1-16: Paul consigns and hands over Phoebe to the Roman church; and then singles out people by name, giving his acknowledgments and sincere, loving greetings.
17-20: He then sternly warns them of what will destroy their church; the Romans are to be against those who have caused divisions and confusion with other's faith and relationship to God.
21-23: He again names several of his spiritual brothers and sisters, gives his blessings and further acknowledgments of them.
24-27: Paul then wraps up his greetings and warnings with prayers for them, and extols them for God's glory.
General Idea: This passage in Romans is often just glanced over. You may never see a sermon or Bible study on it, because it is seen as just a list of names. But, is that all it is? Many people, especially we pastors, often forget those who contribute to the ministry, not necessarily out of callous disregard, but out of our hurriedness of the moment, our focusing on ourselves and our needs over those of others. Paul cuts across cultural barriers and arrogance, and commends publicly, acknowledging many. We should be careful to always be people who honor and acknowledge others!
A. No one in the Lord is unimportant! There are 27 names listed who were Paul's friends and who helped him. Many of them, nine, in fact, were women. (Spurgeon said in the Victorian period, "Sex is no hindrance to service!")
1. This is a testimony to the importance of personal relationships, of cooperation, (working together for a unified vision and purpose,) and the value of encouragement, and why Paul takes the time to list them with a little explanation!
2. It has been said that the service we give to others is the rent we give to live on this earth!
3. The word servant in verse one means a servant who waits on tables versus a slave, who is usually called a bondservant. This is where we get our word for Deacon (Acts 6:1-6; Rom. 12:7; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 2:8-3:13; 4:6). 1 Timothy does not restrict women from serving in the church or being in ministry. The distinction is what is called in military terms, the "line relationship." One is not to have higher rights over another, but is higher in rank to produce order and efficiency. The Bible only prohibits women from being a senior pastor, or teaching men!
4. "Cenchrea," a port city near Corinth, was one of the greatest man made achievements in antiquity; a huge canal dug out by slave labor. This would indicate where Paul was when he sent the letter to the Romans. However, it possibly took him months to compose it.
B. The Holy Spirit was the author of Romans, Paul was His messenger, Tertius wrote it down on the scroll, Gaius let Paul work in his home, and Phoebe (who was possibly a businessman going to Rome) was the one who traveled a great distance to deliver the epistle.
1. We Christians are called to help one another in our "personal business", especially strangers, to glorify God and because we do not know what help we may need ourselves. This is not being intrusive or nosey, but helpful when needed, in community and cooperation.
2. Our human tendencies are to focus on the big names, those in the limelight, and not realize the scores of people who do the tough work. Just watch movie credits and the hundreds of people it takes to make one, yet only the stars get the credit.
C. The saints at work, Priscilla and Aquila, were tent makers, as was Paul, in Corinth and Ephesus. They actually made tents as a career. Today, we use this term to describe a "bi-vocational" pastor or missionary who serves God and has to make their livelihood elsewhere. (Acts 18:1-3;18:26) This married couple is never mentioned separately, perhaps because they ministered together as with Andronicus and Junia (2 Cor. 11:23.)
1. The New Testament does not record how, or where Priscilla and Aquila risked their own necks (NKJV) for Paul, but it probably happened at Ephesus.
2. Vs. 7: of among the apostles is a phrase that can mean that they were well known to the apostles, but not that they were distinguished as apostles! (Many people take this passage out of context and meaning to proclaim that they, or someone else is an Apostle!)
3. Vs. 8-10: "Amplias, Urbanus, Stachys, and Apelles" were common slave names. (The same names have been found in lists of slaves who served in imperial households.) "Aristobulus" was a familiar Greek name. (The family of Herod the Great used the name often. Scholars have suggested that this Aristobulus was the grandson of Herod the Great and the brother of Agrippa I.)
4. Vs. 11: "My countryman," indicates that Herodion must have been a Jew, like Paul. Scholars have suggested that Narcissus was a famous "freedman" of that name, who was put to death by Agrippa shortly after Nero came to power. (See, introduction A of the Romans Background Material)
5. Vs. 12: Tryphena and Tryphosa are generally considered sisters.
6. Vs. 13: Rufus is often identified as an adopted mother to Paul.
7. Chosen in the Lord is true of all believers, so this phrase means "outstanding" or "eminent," "a deep affection with Paul."
8. So, if someone wrote a one-sentence summary of your life, what would it say?
D. Vs. 16: Holy kiss refers to a kiss on the cheek that was practiced in the East and by the early church as a symbol of the love and unity among the early believers (1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26; 1 Pet. 5:14).
1. How do you feel when someone calls your name to say thank-you?
2. Is there someone of whom you have taken advantage, intentionally or unintentionally, to whom you need to say thank-you to or give some kind of special appreciation?
3. When was the last time you singled out someone by name and acknowledged him/her?
4. Have you ever been forgotten or ignored in what you have contributed to the ministry of your church? If so, how did you feel?
5. How would you feel if a stranger warned you that what was happening in your church would destroy your church?
6. How do you handle having to serve others in what you may consider a menial task?
7. If you received a letter from a dear friend or relative asking you to house or take care of a stranger, how would you respond?
8. What does your church do with people who have caused divisions and confusion to the faith and relationship to God for others?
9. What are some things that cause us to ignore and be rude to others because we are so hurried in the moments of life and stress?
10. How would you feel to be publicly thanked and acknowledged?
11. Do you practice your Christianity with the attitude that everyone in the Lord is important?
12. How does your church practice that no one in the Lord is unimportant?
13. Spurgeon said in the Victorian period, "sex is no hindrance to service," and we see Paul use women in ministry in the first century when women were considered property and even less important than farm animals in some cultures. So, how does your church and denomination view women in ministry?
14. Should women be ordained to serve as a senior pastor? If so, or if not, what are the Biblical grounds?
15. How would you respond if your church hired a woman as a senior pastor?
16. How important are cooperation, working together for a unified vision and purpose, and the value of encouragement in your church?
17. How important are personal relationships in your life and in your church?
18. Paul takes the time to list 27 people, nine who were women, for personal gratitude. Considering Paul's culture and position, this is very humbling and astonishing. How can Paul's example inspire you not to take people for granted and to give proper appreciation?
19. What do you think of this statement, "It's been said that the service we give to others is the rent we give to live on this earth?"
20. How much cooperation is there at your place of work?
21. How much of a difference would it make in your work performance if cooperation and team efforts were practiced versus competition and backstabbing?
22. What about in your church?
23. What difference does it make that we as Christians are called to help one another in our personal business?
24. How would you benefit?
25. How would your church benefit?
26. How would your community benefit?
27. Have you ever considered that when you glorify God you may not know what that will mean to you or others on down the road?
28. How could you see that happening?
29. Cooperation and helping others are not being intrusive or nosey, but helpful when needed, in community and cooperation. How is this so?
30. How do you relate to strangers?
31. How do you feel about pastors and missionaries who have to have another career to make ends meet, to have to make their livelihood elsewhere?
32. Have you ever risked you own neck for the sake of the gospel?
33. What do you think about people who proclaim that they or someone else is an Apostle?
34. If Aristobulus were the grandson of Herod the Great and the brother of Agrippa, what possible problems would he have faced in his family and culture in order to embrace Christ?
35. How would Aristobulus have been an encouragement to the other new Christians who had to face similar oppositions from their peers and family?
36. Given the names and various positions they may have been from, how does that assist us in measuring success today?
37. What would be a good example of a holy kiss today?
38. How can you be better at honoring and acknowledge others?
39. What would be the proper Biblical response to strangers, considering outreach and evangelism along with discernment and protection?
40. What can you improve in your church's cooperation, working together for a unified vision and purpose, and the value of encouragement?
So, if someone wrote a sentence summary of your life, what would it say?
Theological Thought: "The Paradox": Scripture is filled with wonders and insights that seem to contradict one another, and sometimes they blow our minds. We need to know that theological concepts are glimpses of God's character and power revealed to us so we can understand Him and worship Him better. For us to understand God would be like a one cell amoeba trying to understand us. All God can do is to bring His truths down to us on our level of understanding while remaining true. Augustine once saw a small boy gathering water with a seashell from the ocean to put on a sandcastle. The boy said he was going to empty the ocean on his sandcastle. This caused Augustine to wonder about that boy's understanding and his understating of what God has revealed about Himself. Such reasoning causes us to strain our brain with such concepts as the Trinity and the Virgin Birth. They seem so far off to so many, yet they are true. This brings us to thinking beyond our capability. One way to see these truths is what is called the paradox.
Paradox is from the Greek, "to seem to appear." For example, Matt. 10:39 says, Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. On the surface, it seems to be a contradiction, but careful study reveals that it means, in one sense, you will lose your will. In another sense, it means you will gain freedom. Logically, finding and losing are two different senses, thus are not a contradiction. A paradox is an apparent contradiction that under careful study reveals a deeper truth. The theologian Gordon Clark said, "It is a charley horse between the ears." A true paradox will be logically true on some level and not be nonsense, even though we may not always be able to understand it. A paradox differs from mysticism, as mysticism will attempt to draw a deeper truth from something simple and declare it to be profound; such as taking every day occurrences and draw out what is not there. Consider an example from "Eastern Mysticism," such as the sound of one hand clapping. It sounds profound, but under careful study, there is no real deep truth there. Thus, you have to read in what you want it to mean, whereas a paradox already has the truth in it, we just have to find a way to understand it. In Scripture, the paradox or "Mystery" is the deeper insight. Found under careful study, it does not contradict other Scriptures (Matt. 13:11; 16:25; Rom.16:25-27; 1 Cor. 2:7; 14:33). Alternatively, it can mean something we just do not know now, but will be revealed to us in time, such as the timing of the "Second Coming." You can understand a mystery, but not a contradiction. A contradiction is two opposing views that cannot be resolved with careful study. Solid Reformed Christianity can be vulnerable to such thinking. As irrational ideas creep into the church that seem good on the surface, but under scrutiny are nonsense, a thin line divides a paradox and a contradiction. We must be well versed in Scripture and study it diligently to determine the truth, or we will have TV preacher theology in the church!
© 1998, 2002 Into Thy Word Ministries R. J. Krejcir http://www.intothyword.com/