Alexandria: Christ the Educator 3:11

8 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

9 See Psalm 26:5

10 Ambrosiaster: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

11 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans, #31

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Edgar Z. Friedenberg (1921-2000) was a scholar of education and gender studies best known for his books: The Vanishing Adolescent( 1959), and Coming of Age in America (1965). This latter book was a finalist for the 1966 National Book Award for Nonfiction. On one occasion, Friedenberg told his audience, “What we must decide is perhaps how we are valuable, rather than how valuable we are.”

While speaking to a group of young people who came to the Philippines for missions training, I told them that people at their stage in life strive to be successful. But being successful only means that a person has reached a goal, they not only met the standards but exceeded them. As such, they become a role model for others behind them to emulate in order to be determined as being successful.

But we must ask the question, could the company they worked for succeeded without them? Were there others that easily could have taken their place? We can use this to show the contrast between being successful and being significant. Being significant means that you carry something in your life and attitude that has a special or hidden meaning. Sometimes no one can put their finger on it, they just know you have something that makes you different in a positive way. Once they meet you or work with you they’re never the same. You touch something in their psychic that alters their point of view and changes their attitude.

This is where born again Christians have an advantage. At work, school, home, or in public there is something about the way you carry yourself, the way you talk and express yourself, the smile on your face that tells them you have something they don’t have. Hopefully, they will become curious enough to ask. That’s when you can let your light shine even brighter when you tell them that you are a child of the Living God; that Jesus Christ is your personal friend because he saved you from going to ruin to being of value to Him.

So instead of simply trying to be successful as others may judge you to be, try to be significant so that they will recognize that something special in your life. As Friedenberg said, rather than trying to prove how valuable you are to the team, decide why you are so valuable. This not only goes for a workplace or team but for one’s family, friends, church, country, and God. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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