We continue our study of Paul’s letter this week with Romans 16. Paul begins with special greetings for his brothers and sisters in Christ:
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.
Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet those of the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord. Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them. Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
v. 1-16 (NASB)
Let’s take a closer look at the men and women Paul mentioned above:
Phoebe (mentioned only in this chapter) was a servant of the church and a helper of Paul and many others. The KJV notes at the end the chapter that she sent this letter from Paul to the Romans.
Prisca and her husband, Aquila, were Paul’s fellow workers in Christ who risked their lives to help him. They also worked as tentmakers with Paul and ministered to others in their home (see Acts 18 and 1 Corinthians 16:19)
Epaenetus (mentioned only in this chapter) was the first convert to Christ from Asia.
Mary (not clear if she is the same as any other Mary mentioned in Scripture) labored hard for the church.
Andronicus, Junias, and Herodion (mentioned only in this chapter) were Paul’s kinsmen (not clear if blood related or related through Christ). Andronicus and Junias were notable among the apostles and fellow prisoners with Paul.
Urbanus (mentioned only in this chapter) was a fellow worker in Christ.
Ampliatus and Stachys (mentioned only in this chapter) were beloved (Agapetos: beloved by God) in the Lord.
Apelles (mentioned only in this chapter) was approved in Christ.
Aristobulus’ and Narcissus’ (mentioned only in this chapter) households were in the Lord.
Tryphaena and Tryphosa (mentioned only in this chapter) were workers in the Lord.
Persis (mentioned only in this chapter) was beloved and labored hard in the Lord.
Rufus (not certain if he is the son of Simon who was forced to carry Jesus’ cross in Mark 15:21) was a choice man in the Lord. Paul called Rufus’ mother his mother too. It is not clear if she was his birth mother or mother in the Lord.
Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them. Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas (all mentioned only in this chapter).
Though most of these were not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture, we can see in Paul’s greetings that they were all faithful and approved servants of Christ. Paul doesn’t mention them by any titles. He mentions their devotion to Christ. We often think we have to have a title and notable position to be productive in ministry. As a homeschooling mom of four, I struggle with finding time just to write this small post every week (hence the reason it’s often posted late). There are times when I feel my time is wasted with never-ending household chores and schooling. It’s hard to see that what I’m doing at home is just as important. God often reminds me that I’m not just wasting my days away. I am being productive in serving him by raising up my kids to be servants for Christ.
They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them.
Isaiah 65:23 (NIV)
After Paul sends his love to the faithful servants, he warns the Romans to be on guard and turn away from those who are unfaithful, who serve their flesh instead of serving Christ.
Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
v. 17-20 (NASB)
This is similar to what Paul rebuked the Corinthians for in 2 Cor. 11:3-6:
But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things.
We are to stand on God’s Word. We aren’t to bear with false teachings just to keep the peace and unity in the church. Of course, this doesn’t mean we turn away from everyone who doesn’t know or understand everything we’ve learned in God’s Word. As we read a couple weeks ago in Romans 14, we are not to critically judge those who are weaker or stronger in faith than us. Prisca and her husband, Aquila, were not critical to Apollos when they heard that he was missing something in his teaching in Acts 18:23-26:
Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
Paul closes the chapter with some final greetings.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.
I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.
Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.]
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.
v. 17-27 (NASB)
Paul was a faithful servant in Christ, who correctly handled the truth. This is why he could confidently, without pride, say “according to my gospel.” Paul’s gospel was God’s gospel.
We praise You for Your wisdom. Help us to be faithful and approved servants of Christ. Fill us with Your wisdom. Give us revelation of Your truth so we can turn away from deception and false teachings, and effectively share Your truth and carry out Your will.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
2 Timothy 2:15-19 (NIV)
*This series will continue next week with 1 Corinthians 1.