‘For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil’, Rom. 16. 19’.
‘I am glad’ is a familiar expression, usually linked with a pleasing circumstance. It might be used trivially in response to a bright sunny day or said of much more significant events such as exam success, a new job or other notable experiences that give cause for celebration.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines glad as ‘happy about something or grateful for it’. Therefore, it seems to be an emotion dependent on situation. Is this the case for Paul as he states, ‘I am glad’?
We’re going to look at Paul’s circumstances in Romans chapter 16 verse 19 and then look at some lessons from this. But first, let’s consider the use of the word in the New Testament.
The King James Version translates the Greek word chairo, Rom.16. 19, into ‘I am glad’. According to my mobile e-sword app, after a search by the Strong’s number for chairo (G5463), there are sixty-eight verses containing this word. Most of the occurrences are translated ‘rejoice’, ‘hail’, ‘joy’, or ‘glad’. The ESV uses ‘I rejoice’ in the Romans passage that we are considering.
Whilst it’s not possible to look at all these references here, a few may help us understand the depth of meaning behind the word.
Within the concluding section of Paul’s letter to the Roman believers, he warns them of false teachers, Rom. 16. 17-20. The Epistle has unfolded the doctrine of the gospel methodically, which ‘ye have learned’, v. 17. They are an example to us; it would be a great thing to ‘learn’ and understand the doctrine and teaching of Romans! But it was this doctrine that was being undermined by some false teachers. Paul warns the believers to ‘avoid them’, v. 17.
Not only had the Roman believers ‘learned’, but they had obeyed, v. 19. It is important that the reading and studying of God’s word doesn’t simply end in learning, but that it leads to obedience and full subjection.
It was the obedience of the Romans that caused Paul to say, ‘I am glad therefore on your behalf’; he was rejoicing over them.
But along with his rejoicing and confidence in them, he calls the believers to be ‘wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil’, v. 19. ‘Simple concerning evil’ means innocent of evil. Hendriksen says, ‘they should be wise for the purpose of doing and promoting what is right and should not get “mixed up” with anything that, in God’s sight, is wrong’.1
I don’t think Paul’s gladness was just an emotional response of happiness. It was rejoicing, with thanksgiving, for how the believers had grown in their knowledge of, and obedience to, the word of God. The rejoicing was mixed with warning and advice to enable them to be preserved and to glorify God.
We can draw some practical lessons from our study:
Let us, like Paul, be glad, looking for circumstances to rejoice in with other Christians. May we see times of suffering on account of the gospel as a privilege. But with the Lord’s help, regardless of situations, let us be ‘always rejoicing’, 2 Cor. 6. 10 NKJV.