Romans

Romans 16:1-25 – Greetings and other things

GREETINGS AND OTHER THINGS!

 

Romans 16v1-24

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Paul has come to the end of his letter. If we were looking at this letter as a purely theological document we probably would not bother with this last chapter..

 

ILLUS.: Ever had the experience of being given a letter to read  by a friend because the body of the letter is of interest to you but the letter is from a third party who is not known to you. At the beginning or end there is news about various people who are unknown to you – this part of the letter is of little interest / relevance to you!

          The equivalent of being subjected to hours of some else’s family home movies!! Aunt Agatha and cousin Suzie; and ten minutes of a toddler trying to blow out candles and all the adults ooohing and aaahing!!

 

We can be tempted to treat the end of Paul’s letter with similar disinterest. If we do we will be the poorer for it. There are some valuable insights we can glean from this chapter.

 

1. MANY HELLOS.

 

Romans 16:1-2              1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me. (NIV)

 

Phoebe is mentioned only here in the NT – she is probably representative of thousands like her – the unsung heroes/heroines of the faith — we talk much about the apostles and main characters of the NT — but it is clear from Paul comments about Phoebe and the other he mentions that these people made it possible for the Paul’s and Peters to do what they did.

 

Phoebe was one of God’s family – our sister  – and Paul commends her to his Roman readers as she is to visit them and is probably the bearer of the letter.

She is also called a servant OR more likely as some translations and most commentators believe, she was a deaconess. It is clear from the comments Paul makes about her that she was a great help to many .

 

Even in these brief verses we know that she is a godly lady who loves the Lord and shows that by helping the saints – what a commendation from the apostle. And what an example to us of the servant heart that should characterise the people of God.

 

A long list of “Hellos” — 26 people in all [24 by name]  How is it that Paul knew so many people in a city he had never visited. A little background reading will reveal very quickly that travel in those days was much more frequent than we may naturally think. For example we know that Pricilla and Aquilla had been with Paul in Corinth, Syria and Ephesus, They had come from Rome [ although Aquilla was originally from Pontus] they are clearly now back in Rome.

Epenetus [v5b] had been converted in Asia but now living in Rome  …. and we could say similar things about many of the others.

This is not unlike the situation we face today in the big cities of the world – a very mobile cosmopolitan population — and that affects the Church!!

 

We need to recognise that the Church is characterised by diversity and unity!!

 

2. DIVERSITY AND UNITY.

 

This list of name can teach us a lot about the church in Rome.

Obviously it is made up of men and women – gender –

And those from different racial and ethnic backgrounds

And those from different social classes / status

 

RACE – Priscilla and Aquila are Jews as are some of the others like Andronicus and Junias who are Paul’s relatives. Others are Gentiles – this is nothing new Paul has spent much of the letter addressing this issue of Jewish/Gentile relationships

 

STATUS – some of these people have names that were common to slaves:  e.g. Urbanus, Julia, Ampliatus …

Some scholars consider that Aristobulus was a grandson of Herod the Great.

Rufus [v13] could well have been one of the sons of Simon of Cyrene, a nobleman who helped carry Jesus’ cross to Calvary [cf Mark 15v21]

 

GENDER – What I find interesting is that 9 of the 24 named people in this list are woman. Paul is often accused of being a male chauvinist – nothing could be further from the truth.

It seems to me that women had a much higher profile in the early Church that we are often led to believe – and there tasks were not confined to the kitchen. No where in the lists of gifts given in 1Cor.12, Rom 12 and Ephesians 4 is any mention made that some are exclusively for men!!

I know that women in ministry is a hot issue in the Church – we can’t deal with it  in detail here BUT this passage shed some light on the issue.

Junia and Priscilla esp. ….

Priscilla is invariably mentioned along with her husband Aquila – she is named first 5/7x mentioned — was it because she was converted first or was a higher social status or was more dominant — we don’t know!! Whatever the reason Paul seems to recognise rather than criticise her leadership.

 

We are not talking here about the “ins and outs” of male headship [whatever that means??!!} Paul saw distinctive roles for men and women BUT he clearly saw that women were to play a key and leading role in the life of the Church of Christ!

 

Another example in this passage is Junia! [v.7] {not Junias as in NIV – most Gk. scholars agree that this should be a feminine and not a masculine name}

Along with Andronicus, Junia is called an apostle — apostle is used in two way in NT – referring to the 12 like Paul, John, Peter etc .. Apostolic authority!!

Also used of a larger group of people sent out by Church who, today, we would probably call missionaries — [Epaphroditus and Barnabas are further examples] — Junia was clearly recognised as being and outstanding missionary for the Lord.

 

Nowhere does the NT call women elders or presbyters but clearly they played a key and leading role in the life of the early Church…. As do women in this Church and many other Churches and on many mission fields and very often they are not credited with the work they do.

We have many gifted and willing women in this church who serve the Lord with gladness and I thank God for you!!  {We can say the same of the men – in case you are feeling left out!!}

 

Great diversity – look at Binscombe what a motley crew we are: differences in age, background, education, professions, nationalities… – but also we see a fundamental unity in the terminology that Paul uses!!!

 

 

UNITY

In spite all its differences there is a fundamental unity within the Body of Christ –

 

Galatians 3:28 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

 

Within this long list of names we have this strong principle of unity being communicated by Paul —

HOW??      4x he says his friends are “in Christ” [vv.3, 7, 9, 10]

5x “in the Lord” [vv.8, 11, 2x in 12, 13]

2x family language “sister” and “brother” [vv. 1, 14]

4x uses terms “Beloved” and “my Beloved”

4x “fellow-worker” or “fellow-sufferer”

 

How was this unity exhibited in the Church in Roman – we know that the church met in various houses — some have suggested that they met according in their own social or ethnic groupings BUT there is no evidence for that and if that were so it would make Paul’s long discourse about Jews/Gentiles and weak/strong working and worshipping together a waste of time!

It is true we tend to gravitate to people with whom we have most in common BUT if those preferences become barriers to the gospel and to fellowship and spiritual unity then we are rebuilding the dividing walls that Christ died to break down. One of the hall marks of the Christian church should be love across these barriers. That is why Jesus said .. John 13:35 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

 

He ends the section telling them to express their affection for each other by “Greeting with a holy kiss” – Does this mean that we must all start kissing each other??! NO!! This was the way of greeting in those days as it is in many place today!  In France and so on they kiss on both cheeks 2-4 times — sometimes even the men kiss each other!!  Certainly in eastern counties they do

ILLUS.: In Portugal when in confusion I kissed Blair Armstrong the big burly American trucker!!

 

In case we fall into the trap of thinking that unity is something that must be sort and prized at the expense of truth, Paul gives a warning in the next section!!

 

3. WARNING AND WEIGHING.

Romans 16:17-19

17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. (NIV)

 

This warning is very severe – who are these people who Paul warns against? We know that there were problems in the Roman Church; there were differences of opinion that caused tensions. But given how he has gently dealt with these in the letter at great length it is unlikely that these are who he has in mind.

 

We don’t know who he has in mind specifically but it seems that they are those who come into the church of Christ with the express purpose of causing mischief and disrupting the fellowships and contradicting the teachings of scriptures.

 

Paul’s plan of action in regard to these potential trouble-makers is three-pronged viz.          Be on your guard!

Keep your distance!

Keep your wits about you!

 

He urges them to do these three things! And us too esp. in the pluralistic and relativistic society in which we live where the gospel is being challenged and watered-down.

 

BE ON YOUR GUARD!

Romans 16:17

17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.

 

Even at this early stage in the church there was a body of belief that the Apostles taught – which they received from Christ – there was an accepted standard of belief and practice which we now have in the Bible. We need to be on our guard – constantly vigilant – making sure that what we believe and what is being taught is true to this Word!

Even more strongly to the Galatians –Galatians 1:8 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (NIV)

 

How are we to treat those who peddle something contrary to what the Bible teaches?

KEEP YOUR DISTANCE!

Romans 16:17-18

17……… Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. (NIV)

 

There are, always have been, those charlatans who masquerade as God’s people and endeavor to use the gospel for their own ends – to satisfy their passion for money of power …

I don’t believe that Paul has in mind those who we simply disagree with on non-essentials of the faith — NO! these are our fellow-believers, like in ch.14, who have slightly different view, but with whom we agree on the essentials of the gospel.

Gross example of this have been people like Jim Jones, who lured many to follow him into the jungle of South America and there commit mass suicide.

On a lesser scale we need to be wary of those who want to have there own little following apart from the fellowship.

Keep your distance – not ignore them in the street or be unkind to them BUT don’t give yourself to such in fellowship!

 

KEEP YOUR WITS ABOUT YOU!

Romans 16:19 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. (NIV)

These deceiver are often those who have the gift of the gab – By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people – Paul’s warning is to NOT be naive – on the contrary we need to be discerning – to be wise – there are many voices in the world calling us to follow their way of thinking and acting – ways that are contrary to the ways of God. And these voices are telling us that it is all right to be materialistic, to be self-assertive, to get what we want, there isn’t really and right or wrong in terms of morality “as long as you are not hurting any one”, ….

 

Keep your wits about you says Paul “be wise about what is good” – Paul praises them for their obedience but it is not blind obedience but discerning obedience. We will not be able to discern good from evil unless we know God mind and will. This is reveal in the Bible and the Holy Spirit both enlightens us to understand God’s mind and strengthens us to obey.

A two-pronged strategy pursuing the GOOD and shunning EVIL – be ….. innocent about what is evil. –  [J B Phillips “I want to see you as experts in good and not even beginners in evil”]

 

Paul has given us three tests to apply to what we believe and how we behave!

  • Does it agree with the Bible?
  • Does it glorify Jesus?
  • Does it promote goodness?

 

DON’T FORGET! OUR BATTLE IS A SPIRITUAL ONE!!

BUT CERTAIN VICTORY!!!

Romans 16:20   20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

 

Paul has written about good and evil and he want us to know that there is no doubt about the outcome of good over evil!

 

You see, behind the false teacher and other enemies of the church is the great arch-enemy of God – Satan himself! In our modern scientific world we tend to downplay and under-estimate the power and activity of the spirit world – which simply because we can’t see it doesn’t mean that it is not real.

 

There are two dangers to which we can go in regard to Satan and the occult world – both of which the devil is exceedingly happy with:   One “Is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel and excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” [C S Lewis in the preface to Screwtape Letters]

 

Paul assures us that Satan is defeated – that happened when Jesus died on the cross – sin and death and hell was crushed under the crucified feet of Christ. Does Paul have Genesis 3v15 in mind hear – probably – God speaking to Satan in the Garden of Eden

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;

he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (NIV)

 

While is it true that Satan is defeated, he has not yet conceded defeat, and he will do anything and everything he possibly can to undermine and destroy the Church of God. You know how he does that best – not by a frontal attack of persecution – he doesn’t want us to deny everything the Bible teaches just a few essentials to undermine its power. So heresy is not a denial of the truth, that is too obvious, just a distortion will do!! He doesn’t want us to attack Christ and be an open enemy, just to be indifferent, to not really follow him whole-heartedly! He is quite happy for us to be religious, as long as we don’t commit ourselves to Jesus as Lord! He is quite happy for us to be a nice cozy social club as long as we don’t engage in evangelism and mission!

He wants to cause disunity and disharmony so that we become preoccupied with internal factions and argument, that way our energies are taken up with ourselves and our opinions and prides and egos and little concern is for God’s glory and the spread of the gospel!! Satan is very subtle.

 

Is it any wonder that Paul warns us to be on our guard against false teachers and charlatans who seek to lead astray the people of God!!

See why is so vital that we know what the Bible teaches! That we promote Christ above all else! That we pursue goodness and avoid even the appearance of evil!

 

Rather than being fearful and timid in the face of Satan’s schemings we should take courage and strength from the fact that Christ has defeated him and that The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The victory is won and every Christian is on the victory side!! We have ultimate victory in Christ therefore we can have daily victory in life’s struggles!

 

Such victories would be impossible apart from the grace of God, Thus Paul adds

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (NIV).

 

GREETINGS AND OTHER THINGS!

Romans 16v1-24.

 

1. GREETINGS

      Phoebe     – sister

                           – servant / deaconness

                           – great help to many

      26 ‘hellos’ faces of the Christian family

 

2. DIVERSITY AND UNITY

      Diversity – race

                           – status

                           – gender

            Unity         – “in Christ” [4x]

                                  – “in the Lord” [5x]

                                  – “sister/brother” [2x]

                                  – “fellow-worker/sufferer” [4x]

 

3. WARNING AND TESTING

      warning    – Be on your guard!

                           – Keep your distance!

                           – Keep your wits about you!

            Testing     – Does it agree with the Bible?

                                  – Does it glorify Jesus?

                                  – Does it promote goodness?

           

4. CERTAIN VICTORY

       – our battle is spiritual

       – Satan is and will be defeated

       – we have God’s grace to live victoriously

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