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Romans Chapter 16 is rich.  It may not seem like it, but it is.  Early in Church History, John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) said: “many . . . hasten over this part of the epistle . . . yet . . . it is possible even from bare names to find great treasure.”  Emil Brunner, much later (1889 – 1966 AD), commends it as “one of the most instructive chapters of the New Testament” because it encourages personal relationships of love in the Church. Both are right.  Chapter 16 is rich, edifying and encouraging.  It is warm and intensely personal. It is a stark contrast to the high and scholarly treatise that preceded it.

Romans 16 reveals a lot about Paul.   Reading through Romans, you might think that Paul never got out of the classroom.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Paul was personal and humble.  He loved people.  If one of us wrote 13 New Testament letters, planted churches all over 2 continents, had the risen Christ personally call us into ministry (Acts 9:6)  and had personal visitation to the 3rd heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2), we might be unapproachable.  Paul was not.  He knew people by name, male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free.  He never ceased to give thanks for those who helped him personally or who showed him some particular kindness (16:2, 4, 13). He honored those who suffered or risked their lives for the faith (16:4, 7).  He loved to acknowledge sincere effort, regardless of giftedness (he never mentions the gifts of people, only that they worked hard, 16:6, 12).  He called attention to those whose conversion marked a milestone (16:5) or who were especially faithful in ministry (16:7).  Paul knew these people and was thankful for them.  He listed their names to encourage them and encourage others to be like them.  He wanted all Christians to be affectionate, supportive and appreciative of one another (16:16)/

Romans 16 reveals a lot about the early church.  It is always instructive for believers to go back and study the first Christians.  Romans 16 is perfect for this. First, it shows a gender equality unknown anywhere in the world.  Three of the first 5 people are women. Prisca, named before her husband Aquila (16:3), comes before her husband 4 of the 6 times Scripture mentions them (Acts 18:18, 26; Romans 16:3; 2 Timothy 4:19).  Another 8 women appear in the list (Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus’ mom, Hermas, Julia, Nereus’ sister, Olympas). Many came right out of paganism - they have names from Greek mythology (Phoebe, Persis, Hermes, Hermas, Olympas).  Some have names of high birth, Roman and Jewish (Epaenetus, Andronicus, Herodian, Julia); others, names of low birth (stachys, rufus, those of the households of Aristobulus and Narcissus).  Some were famous (Prisca, Aquila, Rufus), most unknown.  Some had suffered or risked death for the faith (Prisca, Aquila, Andronicus, Junias); others had gone through some notable trial (Apelles).  The norm was small house churches (16:5, 14, 15); others were slaves seeking to witness to others on the estate (16:11).  The list includes two apostles (in the more general sense; Andronicus and Junias) and one deaconess (Phoebe).   It is a great portrait of Christ’s Body: “There is neither Jew nor Greek . . . neither slave nor free . . . neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” Galatians 3:28.

If someone wrote about your church, would you make the list?  Why or why not?

Sun, Sep 13, 2015

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